TUES: US launches program to provide electricity to more Native American homes, + More
US launches program to provide electricity to more Native American homes - By Susan Montoya Bryan Associated Press
The U.S. Interior Department on Tuesday unveiled a new program to bring electricity to more homes in Native American communities as the Biden administration looks to funnel more money toward climate and renewable energy projects.
The program will be funded by an initial $72.5 million. In all, federal officials said $150 million is being invested from the Inflation Reduction Act to support the electrification of homes in tribal communities, many of which have seen mixed success over the decades as officials have tried to address the lack of adequate infrastructure in remote areas.
In 2022, the U.S. Energy Department's Office of Indian Energy issued a report citing that nearly 17,000 tribal homes were without electricity, with most being in southwestern states and in Alaska. Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Bryan Newland testified before Congress earlier this year that 1 in 5 homes on the Navajo Nation and more than one-third of homes on the neighboring Hopi reservation are without electricity.
Newland described Tuesday's announcement as a historic investment to fund long-overdue needs in tribal communities.
"It will have a fundamental and significant impact on businesses, communities and families," he said in a statement.
Tribes will have to apply for the funding — and federal officials will choose projects based on need, readiness, risks of climate change impacts, new job opportunities and other factors.
The program will provide financial and technical assistance to tribes to connect homes to transmission and distribution that is powered by renewable energy. Funding can also be used to transition electrified homes in tribal communities to zero-emissions energy systems and to cover the costs of repairs, as well as retrofitting that is necessary to install the new systems.
Newland had previously estimated that it will cost roughly $70,000 per home to deliver electricity to areas that are not already on or immediately near a power grid, or wired for electricity.
Energy experts have said that the work could require developing micro-grids or installing solar panels so residents can power refrigerators, and charge up cellphones and laptops. The Energy Department earlier this year said it would tap tribal colleges and universities to help build out an renewable energy economy in Indian Country that could support the work.
The Interior Department consulted with tribes late last year as officials developed the new program. The plan is to award the funding during two rounds by the end of 2024.
Trump and 18 allies, including Santa Fe-based John Eastman, charged in Georgia election meddling - By Kate Brumback and Eric Tucker Associated Press
Donald Trump and 18 allies were indicted in Georgia on Monday over their efforts to overturn his 2020 election loss in the state, with prosecutors using a statute normally associated with mobsters to accuse the former president, lawyers and other aides of a "criminal enterprise" to keep him in power.
The nearly 100-page indictment details dozens of acts by Trump or his allies to undo his defeat, including beseeching Georgia's Republican secretary of state to find enough votes for him to win the battleground state; harassing a state election worker who faced false claims of fraud; and attempting to persuade Georgia lawmakers to ignore the will of voters and appoint a new slate of electoral college electors favorable to Trump.
In one particularly brazen episode, it also outlines a plot involving one of his lawyers to tamper with voting machines in a rural Georgia county and steal data from a voting machine company.
"The indictment alleges that rather than abide by Georgia's legal process for election challenges, the defendants engaged in a criminal racketeering enterprise to overturn Georgia's presidential election result," Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, whose office brought the case, said at a late-night news conference.
Other defendants include former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows; Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani; and a Trump administration Justice Department official, Jeffrey Clark, who advanced the then-president's efforts to undo his election loss in Georgia. Multiple other lawyers who devised legally dubious ideas aimed at overturning the results, including John Eastman, Sidney Powell and Kenneth Chesebro, were also charged.
Willis said the defendants would be allowed to voluntarily surrender by noon Aug. 25. She also said she plans to ask for a trial date within six months and that she intends to try the defendants as a group.
The indictment bookends a remarkable crush of criminal cases — four in five months, each in a different city — that would be daunting for anyone, never mind someone like Trump who is simultaneously balancing the roles of criminal defendant and presidential candidate.
It comes just two weeks after the Justice Department special counsel charged him in a vast conspiracy to overturn the election, underscoring how prosecutors after lengthy investigations that followed the Jan. 6, 2021 riot at the U.S. Capitol have now, two-and-a-half years later, taken steps to hold Trump to account for an assault on the underpinnings of American democracy.
