FRI: Dry Areas In US Southwest Getting Drier, NM Dems Hold Up Judicial Appointments, + More

Sep 25, 2020

Climatologist: Dry Areas In US Southwest Getting DrierSusan Montoya Bryan,  Associated Press

New Mexico’s state climatologist says the fingerprints of climate change are evident in the persistent drought that's plaguing the American Southwest. Dave DuBois says dry areas are becoming drier due to a semi-permanent high-pressure system over the West that has become stronger in recent years.

From the Colorado River to the Rio Grande, water managers in the West are being forced to reconsider contingency plans as winter snowpack, spring runoff and summer monsoons become less consistent.
DuBois  also warned during an online briefing Thursday that the region should be prepared for more warm temperatures and less precipitation this fall and winter.
Forecasters with National Weather Service offices in the Southwest and experts with national Climate Prediction Center say there's little relief expected in the coming months as chances are better for below-average precipitation, continued drought and warmer temperatures.

War God Carving Returned To New Mexico Tribe By Auctioneer—Associated Press
A hand-carved figure held sacred by a Native American community in New Mexico has been returned to the tribe by an Ohio auction house, the company said.
Cowan’s Auctions’ director of Native American, prehistoric and tribal art, Danica Farand, said she recognized that the figure was from the Zuni Pueblo and began the process for its return, assisted by the Authentic Tribal Art Dealers Association.
Each winter, members of the tribe's Deer and Bear clans carve two figures known as Big Brother and Little Brother. The twin gods are then ceremonially brought to a shrine on tribal land where they are left in an act to protect the tribe and the earth.
Over the years, many of the figures have been illegally removed and have made their way into museum and private collections in the U.S. and Europe. Zuni Pueblo has recovered more than 100 of the wooden carvings in recent years.
Zuni Pueblo Lt. Governor Carleton R. Bowekaty (Bow-weh-KAH-tee) said in a statement that the return of the war gods are for the protection and well-being of the entire world.
According to the auction house, the figure recognized by Farnand had been part of a 1930s-1950s traveling show of American Indian artifacts that operated in the southeastern U.S.


Demand Surges For Absentee Ballots Across New MexicoMorgan Lee, Associated Press

Voters across New Mexico have submitted nearly 250,000 absentee ballot requests with especially strong demand among Democrats for alternatives to in-person voting amid the pandemic.

Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver during a news conference Thursday said the popularity of absentee voting may translate into a lengthier process for tallying ballots that could extend beyond Election Day on Nov. 3.

She said county clerks have been allotted more time to authenticate absentee ballots as they arrive ahead of Election Day, but the counting process could potentially last for several days if voters wait until late in the cycle to mail or hand deliver ballots.

Absentee ballots must be received by 7 p.m. on Nov. 3 to be counted.

Fewer than 8,000 absentee ballots were cast statewide in the 2016 presidential election. Election officials will start distributing the first absentee ballots on Oct. 6. In-person voting starts on Saturday, Oct. 17, at voting convenience centers.

New Mexico Democrats Hold Up Trump Judicial AppointmentsMorgan Lee, Associated Press

New Mexico’s Democratic senators have placed the judicial confirmation process for two U.S. District Court vacancies on hold until after the Nov. 3 election. They say the president has politicized the process, so they’ll wait until the voters have spoken.

Using their home-state consultation authority, Sens. Martin Heinrich and Tom Udall confirmed Thursday that they have interrupted the vetting of the two lifetime appointments.

They say they took the action even before the death of liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, in response to a White House news conference where President Donald Trump rallied his base with talk of his judicial appointments.

The New Mexico U.S. District Court has relied on visiting judges to relieve pressure on its robust dockets of immigration and drug trafficking cases.

One of three bench vacancies was filled last year by Republican Judge Kea Riggs, and Heinrich and Udall had signaled early support for Trump nominees Fred Federici, an assistant U.S. attorney, and Albuquerque-based civil litigation attorney Brenda Saiz.

Silver City Expo For Mine Employees Out Of Work By PandemicAssociated Press

Western New Mexico University and Chino Mine’s parent company are co-hosting an expo next week to help mine employees put out of work by the coronavirus pandemic.

The Silver City community’s first drive-through training expo is scheduled for Wednesday afternoon, according to the Albuquerque Journal.

Officials with Freeport-McMoRan and the university say advisers will provide services and give personal consultations to mine employees and contractors.

The university is waiving application fees for all expo attendees and expediting the admission application process during the two-hour event.

Western New Mexico’s mining industry has been hit hard by the economic downturn.

Chino Mine, which employed around 1,100 people at the start of the pandemic, suspended operations in April after an outbreak of the novel coronavirus reportedly affected about a dozen workers.

Last month, Freeport-McMoRan announced it would be extending furloughs for around 825 workers through the end of this year and is expecting to eliminate around 40% of its workforce at Chino Mine.

Navajo Nation Reports 42 New Coronavirus Cases And No DeathsAssociated Press

Navajo Nation health officials on Thursday reported 42 new confirmed cases of coronavirus but no additional deaths.

The Navajo Department of Health said the number of known COVID-19-related deaths remains at 551 since the pandemic began.

The total number of confirmed cases now stands at 10,212.

Tribal health officials said 103,959 people have been tested for the coronavirus and 7,242 have recovered on the vast reservation that covers parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah.

The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks.

But for some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.

New Mexico Subsidies Keep Childcare Afloat Despite VirusCedar Attanasio, Associated Press

New Mexico’s new child care agency has been regularly tweaking policies in an effort to keep the fragile industry afloat while increasing access, and providers say the work is paying off for them and parents.

The Early Childhood Education and Care Department began waiving childcare co-payments months ago to help low-income families find quality care. This week, the agency expanded eligibility for subsidies to groups left behind under previous rules, such as remote workers and graduate students.

With the establishment of the new department, supporters say childcare issues have been elevated and communication across the childcare industry has improved, even amid the chaos of the pandemic.

Sarah Rendon operates an at-home daycare center called We Care. She said she and the working families that rely on her daycare have benefited from the state's response to the pandemic. She said the extra money likely saved her from defaulting on her mortgage or car payment.

Arizona Man Pleads Guilty To Involuntary Manslaughter ChargeAssociated Press

An Arizona man has pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter in connection with a car crash in New Mexico and is facing up to eight years in federal prison, authorities said.

Prosecutors said 28-year-old Maroquez Clah of Red Valley entered his plea Monday in U.S. District Court in Albuquerque.

He remains on release pending a sentencing hearing, which hasn’t been scheduled yet.

Clah was arrested on Feb. 14 on an indictment charging him with involuntary manslaughter.

Prosecutors said Clah was driving under the influence of alcohol and was involved in a crash that killed another man.

The indictment alleged that Clah drove carelessly, in willful disregard for the safety of others and likely to endanger a person or property.