Expert: Southwest, East Coast Quakes Unrelated

From - GOLDEN, Colo. -- The earthquake that struck Virginia on Tuesday hit an area that historically is not seismically active - and there's no connection with another rare quake that struck Colorado, a U.S. Geological Survey scientist said. USGS geophysicist Daniel McNamara said Tuesday's magnitude-5.9 quake that rattled much of the East Coast cannot be traced to a specific fault. The same applies to a magnitude-5.3 quake that struck southern Colorado late Monday, McNamara said. That area, too, has seen little seismic activity on such a large scale. McNamara stressed there was no connection between the two quakes. Neither was the direct product of tectonic plate movement, he said. Read more


Speaker Lujan OK’s committee to investigate Block Jr.

From Capitol Report New - New Mexico Speaker of the state’s House of Representatives, Ben Luján, approved on Tuesday (Aug. 23) what could be the first step in the impeachment of Public Regulation Commissioner Jerome Block Jr. Speaker Luján sent out a letter to leaders of the legislature’s Democratic and Republican delegations announcing he will appoint a subcommittee to investigate whether impeachment charges should be brought against the 34-year-old Block, who has come under fire on multiple fronts in the past month. The subcommittee will be made up of members of both parties and will be held during the upcoming special session of the legislature, which begins Sept. 6. By rule, impeachment proceedings have to begin in the state’s House of Representatives. Block has been urged by Gov. Susana Martinez and members of his own Democratic party to step down in wake of the allegations and the corresponding investigation by the state’s Attorney General’s office. “I think it’s an appropriate decision on the part of the Speaker,” Rep. Brian Egolf (D-Santa Fe), who has been urging Block to resign to avoid what could be an expensive impeachment proceeding. “It’s a step in the right direction.” Read more


Obama Hits Struggling Americans With Energy Rate Hikes

From Prison - by Paul Joseph Watson - Following Barack Obama’s vow to “bankrupt” the coal power industry, Americans are set to be hit with a wave of utility bill hikes as draconian EPA regulations drive up the cost of energy while General Electric, one of Obama’s biggest campaign donors, gets a waiver and is completely exempt. New EPA rules dictate that utility companies will be forced to spend an initial outlay of $800 million dollars to conform with the regulations that mandate “harmful” emissions be reduced under the Clean Air Act. Groups like the Edison Electric Institute warn that the new rules eventually “cost utilities up to $129 billion and force them to retire one-fifth of coal capacity,” prompting a wave of coal plant shutdowns. The new rules will exacerbate the problem of rolling blackouts, warns Donna Nelson, head of the Texas Public Utility Commission. “I have no doubt in my mind that this rule will result in reliability issues and rolling outages in Texas,” Nelson said. The EPA claims the new rules will “prolong lives by reducing harmful smog and soot pollution,” and yet power plants supplied by General Electric, one of Barack Obama’s biggest campaign contributors, have received an EPA waiver and will not be subject to the regulations. All this will of course lead to significantly higher utility bills for U.S. citizens, who are being assaulted with more expenses even as the threat of a double-dip recession lowers living standards and the devalued dollar buys less and less each day while food stamp usage hits record highs. Read more


New national debt data: It's growing about $3 million a minute, even during his vacation

From the Los Angeles Times - Political commentary from Andrew Malcolm - Swallow all liquids in your mouth before reading any further. Updated numbers for the national debt are just out: It's now $14,639,000,000,000. When Barack Obama took the oath of office twice on Jan. 20, 2009, CBS' amazing number cruncher Mark Knoller reports, the national debt was $10,626,000,000,000. That means the debt that our federal government owes a whole lot of somebodies including China has increased $4,247,000,000,000 in just 945 days. That's the fastest increase under any president ever. Remember the day the Democrat promised to close the embarrassing Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility within one year? That day the national debt increased $4,247,000,000. And each day since that the facility hasn't been closed. Same for the day in 2009 when Obama flew all the way out to Denver to sign the $787 billion stimulus bill that was going to hold national unemployment beneath 8% instead of the 9.1% we got today anyway? Another $4,247,000,000 that day. And every day since, even Obama golfing and vacation days. Same sum for the day Obama flew Air Force One nearly four hours roundtrip to Columbus, Ohio for a 10-minute speech about how well the stimulus was working in the politically crucial Buckeye state. Ohio's unemployment rate just jumped to 9% from 8.8% anyway. Read more


