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FRI: Time Running Out For Recall Against Cowboys For Trump Founder, + More

Morgan Lee
Associated Press
In this May 13, 2021, file photo, Otero County Commissioner Couy Griffin presides at a public meeting in Alamogordo, N.M., in a shirt with a "C4T" logo that stands for Cowboys for Trump.


Recall Effort Against Cowboys For Trump Founder Lags - By Morgan Lee, Associated Press

Time is running out for a recall effort aiming to kick Cowboys for Trump founder Couy Griffin out of office as a county commissioner in southern New Mexico.

Supporters of the petition drive in Otero County say they still need to collect several hundred additional signatures by next Wednesday to trigger a recall election against Griffin. The petition accuses him of failing to attend commission meetings, using his elected position for personal gain in promoting a support group for former President Donald Trump and violating state restrictions on gifts to public officials.

Separately, Griffin is facing misdemeanor criminal charges in the Jan. 6. insurrection on the U.S. Capitol, where he appeared on an outdoor terrace and tried to lead the crowd in prayer.

Griffin formed Cowboys for Trump in 2019 with a group of rodeo acquaintances to hold horseback-riding parades nationwide in support of Trump. He has ascribed to unsubstantiated claims of fraud in the 2020 election.

Scott Fredrick, a member of a political committee to recall Griffin, said Thursday that the effort was still about 400 registered voters shy of the 1,574 signatures needed to force an election after extensive canvassing. Otero County Clerk Robyn Holmes said the petition is due by 5 p.m. Wednesday.

Fredrick acknowledged that it will be "a stretch" to collect the required signatures but vowed not to give up before the deadline.

"We put on a full-court press, and unfortunately, we're still 400 signatures short," he said.

If recalled, Griffin's interim replacement would be picked by Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham. Fredrick says that provision made it difficult to find support among registered voters in a county with strong currents of conservatism.

Griffin on Friday called the recall campaign and its accusations "100% frivolous."

As the petition circulated, Griffin has burnished his trademark political credentials at local events: leading a roadside protest against COVID-19 vaccine mandates for military personnel at the entrance to Holloman Air Force Base and backing a county resolution opposing enforcement of coronavirus health orders that require masks in indoor public places.

"We're a conservative county. We want to have a voice. We don't want to be ruled over by a tyrannical governor," Griffin said from Montana, where he traveled for a speaking engagement that touched on themes of election fraud. "If I would have been recalled, then that would have given the governor the opportunity to hand-select somebody to serve her."

The recall petition highlights Griffin's pursuit of travel reimbursements from taxpayers in Otero County for a cross-country trip in 2019 that culminated in a visit with Trump at the White House.

Recall advocates say they also were driven to action by Griffin's racial invective and political rhetoric espousing violence. Griffin says his comments urging some Black people to "go back to Africa" and jokes about "dead Democrats" have been misconstrued.

New Mexico Governor Tours Refugee Center, Talks Business - By Susan Montoya Bryan Associated Press

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham visited southern New Mexico on Friday to talk with fellow elected Democratic leaders and business groups about economic development and to tour a military base near the U.S.-Mexico border where Afghan refugees are being housed.

The Democrat's visit was not made public until late in the afternoon. Her office said she walked through the processing area at Fort Bliss Army base, spoke with volunteers about the need for winter coats and other items for those at the facility and saw how the refugees were screened for COVID-19.

"Whenever the federal government tells us they need our help, New Mexico is ready to help these families on their way," Lujan Grisham said in a statement after the tour.

There was no indication that Lujan Grisham visited the U.S.-Mexico border while in the area. She has faced criticism in recent months for not doing more to address the concerns of residents along the border amid the latest influx of immigrants.

Republicans in New Mexico were disappointed earlier this week that she wasn't among the more than two dozen governors who signed a letter to President Joe Biden seeking a meeting about the problems that border states are facing.

Lujan Grisham, chair of the Democratic Governors Association and a vocal critic of former President Donald Trump's immigration policies, has said that those with concerns should direct them to the federal agencies working on the issue.

Republican state Sen. Crystal Diamond said she and others had been asking for months that the governor visit with ranchers and others in the region. She said those pleas were ignored.

"She's not out there hearing the needs of constituents," Diamond said. "So right now we don't need candidate Michelle Lujan Grisham on the border, we need Gov. Grisham on the border who will act in her capacity as governor to provide us help."

