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GOP Candidate Would Replace Teacher Evals, Airflow Work Begins At U.S. Nuclear Repository

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GOP Candidate Would Replace Teacher EvaluationsThe Associated Press

New Mexico's Republican candidate for governor is calling for an immediate suspension of the state's embattled teacher evaluation system that he describes as badly broken.

U.S. Congressman and GOP nominee Steve Pearce told The Associated Press on Thursday that the current system for rating teacher performance has crushed the spirit of many talented educators and contributed to the state's teacher shortage.

Pearce says that if elected, he would bring together teachers and other stakeholders to devise a new plan.

Outgoing two-term Republican Gov. Susana Martinez has consistently pushed to incorporate teacher evaluations and students' standardized test results into a system aimed at greater accountability.

That system has been the focus of protests and legal challenges as New Mexico lags behind most states in rates of student academic proficiency.

Work Begins To Boost Airflow At US Nuclear RepositoryThe Associated Press

Work has started on a new ventilation system that will clear the way for more radioactive waste to be hauled underground and disposed of at the U.S. government's nuclear repository in southern New Mexico.

U.S. Energy Department officials celebrated with a groundbreaking event Thursday, saying the system is key for ramping up work at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant.

The repository restarted operations in 2017 following a nearly three-year shutdown that resulted from a radiation release from an inappropriately packaged drum of waste that was shipped from Los Alamos National Laboratory.

After the 2014 release, limited ventilation underground due to contamination issues slowed disposal operations as well as mining and maintenance work.

The new system is expected to cost more than a quarter-billion dollars and take until 2021 to complete.

EPA Lays Out 1st Steps To Clean Up Southwest Colorado MinesThe Associated Press

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has come up with an interim plan to hold back toxic heavy metals that spill into rivers from old southwestern Colorado mining sites.

The proposal released Thursday calls for taking short-term cleanup steps while the EPA searches for a more permanent solution under the Superfund program.

The interim plan focuses on controlling or removing contaminants at 26 sites including mine waste piles, ponds and rivers. The cleanup will eventually cover 48 mining sites.

The cleanup was prompted by a massive 2015 spill at the Gold King mine near Silverton. An EPA-led contractor crew inadvertently triggered a blowout of 3 million gallons of wastewater contaminated with arsenic, lead and other toxic metals.

The yellow-orange waste stream polluted rivers in Colorado, New Mexico and Utah.

Male Black Bear Captured In Albuquerque CommunityThe Associated Press

New Mexico wildlife officers say they have captured a male bear that was wandering in an Albuquerque community.

The bear was hiding a cottonwood tree Wednesday when New Mexico Game and Fish officers darted it.

Sgt. Rick Castell with the state's Game and Fish Department says the 200-pound (91-kilogram) male bear continued to climb up the tree before falling from about 40 feet (12 meters) onto a large air-filled pillow that cushioned its fall.

He says the bear didn't have any ear tags, but it was tagged after officers captured him.

He says the bear will be released in a forest.

Castell says it's not uncommon to see bears in Albuquerque and expects to see more later in the summer.

New Mexico Supreme Court Adopts Rules For Guardianship CasesAssociated Press

The New Mexico Supreme Court has approved new rules that will require guardians and conservators to submit more information to district courts about the finances and health of protected people.

The changes announced Wednesday come as New Mexico overhauls its guardianship laws.

The system was thrust into the spotlight following a series of investigative articles published last year by the Albuquerque Journal that raised questions about the lack of oversight and transparency.

A commission created by the Supreme Court followed up with numerous recommendations, some of which were incorporated into legislation that passed early this year and will take effect next month.

Starting July 1, hearings in guardianship and conservatorship proceedings that were previously closed will be opened. Bonding requirements also will be imposed on conservators and access to court records will be expanded.

New Mexico Governor Supports Family Separation PolicyAlbuquerque Journal, Associated Press

New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez says she supports the federal government's decision to separate children from parents accused of crossing the border illegally.

The Albuquerque Journal reports Martinez firmly backed the Trump Administration's zero tolerance effort during her visit to the border this week.

Martinez is a staunch supporter of tougher border enforcement.

She says people shouldn't be allowed to break the law "simply because they have children."

Martinez says families can be reunited once parents post bail as they await immigration proceedings.

