Microsoft’s Bill Gates Named Keynote Speaker For NAU Graduation

Microsoft’s Bill Gates Named Keynote Speaker For NAU Graduation

By Corinne Murdock |

Microsoft founder Bill Gates will deliver the keynote speech for this year’s Northern Arizona University (NAU) graduation.

Gates will deliver the keynote address on Saturday during NAU’s 3 pm ceremony for the College of Engineering, Informatics, and Applied Sciences as well as the College of the Environment, Forestry, and Natural Science. NAU will also award Gates with an honorary doctorate.

NAU President José Luis Cruz Rivera said in a press release that Gates was a thought leader that exemplified NAU values. 

“It is our privilege to recognize Bill Gates for his pioneering work in science and technology and his long standing thought leadership and philanthropic commitment to creating a world where every person has the opportunity to live a healthy life and live up to their full potential,” said Cruz Rivera. 

Gates has advanced and pioneered on several progressive initiatives in science and technology. Most recently, Gates shared with ABC News that he would like the country to rely mainly on nuclear energy in the future to achieve energy independence. Gates also believed that artificial intelligence (AI) should be advanced most for use in health and education.

In recent decades, Gates has also bankrolled efforts to normalize the consumption of bugs or lab-grown meats as an alternative to meat.

Last year, Politico revealed that Gates had helped orchestrate the global responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. Gates’ philanthropy — the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, one of the largest in the world — identified vaccine developers and invested in each step of the vaccine development process. His organization also played a role in a global distribution plan for the shots.

In his statement, Cruz Rivera also expressed gratitude that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation provided significant financial support to the university.

“As NAU advances its mission to deliver equitable postsecondary value, we are honored to have the support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation as we seek to ensure that the talent and aspirations of people in Arizona and beyond are met with the opportunity to realize economic mobility and social impact—shaping a brighter future for themselves and the communities they represent,” said Cruz Rivera.

Gates’ organization donated just over $500,000 to NAU last October for expanding equity.

On Tuesday, Gates wrote in his blog that he agreed to give a commencement speech at NAU because he believed NAU was “redefining the value of a college degree.” Gates dismissed the traditional notion that the more prestigious and exclusive schools were, the more valuable the degree. Gates said that accessibility, affordability, and economic mobility were better metrics to determine the value of a college’s degree, and declared that NAU was an “emerging leader” by that standard.

NAU had a 57 percent six-year graduation rate as of the latest Arizona Board of Regents data from 2021. Last summer, NAU didn’t rank within the top 100 of the nation’s best universities. They ranked 288.

Gates commended NAU’s achievements in diversity, equity, and inclusion: he praised the fact that nearly half of all NAU’s 30,000 students were “people of color,” mainly Hispanic or Native American, as well as the fact that many were first-generation college students or from low-income families.

Gates commended NAU’s equity-based financial aid structure favoring Native Americans from Arizona tribes over other races.

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to

Phoenix Finally Cleans Up The Zone

Phoenix Finally Cleans Up The Zone

By Corinne Murdock |

The city of Phoenix began cleaning up the mass homeless encampment known as The Zone this week, after attempts to resist a court injunction to do so. Local residents and business owners have endured the burgeoning public health and safety hazards of the area for about three years.

The cleanups began on Wednesday. City officials reportedly won’t allow the homeless to return to the area if they don’t find shelter. About 900 homeless camped out in The Zone.

The extent of the waste from the homeless encampments was so great that city workers resorted to using forklifts.

The city also re-released a plan to address homelessness on Wednesday morning, largely centered on doubling down on efforts to place homeless individuals with relevant treatment programs. The plan was published originally late last month. 

The city’s plan includes creating 800 more shelter beds by the end of 2024, and parsing out the $140 million committed beginning in July 2021. The city also proposed potentially leasing hotel rooms, using vacant plots, and creating a campsite of sorts. 

The city noted in its plan that the five cleanups initiated since December resulted in placement of 67 percent of the several hundred offered services.

The CEO of the shelter at the heart of the Zone, Amy Shwabenlender with Human Services Campus, told AZ Family that the cleanup was necessary, but not a “long-term solution.”

The city of Phoenix unsuccessfully fought the Maricopa County Superior Court order to clean up the Zone earlier this month. Within the same day of the city’s petition to extend the July deadline for cleanup, Maricopa County Superior Court denied the petition. Judge Scott Blaney rejected the city’s claim in its petition that it had already undertaken significant action. 