Johnson: Social Issues a Losing Hand for GOP

Gary Johnson
New Mexico Independent - The last time former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson spoke bluntly about a GOP focus on social issues he was referencing a controversial Iowa-based marriage pledge. This time, he told the National Press Club his thoughts on the “social conservative fringe. There is no majority in America that can be built on hypocrisy and inconsistency,” Johnson said Friday in Washington, D.C.
Following the unveiling of The Family Leader‘s “The Marriage Vow“, Johnson labeled the attempt by the Iowa religious conservative organization as “unrepublican” and “offensive.” Only two candidates eventually signed the Iowa document, which was changed shortly after its unveiling to remove an especially controversial reference to slavery. The signing candidates are U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, who has since earned the endorsement of organization leadership member Danny Carroll, and former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum. Read full story here: News New Mexico

King Justifies Lawsuit

NMPolitics - Most of us don’t think much about water. As long as it comes out of the showerhead, the kitchen faucet, or the garden hose, we just sort of expect it to be there. On the infrequent occasion that the water does not flow, we really notice and we make angry calls to the local water utility and tell them just how inconvenient it is to not have water. You may have heard that I recently brought a lawsuit against the federal Bureau of Reclamation because the agency unilaterally reclassified 65,000 acre feet of New Mexico water so that it could be made available for release to Texas. I believe this water rightfully belongs to the people of New Mexico and the BOR’s actions are illegal. The water in question is lawfully stored and classified as New Mexico credit water under the Rio Grande Compact. This federal agency changed our water’s classification to a different designation so that it can be delivered to the El Paso County Water Improvement District (EPCWID) in Texas. I believe this action is inappropriate and must not be allowed in order to protect what is considered by many to be New Mexico’s most precious natural resource. Read full column here: News New Mexico

Schwarzenegger Will Make Comeback Film in NM

Arnold Schwarzenegger
According to the Associated Press former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger will be making his movie comeback in New Mexico. The Valencia County New-Bulletin says his latest movie, "Last Stand" will shoot in Belen in starting in October. The movie script depicts convicts making their way to the Mexican border through New Mexico after escaping from a prison in Las Vegas, Nev.


Energy Alert by Xcel Energy in Eastern NM

According to the Associated Press, high electricity demand and "maintenance issues" at generating plants has led Xcel Energy to declare an energy alert in its Texas and New Mexico service territory. Xcel Energy urged customers to cut back on their use of electricity until 8 p.m. Tuesday. It would seem to be a sign of things to come in the future as the EPA takes step after step to systematically remove coal-fired power plants from service in virtually every state in the nation without sufficient base load replacements.


Harbison: Impact of Housing Downturn

Jim Harbison
The housing statistics for the Las Cruces area are dismal. The latest figures reflect the worst number of new home construction in the past 10 years. According to the figures released by the Dona Ana County Building Services Department through June 2011 there were 308 single family & townhouse building permits issued so far in 2011. This compares to 428 in 2010, 410 in 2009, 545 in 2008, 898 in 2007 and 1,135 in 2006. If we look at the City of Las Cruces we see similar housing construction declines. 
Mayor Richard Berry
It is obvious that there has been a serious and steady decline in new housing starts. The permit value has declined more than $100 million since 2006. There are several reasons for this. First is the serious economic conditions and rising unemployment that faces our nation and our local economy. Second is the mortgage crisis that has plagued homeowners and potential home buyers since 2007. Third are the policies imposed by the Mayor and his anti-business/anti-development coalition whose attitude and philosophy is that developers are the cause of the City’s infrastructure problems.
Martin Chavez
Eighteen months ago Albuquerque Mayor Marty Chavez and the City Council reduced impact fees by 50% for most construction and totally waived them for “green” projects that meet environmental design standards. In March 2011 his successor, Mayor Richard Berry, and the City Council extended the reduced fees for another year. They believe the reduced income from impact fees will be offset by the increased tax revenue generated by construction projects and the higher levels of employment of building trades workers.
After the impact fees were reduced construction permits increased by 46%. The Home Builders Association of Central New Mexico contends the reduction in fees directly contributed to the increase in housing starts. New housing construction has a tremendous impact on the local economy. For each new house built three year-long jobs are created. According to a recent article in the Albuquerque Journal each new house constructed generates approximately $90,000 in GRT for the local economy.
Las Cruces City Hall
In a report from the Las Cruces Community Development Department permits for single family homes have declined by 54.5% and multi-family units have declined by 89% from the 2005-2011 period average. Construction creates job opportunities which reduces the dependence on government subsidized programs, improves individual self-esteem and generates increasing revenues for the City. One of the unintended consequences of impact fess is that they increase the cost of doing business and drive economic development out of the City. The County could see an increase in development activity as a result of these fees thus adding to the urban sprawl that many on the City Council allegedly oppose. Because the business climate is more conducive to growth and development in Texas, we have the interesting phenomenon of driving west on Interstate 10 from El Paso witnessing robust activity prior to the Texas state line and it virtually ceasing to exist once you enter New Mexico.
The Las Cruces City Council continually cites the need for more than 3000 units of “affordable” low-income housing. I wonder how adding nearly $7,000 in impact fees to the cost of a simple residential home is compatible with encouraging development of these types of homes. The policies of this Mayor and his anti-business anti-development coalition will continue to discourage economic prosperity in Las Cruces. Can you imagine what construction of an additional 100 new homes could do for the economy of Las Cruces? Perhaps it’s time to try the Albuquerque approach and suspend impact fees to stimulate economic development here in Las Cruces.


