Jury deals severe blow to Astorga defense team

Michael Astroga
From KOB-TV.com - By: Stuart Dyson, KOB Eyewitness News 4 - The jury considering the death penalty for convicted cop-killer Michael Astorga now seems to be back on track - after appearing to be hopelessly deadlocked just 24 hours ago. Tuesday morning, the jury found Astorga guilty of four aggravating circumstances in the killing of Bernalillo County Sheriff's Deputy James McGrane during a traffic stop in Tijeras in March 2006. That clears the way now for the jury to decide whether Astorga should die by lethal injection or serve a life sentence in prison. The jury in the Santa Fe death penalty trial agreed that Astorga intentionally shot McGrane, and that McGrane was an on-duty police officer when he was killed. That makes it a death penalty case, and that pleases McGrane's mother and father, who have attended every day of the trial. Two years ago, an earlier jury convicted Astorga of the McGrane murder, but in a highly unusual move the State Supreme Court ruled that a second jury would determine if he gets the death penalty.  The court also ruled that the second jury could consider whether Astorga was guilty or innocent. All along, his defense has been that he is the wrong man, railroaded into a conviction for a murder he did not commit. The jury's decision on the aggravating factors dealt a severe blow to Astorga's defense team, which was hoping the jury couldn't agree. That would have meant an automatic life sentence and no death penalty. On Wednesday, the defense will call witnesses to testify against the death penalty and the prosecution will call witnesses who will explain why they think it is necessary. Lawyers spent a good part of Tuesday afternoon battling over which witnesses should testify and which should be excluded. Read more

Taxpayer Funded Debt Collectors

From bloomberg.com -Joshua Mandelman made $454,000 in a single year as a student-loan debt collector -- more than twice the pay of the U.S. secretary of education.  His boss, Richard Boyle, chief executive officer ofEducational Credit Management Corp., received $1.1 million in 2010, including commuting expenses from his ranch in New Mexico. Five other managers each took home more than $400,000.   ECMC, a Minnesota nonprofit group, owes its success to an 18-year-old agreement with the U.S. government. The company charges fees to borrowers and earns commissions from taxpayers-- totaling as much as 31 percent -- when it collects on defaulted student loans. Those rich rewards, which are approved by Congress, are sparking criticism that ECMC and similar collection agencies are reaping a bonanza from former students’pain. The loan program “is enriching collection agencies and undermining a goal we all want for society -- to encourage people to go to college,” Robert Shireman, a former deputy undersecretary of education under President Barack Obama, said in a telephone interview.  More News New Mexico

Gov. Martinez's PAC reports raising $77K

Susana Martinez
KOBGov. Susana Martinez's political organization raked in more than $77,000 during a five-week period as she aims to make GOP gains in the New Mexico Legislature. The Albuquerque Journal reports that Susana PAC reported Monday raising the money during the reporting period that stretched from April 3 through May 7. The governor's PAC reported receiving $10,000 each from six companies, including Mack Energy of Artesia, which contributed $117,500 to Martinez's gubernatorial campaign in 2010. Martinez political consultant Jay McCleskey said that the $10,000 contributions include $5,000 each for both the primary and general election cycles. A state law that took effect after the 2010 election restricts campaign contributions to a statewide candidate or PAC to $5,000 per cycle, or $10,000 per election. The next reporting deadline is May 31. Read More News New Mexico


Serial Basher of Palin's Intellect, Chris Matthews Stinks it Up on Jeopardy Game Show

Chris Matthews
Newsbusters - On at least four occasions, MSNBC's Chris Matthews mocked Sarah Palin for how he felt she'd do if she were ever on the hit television game show Jeopardy!.
In a delicious example of instant karma, the self-proclaimed brainiac got his chance to show America how smart he was in a special "Power Players" version of the show Monday, but came up quite short finishing dead last with the paltry sum of only $2,300. For those that missed it, Matthews was matched up against CNN's Lizzie O'Leary and former Obama White House press secretary Robert Gibbs. Read full story and watch video here: News New Mexico

New penalty for corrupt politicians

Bill Payne
Milan Simonich - Bill by Sen. William Payne could take away public pensions, force return of salaries. Public officials in New Mexico who commit a felony will have more to lose starting Wednesday. Those convicted in public corruption cases could be required to repay their salaries and forfeit their accumulated state pension benefits. A new state law gives judges the authority to increase the basic sentence by adding those penalties. Legislators approved the bill without any dissenting votes and Gov. Susana Martinez signed it in February. The corruption crackdown, sponsored by Repulican Sen. William Payne of Albuquerque, is one of 19 state laws that go into effect Wednesday, May 19. Read More News New Mexico