“The Court interprets this argument as meaning the injunction is unnecessary because the City is already taking steps to abate the horrible conditions in the Zone,” wrote Blaney. “But the Court issued the Preliminary Injunction based, in part, upon the City’s past failure to address the issues in The Zone, as well as the City’s apparent lack of intent to do so until faced with possible judicial intervention.”

Blaney ordered the city to commence its cleanup of The Zone in late March. Blaney declared that the city had done nothing to improve the public nuisance caused by the mass homeless encampment burdening the downtown area. Rather, Blaney said that the city’s actions purporting to address the homeless crisis had served only to grow its bureaucracy and ineffective programs initiated by themselves and nonprofits over the years.

“With few exceptions, the action items about which city representatives testified centered around the creation of more bureaucracy, additional staff positions, and obtaining additional funding for programs to vaguely address homelessness in general,” stated Blaney. “The Court received very little evidence — if any — that the City intends to take immediate, meaningful action to protect its constituent business owners, their employees, and residents from the lawlessness and chaos in the Zone.”

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to

Maricopa County To Give $5 Million For Refugee Welfare

Maricopa County To Give $5 Million For Refugee Welfare

By Corinne Murdock |

Maricopa County began to give $5 million to serve refugees, starting May 1. 

The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors (BOS) approved the $5 million appropriated from American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding to go to nonprofits serving refugees.

The nonprofits serve as part of the Maricopa County Relocation Assistance Program, a welfare program to bolster refugee and refugee family economic and social self-sufficiency.

In a press release, Supervisor Steve Gallardo said that the county was fortunate enough to subsidize this welfare program for refugees.

“Maricopa County is fortunate to have many nonprofits that help refugees from other countries find housing, medical care, and cross language barriers so they can integrate and become an asset,” state Gallardo.

The greatest bulk of the funding went to Chicanos Por La Causa (CPLC) with nearly $1.88 million to serve 40 families. That metes out to nearly $47,000 per family. Their program provides the widest array of services: outreach, intake, transitional housing, legal services, and stabilization support.

As AZ Free News has reported previously, CPLC’s subsidiary is facing federal investigation for pandemic loan fraud. CPLC’s President and CEO, David Adame, served on Gov. Katie Hobbs’ transition team. 

It’s interesting that Gallardo decided to speak on this latest round of refugee welfare, since he also served on Hobbs’ transition team with Adame and, later, was Hobbs’ pick for Democratic Party Chair.

Of note, the federal webpage outlining the investigation into CPLC’s subsidiary, Prestamos, for pandemic loan fraud disappeared in late February. Archives of the report were available through February 24, but disappeared by February 27. 

Also earlier this year, several CPLC leaders were identified as part of the liberal think tank that helped provide the cover-up for Hunter Biden’s laptop.

The Area Agency on Aging will receive over $125,400 to assist 100 elder refugees with pre-literacy and citizenship classes, as well as financial assistance for citizen application fees. 

Friendly House received nearly $345,000 to provide adult education, emergency report, and immigration services to 150 refugees.

The International Rescue Committee received over $1.6 million. Of that funding, over $675,500 will provide case management services to 100 refugees, as well as training those community providers in “culturally appropriate techniques” to provide “culturally appropriate services” to crime victims. The remainder, over $957,400, will give legal services for refugees.

Lutheran Social Services will receive $600,000 to provide case management, medical services, and other support to “the most vulnerable refugees.” The press release named families, single parents, and women under this category.

Finally, the Somali American United Council of America will receive $312,000 to give refugees job placement services and “women’s empowerment.” The funding will also support nutrition, health, citizenship, digital literacy, and cultural adaptation classes.

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to

Attorney General Kris Mayes Falsely Claims School Choice Would Bankrupt State

Attorney General Kris Mayes Falsely Claims School Choice Would Bankrupt State

By Corinne Murdock |

Attorney General Kris Mayes has claimed that universal school choice will bankrupt the state, despite expenditure data showing that school choice saves the state money. 

Mayes made the claims in a Saturday letter threatening to sue Gov. Katie Hobbs and the state legislature over last year’s universalization of the state’s Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) Program. Mayes blamed the ESA Program for the state’s decision to deny her office ongoing funding, claiming that the program was a “catastrophic drain” on state resources. 

