Nuclear Security Agency Begins Work On NM Complex, Thousands Protest Around NM

Jul 2, 2018

Nuclear Security Agency Begins Work On New Mexico Complex- Associated Press

The head of the U.S. agency that oversees the nation's nuclear weapons cache and key deterrence initiatives around the globe describes working conditions at one of its largest hubs as untenable, saying Monday that the National Nuclear Security Administration finally has funding to address the problems.

Lisa Gordon-Hagerty, head of the agency, visited Albuquerque to mark the start of construction on a multimillion-dollar complex that will serve as a new workspace for some 1,200 employees.

The new structure will replace 25 separate buildings scattered across Kirtland Air Force base. Many of those buildings were constructed as military barracks during the Cold War — long before the need for high-speed internet and other technology that the agency needs to do its job.

Members of New Mexico's congressional delegation have been pushing for the funding needed to build the new complex since taking a tour of the old cinder-block buildings in early 2016.

Probe: New Mexico Fire Was Human Caused- Associated Press

An investigation has determined a wildfire that charred a few square miles of forest land in northern New Mexico was human-caused.

Forest officials announced the findings Sunday. They declined to say how the fire was started or release any other details about the ongoing investigation.

The blaze burning in a remote area southeast of Taos has blackened more than 3 square miles. Hot and dry conditions have helped to fan the flames, causing the fire to spread significantly over the last few days.

Most of New Mexico is mired in drought and fire restrictions remain in place ahead of the Fourth of July holiday.

In southern New Mexico, crews have been busy with a brush fire about 10 miles north of Las Cruces.

Albuquerque Police: Deaths Of 2 Appears To Be Murder-Suicide

Police in Albuquerque say the deaths of two men last weekend appears to be a murder-suicide.

They identified the men Monday as 21-year-old Ramon Tafoya and 21-year-old Christopher Trujillo.

Police say the relationship of the two men wasn't immediately clear and a possible motive for the shootings also remains under investigation.

They say the incident occurred just before midnight Saturday on the city's west side.

Officers were called about a shooting at a home and found a man on the ground that was pronounced dead at the scene.

They talked to the occupants of the home and found a second man inside with serious injuries.

That man was taken to a hospital, where he later died.

Police say a firearm, several casings, and other evidence were seized from the scene.

Group Wants Route 66 On List Of National Historic Trails- Associated Press

A national nonprofit says it will push for Historic Route 66 to be designated as a National Historic Trail.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation announcement says it's embarking on a month-long road trip that will cover the full length of the historic highway as part of its campaign for the designation.

The trip began Monday in Chicago and will finish August 3rd in Los Angeles, with stops planned in Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arizona and other states along the route.

The National Park Service says there are currently 19 designated National Historic Trails, including the Trail of Tears, the Lewis and Clark trail, and the Selma to Montgomery March in Alabama.

It is up to Congress to decide whether a route should be designated as a National Historic Trail.

New Mexico State Police Officer Accused Of Trafficking Drugs-Associated Press

Authorities say a New Mexico State Police officer has been arrested on federal drug trafficking charges.

Prosecutors say 33-year-old Daniel Capehart of Bloomfield was taken into custody by the FBI last Friday.

He was assigned to patrol duty in Farmington and San Juan County and is on administrative leave.

A criminal complaint alleges Capehart abused his position as a law enforcement officer by stealing drugs seized during arrests and giving them to females with whom he was interested in pursuing romantic or sexual relationships.

Capehart made his initial appearance Monday in federal court in Farmington on charges of distribution of marijuana and methamphetamine.

He remains in custody pending preliminary and detention hearings scheduled for July 5 in federal court in Albuquerque.

It's unclear if Capehart has a lawyer yet.

Thousands Protest Around New MexicoAssociated Press, Santa Fe New Mexican, Farmington Daily Times

Thousands of people gathered in downtown Albuquerque Saturday to protest the Trump administration's immigration policies, calling for an end to the detention of immigrant families.