The Georgia case covers some of the same ground as Trump's recent indictment in Washington, D.C., including attempts he and his allies made to disrupt the electoral vote count at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. But its sprawling web of defendants — 19 in total — stands apart from the more tightly targeted case brought by special counsel Jack Smith, which so far only names Trump as a defendant.
In charging close Trump aides who were referenced by Smith only as unindicted co-conspirators, the Georgia indictment alleges a scale of criminal conduct extending far beyond just the ex-president.
The charging document, in language conjuring up the seedy operations of mob bosses and gang leaders, accuses the former president of the United States, the former White House chief of staff, Trump's attorneys and the former mayor of New York as members of a "criminal organization" who were part of an "enterprise" that operated in Georgia and other states.
The indictment capped a chaotic day at the courthouse caused by the brief but mysterious posting on a county website of a list of criminal charges that were to be brought against the former president. Reuters, which published a copy of the document, said the filing was taken down quickly.
A Willis spokesperson said in the afternoon that it was "inaccurate" to say that an indictment had already been returned but declined to comment further on a kerfuffle that the Trump legal team rapidly jumped on to attack the integrity of the investigation.
Trump and his allies, who have characterized the investigation as politically motivated, immediately seized on the apparent error to claim that the process was rigged. Trump's campaign aimed to fundraise off it, sending out an email with the since-deleted document embedded.
In a statement after the indictment was issued, Trump's legal team said "the events that have unfolded today have been shocking and absurd, starting with the leak of a presumed and premature indictment before the witnesses had testified or the grand jurors had deliberated and ending with the District Attorney being unable to offer any explanation."
The lawyers said prosecutors presenting their case "relied on witnesses who harbor their own personal and political interests — some of whom ran campaigns touting their efforts against the accused."
Many of the 161 acts by Trump and his associates outlined in the Georgia indictment have already received widespread attention. That includes a Jan. 2, 2021, call in which Trump urged Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to "find" the 11,780 votes needed to overturn his election loss. That call, prosecutors said, violated a Georgia law against soliciting a public official to violate their oath.
It also charges Trump with making false statements and writings for a series of claims he made to Raffensperger and other state election officials, including that up to 300,000 ballots "were dropped mysteriously into the rolls" in the 2020 election, that more than 4,500 people voted who weren't on registration lists and that a Fulton County election worker, Ruby Freeman, was a "professional vote scammer."
Giuliani, meanwhile, is charged with making false statements for allegedly lying to lawmakers by claiming that more than 96,000 mail-in ballots were counted in Georgia despite there being no record of them having been returned to a county elections office, and that a voting machine in Michigan wrongly recorded 6,000 votes for Biden that were actually cast for Trump. A lawyer who has represented him declined to comment.
Also charged are individuals prosecutors say helped Trump and his allies on the ground in Georgia influence and intimidate election workers.
One man, Stephen Cliffgard Lee, was charged by prosecutors for allegedly traveling to Freeman's home "with intent to influence her testimony." Freeman and her daughter Shaye Moss testified to Congress last year about how Trump and his allies latched onto surveillance footage from November 2020 to accuse both women of committing voter fraud — allegations that were quickly debunked, yet spread widely across conservative media.
Both women, who are Black, faced death threats for several months after the election.
The indictment also accuses Powell and several co-defendants of tampering with voting machines in Coffee County, Georgia, and stealing data belonging to Dominion Voting Systems, a producer of tabulation machines that has long been the focus of conspiracy theories.
According to evidence made public by the congressional committee investigating the Jan. 6 riot, Trump allies targeted Coffee County in search of evidence to back their theories of widespread voter fraud, allegedly copying data and software.
Besides the two election-related cases, Trump faces a separate federal indictment accusing him of illegally hoarding classified documents as well as a New York state case charging him with falsifying business records.
As indictments mount, Trump — the leading Republican candidate for president in 2024 — often invokes his distinction as the only former president to face criminal charges. He is campaigning and fundraising around these themes, portraying himself as the victim of Democratic prosecutors out to get him.