Diamond noted that lawmakers held their legislative session earlier this year in a closed capitol with a fence around the building while the border remained open and immigrants arrived in the U.S. amid the pandemic. She said the health and safety of New Mexicans should be front and center.

"Border security isn't a partisan issue, but she has continued to make it so," Diamond said of the governor.

The governor's visit to southern New Mexico was billed by her office as a strategy session with business leaders and elected officials to talk about their concerns and how her administration can meet community needs. Meetings were held in the border community of Santa Teresa and nearby Las Cruces.

Lujan Grisham's administration has built on the work of former Republican Gov. Susana Martinez's administration to grow cross-border trade and attract more businesses to the area. According to the state, several Taiwanese businesses have announced plans in the last two years to develop manufacturing space in Santa Teresa and create a North American footprint.

The state since 2019 has directed more than $10 million in local economic development funds to Doña Ana County businesses, resulting in over 1,000 jobs. About $11 million in state job training funds have supported more than 2,500 jobs.

Former UFC Champ Jon Jones Jailed In Vegas Battery Incident - By Greg Beacham And Ken Ritter, Associated Press

Former UFC champion Jon Jones was jailed in Las Vegas early Friday after an incident at Caesars Palace that police said led to his arrest on charges of domestic battery and damaging a vehicle.

Details of the incident that led to Jones' 5:45 a.m. arrest at the Las Vegas Strip resort were not immediately made public by Las Vegas police.

Jail and court records showed Jonathan Dwight Jones, 34, posted $8,000 bail and was due for an initial court appearance Saturday, with an Oct. 26 date for prosecutors to file criminal charges. The domestic battery charge is a misdemeanor. The vehicle charge is a felony, with damage reported at more than $5,000.

It was not immediately clear if Jones had an attorney.

Jones lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico, but he attended a Thursday night UFC Hall of Fame induction ceremony at the Park MGM hotel honoring his 2013 fight with Alexander Gustafsson.

Jones (26-1, 1 no-contest) had three separate stints as the UFC's light heavyweight champion from 2011 to 2020, and he is widely considered one of the greatest fighters in MMA history.

But his UFC career has been defined more by misbehavior outside the cage than his excellence in it.

In 2012, a year after becoming the youngest champion in UFC history, Jones was arrested for DUI after crashing his Bentley into a telephone pole in upstate Binghamton, New York.

Jones then lost his title in 2015 when he was arrested and charged with a felony stemming from a hit-and-run accident in New Mexico in which he broke a pregnant driver's arm.

Jones pleaded no contest to disorderly conduct in 2019 after an incident with a waitress at a strip club in Albuquerque, and he was arrested last year in Albuquerque on charges of aggravated driving under the influence and negligent use of a firearm.

Jones has failed several drug tests from the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, which runs the UFC's antidoping program.

He was forced out of a fight with Daniel Cormier at UFC 200 in 2016 after testing positive for two banned substances that he blamed on a sexual enhancement pill.

He then tested positive for an anabolic steroid in 2017, prompting the UFC to strip his light heavyweight title for a second time. The California State Athletic Commission overturned the result of his victory over Cormier at UFC 214, and Jones received a 15-month competitive suspension.

Because of his arrests, suspensions and various disputes with the UFC, Jones has fought only eight times in the last eight years during the ostensible prime of his career. He hasn't fought since beating Dominick Reyes in February 2020 for his fourth consecutive victory.

Jones relinquished the light heavyweight title last year and declared his intention to move up to heavyweight. He told reporters Thursday night he wants to weigh 270 pounds when he makes his heavyweight debut, hopefully next spring.

FBI Seeks Albuquerque Bank Robber With White-Framed GlassesAssociated Press

FBI agents have joined Albuquerque police in the search for a man who robbed a bank on the southwest side of the city.

The FBI says the white male 5-foot-6 to 5-foot-7 with a slender to medium build was wearing white-framed sunglasses glasses when he entered the Bank of the West Thursday afternoon on Central Avenue SW.

He wore a gray mask covering his lower face, a dark sweatshirt and a dark, two-tone baseball cap with a logo on the front.

The FBI said Friday he presented a demand note to a teller, who gave him an undisclosed amount of money before he left the bank.

Anyone with information about this robbery is asked to contact the FBI at 505-889-1300, or Albuquerque Metro Crime Stoppers, anonymously, at 505-843-STOP.

Albuquerque Victim Seriously Burned After Doused By GasolineAlbuquerque Journal

Albuquerque police say they are investigating an incident that left a person with serious burns after someone doused the victim with gasoline and started a fire.

