Judge Rules Prison Breast-Feeding Ban Unconstitutional, Pueblo Halts Access To La Bajada

Jul 3, 2017

Judge: New Mexico Prison Breast-Feeding Ban UnconstitutionalAssociated Press

A Santa Fe judge has ruled a Corrections Department policy banning mothers incarcerated in New Mexico state prisons from breast-feeding their infants violates the state constitution.

State District Judge David Thomson issued the ruling in a case brought by Monique Hidalgo, a prison inmate who has been fighting for the right to breast-feed her 5-week-old daughter, Isabella.

Hidalgo filed a lawsuit about two weeks ago against the Department of Corrections, its officials and two guards seeking permission to feed her daughter on weekends when the child's father brings her to visits.

The ruling could affect generations of incarcerated mothers and their babies in New Mexico.

Thompson says the case is an important issue ripe for consideration for an appeal in front of the state's highest court.

Fourth Of July Holiday Brings Mixed Feelings For Minorities - By Russell Contreras, Associated Press

As many in the United States celebrate the Fourth of July holiday, some minorities have mixed feelings about the revelry of fireworks and parades in an atmosphere of tension on several fronts.

How do you celebrate during what some people of color consider troubling times?

Blacks, Latinos and immigrant rights advocates say the aftermath of the 2016 presidential election, recent non-convictions of police officers charged in the shootings of black men, and the stepped-up detentions of immigrants and refugees for deportation have them questioning equality and the promise of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness in the United States.

Filmmaker Chris Phillips of Ferguson, Missouri, says he likely will attend a family barbecue just like every Fourth of July. But the 36-year-old black man says he can't help but feel perplexed about honoring the birth of the nation after three officers were recently cleared in police shootings.

State Veterans Agency Takes Over Management Of MemorialAssociated Press

Management of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in northern New Mexico is being transferred from the State Parks Division to the state Department of Veterans Services.

Officials are gathering at the memorial near Angel Fire on Monday for a ceremony to mark the transition. Veterans and their families were also invited.

A bill was passed during the recent legislative session based on an agreement among Gov. Susana Martinez's office and the two state agencies to pave the way for the change.

The State Parks Division has owned and managed the memorial since 2005, but supporters say the premise is that the memorial isn't a park but rather a sacred place of reflection.

The Veterans' Services Department plans to construct a federally supported national veterans' cemetery adjacent to the memorial in the coming years.

New Mexico Tribe Closes Access To Cultural LandmarkSanta Fe New Mexican, Associated Press

A northern New Mexico Native American tribe has shut down access to a cultural and geological landmark amid concerns of "visitor abuse."

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports that Cochiti Pueblo recently closed access to La Bajada that includes an abandoned stretch of Route 66 and El Camino Real, the Spanish colonial road linking Mexico City and Santa Fe.

Jacob Pecos, the pueblo's natural resources director, says the tribe wants to protect its borders from the deterioration.

But the closure has upset nearby residents who visited the area to hike or take photographs.

Pecos said he expects the area to remain closed indefinitely but the tribe might issue permits for select users.

New Mexico Brush Fire Temporarily Closes CampgroundAssociated Press

State park officials say there were no serious injuries during a brush fire at a Navajo Lake State Park, north of Albuquerque.

A brush fire broke out near the Cottonwood Campground at the west end of the park on Saturday. Officials say one camper was treated for smoke inhalation and was later released.

State Parks Director Christy Tafoya says the campground was closed after the brush fire and will reopen in five or six days.

She said in a news release that there were a few areas that were still smoldering.

The campers that were evacuated from the campground will receive four free nights of camping.

Officials are still investigating the cause of the fire.

From Hardship To Hard Time: Female Prison Rate Rises In US - By Mary Hudetz, Associated Press/CJ Project

The incarceration of women nationwide has increased more than sevenfold over the last three decades due in large part to drug prosecutions and other factors.

The most recent federal figures show 113,000 women were held in the nation's federal and state prisons in 2014.

The following year brought a slight dip for both men and women. But those numbers could again climb in light of Attorney General Jeff Sessions' announcement earlier this year that federal prosecutors should seek the toughest sentences possible, including in drug cases.

The move has been viewed as a clear rollback of Obama-era sentencing policies that sought to reduce incarceration numbers.

In New Mexico, the rise in the women's prison population is so profound that a state sentencing commission predicts their numbers within the next fiscal year will surpass the number of beds.

Albuquerque Police Say Driver Rear-Ended Chief's CarAssociated Press

Albuquerque police say a driver is under arrest after he rear-ended the state police chief's car.

