Attorney General Demands Air Force Close Lake Holloman, Valerie Plame Running For Congress

May 9, 2019

New Mexico Demands Closure Of Air Force Lake - By Susan Montoya Bryan Associated Press

The state attorney general's office is demanding the U.S. Air Force close a publicly accessible lake in eastern New Mexico over contamination concerns.

In a letter obtained Thursday by The Associated Press, Attorney General Hector Balderas says recent sampling shows the concentration of hazardous chemicals at Lake Holloman are dozens of times higher than federal health advisory levels.

The state already is preparing to sue the Air Force over groundwater contamination at two bases, arguing that the federal government has a responsibility to clean up plumes of toxic chemicals left behind by past military firefighting activities.

Similar contamination has been found at military sites across the nation, and growing evidence that exposure can be dangerous has prompted the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to consider setting maximum levels for the chemicals in drinking water nationwide.

New Mexico Warns No Swimming In Air Force LakeAssociated Press

The New Mexico Department of Health is warning people not to swim in or drink from Lake Holloman in southern New Mexico.

State officials say recent sampling showed high levels of hazardous chemicals known as per- and polyfluorinated compounds, or PFAS. Attorney General Hector Balderas on Thursday asked the U.S. Air Force to close the lake to the public.

Fed by treated wastewater from Holloman Air Force Base, the lake already is off limits to swimming but state officials reiterated their warning saying people should wash their hands if they get water or foam from the lake on them.

They also warned pet owners to avoid letting their animals drink or come into contact with the water or foam.

Former CIA Operative And Trump Critic Runs For CongressAssociated Press

Former CIA operative Valerie Plame has decided to run for the Democratic nomination for an open congressional seat in New Mexico.

Plame told The Associated Press on Thursday that she wants to give back to a community that welcomed her after leaving Washington.

She joins a field of seasoned local politicians that are pursuing the nomination in a heavily Democratic district in the northern part of the state.

Plame, who lives in Santa Fe, became a national figure after her identity as a CIA operative was leaked by an official in President George W. Bush's administration in an effort to discredit her then-husband Joe Wilson.

Former vice presidential aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby was convicted of obstruction of justice following the 2003 leak and pardoned by President Trump.

US Asylum Limits Spawn Mishmash Wait Systems In MexicoAssociated Press

For thousands of asylum seekers, there are many ways to wait at the threshold of the United States.

Parents and children sleep in tents next to bridges leading to Texas for weeks on end, desperately hoping their names and numbers are called so they can be let in.

Some pay bribes to get to the front of the line; others, determined to enter the country legally, wait patiently.

The Associated Press visited eight cities along the U.S.-Mexico border and found 13,000 immigrants on waiting lists to get into the country — exposed to haphazard and often-dubious arrangements that vary sharply by location.

The lines began to swell in the last year when the administration limited the number of asylum cases it accepts each day at the main border crossings.

Police Arrest Intoxicated 12-Year-Old After Highway ChaseAlamogordo Daily News, Associated Press

Authorities say an intoxicated 12-year-old girl went on joy ride in the family car with three other children inside, leading police on pursuit on a New Mexico highway.

The Alamogordo Daily News reported Wednesday that the car fled from Alamogordo police and drove onto U.S. Highway 70 where she passed a New Mexico State Police vehicle.

Alamogordo police say the car then drove through a dirt lot and nearly struck an Otero County deputy.

The chase ended when the car spun out of control and hit a speed limit sign. No one was injured.

The young driver was referred to juvenile services on charges of reckless driving and DWI.

According to police documents, the four children told authorities that they all had been drinking.

Monitor Says Police Reform Has Progressed But Issues PersistAlbuquerque Journal, Associated Press

The independent monitor overseeing the Albuquerque Police Department's reform effort says progress has been made, but the department needs to work on investigating policy violations and use of force.

The Albuquerque Journal reported Wednesday that monitor James Ginger in his report covering August 2018 to January 2019 found "palpable progress" under Mayor Tim Keller's administration.

The report says that Ginger's team has noticed "serious deficiencies" in oversight and accountability in reporting and investigating use of force.

Police spokesman Gilbert Gallegos says the department has developed new policies for use of force that it hopes will address some of the issues.

The report tracks the department's improvement in relation to the settlement agreement reached by the city and the U.S. Department of Justice in 2014.

New Mexico Has Plan For Assessing Damage At NASA SiteAssociated Press

Officials have come up with a plan for quantifying the damage done by contamination at a site in southern New Mexico that once supported NASA's Apollo Space Program.

The New Mexico Office of Natural Resources Trustee on Wednesday released the final damage assessment plan for the White Sands Test Facility near Las Cruces.

It marks one step in a process aimed at restoring the site.

Officials say groundwater beneath the facility was contaminated when hazardous substances were disposed of and released during early NASA operations.

The site includes propulsion testing facilities for rocket systems and laboratories for testing the quality of space flight materials.

The trustee has authority to assess and recover damages from NASA and the U.S. Defense Department for the contamination and use the money for restoration work.

Ex-Doña Ana County Doctor Gets Prison For Health Care FraudAssociated Press

A former doctor in Doña Ana County has been sentenced to nine years in federal prison for health care fraud and unlawfully dispensing controlled substances.

Prosecutors say 66-year-old Pawankumar Jain pleaded guilty in the case in 2016.

In his plea agreement, Jain admitted he operated a high-volume "pain management" practice in Las Cruces for several years.