The state budget reached an unanticipated increase to $2.5 billion despite the 40,000 leap in ESA Program enrollments. Total ESA enrollments reached nearly 52,000 in March. At present, there are nearly 54,000 students enrolled.

ESA Program students provide a cost-saving measure for the state. Each student receives up to $7,000 in scholarship funds — about half of what the average public school spends on each student. 

Current ESA Program participation reflects a cost savings of about $363 million. Originally, those students without universal school choice would cost the state about $725 million.

Although Mayes named Hobbs as an opponent on this issue, Hobbs wouldn’t side with the slim-Republican majority supporting school choice in this fight over ESA Program funding. Hobbs has previously proposed rolling back the ESA Program on the grounds that it would cost the state $1.5 billion over the next decade. 

Hobbs omitted the fact that the Arizona public school system costs $15 billion annually. If every one of the estimated 1.15 million students joined the ESA Program, the cost would be just over $8 billion annually.

After Mayes’ letter, other Democrats joined in on the call to roll back the ESA Program. State Rep. Judy Schwiebert (D-LD02) insisted that the ESA Program funds were taken away from other, more important issues. 

“We need to fight the fentanyl crisis; protect our children; combat elder abuse; fund our secure & safe elections, and deal with the homelessness, housing, teacher & water crises,” stated Schwiebert. 

State Rep. Austin Smith (R-LD29) countered that claim, declaring that ESA Program funding would cause bankruptcy was untrue. 

Mesa Public Schools (MPS) Board Member Rachel Walden shared that MPS had more funding at present than they had prior to the ESA Program universalization. 

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to

Maricopa County Supervisor Bill Gates Claims PTSD Reaction To Trump-Supporting Plumber

Maricopa County Supervisor Bill Gates Claims PTSD Reaction To Trump-Supporting Plumber

By Corinne Murdock |

Maricopa County Supervisor Bill Gates now claims to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which reportedly flared up recently after a Trump supporter came to do work on his home.

Gates revealed the diagnosis to the Washington Post in an article published over the weekend. After documenting at length Gates’ mental decline from 2020 onward, beginning with stress over the pushback against his decision to enact a mask mandate, the outlet concluded with Gates being triggered by the sight of a supporter of former President Donald Trump. 

The offending individual was a worker wearing Trump’s trademark “Make America Great Again” red hat, who’d come over to fix a leaky pipe at Gates’ residence. Gates told the Washington Post that he’d felt “anger swelling in his chest,” and had to leave the room where the worker was to take some “deep breaths” to control his anger.

“It was a trigger to see that hat in my house,” stated Gates.

The Washington Post documented Gates ranting at the funeral last May for former Maricopa County Attorney Allister Adel. Gates recounted how an unnamed “prominent” Republican shared that he found election denialism “all very boring,” to which Gates said he “saw red” and thought, “F**k you.”

Gates reportedly began “wildly waving his arms” while ranting, described as “out of control” and disruptive. According to those around him witnessing the behavior, Gates was on “the brink.”

The outburst reportedly caused his wife to confront him. Gates’ wife insisted that he go to therapy, and he said he did. 

Gates described Election Day last year as a “war zone,” in reference to the flocks of officials and law enforcement at voting centers following the mass voting machine failures that may have disenfranchised thousands of voters. 

Gates told the outlet that, despite feeling relief at giving up his chairmanship in January, he still struggled with the same negative feelings.

This was the second profile piece of Gates in as many months. The Atlantic profiled him in March, though Gates made no mention of his PTSD diagnosis at the time. Gates offered a slightly different version of himself: calmer, less stressed. The words peppered throughout this more recent profile piece — “anxiety,” “anger,” “stress,” “insecurity,” “resentment” — were absent from the one released just several months ago. In that piece, he expressed hopefulness throughout, even in response to uncertain situations he’d faced throughout COVID-19 and the last two elections. The article characterized him as a “leading defender” of elections.

When asked by the outlet whether he felt “threatened” by the demands of former Arizona Republican Party Chair Kelli Ward, Gates demurred, saying that “threat” was “too strong a word.”

“I felt pressure. I felt like if I didn’t do what she wanted to do, that there would be political ramifications, certainly,” said Gates.

Gates expressed belief that although he considered himself “politically dead,” he felt he could run for office again at some point beyond 2024.  

Near the conclusion of his piece in The Atlantic, Gates said that he believed the current political climate is second only in severity to the Civil War. 

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to