The crowd also included many who've been protesting Trump since his election in 2016. They voiced concerns about everything from abortion rights and the future makeup of the Supreme Court to what if any influence Russia might have on American politics.

Margarita Perez of Albuquerque held up a small Mexican flag as speakers addressed the crowd. Accompanied by her daughter, she said she was concerned about the children who were being detained and for those parents who did not know where their children were taken.

Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller, a Democrat, told the crowd of his trip to the US-Mexico border, where he and other mayors were denied a tour of a shelter at the Tornillo port of entry outside of El Paso, Texas. He elicited a roar from the crowd when he said, "We are here to push back, to resist."

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports hundreds of people were at the Roundhouse Saturday evening after the annual Pride Parade. There were several arrests although it was a mostly peaceful protest.

The Farmington Daily Times reports more than 150 people joined a rally in front of the Farmington Museum.

The demonstrators were among hundreds of thousands in major cities and tiny towns across America who gathered Saturday, moved by accounts of children separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border, in the latest act of mass resistance against President Donald Trump's immigration policies.

Study Says Warming Winters Could Lead To Bark Beetle SpreadSanta Fe New Mexican, Associated Press

A bark beetle epidemic wiped out swaths of piñon trees around Santa Fe more than a decade ago, and now new research predicts that warming winters could spell more trouble.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory have done a large-scale analysis to demonstrate that higher temperatures allow the destructive beetle to multiply rapidly and expand its range.

Bark beetle is a broad classification that includes more than 6,000 beetle species that reproduce in the inner bark of trees.

Researcher Devin Goodsman says more beetles would stick around if they're not dying from the winter temperatures, but that means more competition within the species. The population growth is limited by competition for food, which could have a countering effect.

Audits Of MLK Commission Delayed Due To InvestigationAssociated Press

Audits of the Martin Luther King Jr. Commission for the past three years cannot be completed due to an ongoing investigation by state prosecutors.

State Auditor Wayne Johnson on Friday released the audit for the 2014 fiscal year but included a disclaimer because there wasn't enough information to render an opinion.

The 2015, 2016 and 2017 audits are pending because state auditors don't have access to adequate financial records to substantiate the balances presented on the commission's financial statements.

The commission had requested waivers for 2015 and 2016. Johnson denied the request, saying that completing the past due audits will help provide the public with a clear view of the financial picture.

The former head of the commission was indicted earlier this year on fraud, embezzlement and other charges.

Albuquerque Has Employed Hundreds Of Homeless Since 2015Associated Press

Albuquerque officials say a program aimed at providing work to people who are homeless has resulted in 6,666 one-day-long jobs since September 2015 for people living on the streets or panhandling.

Mayor Tim Keller's office release the figure Friday in a statement that credited the "There's a Better Way" program with giving people a chance to earn a fair wage for daily work.

The program launched by former Mayor Richard Berry transports workers to a Solid Waste Management Department job site, where they clear litter and weeds. St. Martin's Hospitality Center, a local nonprofit, tries to connect them with services at the end of the day.

The mayor's office says the program over the past three years has employed 1,575 workers in total, and 76 have gained permanent employment as a result of the program.

DA Clears Man Of Murder Charge In Girl's DeathAssociated Press

Prosecutors have dismissed murder and sexual assault charges against a man arrested two years ago in the death of a 10-year-old Albuquerque girl whose dismembered remains were found in her family's apartment.

Bernalillo County District Attorney Raul Torrez says there is no physical evidence that Fabian Gonzales raped Victoria Martens. Instead, a lab analysis found another unidentified male's DNA on her body.

Witness statements and cell phone data also show Gonzales and the girl's mother, Michelle Martens, were not at the apartment when the girl was killed.

Both had been charged with murder in the girl's death until Friday, when Martens pleaded guilty to child abuse resulting in death and Torrez announced the new revelations.