Jain says he frequently performed only cursory examinations of patients before prescribing narcotics to them.

Prosecutors say Jain wrote two methadone prescriptions for a patient in 2009 that weren't for any legitimate medical purpose.

They say the patient died of respiratory depression two days after filling the second prescription for 270 tablets of 10 mg methadone.

The New Mexico Medical Board suspended Jain's license in June 2012 and revoked his license six months later.

New Mexico Land Boss Concerned About Border Wall WorkAssociated Press

The head of one of New Mexico's most powerful statewide offices is raising concerns about the lack of an environmental review as the U.S. government prepares to replace fencing along the U.S.-Mexico border in two counties.

State Land Commissioner Stephanie Garcia Richard delivered her comments to U.S. Customs and Border Protection on Wednesday as fellow Democratic members of New Mexico's congressional delegation pushed for the comment period to be extended.

Aside from environmental concerns, Garcia Richard said her agency hasn't received any inquiries from federal officials regarding rights of way permits or easements required for accessing state trust lands adjacent to proposed construction areas.

The U.S. government plans to install 31 miles of bollard fencing in Luna County and another 15 miles in Doña Ana County.

New Mexico Parents Arrested After Infant Ingests HeroinSanta Fe New Mexican, Associated Press

A New Mexico couple is facing child abuse charges after police say their 11-month-old girl accidentally ingested heroin.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports 23-year-old Carlos Griego and 19-year-old Shayann Martinez were charged Tuesday with felony child abuse in connection with the girl who was saved by emergency room staff.

A police report says the girl was rushed to Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center on Monday afternoon when she had difficulty breathing and her face turned purple. The report says Emergency room staff gave the child anti-overdose medication and she was later responsive and breathing.

Santa Fe Police spokesman Greg Gurulé says the girl was "doing fine" and had been released from the hospital to a guardian.

It was not known if the couple had attorneys.

New Mexico Education Secretary Describes Progress On Reforms - Associated Press

The Public Education Department says a program that adds five weeks to the elementary school year will expand to include at least 23,600 children this summer, far shy of goals outlined by state legislators.

Public Education Secretary Karen Trujillo gave state legislators a progress report Wednesday on ambitious attempts to improve public school performance.

The Legislature and Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham have approved $500 million in new annual spending on public schools as a state district court threatens to intervene on behalf of frustrated parents and school districts. Architects of the reforms wanted 90,000 students in the extended elementary school year.

Trujillo said school districts had just six weeks to apply for the so-called K-5 Plus program. She expects the program will reach 70,000 students next year.

New Mexico Investigates Possible Measles Case - Associated Press

The New Mexico Department of Health is investigating a possible case of measles in Sierra County.

State health officials could not provide any details about the patient and it wasn't immediately clear Wednesday how soon officials would know whether it was indeed the measles or some other ailment.

If confirmed, it would mark the state's first case since 2014.

Nationally, officials have said more than 760 cases have been reported as of last Thursday. It's the most in the U.S. since 1994, when 963 were reported.

In all, 23 states have reported cases this year.

Measles was once common but gradually became rare after a vaccination campaigns that started in the 1960s. In New Mexico, more than 96 percent of kindergarten students are current with their vaccinations.

Feds, Tribes Meet After Abuse Probe Of Reservation Doctor - Associated Press

A White House task force held a consultation meeting with tribal leaders in New Mexico to address systematic breakdowns within the federal Indian Health Service to prevent child sex abuse.

The meeting Wednesday in Albuquerque followed the Trump administration's announcement of the task force, which officials say was established to investigate how federal workers failed in preventing Stanley Patrick Weber from sexually abusing Native American children.

Weber was an IHS pediatrician for more than 20 years.

A federal jury in Montana found Weber guilty last year of sexually abusing two boys on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation in the 1990s.

He also has been accused of abusing four boys after he was assigned to South Dakota's Pine Ridge Reservation in 1995.

Santa Fe Opera Sets Course For 2020 Season - Associated Press

The Santa Fe Opera is announcing plans for the coming year at the open-air summer opera stage in the foothills of New Mexico's Sangre de Cristo Mountains.

Leaders of the opera company scheduled announcements Wednesday about the 2019 and 2020 seasons.

Opera offerings this summer include a new fairy-tale thriller from a Danish composer who created an operatic version of "The Handmaid's Tale." Paul Ruders' composition titled "the Thirteenth Child" is inspired by a Brothers Grimm fairy tale.

In recent years, Santa Fe has been the backdrop for productions of an opera about the dawn of the nuclear age in 1940s New Mexico and a world premiere of a techno-infused opera about Apple co-founder Steve Jobs.

A casino operated by Tesuque Pueblo has taken its place adjacent to the opera.

New Mexico Judge Dismisses Lawsuit Against Dave Chappelle - Albuquerque Journal, Associated Press

A judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed against Dave Chappelle by a man who threw a banana peel at the comedian during a 2015 performance in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

The Albuquerque Journal reports Christian Englander's lawsuit was dismissed late last month after the judge determined the case had no significant activity for 180 days.

The newspaper could not reach Englander for comment Tuesday.

The suit filed in March 2018 claimed that Chappelle's bodyguard struck Englander in the face twice at the show.

Englander previously said he threw the banana peel because he was angered by Chappelle's jokes. He claimed the peel-tossing was misinterpreted as a racial attack.

Englander was charged with battery and disturbing the peace after the incident, but the charges were later dismissed.