Newsbreak New Mexico 5pm Webcast 10/24/12

Newsbreak New Mexico 5pm Newscast with Vanessa Dabovich

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Environmental group accuses wildlife feds of keeping Mexican Wolf information secret

Environmentalists on Tuesday accused federal wildlife managers of keeping secret some of the details behind decisions that led to the capture of a female Mexican gray wolf whose pack was blamed for several cattle killings in southwestern New Mexico

The criticism comes after a public records request by WildEarth Guardians netted hundreds of pages of blacked-out documents. Nearly 80 percent of the 870 pages released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services were redacted.  

Wildlife Services noted in a letter to the environmental group that some of the information requested was exempt under the Freedom of Information Act because it included employee opinions and recommendations and other draft documents. 

WildEarth Guardians is planning to appeal and is calling for a congressional investigation of the agency’s handling of the records request.


Newsbreak New Mexico 12pm Webcast 10/24/12

Newsbreak New Mexico 12pm Newscast with Vanessa Dabovich

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The White House knew within two hours

Ambassador Chris Stevens
Newsmax - Officials at the White House and State Department were advised two hours after attackers assaulted the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, on Sept. 11 that an Islamic militant group had claimed credit for the attack, official emails show.

The emails, obtained by Reuters from government sources not connected with U.S. spy agencies or the State Department and who requested anonymity, specifically mention that the Libyan group called Ansar al-Sharia had asserted responsibility for the attacks.

The brief emails also show how U.S. diplomats described the attack, even as it was still under way, to Washington. Read full story here: News New Mexico

Busy highway construction between Raton and Clayton complete

U.S. Sen. Tom Udall speaks during the ribbon-cutting ceremony held
 in Clayton Wednesday to mark the completion of the 81-mile project on 
U.S. 64/87 between Raton and Clayton.
Officials this week declared the improved highway between Raton and Clayton “open for business,” referring to the completion of a $132 million, nearly seven-year project — expanding U.S. 64/87 from two to four lanes — as critical to the region’s economy and safety.

Representatives from Raton and other northeast New Mexico communities attended a ribbon-cutting ceremony in Clayton Wednesday morning to mark the completion of the project that actually began in early 2006 following a groundbreaking ceremony held in 2005.

The 81 miles of highway were widened in the project that was divided into seven phases of work. The final three segments that were completed last year and this year covered a 41-mile stretch from nine miles east of Raton to 15 miles east of Des Moines.

The New Mexico segment of U.S. 64/87 between Raton and Clayton is the first section of the Ports-to-Plains Trade Corridor to be completed as a four-lane, paved highway. The federally designated Ports-to-Plains Corridor starts at the U.S.-Mexico border in Laredo, Texas, and continues through Texas, New Mexico and Oklahoma before it ends in Colorado. The federal government has made the corridor a funding priority to encourage commercial traffic on it and promote greater economic trade in the Southwest. Similar trade corridors have been designated in other parts of the nation.

Commercial truck traffic on U.S. 64/87 in northern New Mexico carries billions of dollars worth of goods a year, according to state highway officials. In addition, local officials and residents in communities along the highway have long called for the widening of the highway to improve traffic safety.

The new highway has two traffic lanes in each direction — east and west — that are divided by a median and shoulders. With the expansion, the traffic count on the highway is expected to triple by 2023, according to state figures.

“Today we are celebrating a success story,” New Mexico U.S. Sen. Tom Udall, who cosponsored legislation to designate the U.S. 64/87 portion of the Ports-to-Plains Corridor, said at Wednesday’s ceremony. “This expanded highway is crucial to the region’s economy and the safety of its people. Infrastructure projects like this are important investments for our future, and the value to economic development in northeast New Mexico and the entire region will be powerful and ongoing.”

Representatives from the offices of New Mexico U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman and northern New Mexico U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján also attended the ceremony.

Read more at The Raton Range...

Alamogordo commissioner Cole resigns

Ed Cole
City Commissioner Ed Cole has resigned his position with the city commission.
Cole, who also served as the city's Mayor Pro-Tem, announced that he was resigning at the end of a city commission meeting Tuesday night, effective immediately.
Cole said he has been battling dementia for about five years, and that his illness played a role in his decision to step down.
"It's getting to a point where I can't serve the city the way I think I should serve the city," Cole said. "It has taken its toll on my health."
During a brief but emotional statement, Cole thanked his wife, Sara, for her support.
He also complimented his fellow commissioners, saying he had enjoyed working with them during his time on the commission.
"Every one of you commissioners is an outstanding person," he said.
Cole thanked the staff at city hall, saying he appreciated the help they had provided him, specifically, with the items he had to consider at commission meetings.
"Our staff of this community, of our city government, is outstanding," he said.
The commission chambers broke into a standing ovation, after Cole finished his statement.
Mayor Susie Galea adjourned the meeting and individual commissioners walked over to Cole, who remained seated and visibly emotional, to offer a hug or handshake.
Cole, who represents the sixth commission district, was elected to his latest term in 2010. 