Police spokeswoman Rebecca Atkins told the  Albuquerque Journal the victim was taken to the hospital Friday with "serious burns" but didn't have any information about the patient's condition.

She said officers responded to reports of the fire Friday afternoon in a West Central neighborhood. She didn't provide any information about whether anyone was in custody or whether charges were expected to be filed.

Atkins said additional details would be released as they became available.

Many Hurdles For Families With Food Challenges, Poll Shows - By Ashraf Khalil And Cedar Attanasio, Associated Press

Many Americans struggling to feed their families over the past pandemic year say they have had difficulty figuring out how to get help and had trouble finding healthy foods they can afford.

A poll from Impact Genome and The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research finds 23% of Americans say they have not been able to get enough to eat or the kinds of foods they want. Most of those facing food challenges enrolled in a government or nonprofit food assistance program in the past year, but 58% still had difficulty accessing at least one service.

And 21% of adults facing challenges meeting their food needs were unable to access any assistance at all. The most common challenge to those in need was a basic lack of awareness of eligibility for both government and nonprofit services.

The poll results paint an overall picture of a country where hundreds of thousands of households found themselves suddenly plunged into food insecurity due to the economic disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic. They often found themselves navigating the intimidating bureaucracy of government assistance programs and with limited knowledge of local food banks or other charitable options available.

Black and Hispanic Americans, Americans living below the federal poverty line and younger adults are especially likely to face food challenges, according to the poll.

Americans who have a hard time affording food also feel less confident than others about their ability to get healthy food. Just 27% say they are "very" or "extremely" confident, compared with 87% of those who do not face food challenges.

For homemaker Acacia Barraza in Los Lunas, a rural town outside Albuquerque, New Mexico, the challenge has been to find a steady supply of fresh fruits and vegetables for her 2-year-old son while staying inside the family budget.

Barraza, 34, quit her job as a waitress before the pandemic when her son was born. She considered going back to work, but on-and-off child care shortages as the pandemic took hold made that impossible, she said. The family lives off her husband's salary as a mechanic while receiving assistance from SNAP — the government program commonly known as food stamps.

Despite the government help, Barraza said she still scrambles to find affordable sources of fresh vegetables, actively scouring local markets for bargains such as a bag of fresh spinach for $2.99.

"If we don't always have vegetables, he's going to not want to eat them in the future. And then I worry that he's not going to get enough vitamins from vegetables in the future or now for his growing body. So it's really hard. It's just really hard," she said.

Even those who didn't lose income during the pandemic find themselves stretching their food dollars at the end of the month. Trelecia Mornes of Fort Worth, Texas, works, as a telephone customer service representative, so she was able to work from home without interruption.

She makes too much money to qualify for SNAP, but not enough to easily feed the family.

She decided to do distance learning with her three children home because of fears about COVID-19 outbreaks in the schools, so that removed school lunches from the equation. Her work responsibilities prevent her from picking up free lunches offered by the school district. She takes care of her disabled brother, who lives with them and does receive SNAP benefits. But Mornes said that $284 a month "lasts about a week and a half."

They try to eat healthy, but budget considerations sometimes lead her to prioritize cost and longevity with "canned soups, maybe noodles — things that last and aren't so expensive," she said.

Radha Muthiah, president of the Capital Area Food Bank in Washington said the struggles reflected in the poll are evidence of a new phenomenon brought by the pandemic: Families with no experience with food insecurity are suddenly in need, without knowledge of charitable options or experience navigating government assistance programs.

"It's all new to them," she said. "Many individuals and families — especially those experiencing food insecurity for the first time — are unaware of their full range of options."

Many are leery of engaging directly with government programs such as SNAP and WIC — the parallel government food-assistance program that helps mothers and children. Muthiah said that reluctance often stems from either frustration with the paperwork or, among immigrant communities, fear of endangering their immigration status or green card applications.

The poll shows that overall, about 1 in 8 Americans regularly get their food from convenience stores, which typically offer less nutritious food at higher prices. That experience is more common among Americans facing food challenges, with about 1 in 5 frequenting convenience stores.

The dependence on convenience stores is a particularly troubling dynamic, Muthiah said, because the options there are both more expensive and generally less nutritious. Part of the issue is simply habit, but a much larger problem is the lack of proper grocery stores in "food deserts" that exist in poorer parts of many cities.