Republican allies once again quickly rallied to Trump's defense. "Americans see through this desperate sham," House Speaker Kevin McCarthy wrote on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.
Museum to honor Navajo Code Talkers is about $40 million shy of reality - Associated Press
A museum in New Mexico to honor the Navajo Code Talkers is about $40 million shy of becoming a reality, according to organizers.
The state put $6.4 million in capital outlay funds toward the project this year, but the museum's organizers face a significant financial climb before doors can open, the Santa Fe New Mexican reported Tuesday.
"Our capacity is severely limited," said Regan Hawthorne, CEO of the Navajo Code Talkers Museum. "We're still fledgling. We're still gaining momentum in finding our identity."
Hawthorne's late father, Roy Hawthorne, was a Marine who served as a Code Talker on South Pacific islands from 1942 to 1945.
The complex, unbreakable code was developed by an original group of 29 Navajo Marines in 1942. They used it in combat communications in Pacific campaigns during World War II and helped U.S. forces gain ground and victories.
Only three of the original Navajo Code Talkers are still alive. There is a group of 29 that are referred to as the original Code Talkers, but the three who are alive now aren't part of that group.
The Chevron Mining Co. donated more than 200 acres in McKinley County in 2009 for a Code Talkers museum, but the project has not gained much momentum since then.
Regan Hawthorne said the museum's leaders have to finalize a deal with the Navajo Nation on the land for the museum.
To avoid a problem with the state's anti-donation clause, he said, museum leaders are working on a deal to give or sell the land to the tribe.
Regan Hawthorne added that finding funding has been challenging, in part because of confusion over the land and museum organizers' lack of an office where they can meet people and solicit financial support.
The tribe celebrates the Code Talkers every Aug. 14 and has done so since 1982, when President Ronald Reagan proclaimed the date as National Navajo Code Talkers Day.
On Monday, the 25th Navajo Nation Council paid tribute to the Code Talkers again at an event held at the Navajo Veterans Memorial Park in Window Rock, Arizona.
Western states will not lose as much Colorado River water in 2024, despite long-term challenges - By Suman Naishadham Associated Press
Federal officials said Tuesday they will ease water cuts for Western states reliant on the Colorado River in 2024, thanks to a slightly improved outlook, but long-term challenges remain.
The river serves seven U.S. states, Native American tribes and two states in Mexico. It also supports a multibillion-dollar farm industry in the West and generates hydropower used across the region. Years of overuse by farms and cities, and the effects of drought worsened by climate change has meant much less water flows today through the Colorado River than in previous decades.
The U.S. government announces water availability for the coming year months in advance so that cities, farmers and others can plan. The first mandatory cuts that magnified the crisis on the river went into effect in 2022, followed by even deeper cuts this year due to drought, poor precipitation and less runoff from the headwaters in the Rocky Mountains.
Conservation measures and a wetter winter have improved the river's health, leading to cuts being dialed back, starting in January. It won't lead to dramatic changes because those affected have been living with water cuts for two years — or are voluntarily conserving water.
WHAT CUTS WERE ANNOUNCED?
The Bureau of Reclamation uses the water levels at Lake Powell and Lake Mead as measures of the river's health. Once Lake Mead drops to a certain point, water reductions are enacted for Arizona, Nevada, Mexico and — much later — California.
Bountiful snowfall and rain pulled much of the region out of drought this spring and raised water levels at the reservoirs, though not enough to avoid mandatory reductions altogether.
Still, water users are intent on creating a safety net in Lake Mead and will pull out less in 2024 than in other years because of conservation and other voluntary efforts.
The reductions announced Tuesday are in the same "Tier 1" category that were in effect in 2022. That means Arizona again will mark an 18% cut from its total Colorado River water allocation, down slightly from this year.
Nevada receives far less water than Arizona and California. Its reduction will be down slightly from this year. Mexico's allocation goes down 5%.
California has not faced any forced water cuts yet, based on its legal status as a high-priority user.
