WED: US Urged To Consider Extreme Heat In Border Policy, + More

Sep 15, 2021

Groups Ask US To Consider Extreme Heat In Border PoliciesAssociated Press

Human rights groups are calling on the Biden administration to consider the effects that climate change-fueled heat has on migrants when designing the government's border policies.

Human Rights Watch today released the letter sent by 68 groups to the U.S. government, urging a new approach to actions on the southwestern border after this summer's deadly heat.

The Southwest has become one of the fastest warming regions in the U.S. as climate change increasingly wreaks havoc on the environment, ramping up heat waves, hurricanes and wildfires.

The letter says U.S. policies limiting entry to migrants who hope to apply for asylum can prompt them to make risky journeys through dangerous areas.

The groups mentioned the August deaths of a female migrant and her 10-year-old daughter in the desert west of Yuma, Arizona as highs reached 119 F. Border officials found a 2-year-old boy alongside the bodies.

In southwestern Arizona, a new report by the nonprofit Humane Borders and the Pima County Medical Examiner's office says that the remains of 19 migrants were found in the Arizona borderlands in July, bringing the annual total number of recoveries for 2021 thus far to 146.

New Mexico Extending Masking Order For Indoor Public PlacesAssociated Press

New Mexico is extending its latest mandate for masking in indoor public settings for at least another month amid the current surge in COVID-19 cases, state officials said.

The mandate re-imposed on Aug. 20 as part of a public health order by acting state Health Secretary David Scrase will be extended without significant changes, Tripp Stelnicki, a spokesman for Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said yesterday.

The masking mandate had been set to expire today.

A separate public health order requiring that hospital employees, corrections officers and other workers in group home settings get the COVID-19 vaccine or risk losing their jobs does not have a set expiration date.

New Mexico in May 2020 was among the first states to require that face coverings be worn in public settings. That order was lifted in May of this year for fully vaccinated people.

Under the current public health order, the mask requirement applies to all people age 2 and older in all indoor public settings , except when eating or drinking.

Businesses, houses of worship and other entities may enact stricter requirements at their discretion.

Albuquerque Lawmaker Opts Out Of Running For Reelection - Associated Press

State Rep. Debbie Armstrong has decided against running for reelection, saying Tuesday that she wanted to focus on her family and other projects. 

The Albuquerque Democrat has served four terms in the House of Representatives and is the chair of the chamber's Health and Human Services Committee. She has played a role in expanding health care and prescription drug coverage during her tenure. 

Armstrong pointed specifically to the state's recent passage of legislation to legalize cannabis for recreational use and a new law that provides a legal pathway for terminally ill patients to choose when and how they die.

"I can't thank enough my incredible constituents and supporters who have supported me and these important initiatives over the years and who shared my vision of a state where every New Mexican can get access to the quality healthcare they deserve," Armstrong said in a statement.

Armstrong was first elected in 2014 to represent a district that includes parts of central Albuquerque and the North Valley. 

Her decision not to run again comes amid the once-a-decade process of redrawing political maps. A seven-member Citizen Redistricting Commission is reviewing and vetting redistricting maps for the state Legislature, which can adopt recommendations or start from scratch.

Ruling: Car Lights Don't Need To Work Perfectly, Just Well  - Associated Press

New Mexico's highest court has ruled that state law doesn't require vehicle tail lights all be working perfectly, only that they work well enough for their intended use.

A ruling Monday  by the state Supreme Court stems from a man's conviction for violating a state law requiring that certain vehicle equipment be in "good working order."

To conclude that "good working order" means free from flaws or defects "would impose an absurd standard for vehicles on New Mexico roads and highways because it would require that equipment be in perfect condition, beyond a more reasonable expectation that equipment functions for its intended use," Justice S. Shannon Bacon wrote for the court.

The case began when a Bernalillo County sheriff's deputy pulled the man over because one bulb in a tail lamp didn't work despite the rest of the lamp being illuminated. 

The man was convicted for both driving a vehicle with defective equipment and for driving under the influence, and his appeals argued that there weren't grounds to pull him over because his tail lamp was operating well enough.

The Supreme Court's ruling sends the case back to district court for further proceedings.

Police: Initial Info Indicates Employee Fatally Shot Robber - Associated Press

Preliminary information indicates an armed person attempting to rob a Subway restaurant in Albuquerque early Tuesday was fatally shot by an employee, the Albuquerque Police Department said.

No additional information was released about the dead person.

Department spokesman Gilbert Gallegos said officers were dispatched to the restaurant at about 5:20 a.m. in response to a report of an attempted armed robbery and a shooting.

Homicide detectives planned to interview employees and search the business, Gallegos said in a statement.

Former Tax Official Gets Probation In Embezzlement Case - Associated Press

A former head of the New Mexico Taxation and Revenue Department has been sentenced to five years of probation for her convictions in an embezzlement case.