Police say Andres Salazar initially blamed the crash on bad brakes but later said that he had two beers and a shot of vodka before hitting Chief Pete Kassetas' car Friday at a stop light.

Police say the 68-year-old man failed two field sobriety tests. According to the criminal complaint, his breath test was at or over 0.08, the presumed level of intoxication.

Salazar was arrested and charged for careless driving and driving while intoxicated.

Navajo Nation President To Sign Coal Plant's Lease ExtensionAssociated Press

Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye is scheduled to sign a lease extension that will allow a coal-fired power plant in northeastern Arizona to continue operating through December 2019.

The tribe's council approved the extension earlier this week, and Begaye is expected to sign the lease Saturday afternoon.

It means at least 700 jobs at the Navajo Generating Station near Page and the coal mine that supplies it won't be immediately lost.

The lease for the 1970s-era plant is set to expire in two years.

The plant's owners announced in February they would close it because cheaper power from natural gas is readily available

They told the Navajo Nation Council that they'd shut it down this year if they didn't get an extension.

Wildfire Risk High In Southwest, Northern Great Plains - By Dan Elliott, Associated Press

Forecasters say Utah, Arizona and other parts of the Southwest could face more big wildfires this summer and fall, while hot and dry weather has also put the northern Great Plains at risk.

The National Interagency Fire Center's four-month outlook released Saturday shows elevated danger of significant fires in parts of Arizona, California, Nevada and Utah, as well as eastern Montana and the western Dakotas.

Eastern Montana and western North Dakota received less than half their normal rainfall in June.

Fire danger also remains high on Hawaii's Big Island for the duration of the forecast, which covers July through October.

A fire in Utah has burned 94 square miles and was 60 percent contained Saturday. Fires were also burning in Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico and Washington state.

Police Crack Down On Drunken Driving Over Holiday Weekend - By Susan Montoya Bryan, Associated Press

New Mexico authorities will be out in force during the holiday weekend as part of an ongoing effort to crack down on drunken driving.

State Police and other law enforcement agencies also will be conducting sobriety checkpoints throughout the month of July.

Department of Public Safety Secretary Scott Weaver says people should celebrate the Fourth of July, but there's no excuse for getting behind the wheel if they're intoxicated.

The warnings are coming in the form of billboards, television and radio ads and flashing messages on digital road signs.

In the first five months of the year, 56 people were killed in alcohol-related crashes in New Mexico. That represents nearly two-fifths of the total traffic fatalities recorded between January and May.

Last year, 175 people were killed in alcohol-related crashes.

New Mexico Investigators Confirm ID Of Dead Treasure HunterAssociated Press

New Mexico medical investigators have positively identified a body found in the Rio Grande as that of a Colorado pastor who went missing while searching for a supposed hidden treasure.

State Police announced the findings Friday, nearly two weeks after rafters spotted the remains of 52-year Paris Wallace about seven miles downstream from where he was last believed to have been.

Family members told authorities that Wallace had come to New Mexico to search for the treasure of Forrest Fenn, who announced several years ago that he hid a small bronze chest containing gold, jewelry and artifacts somewhere in the Rocky Mountains.

Thousands have hunted in vain across remote corners of the Western U.S. Another Colorado man died in 2016 searching for the treasure.

Following Wallace's death, authorities called on Fenn to end the treasure hunt, but he has not done so.

New Mexico Rebuffs White House Request For Voter InformationAssociated Press

New Mexico's top election regulator is refusing most of a request to provide voter information to a White House commission that is investigating unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud in the 2016 election.

Democratic Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse-Oliver announced Friday that she will never release personally identifiable information for New Mexico voters that is protected by law, including social security numbers and dates of birth.

She also declined to provide information such as names and voting histories unless she is convinced the information is secured and will not be used for "nefarious or unlawful purposes."

Other states that have refused to provide information to President Donald Trump's Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity include Democratic strongholds New York and California and largely Republican states including Kentucky, Mississippi and Tennessee.

Navajo Housing Authority Appoints Roberts As Interim CEOAssociated Press

The board that oversees the Navajo Housing Authority has appointed an interim chief executive officer while the search begins for a permanent CEO.

Board officials announced Friday that Roberta Roberts will be interim CEO.

She has nearly 16 years of housing experience and served as executive director for the Southern Ute Housing Authority from 2001 to 2003.

Roberts replaces Aneva Yazzie, whose last day was Friday.

Yazzie stepped down as the Navajo Nation looks to rebuild its reputation after concerns were raised about the lack of housing on the vast reservation.

In recent weeks, Navajo housing officials have defended themselves against accusations they overspent millions of dollars in federal grant funds.

The allegations spurred a congressional investigation, but federal regulators have found no evidence of fraud or other criminal conduct.