She says immigrant parents who do not have access to lawyers who can request bail or the funds to cover the cost can prevent their families being separated by simply not crossing the border illegally.

Youths Suggest Legislation To Ensure Guns Stored SafelyAssociated Press

A high school student and recent graduate are urging New Mexico lawmakers to adopt a child access prevention law to hold gun owners accountable for the safe storage of firearms.

Santa Fe-area high school student Julia Mazal on Wednesday told a panel of legislators that there is no excuse for the negligent storage of guns with the knowledge that a firearm could fall into the hands of a child and result in tragedy.

She and recent high school graduate Lia Fukuda say youths who perpetrated recent shooting rampages in New Mexico and Texas obtained guns from home.

A failed state bill introduced in 2016 would have created criminal penalties and civil liability for negligent storage of firearms when the owner should have known a minor would have access.

Navajo Nation Tightens Fire Restrictions Across ReservationAssociated Press

The Navajo Nation is tightening fire restrictions across the reservation because of ongoing drought.

Tribal President Russell Begaye says people should be praying for rain and each other. Tribal officials plan to conduct a ceremony next week, making offerings for rain.

The Stage II restrictions apply to all Navajo land in New Mexico, Utah and Arizona.

Burning debris, and building campfires, charcoal fires and warming fires is prohibited.

Chain saws are allowed within certain hours.

Smoking isn't recommended in open areas.

Anyone branding livestock can use petroleum-fueled stoves as long as the immediate area is cleared of flammable material.

Anyone building a ceremonial fire must get a permit from the tribe's Environmental Protection Agency.

Violating fire restrictions carries a maximum fine of $5,000.

Los Alamos Lab Deploys Drone-Disabling SystemLos Alamos Monitor, Associated Press

One of the country's premier nuclear weapons labs now has the capability to disable drones or any other unauthorized unmanned aircraft systems flying over its restricted airspace in a swath of northern New Mexico.

The Los Alamos Monitor reports officials at the Los Alamos National Laboratory say they're testing the new system that could serve as a model for other federal installations.

Michael Lansing, the head of the lab's security operations, says they have the ability to disrupt and seize control of a drone or use force to take it out.

The lab worked with the National Nuclear Security Administration and the Federal Aviation Administration to implement the system.

Systems are planned for the sites in Texas, Tennessee and Nevada.

Sheriff Says Escaped Jail Inmate Likely In Albuquerque AreaAssociated Press

Authorities say an inmate mistakenly released from a New Mexico jail robbed an Albuquerque business the morning he managed to escape custody this week.

Bernalillo County sheriff's officials also said at a news conference Wednesday they believed 27-yeard-old Duwin Perez-Cordova was still in the Albuquerque area.

Metropolitan Detention Center officials say Perez-Cordova fooled jail staff into releasing him early Sunday by pretending to be his cellmate.

He was being jailed on charges of attempting to commit a felony, shooting at or from a car, aggravated battery, car theft, drug trafficking, conspiracy and racketeering.

Authorities warn that Perez-Cordova is considered violent and shouldn't be approached by the public.

They are offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to his arrest.

Employment Commission Sues New Mexico Staffing AgencyAssociated Press

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is suing a temporary staffing agency over allegations that it failed to address sexual harassment complaints made by four women who were assigned to the Albuquerque Police Department's records unit.

The commission filed the lawsuit against Select Staffing in federal court Wednesday. It claims the four women were subjected to pervasive unwelcome sexual comments and touching.

Managers with Select Staffing were not immediately available to comment.

The lawsuit is seeking back wages for the women along with compensatory and punitive damages. It also asks for a permanent injunction to keep the company from engaging in any gender-discriminatory practices.

Mary Jo O'Neill, a regional attorney with the commission, says the case is more distressing because the misconduct occurred in a police unit.

A police spokesman did not immediately respond to questions about the allegations.

Las Cruces Police Officer Cleared In Shooting Of A BicyclistAssociated Press

The Third Judicial District Attorney's Office has determined that a Las Cruces police officer's actions were justified in a shooting that injured a bicyclist two months ago.

The April 27 shooting injured a 29-year-old man who refused a police officer's multiple commands to stop.

Lapel camera video shows the suspect holding a handgun in one image.

A responding police officer ultimately fired four rounds that struck the suspect.

