EXPO New Mexico To House Asylum-Seekers, Federal Regulators Criticize LANL Safety

Apr 30, 2019

New Mexico Offers State Facility To Asylum SeekersAssociated Press

New Mexico is offering dormitories at a state exposition hall in Albuquerque to asylum seeking immigrants in search of temporary shelter.

Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller announced Tuesday that beds and kitchen space on the grounds of New Mexico's annual state fair will be available to immigrants.

Thousands of Central American migrants have been dropped off in New Mexico by U.S. border Patrol in recent weeks as asylum seekers overwhelm shelters near international ports of entry in West Texas.

A statement from state and city officials says immigrants can stay at Expo New Mexico facilities for no more than 72 hours before leaving to reach relatives or other sponsors.

The facility is located in one of the most racially and ethnically diverse areas of Albuquerque.

US Land Agency Plans To Pick New Office In West By SeptemberAssociated Press

The U.S. Interior Department says it plans to choose a Western city as the new headquarters for its vast public lands holdings by the end of September.

Deputy Assistant Interior Secretary Scott Cameron told Congress on Tuesday the department hopes to decide on the location by the end of the fiscal year, which is Sept. 30.

The department says it wants to move the Bureau of Land Management out of Washington to be closer to the land it oversees. The bureau manages nearly 388,000 square miles, and 99% is in 12 Western states.

Officials said previously that Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, New Mexico and Utah are in the running.

Cameron also says the department may move the headquarters of its U.S. Geological Survey to the Denver area.

Charter For Trump Energy Panel Expires, Meetings CancelledAssociated Press

Federal officials have cancelled future meetings of an advisory panel created by the Trump administration to make it easier to extract fossil fuels from publicly leased land and offshore sites and to ensure a fair return for taxpayers.

Interior Department spokeswoman Molly Block said Tuesday the Royalty Policy Committee's charter expired April 21. Upcoming meetings scheduled in Pittsburgh later this week and Salt Lake City in August were cancelled.

Block declined to give a reason.

The committee was set up two years ago by former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.

Conservationists argued it was stacked in favor of industry.

They had asked a federal judge in Montana to disband the group and strike down its recommendations, including changes to how energy companies calculate what they owe taxpayers for pumping natural gas from public sites.

Bernalillo County Officials Push Behavioral Health TrainingAssociated Press

Officials say they will expand training in New Mexico's most populous county for caseworkers and other professionals in an attempt to address the state's high rates of mental illness and substance abuse.

Bernalillo County Commission Chair Maggie Hart Stebbins and County Manager Julie Morgas Baca say the program is crucial in helping to round out the county's behavioral health services.

Voters approved a major tax increase in 2014 to better fund the programs after a spate of deadly shootings by Albuquerque police, including the shooting death of James Boyd, a homeless man who had suffered from mental illness.

That same year, a University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center review found Bernalillo County residents with chronic mental illness and substance abuse issues lacked ongoing-care options.

The behavioral health training program was announced by county officials Tuesday.

Drone Used To Aid 3D Remake Of Japanese Internment CampAssociated Press

A University of Denver team is using drone images to create a 3D reconstruction of a World War II-era Japanese internment camp in southern Colorado.

Researchers last week used the drone from the Switzerland-based company senseFly as part of a mapping project to help future restoration work at Camp Amache in Granada, Colorado.

From 1942 to 1945, more than 7,000 Japanese-Americans and Japanese immigrants were forcibly relocated to Camp Amache. They were among the 110,000 Japanese-Americans ordered to camps throughout the U.S., including in New Mexico.

The Amache effort is part of a growing movement to identify and preserve U.S. historical sites connected to people of color.

For example, a digital project headed up by Brown University professor Monica Martinez seeks to locate sites connected to racial violence along the Texas border with Mexico.

Regulators Finds Los Alamos Lab Nuclear Safety Effort Falls ShortAlbuquerque Journal, Associated Press

Federal regulators say Los Alamos National Laboratory has not ensured sufficient nuclear safety in its operations as the New Mexico facility prepares to increase its work with plutonium.

The Albuquerque Journal reported Monday that the U.S. Department of Energy has released a list of problems regarding the laboratory's nuclear safety management.

The report released Monday says former private contractor Los Alamos National Security LLC, which managed the lab for about 12 years, allowed safety issues to fester with "significant weaknesses."

The report also says there have been deficiencies in the work of Triad National Security LLC, which took over the $2 billion-plus annual operating contract Nov. 1.

The assessment says the safety lapses are serious enough that they could lead to a shutdown of operations at the laboratory's plutonium facility.

Bernalillo County DA's Figures Show 114 Shot So Far In 2019 - Albuquerque Journal Associated Press

Authorities say 114 people have been shot in Bernalillo County in the first 112 days of 2019.

Citing data from the Bernalillo County District Attorney's Office, the Albuquerque Journal reports that figure marks a 36% increase in shootings over those counted in the same period last year.

Figures from the district attorney's Crime Strategies Unit show there were 232 total shootings in 2018 in which someone was hit by a bullet. More than 60 of those shootings were fatal.

Those killed by gunfire so far this year include a 72-year-old man who authorities say killed himself, and 8-year-old Diamond Williams, who was home with two siblings when she was shot.