Court records indicate a third suspect, who is Gonzales' cousin, still awaits trial on murder and other charges.

ACLU Says Government Wrong To Detain FamiliesAssociated Press

The ACLU is disputing a Trump administration claim that it has to detain families indefinitely because of a court ruling barring it from separating them.

Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the ACLU Immigrants' Rights Project, said requirements in a case settlement known as the Flores agreement don't conflict with the order issued in San Diego on Tuesday that required the government to reunify immigrant families separated at the border.

The Department of Justice said in a court filing Friday in Los Angeles in the decades-old Flores case that the ruling requires it to keep families detained in order to keep them together.

Gelernt said the government has a constitutional obligation to release parents who don't pose a flight risk or danger, and that parents can choose to release their children if they don't want them to be in a family detention center.

The administration's zero tolerance policy has resulted in the separation of thousands of kids from their parents at the border.

New Mexico Courts To Resume Full Business Hours - Associated Press

New Mexico's state courts will have enough money to resume full business hours for the public for the new fiscal year that starts in July.

Supreme Court Chief Justice Judith Nakamura made the announcement Friday, saying she's grateful lawmakers provided resources in the state budget for courts to meet their constitutional and statutory obligations.

Monday marks the start of the first business day for the 2019 fiscal year, but court officials say several clerk's offices have already started offering a full eight hours for customer service.

Funding and staffing shortages in recent years had forced about half of magistrate courts statewide to close clerk's offices for a portion of one day each week. A third of district courts also reduced the hours that clerk's offices were open to the public.

New Mexico District Tapped For 'Rolling Study Halls' ProgramAssociated Press

Google is partnering with the Santa Fe public school district to give students with long commutes the ability to ride buses outfitted with Wi-Fi and an onboard tutor.

Democratic U.S. Congressman Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico and Federal Communications Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel got a demonstration Friday of the "Rolling Study Halls" program.

Students participated in a coding activity during the bus ride. Then, the school district hosted a discussion with Luján and Rosenworcel about the digital divide.

Luján says if airline passengers can access the internet at 30,000 feet, students on the ground should also have Wi-Fi in their buses to get homework done.

Luján has introduced legislation aimed at broadening access by allowing the commission's E-Rate program to reimburse schools that place Wi-Fi technology on school buses.

New Mexico Oil Boom Town Approves Housing Incentives Hobbs News-Sun, Associated Press

A New Mexico city in the heart of the state's booming oil and gas country has approved tens of thousands of dollars of incentives to help subsidize the development of more single-family homes.

The Hobbs News-Sun reports the city commission recently approved a total of $305,000 in incentives as part of development agreements with homebuilders to address the community's housing crunch.

One of the development agreements was inked with Habitat for Humanity of Hobbs for the construction of 20 low-income, single-family homes.

Habitat for Humanity will receive up to $105,000 for infrastructure incentive reimbursements.

The incentives are for public municipal infrastructure such as water and sewer lines, streets and sidewalks.

City officials say similar development agreements since 2012 have resulted in nearly 1,000 multi-family units and about 340 single-family homes.

French Helicopter Company Testing Prototype In FarmingtonFarmington Daily Times, Associated Press

A France-based helicopter company has come to test a prototype helicopter at the Four Corners Regional Airport in Farmington where mid-altitude conditions and warm weather can be found.

Experimental flight test engineer Nicolas Certain tells The Daily Times that the test performed this week involves mimicking engine failure.

He says the test is necessary so Airbus Helicopters' H160 can receive certification from both the Federal Aviation Administration and the European Aviation Safety Agency.

Prior to visiting Farmington, the crew tested the H160 helicopter in the hot temperatures of Lake Havasu, Arizona. Its next stop will be Leadville, Colorado, where the crew will test its ability to fly at high altitude.

Airbus hopes to get the helicopter certified so it can start selling it by 2019.