WILL THE RIVER KEEP GETTING HEALTHIER?
No. Recent snow and rain were a welcome relief, but the river is stressed by hot, dry temperatures and demand.
Lake Powell and Lake Mead, the largest of the Colorado River reservoirs, remain low, at about 39% and 33% full, respectively.
"That is a little better than last year but still extremely low. It only takes a few dry years to set us back," said Kim Mitchell, senior water policy adviser at Western Resource Advocates.
ARE DEEPER CUTS COMING?
Yes but not immediately. This week's announcement is just one piece of various water-savings plans already in place or being negotiated.
Earlier this year, Arizona, California and Nevada released a plan to conserve an additional 3 million acre-feet of water through 2026 in exchange for $1.2 billion from the federal government. An acre-foot of water is enough to serve two to three households annually. The Interior Department is expected to release its analysis of the proposal this fall and finalize the plan in 2024.
Similar agreements also are playing out.
The Gila River Indian Community in Arizona agreed in April not to use some of its river water rights in return for $150 million in federal funding and money for a pipeline project. The tribe gets Colorado River water through the the same aqueduct system that delivers river water to Arizona's major cities.
Jason Hauter, a tribal member and water attorney said Tuesday's announcement wouldn't be a big swing one way or another when it comes to water use on the reservation.
WHAT ABOUT WESTERN FARMS?
Farmers use between 70% and 80% of all water in the Colorado River system, but Tuesday's announcement will not change much for most of them.
One farming district in Arizona's Pinal County outside of Phoenix lost almost its entire Colorado River water supply in 2022, and the district won't get it back.
Instead, farmers have turned to groundwater or left fields unplanted. As much as half the farmland has been fallowed in the past two years, said Brian Yerges, general manager of the Maricopa-Stanfield Irrigation and Drainage District, which serves the region.
WHAT ABOUT CITIES?
Major cities are unlikely to be impacted by Tuesday's announcement. Phoenix, for example, has a mix of water from the Colorado, and the in-state Salt and Verde rivers, along with groundwater and recycled wastewater that it uses to serve residents in the fifth-largest U.S. city.
In the Las Vegas area, ornamental lawns are banned, swimming pool sizes are limited and almost all water inside homes is recycled, limiting the impact of water cuts. The Southern Nevada Water Authority said strict conservation measures will continue.
The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, which supplies nearly 20 million people, lifted water restrictions in March for nearly 7 million people. The district draws from rivers in Northern California that swelled with spring runoff, as well as the Colorado River.
Guidelines in place for doling out Colorado River water are set to expire in 2026.
"We have a generational set of agreements coming up," said Bill Hasencamp, manager of Colorado River resources for the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. "That's where we need to focus."
Discussions among states, tribes and the federal government about their priorities for the river after 2026 are just starting. Mexican negotiators will engage in a similar but parallel process with U.S. officials.
Negotiators say long-term discussions will be geared toward living with significantly less water in the system.
"We had a good year," said Anne Castle, U.S. Commissioner to the Upper Colorado River Commission. "But no one expects that's going to be the new normal. The question is, 'What's the plan for the future?'"
Associated Press writers Ken Ritter in Las Vegas and Amy Taxin in Orange County, California, contributed to this report.
Southern Arizona doctor dies while hiking in New Mexico with other physicians, authorities say - Associated Press
A southern Arizona doctor has died after suffering an apparent heart attack in New Mexico while on a hike with other physicians.
Taos County sheriff's officials said 61-year-old Renhick Guyer of Marana, Arizona, died Sunday close to the summit of Wheeler Peak near Taos.
They said Guyer was hiking the steep trail with his wife and a group of friends who are all medical doctors.
Authorities said Guyer collapsed and fell off the trail and the other party members were unable to resuscitate him.
Sheriff's deputies couldn't retrieve Guyer's body until Monday morning because of thunderstorms in the area of the 13,161-foot (4,011-meter) Wheeler Peak and its rugged terrain.
The New Mexico Office of the Medical Investigator will determine the cause of death.