No arrests have been made in her death, and police say they are not looking for suspects.

New Mexico Ethics Commission Takes Shape With 2 Appointments - Associated Press

New Mexico's fledgling State Ethics Commission is taking shape with the appointment of two commissioners.

Democratic House Speaker Brian Egolf announced Monday his appointment of former deputy state attorney general Stuart Bluestone of Santa Fe to serve on the new seven-seat commission.

The commission will oversee the conduct of public officials, political candidates, lobbyists and government contractors.

Frances Williams also was appointed with an eye toward her past experience as an equal opportunity manager at White Sands Missile Range. Her appointment came from Democratic Senate President Mary Kay Papen of Las Cruces.

Voters approved the creation of the ethics commission by statewide ballot last year amid a string of political corruption scandals.

Further appointments are pending from Republican legislative leaders and Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham.

Federal Judge Orders Militia Leader Held In Jail - Associated Press

A federal magistrate judge has ordered the leader of an armed group that detained asylum-seeking families near the U.S.-Mexico border to remain jailed as he awaits trial on a federal firearms charge.

Larry Mitchell Hopkins pleaded not guilty to being a felon in possession of firearms during a detention hearing Monday in Albuquerque.

A federal prosecutor argued Hopkins posed a flight risk and danger to the public if released, citing his history of felony convictions, and use of aliases.

The charge against Hopkins stems from a 2017 visit by an FBI agent to his home in New Mexico.

Hopkins' attorney questioned prosecutors' argument that the 69-year-old posed a threat, given two years had passed between the 2017 encounter and his arrest April 20 in Sunland Park, New Mexico.

Lawsuit Accuses Doña Ana County Attorney's Office Of Sexism - Associated Press

The American Civil Liberties Union is suing the district attorney's office in Doña Ana County for gender discrimination and infringing on the free speech rights of three female attorneys.

The ACLU of New Mexico said Monday that the three assistant district attorneys were suspended last year after they refused to take down "No Mansplaining" signs from their doors.

Two were later fired and the third resigned.

The suit is seeking monetary damages.

Roxanne Garcia-McElmell, a spokeswoman for the Third Judicial District Attorney's Office, says the office has yet to receive a copy of the complaint.

The women say they were paid less and promoted less than male staff despite juggling a similar caseload. They claim they were told to smile more and assigned to a case because of their looks.

New Mexico Halts Some Drilling Near Chaco Canyon - Associated Press

State Land Commissioner Stephanie Garcia Richard has halted further oil and natural gas development on New Mexico trust lands near the Chaco Cultural National Historic Park that are considered sacred by many Native Americans.

Confirmed Monday, the executive order places a drilling moratorium within a buffer zone surrounding Chaco Canyon and its ancient dwelling. The moratorium does not directly affect federal and private holdings.

Garcia Richard visited the Navajo Nation to sign the moratorium. She calls it a huge step forward in safeguarding archaeological and cultural resources.

Oil industry representatives say robust protections already are in place within the national park at Chaco Canyon and surrounding areas where archaeological surveys are required.

Garcia Richard also convened a working group to devise recommendations about future development in the area.

Northern New Mexico Sees Fire Risk Despite Winter Snowfall - Santa Fe New Mexican, Associated Press

U.S. Forest Service officials say fire risk remains in northern New Mexico despite heavy winter snowfall.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports the region largely avoided severe wildfires despite dangerously dry conditions last year. But Forest Service officials cautioned that wildfires can ignite at any time because of campfires and lightning strikes.

High risk of wildfire prompted federal officials to close public access to the Santa Fe National Forest for more than five weeks last summer.

Carson National Forest later followed suit, along with state parks and other public lands, to reduce the risk of human-caused fires.

Forest Service officials will be monitoring conditions more closely through June, which is often the hottest, driest month in the region.

2 Diagnosed With HIV After Injections At New Mexico Spa - Associated Press

New Mexico health officials say two people who received facial injections from the same spa are infected with HIV.

The New Mexico Department of Health said in a news release Monday that two clients of VIP Spa in Albuquerque who received "vampire facials" last year were recently diagnosed with the same HIV strain.

Officials say the two people patronized the spa between May and September of 2018.

The spa typically provided vampire facials where the client's own blood is injected into the face to replenish the skin.

The agency says more than 100 people have already been tested for HIV, hepatitis B and C. Testing is free and confidential.

VIP Spa shuttered in September after state agencies found issues with how needles were handled and disposed.

New Mexico High School Pitchers Throw No-Hitters On Same Day - Carlsbad Current-Argus, Associated Press

A softball pitcher and baseball pitcher from the same New Mexico high school threw a perfect game and no-hitter, respectively, within 90 minutes of each other.

The Carlsbad Current-Argus reports Carlsbad High School softball pitcher Ashley Hernandez and baseball pitcher T.J. Ruiz tossed their gems on April 18 just a few hundred feet apart.

Hernandez needed 43 pitches against Roswell High School in five innings to record the perfect game as Carlsbad won 11-0 in a run-rule game.

Ruiz threw all seven innings in a 9-0 victory against Clovis High School.

Mathematicians say the odds of one New Mexico team accomplishing both goals of a no-hitter and a perfect game on the same day are 1 in 218 million.