State, industry officials tout New Mexico to Hollywood studios

Courtesy of Disney Studios
New Mexico Business Weekly“The Avengers” continues to break all box office records, raking in another $103 million in its second weekend for a total of $1 billion worldwideMost of the production was shot at Albuquerque Studios, with the Albuquerque Railyards standing in for streets in Manhattan. (A friend spent days as an extra pretending to dodge incoming projectiles and explosions as a terrified New Yorker. Thanks to greenscreen backdrops and computer generated imagery, audiences think he’s actually in Manhattan.) The gigantic sets, including Tony Stark’s three-story apartment and the massive helicarrier (essentially a flying aircraft carrier that stretched across two soundstages) took months to build, according to ABQ Studios officials. That 10-month production translated into money for hundreds of local vendors and jobs for at least 500 New Mexicans, according to ABQ Studios. It included numerous restaurants and watering holes, such as StreetFood Asia, which touted star sightings on its social media pages. I have now read many versions of the story of Chris Evans (Captain America) texting his fellow cast members with the iconic line “Avengers Assemble.” But rather than gathering to defeat evil, they apparently had a wild night at some Albuquerque nightclub. Anyone know which one? I’ve heard Burt’s Tiki Lounge or the late Atomic Cantina. “New Mexico now has in its history that it created the most financially successful opening in the history of the U.S.,” said Dana Arnold, CEO of Pacifica Ventures, the parent company of ABQ Studios. “I think that’s to our credit. It proved New Mexico has the crew and facilities to make great big movies, and they should all come make them with us.” Read More News New Mexico 


Erik Ness Will Be Missed

Erik Ness
Las Cruces, NM (May 14, 2012) Yesterday, Congressman Steve Pearce joined a growing list of people throughout New Mexico who are mourning the passing of Erik Ness the former Director of Communications for New Mexico Farm and Livestock Bureau.Congressman Pearce said, "I extend my deepest sympathies and prayers for the family of my good friend, Erik Ness and for the Las Cruces community. His service to the community and to the state of New Mexico and his life will long be remembered by all who had the pleasure of knowing him. All of us here at News New Mexico echo those sentiments.


Investments of J.P. Morgan and B.H. Obama

Oh the humanity of a $2 billion trading loss suffered by J.P. Morgan shareholders! President Obama and his press secretary Jay Carney were self-righteously indigant yesterday. Apparently because this bank wasted a lot of money on a bad investment. Ironically, the president is afraid the taxpayers “might” be on the hook if Morgan keeps doing stupid things with shareholder money. Fair enough. We will get back to that part of the discussion in a paragraph or two.
The J.P. Morgan story has so many twists and turns it is hard to know where to begin. Let’s start four years ago and talk about J.P. Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon. Like so many Wall Street bankers at places like J.P. Morgan and Goldman Sachs, Dimon was a staunch supporter of Barack Obama in 2008. In fact Dimon gave money to Obama’s campaign and bundled the contributions of others for Obama. Clearly Dimon has a history of making bad decisions. Ironically, Dimon's company, J.P. Morgan was one of the few large firms that did not need bailout funds in 2008. Since backing the Obama candidacy in 2008, Dimon has seen the error in his ways and become a harsh critic of the heavy handed anti-business attitudes of the Obama adminsitration.
One investment arena that was not the target of Obama’s criticism yesterday, when the president was ripping on J.P. Morgan, was the dumb bets his administration has made on eight different solar companies. For the record, Solyndra is not the only company that received fast track approval by the federal government to receive taxpayer guarantees. The U.S. Department of Interior also got involved in fast tracking the lease of federal lands in no-bid processes to: Abengoa Solar, BrightSource Energy, First Solar, Nevada Geothermal Power, NextEra Energy Resources, Ormat Nevada, and SolarReserve. Naturally there was no Keystone XL pipeline-like slowdown or turn down on any of these dubious investments by the Obama administration. Oh and yes, and these companies also received loan guarantees worth billions from the Department of Energy under its renewable energy loan program. They also received renewable energy grants from the Treasury Department.
Of course, Solyndra has already filed for bankruptcy. And it seems that First Solar, teetering on the edge of collapse, was caught selling solar panels to itself to circumvent rules related to its government grants and loans earlier this year.
It is time to get real. The idea that President Obama is suddenly upset because J.P. Morgan’s stockholders got the news that the bank made some bad decisions is laughable. The president needs to clear the hypocritical plank from his own investment eye and should stop throwing away billions of taxpayer dollars. The idea that he is instead contemplating the possibility of a bailout of J.P. Morgan tells us all we need to know about what a second term might look like.



Can't We Find a Prison Cell for This Guy?

KRQE - Police say a man who has been arrested for drunk driving 19 times has been arrested again. An employee at the T-Mobile store on Menaul and San Mateo says he spotted 62-year-old George Toledo inside his store yesterday, reeking of liquor. He called police around 9:00 a.m., when he saw Toldeo go into his car and chug a beer.  "He had a hard time finding where his feet met the ground," said Justin Huffmon, who called police. Huffmon had just opened the doors to the T-mobile shop. That's when he says Toledo came stumbling in to pay a bill. When he came staggering out to the parking lot, Huffmon says Toledo kept pouring the drinks behind the wheel of his car. "He had two flasks of Canadian Mist. One of them was pretty much done. It looked like he cracked the other one open," said Huffmon. Huffmon called police. He snapped a picture while an officer gave Toledo a field sobriety test. "When they pulled him out, he just urinated all over himself. It was just really bad." Read full story here: News New Mexico