States that protect transgender health care now try to absorb demand - By Jeff Mcmillan And Hannah Schoenbaum Associated Press
States that declared themselves refuges for transgender people have essentially issued an invitation: Get your gender-affirming health care here without fearing prosecution at home.
Now that bans on such care for minors are taking effect around the country — Texas could be next, depending on the outcome of a court hearing this week — patients and their families are testing clinics' capacity. Already-long waiting lists are growing, yet there are only so many providers of gender-affirming care and only so many patients they can see in a day.
For those refuge states — so far, California, Connecticut, Colorado, Illinois, Massachusetts, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Washington and Vermont, plus Washington, D.C. — the question is how to move beyond promises of legal protection and build a network to serve more patients.
"We're trying our best to make sure we can get those kids in so that they don't experience an interruption in their care," said Dr. Angela Kade Goepferd, medical director of the gender health program at Children's Minnesota hospital in the Twin Cities. "For patients who have not yet been seen and would be added to a general waiting list, it is daunting to think that it's going to be a year or more before you're going to be seen by somebody."
Appointment requests are flooding into Children's from all over the country — including Texas, Montana and Florida, which all have bans. Requests have grown in a year from about 100 a month to 140-150. The program hopes to hire more staff to meet demand, but it will take time, Goepferd said.
More than 89,000 transgender people ages 13 to 17 live in states that limit their access to gender-affirming care, according to a research letter published in late July in the Journal of the American Medical Association, though not all trans people choose or can afford gender-affirming care.
Rhys Perez, a transmasculine and nonbinary 17-year-old, is preparing to move this month from Houston to Los Angeles to start college. The teen, who said they're "escaping Texas in the nick of time," said California's protection for gender-affirming care was one of the main factors in their decision on where to go for college.
Perez has just begun their search for a provider in Southern California but already has encountered several clinics with waits for an initial consultation between nine and 14 months. They were disappointed to learn they likely could not begin hormone replacement therapy until their sophomore year.
"Hormones and stuff, that was never something my family fully understood or supported, really," Perez said. "I figured it was best to wait until I move for college, but now it's frustrating to know I'm going to have to wait even longer."
"I wish I could start college as fully me," they said.
Initial sanctuary laws or executive orders were an emergency step to protect transgender people and their families from the threat of prosecution by more than 20 states that have restricted or banned such health care, advocates say. They generally do not contain provisions to shore up health systems, but advocates say that needs to be the next step.
"That's what we're hoping to set up over the next year to two years, is making sure that not only are we making this promise of being a refuge for folks, but we're actually living up to that and ensuring that folks who come here have access to care when they need it," said Kat Rohn, executive director of the LGBTQ+ advocacy group OutFront Minnesota.
Those efforts will likely need to involve legislators, governors, large employers, Medicaid plans and boards of medicine, said Kellan Baker, executive director of the Whitman-Walker Institute, the policy and education arm of a clinic with the same name in Washington, D.C.
"I would hope that it would be a comprehensive effort, that everyone at every level enacting these shield laws is aware that it's not just about making a promise of access on paper, but that it needs to be backed up by the availability of providers," Baker said.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, became the first governor to order the investigation of families of transgender minors who receive gender-affirming care, and legislators this year passed a ban on such care.
Whether that law takes effect on Sept. 1 will be decided by a state judge in Austin, who is hearing arguments this week in a lawsuit filed by families and doctors seeking a temporary injunction. The lawsuit argues the bill violates parental rights and discriminates against transgender teens. It is unclear when the judge will rule.
A plaintiff, identified only by the pseudonym Gina Goe, testified Tuesday about her 15-year-old transgender son's efforts to continue testosterone treatments: "I have reached out to a Colorado facility, but there is, like, a waiting list. ... There is going to be a gap in his medical care."
Ginger Chun, the education and family engagement manager at the Transgender Education Network of Texas, said she was in contact last year with about 15 families with trans family members. This year already, she has talked to about 250 families, who are asking about everything from clarification on legislation to looking for ways to access care. Those who are looking for care outside Texas are encountering waiting lists.