APD is Feeling the Heat, Rogue Element Claimed

KOB TV - The Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies known as CALEA will decide if APD should retain its good standing. The department has to comply with almost 500 standards, one of those being public confidence. "We hope you will not accredit this police department because it does not deserve accreditation," said one family member addressing the commission. Stephen Torres' son, Christopher, was shot and killed in April 2010 while being served an arrest warrant. According to police, he did not cooperate with officers. "I want to make it clear from the start that I am not anti-cop," Stephen Torres told the commission. "He didn't want to do what they wanted him to do in two minutes so they put him down on the ground and they shot him three times in the back." Torres doesn't blame the entire department but told the commission he believes there is a serious problem. "There is a rogue element in APD, an out-of-control element that is not being disciplined…that is not being properly supervised…that is not being properly trained and it's evident," Torres said. Read full story here: News New Mexico

Drought Insurance?

Jay Miller
Inside the Capitol - SANTA FE -- Texas has done it to us again. The state has enjoyed bullying us ever since it came into existence. This time it involves playing by different rules for the collection on drought insurance. Last year, as the effects of drought became very obvious, the U.S. Department of Agriculture began touting a new drought insurance policy. Ranchers in New Mexico and Texas jumped at the opportunity. Sure enough, both states are experiencing the worst droughts in recorded history. Texas ranchers have received $65 million in payments. New Mexico ranchers have received $2,000 for the $1.5 million they paid in premiums. The Agriculture Department says New Mexico's problem is that pinons, junipers, cactus and snake weed that still are living count against us even though cows don't eat them. So in Texas, the lack of rainfall qualifies ranchers for tens of millions in drought payments, while New Mexico ranchers qualify for a pittance. Read full analysis here: News New Mexico


Goldman CEO Hires Lawyer

L.A. Times - Goldman Sachs Chief Executive Lloyd Blankfein has hired a prominent Washington criminal law attorney to defend him against any charges resulting from government investigations into the financial crisis. Blankfein, one of the most prominent and successful figures on Wall Street, retained Reid Weingarten, an attorney known for representing clients in high-profile cases of alleged corporate wrongdoing. He has represented such former executives as WorldCom Inc. CEO Bernard J. Ebbers and former Tyco International Ltd. general counsel Mark Belnick.
Blankfein is not facing any criminal charges and is not even known to have spoken with criminal prosecutors. Goldman Sachs Group Inc. said the CEO reached out to Weingarten some months ago after the Senate's Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations wrote a report about the financial crisis that accused Blankfein of lying to Congress — a report that was then handed on to the Department of Justice. "As is common in such situations, Mr. Blankfein and other individuals who were expected to be interviewed in connection with the Justice Department's inquiry into certain matters raised in the [Senate subcommittee] report hired counsel at the outset," a spokesman for Goldman said in a statement. Read full story here: News New Mexico