Swickard: Deep despair for all the wrong reasons

© 2013 Michael Swickard, Ph.D. There is deep despair in New Mexico this week. The great state of Mississippi scored better than New Mexico in a contrived test of factors that may contribute to child success. New Mexico is last on a list called the 2012 Kids Count Data Book.
     Being dead last has some people twitterpated. If you listen closely you can hear people crying from Hobbs to Farmington and from Animas to Clayton, “Oh, how can we ever go on?”
     I am not one of the people concerned by the 2012 Kids Count Data Book. I looked at it closely and decided overall it is of dubious importance. There are things that New Mexico cannot change and there are things that are actually an attempt to change educational practice in New Mexico in ways that are harmful.
      Specifically: early childhood education, rather, early government-run childhood education is the new national craze to increase teacher employment. New Mexico, however, has not embraced this new fad to send babies to state run institutions, yet. Reportedly 62 percent of New Mexico children do not attend pre-school, which is one of the lowest rates in the nation. I am pleased by this and wish the other 38 percent would wise-up.
     The notion is that if parents send their 36 month old baby to a government run facility, it will increase the chance that the child will graduate from college. Everyone likes the sound of that but I request them to show me the study of this effect. Show me the data. There is not any data. It is a hoax.
     The world leaders in education do not institutionalize the education of their children until certain brain development stages are achieved. In Sweden and other Scandinavian countries, which lead the world in student achievement, their children start school at age seven. Read full column

Casino or café: NM Supreme Court debates case

From the Ruidoso News - by Milan Simonich  Texas-New Mexico Newspapers - SANTA FE - McDonald's offered a Monopoly sweepstakes game with its burgers and fries. Coca-Cola had a promotion in which certain bottle caps could be exchanged for prizes. Businessman Michael T. Vento says he merely followed the example of those corporate giants when he provided customers an opportunity to win sweepstakes prizes at his internet café in Las Cruces.
     Gov. Susana Martinez, a district attorney when Vento was operating his internet café, prosecuted him for commercial gambling. Martinez's staff won the first round, persuading a jury to convict Vento in 2009. The state Court of Appeals overturned his conviction last summer.
     Now the New Mexico Supreme Court has accepted the case and will decide whether Vento was an enterprising businessman on the right side of the law or the proprietor of a high-tech gambling operation that violated state statutes. Vento, now 63, never had a conviction except for speeding tickets until the gambling case. In her brief, Vento's public defender, Mary Barket, called him a law-abiding citizen who "took care to comply with New Mexico's gambling laws in setting up a sweepstakes in conjunction with his internet café."
     He distributed forms to customers, advising them that they were buying time on the web when they signed up to use one of the 21 computer terminals at his Internet Access Depot. He shuttered his business after it was raided by the state Gaming Control Board in July 2008. The agency seized his computers. Assistant Attorney General Jacqueline R. Medina said in her brief that Vento's internet operation was illegal, no matter how he tried to disguise it.
     "It is abundantly clear that the manner in which defendant ran his so-called sweepstakes was nothing more than an attempt to circumvent New Mexico's statutory provisions that regulate and prohibit gambling," Medina said.
     By the state's account, customers bought about $640,000 of additional sweepstakes entries from their winnings. Medina said Vento wants the Supreme Court to believe that "his patrons purchased $806,207 of internet time and that he gave sweepstakes entries to them for free."
     Vento's lawyers have said that was exactly how his internet café operated. Read more

More pueblos join firework ban

Two pueblos have agreed to join a fireworks ban amid New Mexico's dangerously dry conditions. 
Santa Clara Pueblo and the Santa Ana Pueblo agreed last week to join a ban on fireworks on the reservation after meeting with Gov. Susana Martinez. 
The governor recently met with leaders from all 22 pueblos and told them about the effects of the state's extreme drought. 
Martinez says this is the worst drought the New Mexico has seen in 118 years. Officials hope to have a list next week of all the pueblos that have banned fireworks.


Gov. refuses to disclose work records

Gov. Martinez
More than six months after the attorney general ruled that the work records of Gov. Susana Martinez’s security detail are subject to public disclosure laws, her administration is refusing media requests for details on past expenses of State Police officers who travel with her and her husband, citing safety.
 The Santa Fe New Mexican reported June 20 that the Republican administration says there is only $123.94 in expenses for food for the officers who accompanied Martinez’s husband, Chuck Franco, on a six-day 2011 Louisiana alligator-hunting trip because they were hosted privately. 
But it refused to say who was the host and denied the paper’s request to see food receipts the administration said covered the officers’ meals in New Mexico on the first and last days of the trip.


