Officials Recommend No DIY Fireworks, Amtrak May End Train Service In Northern NM

Jul 4, 2018

New Mexico Officials Say 'Leave The Fireworks To Professionals'Associated Press

New Mexico officials are asking residents to leave the fireworks to the professionals as the state struggles with drought and wildfires.

Two national forests and parts of another remain closed, putting a damper on holiday camping plans.

The forests that are open prohibit campfires and managers across numerous jurisdictions have other restrictions in place to limit the chance of people sparking fires. That includes strict rules when it comes to fireworks.

State Forestry spokeswoman Wendy Mason is urging people to attend one of the professional shows planned around the state.

So far this year, there have been 450 fires on state and private land. Mason says that's nearly double during the same period last year.

The acreage burned so far this year is seven times more than last year.

New Mexico Still Hashing Out New Rules For Payday LoansAssociated Press

It took years for New Mexico lawmakers to agree to overhaul the storefront lending marketplace by capping interest rates, and state regulators have yet to finalize the rules needed under the new law to bolster consumer protections and enforcement.

A panel of lawmakers heard from consumer advocates this week who are pushing for the regulations to be finished and for loopholes to be closed.

An interim legislative committee passed a resolution Monday asking regulators to report on how they're enforcing the law. That report is due later this year.

The Regulation and Licensing Department's Financial Institutions Division confirmed it has received four complaints against licensed small-loan lenders since January, when the law took effect.

The agency didn't release details about those cases, saying only that it thoroughly investigates all complaints.

HHS Says Congressional Visits To Migrants Wasting Resources - By Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, Associated Press

The Trump administration says lawmakers' visits to migrant children in federal shelters are wasting staff resources that could be used to help connect kids and parents.

But Democrats say lawmakers should be granted immediate access to shelters housing about 12,000 migrant children, including about 2,000 who have been separated from their parents as a result of President Donald Trump's "zero tolerance" policy at the border.

Democratic Senators Martin Heinrich and Tom Udall of New Mexico were among a number of lawmakers who visited a center for immigrant children near El Paso last month.

In a letter Tuesday to leaders of the Senate and House judiciary committees, the Health and Human Services Department says nearly 500 work hours have been devoted to arranging visits for more than 70 lawmakers.

The letter says, "Many of these hours would otherwise have been spent ... verifying parental relationships."

HHS is asking lawmakers to submit visit requests two weeks in advance.

Bones Found Near Albuquerque Mass-Grave Site Of 11 WomenAssociated Press

Albuquerque police say they are investigating whether bones discovered in an area where 11 women were found buried nearly a decade ago are human remains. 

Police say construction workers discovered the bones Tuesday on the city's West Mesa and less than a mile from a mass grave where the bones of the 11 victims were unearthed in 2009. One victim was pregnant when she died.

In February of that year, a woman walking her dog discovered a large bone protruding from the dirt, leading police to excavate the area. The case remains unsolved. 

Police Chief Michael Geier says the area where the latest discovery of bones was made will be excavated, and the remains will be analyzed and tested — a process that could take months. 

Albuquerque Mayor Vetoes Funding For Golf ComplexAssociated Press

The Albuquerque mayor has vetoed a $2.6 million economic development package that would provide some funding for the construction of a golf entertainment complex.

Albuquerque city councilors had approved the package for Topgolf last month in an 8-1 vote.

Mayor Tim Keller's administration had voiced concerns over the package prior to Keller's veto on Monday.

Keller has called the package a "raw deal for taxpayers."

He says the project raises serious concerns, particularly about the number of incentives it was set to receive as well as the lack of protections for taxpayer funding usually included.

The city's Economic Development Department and the Albuquerque Development Commission also found issues with the project.

The city council will need six votes to override Keller's veto.

On July 4, Americans Celebrate Their Union, Rue DivisionsAssociated Press

Americans are marking Independence Day with parades, fireworks and, for some, a renewed sense of pride in their 242-year-old nation.

For others, a sense of a United States divided weighs heavy on its quintessential holiday.

From New York to New Mexico, July Fourth events will celebrate what Americans have in common. Festivities are as elaborate as the Macy's July Fourth fireworks show, as gulp-worthy as the Nathan's Famous hot dog eating contest and as easygoing as backyard barbecues.

But in a country roiled with debate over what it means to be an American, there are even competing televised Independence Day events in the nation's capital.

PBS' broadcast of music and fireworks from the U.S. Capitol's West Lawn faces new counterprogramming from the White House, which is hosting its own concert.

New Mexico Man Gets 170-Year Prison Term In Child Porn CaseAssociated Press

A New Mexico man has been sentenced to 170 years in federal prison for producing and possessing child pornography and conspiring to transport people illegally into the country.

Prosecutors say 34-year-old Samuel Elliott of Columbus also was ordered to pay more than $210,000 in restitution to each of the three children victimized by the child porn production scheme.

They say Elliott got 30 years in prison on each of three child porn counts to run consecutive for 90 years. He also got 20 years in prison for each of four porn possession counts to run consecutive for 80 years and a concurrent 15-month term for the transporting charge.

Prosecutors say the child porn crimes occurred between December 2012 and July 2013 while Elliott conspired to transport immigrants in August 2013.

Carlsbad Caverns' Main Elevators Back In Service – Carlsbad Current-Argus, Associated Press

The main elevators at Carlsbad Caverns National Park are up and running following a long-awaited modernization project that saw repeated delays.

The Carlsbad Current-Argus reports the primary elevator system began operating Monday and officials are planning to decommission the backup system next year so it can be updated too.

The primary system went out of service in November 2015 when a motor shaft sheared off.

Work to repair and modernize the elevators was supposed to be done by Memorial Day but was delayed until June 15 due to additional work needed on the interior of the cars.

The project was delayed again when the cables created excessive noise, caused by unexpected vibrations.

Park Superintendent Doug Neighbor says the elevators should hold out for a least a decade without any problems.

Man Arrested After Shot Fired At Vehicle Driven By DetectiveAssociated Press

Bernalillo County authorities say a man is accused of shooting at a vehicle driven by a sheriff's detective who was not injured.

The Sheriff's Office says 40-year-old Enrique Christopher Torres was arrested after a bullet shattered a window of the detective's vehicle Monday.

Torres was jailed on suspicion on suspicion of shooting at a vehicle, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and abandonment or abuse of a child.

According to sheriff's officials, Torres allegedly had fired from a residence at another vehicle on Monday and that two children were in the residence.

Jail records indicate Torres also was sought on several warrants alleging crimes that included drug and weapons violations.

It's not known whether Torres has an attorney who could comment on the allegations.

Northern New Mexico May Lose Amtrak ServiceAlbuquerque Journal, Associated Press

Amtrak may switch to using buses for part of the Southwest Chief route between Chicago and Los Angeles, eliminating stops in northern New Mexico.

The Albuquerque Journal reports passengers would have to board buses between Albuquerque and Dodge City, Kan. This would mean no more train service to Lamy, Las Vegas or Raton.

At issue is a section of track owned by BNSF Railway. Amtrak is the only user of that section. Federal grants to upgrade portions of the line require matching funds from Amtrak, communities along the route, the states of Kansas, Colorado and New Mexico, and BNSF.

Amtrak provided $4 million in matches on the first two grants and pledged $3 million to the third one.

But the train operator now said the financial investment needed to retain the portion of the routes isn't possible because railroads are also under a federal deadline to install Positive Train Controls, a system to automatically stop a train not under an engineer's control.

Amtrak officials said the stops in northern New Mexico losing train service would still be stops for the proposed bus line.