It was later determined that the handgun that the suspect drew was a BB gun.

The suspect — identified as Myron Oveide — is facing charges of aggravated assault upon a peace officer and resisting, evading or obstructing an officer.

Police say lapel camera video of the incident is not being released at this time because Oveide's case is pending prosecution.

GOP Candidate Drops Out Of Secretary Of State RaceAssociated Press

Republican JoHanna Cox is dropping out of the race for New Mexico secretary of state, saying she needs to tend to personal matters involving her family.

The Albuquerque attorney and single mother had no opposition during the recent primary election. She would have faced Democratic incumbent Maggie Toulouse Oliver in the Nov. 6 general election.

The state Republican Party plans to convene its state central committee as soon as possible to select a new nominee.

5th New Mexico Park, Part Of 6th To Close Due To Fire ThreatAssociated Press

New Mexico is closing a fifth state park and part of a sixth because of extreme danger of wildfires.

The Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department announced Wednesday that Manzano Mountains State Park and the Las Tusas Recreation Area within Bluewater Lake State Park are being closed Friday.

Manzano Mountain is 37 miles southeast of Albuquerque while Bluewater is 83 miles west of Albuquerque.

The department also says the June 1 closure of Cimarron Canyon State Park located 70 miles northeast of Santa Fe because of a major wildfire about 10 miles away will continue until at least July 8.

Fenton Lake, Hyde Memorial, and Morphy Lake state parks were closed previously.

Hurricane's Remnants To Drop Precipitation On New MexicoAssociated Press

Remnants of a hurricane that's now a tropical storm are expected to reach New Mexico and expected to provide some precipitation.

The National Weather Service says sub-tropical moisture "will create a favorable set up for widespread rainfall, locally heavy at times, Saturday into Saturday night."

According to the hazardous weather outlook released Wednesday, there are isolated risks of thunderstorms before the possibility of daily rounds of afternoon thunderstorms begin late Friday and continue into Saturday.

Forecasters say the main hazards from numerous showers and thunderstorms will be frequent lightning, strong and gusty winds, heavy downpours and flash flooding.

The weather service says areas recently burned by wildfires will be especially susceptible to flash floods and debris flows late Friday night into Saturday.

AG New Mexico's Opioid Case To Be Heard In New Mexico CourtAssociated Press

The New Mexico Attorney General's Office says the state's lawsuit against major opioid manufacturers will be heard by a state court in New Mexico where it was originally filed, not in a federal court in Ohio.

The Attorney General's Office last year sued major manufacturers and distributors over allegations that they exacerbated the state's drug addiction crisis.

Attorney General Hector Balderas calls a federal judge's ruling late Tuesday a victory that means the case will be decided by a judge and jury who understand New Mexico, its population and way of life.

A major pharmaceutical distributor, McKesson Corp., had moved in April to have the New Mexico lawsuit heard in federal court along with other litigation.

Demi Moore Headed To New Mexico To Film 'Corporate Animals'Associated Press

A dark comedy starring Demi Moore will begin production in northern New Mexico this month.

The New Mexico Film Office says work on "Corporate Animals" will run through early July in Santa Fe and Abiquiu. The independent film will employ about 100 local crew members, two New Mexico actors and about 60 extras.

Directed by Patrick Brice, the comedy also will star Jessica Williams and Ed Helms.

Moore plays the egotistical chief executive of America's leading supplier of edible cutlery. Disaster strikes while she and her employees are spending a weekend caving in New Mexico as part of a team-building attempt. The disgruntled group has to pull together to survive after becoming trapped.

Moore, who was born in New Mexico, recently starred in several episodes of the television series "Empire."

Farmington Water Shortage Prompts City To Restrict UsageAssociated Press

Farmington is implementing tougher steps to conserve water because voluntary usage reductions haven't done enough to cope with the northwestern New Mexico city's water shortage.

The City Council on May 1 had declared a first-stage water shortage advisory and urged residents to conserve water to try to reduce use by 10 percent, but officials say water use since then actually increased with unusually warm temperatures and a lack of snowpack.

The council Tuesday night approved mandatory restrictions that include a watering schedule and fines for violations of use restrictions.

Additional steps will take effect July 16.

City Manager Rob Mayes says the council will have to authorize water rate surcharges if water consumption doesn't diminish significantly.