15 NM health care providers fail audit

Fifteen New Mexico providers of mental health and substance abuse services failed to meet standards, overbilled the federal and state government by tens of millions of dollars, and may have taken part in fraudulent activities, according to a new state audit released Monday. 
New Mexico Human Services Department officials said the audit found that "errors and overpayments were so widespread that the business and billing practices of every provider (in the audit) warrants careful scrutiny." It also found "mismanagement, fraud, waste and abuse" in the treatment of potential suicide victims, including disregard for follow-up care and basic policies. 
Department Secretary Sidonie Squier said that, as a result of the audit, Medicaid payments would stop immediately to all 15 providers and out-of-state managers would be brought to New Mexico to manage behavioral health care services for patients.


New Mexico last in child well-being ranks

From KOB-TV.com - By: Stuart Dyson, KOB Eyewitness News 4 - Thank God for Mississippi” is a phrase well-known to many New Mexicans. That state has historically been dead last on every important quality of life list – but not anymore. Mississippi has moved up to 49th on the national “Kids Count” list, while our state has dropped to 50th.
     New Mexico now ranks as the worst state in the nation when it comes to the well-being of our children. The “Kids Count” data-book ranks our state at number fifty, with low scores for things like education, health, and economic security. True, New Mexico never has ranked above 40th, but 50th place really hurts.
     It’s not that we’re doing so much worse than we did last year. It’s just that Mississippi has made giant strides in things like the rate of kids attending pre-school. In fact teachers and school administrators say early education is the key to overall improvement in academic performance. 62 percent of New Mexico kids don’t attend pre-school, one of the lowest rates in the country.
     “When we receive our kids and we see what it is that they’re lacking, they’re already behind the 8-ball,” said teacher Sonya Romero. “It makes it harder for us as teachers to catch them up in such as limited amount of time and with such limited resources that we have.”
     Joan Baker owns and operates “My Happy Place” pre-school in Edgewood. “The amount I’m able to pay my teachers, for the most part they can go make more working at McDonald’s or Arby’s,” Baker said. “At Smith’s being a bagger they can make more money. I have a high turnover and it’s hard for the kids to connect and learn when that teacher is gone in a few months.”
     “This state lags behind in early childhood education,” said Albuquerque school superintendent Winston Brooks. In kindergarten we’ve got kids who can read just ten sight words and we’ve got kids who can read a novel. I think we have to really do a much better job with that.”
     New Mexico got worse in the last year with almost one third of the kids living in poverty and 43 percent now in single parent families. Read more

Fire burning near Timberon

From the Alamogordo Daily News - By Duane Barbati, Staff Writer - U.S. Forest Service firefighters on Saturday continue to build containment lines around a one-acre fire burning about six miles east of Timberon. Forest Service, Mayhill and Weed firefighters initially responded to the fire around noon Saturday, but Mayhill and Weed firefighters were released from the fire around 8 p.m.
     Forest Service spokeswoman Loretta L. Benavidez said no structures are threatened at this time, but firefighters are working on building containment lines around the perimeter of the fire. Benavidez said Forest Service firefighters will have two engines staying on the fire throughout the night. She said the fire was caused by lightning and is burning on Lincoln National Forest land.
     The fire is demonstrating low to moderate fire behavior, Benavidez said. She said the fire is located under the Carrisa Lookout in the Lincoln National Forest. Benavidez said the fire is located in an area with varying degrees of slope and fueled by a mix of conifer, ponderosa pine and grass. Read more

Martinez weighs in on Magdalena water situation

From KOB-TV.com - By: Jeffery Gordon, KOB.com - Governor Susana Martinez says the water well in Magdalena was not maintained for more than 45 years. KOB Eyewitness News 4 talked to the governor about the water issues in the town over the weekend.
     Engineers think there is a chance they may be able to rehab and re-use an old well that was shut down to fix the issue. Meanwhile the water authority is sending truckloads of water to the town every day.
     “This isn't the best way of doing things but we're making sure they have water every day and have plenty of water and that's the truck loads that are going up there,” says Martinez. Read more

ABQ approves new water conservation plan

A new plan predicts that Albuquerque's water use will rise 21 percent by 2024, as population growth outstrips conservation efforts. 
The Albuquerque Journal reports that the new long-range plan was approved Wednesday by the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility board. The new conservation strategy is aimed at reducing per-capita consumption to 135 gallons per person per day by 2024, a 9 percent reduction from the current 148 gallons. 
But Katherine Yuhas, the water utility's conservation officer, says because population in the utility's service area projected to grow from the current 640,000 to 810,000 by 2024, overall water use is expected to rise.


Udall and Heinrich want extended port of entry hours

U.S. Senators Martin Heinrich  and Tom Udall  have introduced an amendment to S.744, the senate immigration reform bill, that will help increase bilateral trade and improve ports of entry along the Southwest United States border. 
The amendment would extend the commercial and private hours of operation for vehicles at the Santa Teresa Port of Entry from 12 hours to 24, help facilitate trade, and enhance national security along the port of entry.
Extending the hours would also enable traffic that currently crosses in El Paso, Texas, to travel through New Mexico, reducing the heavy congestion in El Paso and the strain on Customs and Border Protection in the region.


Fire evacuation lifted for Kingston

An evacuation order for a historical mining town near a raging fire in southern New Mexico's Gila National Forest has been lifted. 
Incident Commander Matt Reidy said Thursday that Kingston residents with special entry permits will be allowed to return to the town. Residents were evacuated last week after the lightning-caused fire moved closer to the town. 
Officials say the inferno have grown by Thursday to 57 square miles just as firefighters finish setting up protections around a nearby historic mining town. The fire's growth was blamed on persistent hot and dry weather which caused it to expand another 10 square miles overnight. 
The wildfire is expected to burn more acreage throughout the week, spilling smoke into nearby towns.


Swickard: A really big big water project

© 2013 Michael Swickard, Ph.D. When is the best time to plant a big old shade tree? It was twenty years ago so we have that shade now. So tell me, when is the NEXT BEST time to plant a shade tree? Plant it now so at least we will have shade in the future.
     That is the issue in front of New Mexico about the current water dilemma. We, as a state, are really short of water. When should the leaders of New Mexico have made a plan to deal with the water crisis? That is easy; they should have dealt with this crisis twenty years ago. When is the next best time? Now.
     New Mexico has been in a drought for 280 million years come next August, so being short of water should come as no surprise. OK, I exaggerate, but it has been thousands of years. Since recorded time water has been short in our little slice of paradise.
     Through good times and bad our politicians complain about the lack of water but what is really lacking are plans to deal with the lack of water. Our state needs water for household use and for use by the various Agricultural industries.
     My plan would tie our water needs to the needs of the El Paso valley farmers in Texas. States that border an ocean have a great advantage because they can desalinate sea water and the brine conveniently goes out to sea. The oceans are forever whereas if New Mexico desalinates our own brackish water, it is finite. Yes, it may last longer than the current crop of politicians, but eventually that resource will run out.
     The project would be a joint New Mexico Texas project. The atomic plants power both the actual desalinization and pump the clean water to Elephant Butte Lake. Both New Mexico and West Texas Agriculture would thrive. Read full column

Roadkills up as drought drives wildlife

From KRQE-TV.com - by Kim Vallez - Game and Fish says it's seeing an increase in the number of car accidents involving animals especially in Albuquerque's East Mountains. There have been three reported incidents in that area in the last few days. Two involved deer; the third a bear.
     Officers with the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish officers believe the drought is playing a major role. "When you get these animals up around looking for water, looking for food, they will start crossing roads." says Game and Fish spokesman Ross Morgan
     While animal encounters are not uncommon in the mountains, they are not the only areas at risk. Earlier this month a bear was found wandering through Albuquerque in a neighborhood near a school. Game and Fish says all types of animals are involved, everything from elk and deer to javelina and antelope.
     They warn that some of these accidents can be very serious, and not just for the animal. Larger animals can fly over a vehicle's hood crash through the windshield. Game and Fish officers say despite the desperation of animals to find food and water, it is never a good idea for humans to feed wildlife. It causes them to come to populated areas more often, increasing their chances of getting killed. Read more


Santa Fe to vote on gun control measure

NewsNM Swickard - The New Mexico Constitution says specifically that cities and towns cannot make gun control laws. Santa Fe is doing it anyway. I wonder why they swore to protect and defend the New Mexico Constitution if they were not going to do so. From KRQE-TV.com - The city of Santa Fe is talking tougher gun control measures.  Councilors are set to vote on a proposal that would outlaw high capacity magazines.
     Under the plan any magazine that holds more than 10 bullets would be banned.  The bill which was introduced earlier this year comes up for a final vote next week. Some believe the bill could conflict with federal law and expose the city to lawsuits Read more

Small N.M. town named on dangerous cities list

From KOB-TV.com - By: Ashley McElroy, KOB Eyewitness News 4 - Which cities would you think are the "most dangerous" in the country? Does Farmington make your list? It made one website's list. Every year neighborhoodscout.com puts out a list of the 100 most dangerous cities, and according to the list, Farmington is number 59.
     The site uses data from uniform crime reporting, or UCR, a FBI database. But is this list accurate?
     "It shouldn't be done in the first place, because there’s too many variables,” said Jerry Worrell, crime analyst for the Farmington Police Department.
     On the UCR website, there is a list of variables explaining why these numbers shouldn't be used for rankings. One variable is population change. Farmington is the largest town in the region and a lot of people come into town throughout the week. Worrell said if a violent crime is committed when those people come to town, the numbers won't be accurate.
     "The population at any given time is much greater than what would be counted on the U.S. census report,” he said.  Worrell also said the department misreported certain crimes.
     "What they called aggravated assault for example and what the state defines aggravated assault under state code are quite different and there's some confusion in that," he said.  He said after this survey came out, the department identified the confusion so the city doesn't get back on this list.
     No other New Mexico town was on the list. Read more

International Space Hall of Fame inducts original DC-X team

From the Alamogordo Daily News - The International Space Hall of Fame and the New Mexico Museum of Space History officials said Friday that members of the original Delta Clipper Experimental team will be enshrined at the space hall Aug. 17. The DC-X team will be the first group ever inducted into the ISHF. Every member of the DC-X team, hall officials said, displayed qualities required to be an inductee: imagination, achievement, the dedication to further advance man's knowledge of the universe, and his ability to explore and develop space for the benefit of all mankind.
     Many obstacles confronted the DC-X team as they worked toward making the dream of aircraft-like safety for affordable space travel a reality. From underfunding to a seemingly impossible turn-around time, the team, inspired by famed astronaut and space visionary Pete Conrad, faced each obstacle with renewed determination.
     The induction ceremony will be held in conjunction with the DC-X First Flight Plus 20 anniversary and Spaceplane Conference on August 16-18 at Spaceport America and NMMSH. The induction ceremony will take place at the New Mexico State University-Alamogordo's Tays Special Events Center. The team will join a prestigious group of 154 other inductees that include the likes of Neil Armstrong, Gene Kranz, Edwin Aldrin, Gene Cernan, Nicolaus Copernicus, Valentina Tereshkova, Wernher von Braun, and many other space pioneers and visionaries. Read more

Another step toward a loan for water plant

From the Alamogordo Daily News - By John Bear, Staff Writer - he Alamogordo City Commission on Tuesday took the first step toward obtaining $1.1 million in state-distributed federal loan money for designing a desalination plant and related infrastructure. City Utilities Director Brian Cesar said Tuesday that money not expended on the design of the mobile desalination plant can be rolled over into another loan the city can use for actual construction.
     The city has plans to build a mobile desalination plant at a city water treatment facility and pump brackish ground water in from well fields north of Tularosa. Brackish water has a salt content that makes it unsuitable to drink but has a lower salinity than sea water. The federal government granted the city permission last year to build several wells and pipeline to transport water which will be purified for municipal use. More

New blaze growing quickly in northern N.M.

From KOB-TV.com - By: Avicra Luckey, KOB.com Staff - A new fire in the northern part of the state sparked up Thursday afternoon. The Whites Peak fire is currently burning about 10 miles northeast of Ocate, N.M. The blaze started after a lightning strike. It has grown to more than 200 acres. No structures are threatened at this time. More

Swickard: Reasoning with an unreasonable government

© 2013 Michael Swickard, Ph.D. Be reasonable. That is a common desire in our society. We wish to be surrounded by reasonable people and to have a reasonable government to protect us from unreasonable people. The problem is when the government itself becomes that which we cannot stand: when the government becomes unreasonable. Then we citizens have a problem.
     From the moment of our founding, this country has been haunted by the specter of totalitarian rule. The Constitution was carefully crafted to protect American Citizens from the urges of power-hungry leaders. Over the decades, little by little, power-hungry leaders have dismantled those protections. Most of these actions came with the promise of some reward for citizens foregoing their protections from governments taking their freedoms.
     It started when the government started doing things for people who wanted things they did not have. There is an impulse to get something from the government to which we do not own. Part of this involves protecting us from the human emotion of want.
     Most of the time the trade of our freedoms to satisfy some of our wants is above-board so that anyone who wishes to know can know the trade that has been made. The government steps in to give us our wants if we give the government their want of power. The accumulation of power requires us to surrender our freedoms. We know where people want to start in having the government do things. The quest is to know when they, whoever they are, have gone too far.
     And the loss of our freedoms is still not enough for our government. The end-game is most certainly a total dictatorship. The loss of freedom is never all at once, it is always incremental. It is always “reasonable” until it becomes unreasonable.
     Having an all-powerful government watching the communications of every citizen without any presumption of doing something wrong is the road to ruin for our society. Do we have any servants left or are we the servants to the government? Time will tell. Read full column


State medical marijuana board head leaves office

The state medical marijuana advisory board's chairman is leaving office after not being reappointed by Gov. Susana Martinez's administration. 
The Santa Fe New Mexican reports that Dr. Steve Jenison was instrumental in establishing New Mexico's medical marijuana program. Health Secretary Retta Ward told Jenison in a letter that he will no longer be part of the board. 
Health Department spokesman Kenny Vigil declined to elaborate on why Jension isn't being reappointed. Jenison says the decision may be stem from his efforts to ensure compliance with rules and to press for timely decisions on requests to add medical conditions allowing medical marijuana use.


Udall leads way for NSA investigations

Tom Udall 
U.S Senator Tom Udall is leading a bipartisan call for an independent investigation into the National Security Agency’s (NSA) phone records and data collection programs by a key privacy and civil liberties panel originally recommended by the 9/11 Commission and strengthened through Udall’s efforts. 

Udall sent a bipartisan letter to the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, asking it to “make it an urgent priority to investigate the programs mentioned above and determine whether they (1) are conducted within the statutory authority granted by Congress, and (2) take the necessary precautions to protect the privacy and civil liberties of American citizens under the Constitution.”  

The letter is also signed by 12 other Senators


Fire teams confident they'll save Kingston

From KRQE-TV.com - HILLSBORO - Despite helpful winds the Silver Fire continues to bear down on Kingston as firefighters vow to save the historic mountain community. The latest estimate has the fire within a quarter of a mile of the village tucked into a high canyon in the Black Range.
     While firefighters say the winds may actually be helping them today, this town is still very much in danger. As of late afternoon winds were pushing the flames away from the town, but it's still a big fight complicated by knowing the winds could act up at any moment. People in Kingston say they got word early Monday morning that they had to leave.
     Meanwhile, the latest estimates indicate the fire sparked by a lightning strike on Friday has grown to nearly 12,000 acres. Fire officials say it's grown to the south and west in very rugged terrain that's making it hard to fight on the ground. Instead the fire team is relying on aircraft dropping water and retardant.
     Fire lines are also being set up near the end of the tree line where it goes back into grassland and where fire fighters can actually work. They're doing all this while keeping an eye on Kingston. Another thing working against firefighters is the extreme heat with little to no humidity.
     Still they are confident they can keep the flames out of Kingston. Read more

Experts: Cartel disputes fuel increase in Juárez region violence

From the El Paso Times - By Diana Washington Valdez - U.S. officials on Wednesday said their intelligence indicates that the Sinaloa and Juárez drug-trafficking organizations are still active in the Juárez region, and that a recent spike in drug violence there can be attributed to cartel disputes.
     Joseph Arabit, special agent in charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration in El Paso, said the violence stems from "fracturing within the Sinaloa cartel and continued fighting between the cartels."
     Army Col. Marisa Tanner, intelligence director for Joint Task Force North at Fort Bliss, said rogue elements of cartels that break away from the main groups contribute to violence.
     Arabit and Tanner were among panelists Wednesday at the International Association for Intelligence Education hosted this week by the University of Texas at El Paso. The conference brings together intelligence educators and trainers from around the world.
     They were joined for a discussion on border security by Ian Brownlee, U.S. consul in Juárez; Mark Morgan, FBI special agent in charge in El Paso; and Edward Regula, chief of the Border Intelligence Fusion Section at the El Paso Intelligence Center.
     Although elements of both drug cartels operate in the Juárez region, the experts said, intelligence indicates that Joaquin "Chapo" Guzman's organization, of Sinaloa, is the dominant group. Read more

Study puts NM at top for child hunger

New statistics show the state has the most hungry children of any state in the country. 
The numbers show one in every three New Mexican children don't have enough to eat. The study was done by Feeding America, a hunger relief charity. 
Stephanie Miller of the Road Runner Food Bank said there's a number of reasons - from recession to parents unable to provide -- that a third of the state's kids are going hungry. The food bank can also check and see if patrons qualify for food stamps. 
New Mexico also ranks second overall in the country for adult hunger, which means 20 percent of New Mexican adults don't know where they'll get their next meal.


ACLU looking into Whole Foods Spanish policy

The American Civil Liberties Union is investigating a claim that a Whole Foods Market in Albuquerque has begun a "no Spanish" policy with employees. 
The store on Academy and Wyoming boulevards says it didn't formally ban speaking Spanish, but ACLU attorneys said they feel there may have been a human rights violation. 
Bryan Baldizan, the employee at the center of the controversy, said a Whole Foods supervisor recently singled out Spanish speakers. Baldizan claims that while handing out the company's language policy at a work meeting, the supervisor said they could not speak Spanish at work. Whole Foods said it does not have a "no foreign languages spoken" policy. 
The company's official policy, however, is that English is the default language employees must speak for consistent communication. 
He and another employee wrote a letter expressing their grievances about not being able to speak Spanish.


NM Courts rule in favor of telephone warrants

New Mexico's highest court has ruled that police can obtain search warrants over the telephone from a judge. 
The state Supreme Court said Monday that judges don't have to see in writing the sworn statement from authorities that provides the probable cause for issuing a search warrant. 
The ruling overturned a decision by the state Court of Appeals in a case involving Lester and Carol Boyse of Mesilla, who were sentenced in 2010 to probation for five years after pleading no contest to more than 100 charges of animal cruelty. 
Authorities searched the couple's southern New Mexico property in 2008, and found about 100 cats inside their home, including four dead cats inside a freezer.


The Sierra Club Exposed

Columnist Marita Noon
Commentary by Marita Noon - In a news cycle where the lack of transparency is revealed daily, it is refreshing when something previously opaque exposes its true motives. Such is the case for the Sierra Club and its desire to block oil and gas drilling.
     I've written many times on environmental groups’ influence over use of public lands and how they often use claims of some endangered flora or fauna as cover for their efforts to block any beneficial economic development, such as mineral extraction or agricultural activity. They cry about some critter when in fact it is really about control—control of public lands.
     But now, in a season of cover-ups, the Sierra Club has come clean. This month they've launched a new campaign: Our Wild America—which will call for new national monument designations.
     The Hill’s E2 Wire heralds the news: “Green groups to Obama: Designate public lands to stop oil and gas drilling.” No longer hiding behind the protection of a critter, the environmental groups have come out of the shadows and boldly proclaimed their intentions. The article starts with: “Environmental lobbyists are pressing President Obama to turn more western lands into national monuments to prevent oil-and-gas companies from drilling there. The Sierra Club is leading the charge…”
      In its announcement about the Wild America campaign, the United Press International said the following: “The Sierra Club, a leading environmental lobbying group in Washington…” The Sierra Club endorses candidates and policies—recently voting to support comprehensive immigration reform. In an interesting post on the website Progressives for Immigration Reform, life-long Sierra Club member and environmental activist, Philip Carfaro, bemoans the club’s reversal in its position on immigration that had been held for four decades, saying the shift “looks to have been driven by short-term politics.” Read full column

Feds increase southern NM's commercial zone 30 miles

From Alamogordo Daily News - by Milan Simonich, Texas-New Mexico Newspapers - New Mexico's southern border will become broader in terms of the customer base. U.S. Customs and Border Protection on Friday submitted a rule change that will extend the border commercial zone in New Mexico from 25 to 55 miles.
     It means that shoppers and diners from Mexico will be able to venture into Las Cruces, Deming and Lordsburg, the three largest New Mexico cities on the border. Mexican nationals who have undergone background, fingerprint and security checks can obtain Border Crossing Cards that will give them access to all three towns.
     El Paso, snug against Mexico, already is positioned for border commerce. Tucson, Ariz., also had an edge over the New Mexico cities, even though it is further from the Mexican border. That is because the former Immigration and Naturalization Service in 1999 issued a rule permitting a border zone up to 75 miles in Arizona. More

Lightning caused fire burns 400 acres in the Gila Forest

From KOB-TV.com - By: Shaun Griswold, KOB.com - A fire ignited by lightning in the Gila National Forest on Friday has now burned more than 400 acres. The Sillver Fire is located about 7 miles southwest of Kingston, NM and is now considered a Type II incident.
     Firefighters have not been able to access the fire from the ground due to extreme rough terrain. Two air tankers and two helicopters are working the fire today. Air suppression efforts yesterday did not stop the fire’s spread. Smoke is visible from Highway 152 and Silver City.
     Today crews are mopping up the Indian and Papoose Fires, also lightning caused. Both fires burned about 80 acres each near Hillsboro Peak, roughly 10 miles northwest of the Silver Fire. New Mexico 152 from 35 miles east of Bayard at mile marker 16 to 28.8 miles west of Hillsboro at mile marker 24 is closed due to the fire. More

AG bows out of same-sex marriage fight

NM Attorney General Gary King
From KRQE-TV.com - by Gabrielle Burkhart - The much anticipated opinion from Attorney General Gary King on same-sex marriage in New Mexico turned out to be no opinion. "The policy of this office generally prohibits us from issuing opinions in cases where the same issue has been raised in court," said King at a press conference Thursday.
     King was asked to weigh in a couple of months ago after Santa Fe city officials claimed same-sex marriage is legal in New Mexico because state marriage law is not gender-specific. They said county clerks should start issuing marriage licenses to gay couples.
     However, King said after legal research by his staff, he cannot say definitely that state law allows same sex marriage. King said he personally supports it, but that the courts or the Legislature must decide the issue. At least one lawsuit is pending. King's no call is a major disappointment for supporters of same sex marriage. They're calling it a delay of justice for gay couples.
     "We cannot state definitively that state law currently permits same sex marriage," said King.  According to Santa Fe City Attorney Geno Zamora, the announcement is a disappointment. "The attorney general had an opportunity to single-handedly end discrimination against our brothers, sisters and children, and didn't," Zamora told KRQE News 13. Read more

Swickard: Working at getting and keeping jobs

© 2013 Michael Swickard, Ph.D. These are tough times on some American citizens. Jobs are harder to get for many Americans than they were a few years ago. The economy has turned somewhat sour. Yet, there are other Americans who find this the best of times. They are making money and building a business. Go figure. They have gone against the tide of everyone else and done well despite the market.
     In the midst of all the economic bad news some Americans are starting businesses that are thriving. They are taking a chance and working very hard. For some Americans they are hitting the jackpot. Yes, others may be slipping down the porcelain convenience. It is capitalism where those who satisfy the customers best usually do the best in business.
     That needs to be the American motto: you can still do well in America. And you can. There are important factors which include being business smart, working hard and having some luck. Does luck play a part? Yes, especially if you equate luck with smarts and hard work. There is a correlation but as my stats professor drummed into our minds, correlation does not infer causation.
     Advice is like lice, better to keep to oneself. But I must offer this advice to those who are unemployed and have been for an extended time. It seems to me I have spoken with a number of Americans in the last couple of years who seem to not know the game. What is the game? To get and keep a job there must be a fair trade between employer and employee. If either in this transaction are abused then something bad will happen to both.
     What makes and made capitalism so powerful is that it runs on satisfied customers. If either party in the transaction is not satisfied, it is not capitalism; rather, it is something else. Read full column

Man arrested for child pornography is linked to Governor's email hijacking

Jason Loera
From KOB-TV.com - by Gadi Schwartz, KOB Eyewitness News 4 - A political operative arrested for child pornography has been linked to the hijacking of Governor Susana Martinez's campaign emails. FBI search warrants obtained on Wednesday served on Google show the email account under the fictitious name Omar Ravenhurst was created and maintained by a user associated with an IP address assigned to Jason Loera of Albuquerque.
     The email activity also showed several batches of hijacked emails being sent between the Ravenhurst address and a Gmail account in Loera's name. According to search warrants, when the FBI raided Loera's home they found several CD's of child pornography depicting children who looked to be under the age of 12 having sex and masturbating.
     Court records show Loera was arrested on a traffic bench warrant by State Police on the day his house was raided. Loera is a democrat political operative who at one time worked for the campaign of Congressman Ben Ray Lujan.
     Loera has also been linked to the current Democratic Party Chairman Sam Bregman. According to the search warrant, an unnamed attorney believed to be Bregman used a hijacked email from Omar Ravenhurst to help a client in a lawsuit against the state. Read more

Fort Hood suspect says he was protecting Taliban

Maj. Nidal Hasan
NewsNM Swickard - We are told by the Administration that this was workplace violence. From the El Paso Times - by ANGELA. BROWN - FORT HOOD, Texas (AP) - An Army psychiatrist charged with gunning down Fort Hood soldiers said Tuesday his defense would show that he was compelled to do so because deploying U.S. troops posed an imminent danger to Taliban fighters.
     The military judge asked Maj. Nidal Hasan if he has evidence to support his "defense of others" strategy, hinting that it could be thrown out. Such a defense requires Hasan to prove the 2009 killings were necessary to protect others from immediate harm or death, and military law experts not involved in the case said the judge is unlikely to allow him to present that defense.
     "A 'defense of others' strategy is not going to work when you're at war and the 'others' are enemies of the U.S.," said Jeff Addicott, director of the Center for Terrorism Law at St. Mary's University in San Antonio. "And what makes it more egregious is that he targeted medical personnel whose primary purpose was to heal, not to kill."
     While Hasan's argument may have been a bit more sympathetic if he said the rampage was necessary to protect Muslim women and children, that defense strategy does not apply in a war situation, said Lisa M. Windsor, a retired Army colonel and former judge advocate. Still, it's unclear what Hasan may present because attorneys are not allowed to give evidence themselves, said Windsor, an attorney specializing in military law. Read more

PRC finds ticket insurance company fraudulent

From KOB-TV.com - By: Jill Galus, KOB Eyewitness News 4 - he New Mexico Public Regulation Commission's Division of Insurance is taking action to shut down www.ticketsbite.com after a KOB Eyewitness News 4 investigation. The PRC has been looking into the company for more than a month now and issued a cease and desist order last week, which said, Ticketsbite LLC has no business doing business here in New Mexico.
     If you are a driver who has a hard time obeying the law, traffic ticket protection may look like the answer to your problems. For anywhere from $50 to $200 a year, Ticketsbite LLC offers to cover fines for everything from speeding to running red lights, and just about anything in between.
     But John Gaherty says that is where all the problems actually start. "We are not going to tolerate this kind of business in New Mexico," Gaherty said. Gaherty said Ticketsbite LLC is selling insurance, but without the right qualifications, the polices are fake.
     The PRC sent a letter to the company's P.O. Box address in Las Vegas, Nev. about a month ago. Gaherty said the PRC received a roundabout response. "It was vague, ambiguous, they indicate they're not selling insurance, they're selling vouchers, but yet their website has insurance plastered all over it," Gaherty said. "Our inquiry letter asked specific questions, for example, how many policy holders do you have in New Mexico, and they didn't answer all of that... they didn't answer any question."
     Two weeks ago, KOB contacted the company's co-founder, Chris Thomas, over the phone. Thomas explained, "We really operate like a voucher system." At the same time, he agreed, the word "voucher" is not used anywhere on the website. "A lot of states, they don't view providing insurance for traffic tickets as a legal way of doing business," Thomas added.
     The PRC is making that same point, that it is not legal. Read more

1,200-acre fire near Jemez Springs forces evacuations

From KOAT-TV.com - The Thompson fire was first reported Friday afternoon. Fire officials said the fire has reached 1,200 acres in size. The fire started on private land and has burned onto some federal Forest Service property. Crews report fire is creeping along the ground with occasional tree torching.
     Resident Lisa Yost said the fire started next door to her home. "My husband, Craig, said it was a power line between our house and the neighbor's house, and it went down and caught the grass on fire," said Yost.
     Strong winds and dry conditions quickly fanned the fire, prompting firefighters to force evacuation in 40 homes. "We just went in and got as much out of the house as we could, and they told us we need to leave because the helicopters were coming in and they wouldn’t dump while we were there," said Yost.
     Officials said no homes have been lost. Nearly 100 fire personnel were fighting the fire into the evening Friday. Read more