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Oil Fire Prompts Evacuations In San Juan County, Navajo Nation Endorses Superfund Cleanup

Rita Daniels/KUNM

Oil Rig Fire Burning In San Juan CountyKOB-TV, KOAT-TV

A massive oil fire near Nageezi in northwestern New Mexico has prompted some evacuations and a road closure.

KOAT-TV reports around 30 oil storage tanks caught fire on property owned by WPX Energy, halting drilling in the area. The flames are so intense that firefighters are letting it burn for the moment because of safety concerns.

WPX told KOB-TV all of its workers and contractors are safe. It’s not clear how the fire started. Highway 550 is closed at mile marker 114 and some people have been evacuated near Nageezi and Counselor. An evacuation center has been set up at the Nageezi Chapter House.

Navajo Nation Endorses Superfund Cleanup Of Colorado Mines – Associated Press

The Navajo Nation has formally endorsed a Superfund cleanup of southwestern Colorado mines, including one that released millions of gallons of wastewater into a river on Navajo land.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which is considering a Superfund designation for the Gold King Mine and other sites, released the letter Monday.

The letter was dated June 3. The EPA didn't immediately respond to a request for an explanation for the delay.

An EPA-led crew accidentally caused a 3-million-gallon spill at the Gold King last August while doing preliminary cleanup work. The release polluted rivers in Colorado, New Mexico and Utah, including the San Juan River on Navajo land.

A Superfund designation could release millions of dollars for a cleanup. The EPA says a decision could come as early as this fall.

2 Cases Of Human Tularemia Cases In Bernalillo CountyThe Associated Press 

Authorities say two cases of human tularemia have been confirmed in Bernalillo County.

They are the first two laboratory confirmed human cases in New Mexico so far this year.

Albuquerque's Environmental Health Department, the New Mexico Department of Health and the Bernalillo County Health Protection Section say the cases involve a 74-year-old man and a 71-year-old woman.

Authorities say the woman is currently hospitalized but is improving. The man has fully recovered.

They say one of the two likely was exposed in the Rio Grande bosque area.

Health authorities say it's believed the illness was the result of a bite from an infected deer fly.

Tularemia is caused by bacteria found in rodents and rabbits and can be fatal if not treated properly.

Bernalillo County Again Looking For A New Jail AdministratorThe Associated Press

Bernalillo County is again looking for a new jail administrator to manage its jail facility in Albuquerque.

County officials announced Tuesday that Michael Watkins of San Benito, Texas withdrew his application for the jail administrator job.

No explanation for Watkin's withdrawal was immediately available.

He was selected to head the jail three weeks ago and was to begin work on Monday.

County manager Julie Morgas-Baca says Captain Ray Gonzales will serve as interim jail administrator until a replacement is hired.

Morgas-Baca says the county will meet over the next few days to discuss the next steps for filling the position and hire the best candidate.

Supreme Court To Consider Report On Rio Grande CaseThe Associated Press

It will likely be up to the nation's highest court to settle a dispute between Texas and New Mexico over management of water from the Rio Grande.

Officials in both states have been waiting for nearly a year for a recommendation on the handling of the case that could dramatically curb groundwater pumping in some of New Mexico's most fertile valleys and force the state to pay as much as $1 billion in damages.

Now, a special master assigned by the U.S. Supreme Court is recommending the rejection of a motion by New Mexico to dismiss the case, meaning it can move forward as long as the court agrees.

Texas sued in 2013, claiming New Mexico failed to deliver water as required under a decades-old compact.

Albuquerque Chosen To Host 2019 National Senior Games The Associated Press

Albuquerque has been selected to host the 2019 National Senior Games, an event that attracts thousands of competitors and spectators.

The Senior Games are played every two years and feature 19 sports for women and men age 50 and above.

Mayor Richard Berry announced the city's selection Tuesday.

City officials earlier this year approved plans to build a $21 million complex of baseball and softball fields.

UNM's Albuquerque Campus Swarms With Pokemon HuntersThe Associated Press

A wildly popular new game has University of New Mexico's campus crawling with players using their smart phones to hunt for virtual creatures.

James Walker, a marketing assistant with UNM residence life, told the Albuquerque Journal that UNM's lack of traffic has made it popular with Pokemon Go players, especially at night. The UNM campus is also home to several so-called "Pokestops," real-world landmarks that show up in the game's virtual world.

Pokemon Go is a free mobile phone app developed by software company Niantic and the Pokemon Co. In previous Pokemon games, players used video game consoles to collect and battle Pokemon, creatures that often resemble animals. The new game, however, asks users to walk around in the real world and capture the creatures on their phone screens.

Presbyterian Pulling Out Of New Mexico Health Exchange – Albuquerque Journal, Associated Press

Officials with Presbyterian Health Plan say the insurance company will no longer offer individual and family plans on the Affordable Care Act marketplace in New Mexico starting next year.

The Albuquerque Journal reported Monday that Presbyterian has sent letters to members notifying them of the changes.

The decision to stop offering coverage will affect 10,000 exchange members, 80 percent of whom now receive federal subsidies.

Presbyterian officials say patients who purchased on the exchange used medical services 30 percent more than other patient groups off the exchange.

In January, Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Mexico stopped offering individual insurance plans through the state health exchange.

Company officials say it lost $19.2 million in 2015 on the 35,000 individuals covered by plans they purchased on and off the exchange.

Santa Fe Schools Taps An Ex-Superintendent As Interim ChiefAssociated Press

Santa Fe Public Schools has named a former New Mexico public education secretary and one of its former leaders as interim superintendent.