"Sometimes they are the only quick efficient option for many people to get food," she said. "But they don't get the full range of what they need from a convenience store and that leads to a lot of negative health outcomes."

The poll shows half of Americans facing food challenges say extra money to help pay for food or bills is necessary for meeting their food needs.

Fewer consider reliable transportation or enough free food to last a few days, such as in emergency food packages, or free prepared meals at a soup kitchen or school to be necessary resources for meeting their food needs, though majorities say these would be helpful.

Gerald Ortiz of Espańola, New Mexico, bought a 2019 Chevy pickup truck before the pandemic, then lost the office job he had held for 20 years. Now he scrambles to make the $600 monthly payment and gets by through charity and by simply eating less. His unemployment payments ended this month.

"I make sure my truck payment is done," said Ortiz, as he sat in a line of about 30 cars waiting to pick up food from a charitable organization, Barrios Unidos, in nearby Chimayó. "After that I, I, just eat like once a day," he said, pointing to his stomach. "That's why you see me I'm so thin now."

He's applying for multiple jobs and surviving on charity and whatever produce he can grow in his backyard — chili peppers, onions, cucumbers and watermelons.

"It's been depressing. It's been, like, stressful and I get anxiety," he said. "Like, I can't wait to get a job. I don't care what it is right now."

Albuquerque, Soccer Team Seek To Build Stadium If Bond OK'd - Associated Press

City officials and the New Mexico United soccer team announced Thursday the terms of a long-term lease and development agreement should voters approve a stadium bond.

If the bond is passed in the Nov. 2 municipal election, city officials said Albuquerque will invest up to $50 million to build a stadium that has up to 12,000 seats.

The lease agreement includes a $32.5 million contribution toward the stadium project by New Mexico United and the team is committed to paying for the day-to-day operating costs. 

The agreement also outlines the use of local food and beverage vendors and a provision to bring a women's soccer team to Albuquerque.

New Mexico United owner Peter Trevisani said the multi-use stadium would be publicly owned facility, create 780 jobs and not raise taxes.

Under the agreement, the team will pay the city $800,000 a year and $100,000 a year minimum for concessions and revenue generated from the facility. 

Lawrence Rael, chief operations officer for the city, called it a strong deal for Albuquerque.

Work Aims To Uncover History Of Boarding School Burial Site - By Susan Montoya Bryan Associated Press

Albuquerque city officials plan to use ground-penetrating radar as they research the history of a site where dozens of Native American boarding school students are believed to have been buried more than a century ago. 

Orange flags also will be placed at the city park to signify the importance of the site as more permanent plans are worked out among city officials, Indigenous leaders and advocacy groups. Orange is the color used to symbolize the movement that is bringing more awareness to the troubled legacy of the boarding school system that sought to assimilate Indigenous youth into white society over many decades. 

Indigenous activists became concerned earlier this year when a plaque memorializing the students from the former Albuquerque Indian School vanished. They established a makeshift memorial of flowers and other offerings and demanded an investigation.

The plaque's disappearance came as the U.S. government began a nationwide investigation into boarding schools, where reports of physical and sexual abuse were widespread and where children who died while attending the schools were often buried in unmarked graves. Part of the massive undertaking aims to determine how many children perished.

Recent discoveries of children's remains in Canada and the investigation in the U.S. have stirred strong emotions among tribal communities, including grief, anger, reflection and a deep desire for healing.

City officials acknowledged the intergenerational pain caused by federal boarding school policies. While it can't be undone, they said reconciliation is in order. Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller offered an apology on behalf of the city in a statement issued Wednesday.

"This is important because we have an opportunity to learn and understand from our collective history and make meaningful change," said Rebecca Riley, who is from the Acoma Pueblo and serves on the city's Commission on American Indian and Alaska Native Affairs. "We deserve to understand the truth, determine our steps forward, and owe the Native children and staff who never returned home to do better."

In the United States, the Indian Civilization Act of 1819 and other laws and policies were enacted to establish and support hundreds of Indian boarding schools. For over 150 years, children were taken from their communities and forced into boarding schools that focused on assimilation.

The Albuquerque Indian School was started in 1881 by the Presbyterian Church and came under federal control a few years later. The school closed in the 1980s, and the property was put into trust for New Mexico's 19 pueblos. The buildings eventually were torn down, and a tribal development corporation is working to make it a commercial hub.

The park is a couple of blocks away.

The Commission on American Indian and Alaska Native Affairs has recommended that the City Council pass a resolution acknowledging the history of the Albuquerque Indian School and its burial sites, with a pledge to work with Native American leaders and residents to ensure history is not forgotten.