The research published in JAMA found that Texas youths' average travel time to a clinic for gender-affirming care increased from just under an hour to over 7 1/2 hours.
"It's like a daily, ever-changing process to figure out where people can access care," Chun said.
Minnesota state Rep. Leigh Finke, a Democrat who sponsored a bill to protect gender-affirming care, predicts "thousands" of people will travel to the state for care within two years. She's also seeking solutions to the provider shortage and expects to take a closer look when the next legislative session begins in February.
"I'm not sure what as a legislature we can do to increase the number of people who provide a certain kind of medical care," said Finke, a transgender woman who represents part of the Twin Cities area. "I'm not sure as a policymaker what the mechanisms are to say we need more of one kind of specific health care provider, assuming that those exist. I'm certainly going to be interested in looking at them."
The number of providers nationwide is limited, and for many, it's not their full-time job. Minnesota, for instance, is home to 91 providers, according to a search on the website of the World Professional Association for Transgender Health. The state has 29,500 transgender people 13 and older, according to the Williams Institute, an LGBTQ+ think tank at the UCLA School of Law.
Dr. Katy Miller, the medical director of adolescent medicine for Children's Minnesota, estimates "probably at least hundreds of families" are moving to the Twin Cities for gender-affirming care.
"People are going to kind of extraordinary lengths, like pulling kids out of school, moving." Miller said.
In many ways, the quest for gender-affirming care parallels that of abortion access, for which people also cross state borders, sometimes under threat of prosecution. The main difference with gender-affirming care is that treatment is ongoing, generally for the rest of a person's life, so permanent access is key.
Anticipating long waits, some parents preemptively sought out gender-affirming care providers for a child, like Minnesota activist Kelsey Waits. Her 10-year-old transgender child, Kit, got into the system at a hospital that could eventually provide blockers or hormones so that they wouldn't have to start puberty without a doctor's support.
"A lot happens in puberty in one year," Waits said. "Just the stress of that on a family — the kids, the parents who are trying to find care for their child — it's a lot."
Associated Press journalists Jamie Stengle in Dallas, Jim Vertuno in Austin, Texas, and Mark Vancleave in Minneapolis contributed to this report.
New Mexico Supreme Court provides guidance on law enforcement authority during traffic stops - Associated Press
The New Mexico Supreme Court on Monday clarified the authority of law enforcement officers to expand the scope of their investigation during a traffic stop to ask a passenger in a vehicle for identifying information.
The high court said the identifying information could include a name and a date of birth.
The court concluded unanimously that a Clovis police officer had the necessary "reasonable suspicion" of criminal activity to ask about the identity of a front seat passenger in a vehicle stopped because of a broken license plate light.
The court held that the police officer's questioning of Hugo Vasquez-Salas was permissible under federal and state constitutional provisions that protect against unreasonable searches and seizures.
Vasquez-Salas was subsequently arrested and convicted in 2018 of possession of burglary tools. He appealed his conviction.
The state's high court rejected arguments by Vasquez-Salas that the police questioning about his identity lacked a constitutional justification.
He contended a district court should have blocked evidence from the traffic stop introduced at his trial.
Townhalls will focus on passing paid family and medical leave legislation – New Mexico Political Report, KUNM
Advocates are gearing up for another effort to pass a paid family and medical leave bill in the next legislative session.
According to New Mexico Political Report, the Southwest Women’s Law Center will hold the first of11 townhalls this week in Albuquerque to discuss the bill and gather stories from the public about the need for the law.
The proposal has been introduced nearly every year since 2019. In 2022, lawmakers passed a memorial to create a task force. A bill that would enable employees to take up to 12 weeks of paid time off for a new child or major medical event passed the Senate in this year’s session, but died in a House committee.
The 2024 bill would allow businesses to opt out if they have fewer than five employees. It would also allow self-employed people and employers that already have similar benefits to opt out.
The first townhall will be Tuesday at the CNM Workforce Training Center from 5 to 7 p.m.