The Santa Fe Board of Education voted Saturday to hire Veronica Garcia as the district's interim leader while the board looks for a permanent replacement. The move comes after Superintendent Joel Boyd recently announced he would leave the position for another job.

Garcia was executive director of New Mexico Voices for Children, a group that has put out annual reports ranking the state low on child poverty.

She served as New Mexico public education secretary under former Gov. Bill Richardson and led Santa Fe Public Schools from 1999 to 2002.

The 65-year-old Garcia says she is honored to work for the district again.

Mosquito Traps To Be Deployed To Study Possible Zika ImpactAssociated Press

New Mexico State University researchers plan to place mosquito traps across roughly two-thirds of the state to map the range of two species known to transmit Zika virus.

Biologist Kathryn Hanley says researchers asked to do this project four years ago but funding agencies had little interest.

The Albuquerque Journal reports that changed when Zika was linked to severe birth defects in Brazil and other nations in the Americas.

The project is funded by a $90,000 contract with the New Mexico Department of Health. The work is intended to help health officials plan for the possibility of local Zika infections and reduce infection risks.

Traps will be placed in 24 of New Mexico's 33 counties.

Hanley and geography professor Michaela Buenemann will conduct the research with graduate students.

Meeting Set On Colonia Designation For Poor New Mexico Town Las Cruces Sun-News, Associated Press

A meeting is set for a small, poor border community in southern New Mexico considering designating itself as a colonia.

The Las Cruces Sun-News reports federal officials will present Tuesday the potential benefits and shortcomings of a colonias designation for Mesilla.

Espie Holguin, with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and Sandra Alarcon, of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development, are scheduled to answer residents' questions.

Town officials are considering the colonias designation as a potential funding source for replacing, improving or adding public infrastructure.

In the U.S., a colonia is considered a semi-rural subdivision of substandard housing lacking basic physical infrastructure such as suitable drinking water, sanitary sewage, and adequate roads.

Colonias must be located within 150 miles of the U.S. border with Mexico.

APS Officials Say Lawsuit Delaying Numerous ProjectsKOB-TV, Albuquerque Journal

A judge declined to dismiss a lawsuit against Albuquerque Public Schools and APS officials said that is delaying numerous projects around the district.

The Albuquerque Journal reports APS sought summary judgment in the case brought by attorney Robert Pidcock, who argues that parts of a $575 million bond and mill levy are not going toward education. But Judge Nan Nash ruled against APS.

KOB-TV reports school board members said at a meeting Monday night that dozens of projects they say would benefit students will be delayed as a result of the suit. Board Member Analee Maestas also said projects now underway will be halted.

Trump's 'Make America Great Again' Target Of Minority SatireAssociated Press

Some minority artists and activists are satirizing the "Make America Great Again" slogan of presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump and using their parodies to make statements.

A Navajo artist Vanessa Bowen of New Mexico has created a hat that touts "Make America Native Again." A Mexican-American activist in Brooklyn, New York, is selling a cap with the words "Make America Mexico Again."

Bowen says she developed the hat because she believes Trump's slogan speaks of a time when whites excluded minorities.

Jeronimo Saldaña says he starting selling "Make American Mexico Again" after seeing a post online and thought it was a good response to Trump's immigration ideas.

But Trump supporter and celebrity makeup artist Christopher "Tru" Trujillo says all these "cute" counter-slogans will only help the billionaire businessman.

Volunteers Restore Historic New Mexico Black Church Associated Press

A historic New Mexico black church located near the U.S.-Mexico border has been restored.

Volunteers in Las Cruces have finished a seven-year project using mud, mortar and adobe bricks to revamp the Phillips Chapel Christian Methodist Episcopal Church.

The one-room church was built in 1911 in the heart of Las Cruces' historic black neighborhood.

Both the exterior and interior of the building were restored, repairing windows, replacing doors and refinishing interior flooring and woodwork.

New Mexico State University anthropology professor emeritus Beth O'Leary says volunteers who worked on the church ranged from 8-years-old to 85.

The building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is the state's oldest existing African American church.

New Mexico Governor Travels To Dallas Police MemorialAssociated Press

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez is traveling to Dallas to attend a memorial service for five Dallas police officers slain in the line of duty.

Martinez was traveling to Dallas Monday evening and planned to return after the Tuesday service. The former district attorney and El Paso native called Texas Gov. Greg Abbott last week to offer her condolences, and has said she is heartbroken by the bloodshed in Dallas.

President Barack Obama and former President George W. Bush plan to speak at the service. Abbot will not attend because he is recovering from extensive burns on his legs and feet caused by scalding hot water.

The state of New Mexico will pay for Martinez's travel.

New Mexico Food-Aid Investigation Ignites New Concerns Associated Press

The first results of an internal investigation into whether New Mexico state officials falsified emergency food benefit applications to meet federal processing deadlines is raising new concerns that aid may not be reaching those in need.

State Democratic Party Chairwoman Debra Haaland said Monday that she and several allied lawmakers want to ensure that emergency food benefits reach eligible residents while the Human Services Department continues its investigation.

The agency's inspector general was told by some food-assistance case workers that applications for expedited aid were altered as an unwritten rule to avoid running afoul of federal guidelines for timeliness.

Advocates for aid recipients say the practice can delay crucial public assistance and want a federal receiver appointed to oversee the program. A federal judge is considering whether that is warranted.