State AG's office creates new unit

The New Mexico's Attorney General's office has created a new unit aimed at addressing challenges to homicide and sexual assault convictions. 

The office said Tuesday that the new Just Conviction & Exoneration Unit was created last month and will look at cases where DNA evidence could possibly overturn convictions like 1st degree murder. 

Margaret McLean, who heads the new unit, says Attorney General Gary King has received a number of inquiries about DNA testing in connection to appeals of some convictions. She says the unit will help the office handle inquiries from 13 state judicial districts. McLean says there are less than 10 cases pending that are seeking to use new DNA technology.


Navajo Nation to increase sales tax

Ben Shelly
Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly is expected to sign a bill this week that would increase the tribe's sales tax by 1 percent. 
The Farmington Daily Times reports that the Navajo Nation Council passed the bill last week. Money from the increase would go toward education and energy development.
 The increase from 4 percent to 5 percent would begin in January. Shelly spokesman Erny Zah says the sales tax should help decrease the tribe's dependency on federal funding. Zah says the tribe receives more than 75 percent of its funding from the federal government.


Senator Mary Jane Garcia asks for fine waiver

Mary Jane Garcia
State Sen. Mary Jane Garcia, D-Doña Ana, has asked the secretary of state to waive a $1,200 fine for possible violations of a law governing campaign funds. 
Garcia, who is the Democratic whip, said Tuesday in a letter to Republican Secretary of State Dianna Duran that she has “never intentionally violated any provision” of the Campaign Reporting Act, and she questioned whether Duran is correctly applying the law. 
Garcia said Duran should ask the attorney general for an opinion on that question, and at least defer a decision about fining her until the opinion is issued. 
Duran’s chief of staff, Ken Ortiz, said Garcia’s letter was under review Tuesday and no decision had been made. 
Duran told Garcia in a letter last week that she planned to fine her. She was acting on a complaint from Bryan Stegall, who is listed as the campaign treasurer for Lee Cotter, Garcia’s GOP opponent in the Nov. 6 election. 
Duran said Garcia had reported using nearly $5,500 in campaign funds to pay expenses to attend legislative meetings on a dozen occasions from January 2010 through August of this year. The lawmaker also received travel and per diem payments from the Legislature for the same meetings, Duran said. 
Duran said Garcia violated the law repeatedly by making disbursements of more than $100 from campaign funds payable to “cash” rather than to an individual or entity. 
Garcia said in her letter that she doesn’t use credit cards when she travels, instead paying cash for hotels, restaurants and gas stations. 
“Using campaign funds for travel expenses related to my duties as a legislator is allowed under the act,” the senator wrote, adding that she hasn’t used the cash for anything other than the travel expenses. 
And she questioned whether the $100 limit on disbursements to “cash” applies in this case, since the money was not being spent for political purposes, which is what that section of law regulates. She said the attorney general should be asked about that.


Newsbreak New Mexico 8am Webcast 10/24/12

Newsbreak New Mexico 8am Newscast with Vanessa Dabovich

                                     Listen here:

Senator Mary Jane Garcia asks for fine waiver
John Duff departs NMFA
Fire in Carson National Forest 

Fire in Carson National Forest

A 250-acre fire is burning in the Carson National Forest after sparking around 11:30 a.m. Tuesday. 
The Midnight Fire is burning in the Midnight Meadow area south of Ortiz Peak. There is extreme fire behavior in the area, according to forestry officials. Bulldozers and engines are helping battle the fire. Additional resources are on the way, including air resources. 
Officials are concerned about the forecasted high winds in the area. As a precautionary measure, campers in the Valle Vidal, McCrystal and Cimarron campgrounds are being asked to prepare to evacuate the campgrounds if necessary.


Chief operating officer departs NMFA

John Duff
Chief Operating Officer John Duff, a central figure in the New Mexico Finance Authority’s falsified audit scandal, is no longer employed by the lending agency. 
Interim NMFA Chief Executive John Gasparich confirmed Tuesday that Duff’s departure from the finance authority was effective Sept. 28. He declined to say whether Duff, who had been on unpaid leave, resigned or was fired and did not disclose any terms related to his departure. 
Meanwhile, the Finance Authority received good news with the recent decision of Standard & Poor’s, a national credit rating agency, to affirm the agency’s AAA bond rating, the highest possible rating. Standard & Poor’s also removed the New Mexico agency from its “credit watch” list.