A state District Court judge for Sandoval County last week sentenced former Secretary Demesia Padilla on her June jury convictions for embezzlement and computer access with intent to defraud or embezzle.

Padilla faced up to 18 years in prison but  Judge Cindy Mercer suspended all prison time for Padilla and imposed five years of supervised probation, the Albuquerque Journal reported.

Along with the probation term, Padilla must complete 200 hours of community service and pay over $25,000 in restitution to the embezzlement victims, a Bernalillo family which owned a grading company that used Padilla's accounting firm.

Padilla, an appointee of then-Gov. Susana Martinez, resigned her Cabinet post in December 2016 after Attorney General's Office investigators searched the tax agency for tax documents connected with Padilla and her husband. She was charged about 18 months later.

Many of the original charges were dismissed as being too vague.

US Grants License For Temporary Nuclear Waste Dump In Texas - Associated Press

Federal officials have cleared the way for construction of a dump in West Texas that could hold spent nuclear fuel for up to 40 years.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission granted a license to Interim Storage Partners LLC to build and run a facility that could take up to 5,000 metric tons of spent nuclear fuel rods from power plants and 231 million tons of other radioactive waste.

The decision puts the federal agency on a collision course with state officials in Texas, where opposition to nuclear waste storage has been building for years.

Last week, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed a bill that purports to prohibit the storage or transportation of high-level nuclear waste such as spent fuel rods through the state. 

"Texas will not become America's nuclear waste dumping ground," Abbott tweeted on Tuesday.

Environmental groups including the Sierra Club have filed federal lawsuits to block the project, arguing that the discovery of groundwater under the site makes it unsafe to store radioactive waste there.

Interim Storage Partners plan to build the facility next to an existing dump site in Andrews County for low-level waste such as protective clothing and other material that has been exposed to radioactivity. The company plans to expand the interim facility in seven phases to take up to 40,000 tons of high-level waste, which would be stored in sealed containers. Each expansion would require NRC review and approval.

The company is a joint venture of Waste Control Specialists LLC, which was started by the late Dallas billionaire investor Harold Simmons and later bought by private equity firm J.F. Lehman & Co., and Orano USA. Waste Control Specialists applied for the license in 2015. 

The Andrews County site is about 350 miles west of Dallas, near the Texas-New Mexico state line.

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and the state's congressional delegation are fighting a proposal by Holtec International to build a similar temporary nuclear waste facility in Lea County. They say technical analysis of the site has been inadequate. 

New Mexico officials fear that the waste will be stranded in their state because the federal government has failed over a period of decades to find a permanent disposal site. Instead, highly radioactive waste is piling up at dozens of reactors around the country.

In 2006, the NRC approved a proposal for a temporary dump for spent fuel in Utah, but the facility was never built. 

Going back to the 1980s, the Energy Department and Congress approved building a permanent, deep underground burial site in southern Nevada. State officials fought the project for years, however, and Congress eliminated funding for it in 2011 while Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, was Senate majority leader.

Navajo Nation Reports 50 Mmore COVID-19 Cases, 2 More Deaths - Associated Press

The Navajo Nation on Tuesday reported 50 more COVID-19 cases and two additional deaths.

The tribe has seen 33,290 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 1,421 known deaths from the virus since the pandemic began.

Based on cases from Aug. 27 to Sept. 9, the Navajo Department of Health has issued an advisory for 35 communities due to uncontrolled spread of COVID-19.

Navajo officials are urging people to get vaccinated, wear masks while in public and minimize their travel. 

Officials say all Navajo Nation executive branch employees will need to be fully vaccinated against the virus by the end of September or submit to regular testing.

The new rules apply to full, part-time and temporary employees, including those working for tribal enterprises like utilities, shopping centers and casinos. 

Any worker who does not show proof of vaccination by Sept. 29 must be tested every two weeks or face discipline.

The tribe's reservation is the country's largest at 27,000 square miles and it covers parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah.

22-Year-Old Pinon Woman Crowned As New Miss Navajo Nation 

Niagara Rockbridge has been crowned as the new Miss Navajo Nation. The 22-year-old is from Pinon. 

A virtual coronation ceremony was held Saturday at the Navajo Nation Museum in Window Rock. 

Following COVID-19 safety guidelines, the three contestants wore face masks while participating in a weeklong pageant that included a sheep butchering contest, interviews and a traditional and contemporary skills talent competition.

Rockbridge succeeds Shaandiin Parrish, who served an unprecedented two-year term as Miss Navajo Nation as the 2020 pageant was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

The role of Miss Navajo Nation is to be an ambassador of the largest sovereign nation in the U.S., according to tribal officials. The tribe's reservation is the country's largest at 27,000 square miles and it covers parts of New Mexico, Arizona and Utah.