Over the long term, the commission recommended that Albuquerque commit to funding health and community initiatives that directly impact the health and well-being of Native American residents affected by federal boarding school policies.

Another recommendation calls for working with Indigenous leaders to develop a curriculum on the history of the Albuquerque Indian School and Native Americans in New Mexico and the American Southwest.

According to the commission, disease and sickness contributed heavily to the cause of deaths among students and staff at the former school, and information regarding the number of people buried and their location at the city park is inconclusive.

The city said a public memorial event and additional meetings are planned over the coming weeks.

Oldest Human Footprints In North America Found In New Mexico - By Christina Larson AP Science Writer

Fossilized footprints discovered in New Mexico indicate that early humans were walking across North America around 23,000 years ago, researchers reported Thursday.

The first footprints were found in a dry lake bed in White Sands National Park in 2009. Scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey recently analyzed seeds stuck in the footprints to determine their approximate age, ranging from around 22,800 and 21,130 years ago.

The findings may shed light on a mystery that has long intrigued scientists: When did people first arrive in the Americas, after dispersing from Africa and Asia?

Most scientists believe ancient migration came by way of a now-submerged land bridge that connected Asia to Alaska. Based on various evidence — including stone tools, fossil bones and genetic analysis — other researchers have offered a range of possible dates for human arrival in the Americas, from 13,000 to 26,000 years ago or more. 

The current study provides a more solid baseline for when humans definitely were in North America, although they could have arrived even earlier, the authors say. Fossil footprints are more indisputable and direct evidence than "cultural artifacts, modified bones, or other more conventional fossils," they wrote in the journal Science, which published the study Thursday.

"What we present here is evidence of a firm time and location," they said.

Based on the size of the footprints, researchers believe that at least some were made by children and teenagers who lived during the last ice age. 

David Bustos, the park's resource program manager, spotted the first footprints in ancient wetlands in 2009. He and others found more in the park over the years. 

"We knew they were old, but we had no way to date the prints before we discovered some with (seeds) on top," he said Thursday.

Made of fine silt and clay, the footprints are fragile, so the researchers had to work quickly to gather samples, Bustos said. 

"The only way we can save them is to record them — to take a lot of photos and make 3D models," he said. 

Earlier excavations in White Sands National Park have uncovered fossilized tracks left by a saber-toothed cat, dire wolf, Columbian mammoth and other ice age animals.

Navajo Nation Cancels Amber Alert For 4 Children; Kids OK – Associated Press

The Navajo Division of Public Safety has canceled an Amber Alert for four children who have been found safe after being reported missing in New Mexico.

Police said the Amber Alert was issued after the father of the children ages 2, 5, 7 and 10 drove off with them after a reported domestic incident Thursday in a rural area about 15 miles of Gallup.

Tribal police said Thursday night that the children were found safe and unharmed after the father provided law enforcement with information on the location of the children.

According to police, the father wasn't at the location where the children were found and was not immediately located.

New Mexico Man Drives Off With His 4 Children After Dispute - Associated Press

The Navajo Division of Public Safety issued an Amber Alert on Thursday for four missing children in New Mexico.

Authorities said the children — ages 2, 5, 7 and 10 — allegedly were taken by their father after Navajo police responded to a domestic incident in Tsayatoh.

Police said the man drove off with the children in a vehicle that was later found abandoned and the five were believed to be traveling by foot. 

Tsayatoh is located in a rural area of the Navajo Nation about 15 miles (24 kilometers) northwest of Gallup, N.M.

Navajo Nation Reports 45 More COVID-19 Cases, 1 More Death - Associated Press

The Navajo Nation on Thursday reported 45 more COVID-19 cases and one additional death.

The latest numbers pushed the tribe's totals to 33,682 confirmed COVID-19 cases from the virus since the pandemic began more than a year ago. The known death toll now is at 1,437.

Navajo officials are urging people to get vaccinated, wear masks while in public and minimize their travel. 

Officials said all Navajo Nation executive branch employees will need to be fully vaccinated against the virus by the end of this month or submit to regular testing.

The new rules apply to full, part-time and temporary employees, including those working for tribal enterprises like utilities, shopping centers and casinos. 

Any worker who does not show proof of vaccination by Sept. 29 must be tested every two weeks or face discipline.

The tribe's reservation is the country's largest at 27,000 square miles and it covers parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah.