The Associated Press

Snake Sightings On The Rise In Southern New Mexico

Aug 25, 2014
Tom Spinker via Flickr / Creative Commons License

Officials in southeastern New Mexico say sightings of one of the most lethal rattlesnakes appear to be on the rise.

The Carlsbad Current-Argus reported Saturday that the Eddy County Sheriff's Department says more snakes have been spotted in yards this year, including the Mojave rattler.

The New Mexico Game and Fish Department says the snake is a type of pit viper that has fangs infused with a neurotoxin that is more potent than some other rattlesnakes.

Treatment for a bite from a Mojave rattler requires different anti-venom.

Jared via Flickr / Creative Commons License

More heavy rain is expected to strike New Mexico this week.

The National Weather Service says up to two inches of rain could hit the central and western parts of the state through Wednesday. Southwestern New Mexico is expected to get the heaviest amount of rain and is an area still struggling with extreme and severe drought.

Last month, heavy rains brought flooding to towns in eastern New Mexico and Albuquerque. The National Weather Service says last month was the fourth wettest July on record for New Mexico.

401(K) 2012 via Flickr / Creative Commons License

A new financial forecast estimates about $285 million will be available in the next budget year for spending increases on state government programs, public education and to offset potential tax cuts.

Officials in Gov. Susana Martinez's administration outlined the revenue projections Monday to the Legislative Finance Committee during a meeting in Las Vegas.

If the Legislature and governor agree to put all $285 million into programs and services, that would allow a 4.6 percent increase in spending in the 2016 fiscal year, which begins next July.

Robbie Howell via Flickr / Creative Commons License

A government report shows that traffic deaths in New Mexico have increased about 20 percent this year.

According to preliminary figures from the Department of Transportation, 204 people have died in traffic accidents from January through July. That's up from 170 fatalities during the first seven months of last year, but down from 224 in 2012.

The department said law enforcement agencies have launched a Labor Day holiday weekend crackdown that will target drunken drivers.

State, local and tribal police plan checkpoints and saturation patrols through Sept. 1.

Gov. Martinez Has Sizeable Lead Over King

Aug 18, 2014
Pad Kirsch via Flickr / Creative Commons License

Gov. Susana Martinez has a sizeable lead over Democrat Gary King in her re-election campaign, according to a new poll.

Results from an Albuquerque Journal poll released Sunday show that about 50 percent of voters surveyed say they plan to vote for the Republican governor. About 41 percent say they would vote for Attorney General King. Nine percent remain undecided.

Overall, Martinez leads King in most regions of the state.

Martinez also has backing from one in five Democrats polled and leads among independent voters.

opensourceway via Flickr / Creative Commons License


Republican Gov. Susana Martinez and Democrat Gary King will speak at New Mexico State University next month but it's not a joint candidate forum.

Martinez will speak on Sept. 18 at 8:15 a.m. and King's appearance is at 12:45 p.m. at a public policy conference by the university's Domenici Institute.

The university said Wednesday that Martinez was moved to the morning because of a scheduling conflict.

Report Says State Slow To Start Child Visit Program

Aug 12, 2014
Keoni Cabral via Flickr / Creative Commons License

A new evaluation says New Mexico's embattled child welfare agency has been slow to set up home visiting services two years after winning a federal grant.

The Albuquerque Journal reports that the evaluation found the state had set up home visiting services for children at only two of the four communities planned as pilot sites.

Tuzen via Flickr / Creative Commons License

Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly has signed an executive order aimed at improving 911 service and emergency communications across the reservation.

The order calls for collaboration between various tribal departments and private communication providers.

Shelly says no one should have to worry about their call going unanswered.

Tribal officials say the need to improve the existing communications system is evident. According to tribal statistics, 60 percent of homes on the Navajo Nation lack telephone lines and just over half of the reservation has wireless coverage.

Dave Barger via Flickr

The University of New Mexico is scrambling to clean up and make repairs in the wake of flood damage from last week's rainstorms.

KRQE-TV reports that nearly 40 buildings were damaged.

University officials say classrooms will be open for the beginning of fall classes on Monday.

However, physical plant Director Mary Vosevich says some repairs will still be underway.

Insurance adjusters are checking conditions on campus and the university expects to know more about the costs of repairs once those visits conclude.

Curtis Gregory Perry via Flickr / Creative Commons License

UPDATE 7/24: A newly released video shows Albuquerque SWAT officers yelling at an armed man several times to drop his gun before he was fatally shot.

Videos made public Thursday showed two tactical officers running after a fleeing 33-year-old Jeremy Joe Robertson before at least two shots are heard. Another video shows what police say is a witness who was held at gunpoint by Robertson prior to his encounter with officers.

Albuquerque police said the ATF was seeking to take Robertson into custody when Albuquerque officers Anthony Sedler and Ramon Ornelas shot him Tuesday.

Tex Texin via Flickr / Creative Commons License

UPDATE from The Associated Press: Violence Against Albuquerque Homeless Commonplace 

The brutality of the killings on two homeless men shocked residents of New Mexico's most populous city, but homeless people and advocates for homeless services say violence is commonplace for those who live on the street.

Three teens are accused of killing two men whose heads were smashed with cinder blocks, and police say one of the three told police that they'd previously attacked other homeless people.

Tex Texin via Flickr / Creative Commons License

Albuquerque police are investigating whether three teenagers suspected of beating two homeless men to death with cinder blocks, bricks and a metal fence pole are responsible for dozens of other attacks on transients in recent months.

Police say 18-year-old Alex Rios, and two boys, ages 16 and 15, are being held in Bernalillo County detention facilities. A criminal complaint said one of the teens told police that they had attacked more than 50 people in recent months. / U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich

Senator Martin Heinrich discussed the Central American migrant crisis along the U.S./Mexico border Wednesday on the Senate floor in Washington, D.C.

"We have a human crisis at our southern border that requires immediate but compassionate response," the New Mexico Democrat said. He called on his Republican colleagues in the Senate to work with President Obama to deal with the crisis and demand that House Republicans bring the Senate’s immigration bill to the House floor for debate.

mnchilemom via Flickr / Creative Commons License

Three national forests in New Mexico have decided to lift some fire restrictions thanks to recent rains.

The Gila National Forest in southern New Mexico says it will be lifting its fire restrictions Tuesday morning. That means forest visitors will be able to have campfires again in undeveloped areas across the forest.

Forest Supervisor Kelly Russell is still urging visitors to ensure their campfires are cold to the touch before leaving their camp or retiring for the night.

The U.S. Marshals Service says a deputy has fatally shot a fugitive in southwest Albuquerque while trying to serve a federal arrest warrant.

They say deputy U.S. Marshals and task force officers from the District of New Mexico weren't injured in Wednesday's incident.

Details of the shooting weren't immediately released.

KOB-TV reports Albuquerque police responded to the scene on reports of a possible dead body along with the Office of the Medical Investigator.

Steve Burke via Flickr / Creative Commons License

New Mexico's largest commercial health insurer is expanding.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of New Mexico announced Wednesday it has obtained final regulatory approval for its acquisition of Lovelace Health Plan and Lovelace's Medicare Advantage contract.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of New Mexico has 400,000 members, and the insurer says it'll pick up nearly 100,000 additional members from Lovelace Health Plan.

The Lovelace members include ones belonging to individual, small and large group, and self-funded employer plans, as well as its Medicare Advantage plans.

Authorities in southern New Mexico say a biofuel facility is on fire near the town of Anthony, and a half-mile area around the plant is being evacuated.

Dona Ana County officials say they've activated their emergency operations center and declared a hazardous materials emergency.

County spokesman Jess Williams says there's no word of any injuries so far, and the cause of the fire is not known. However, he says there has been a series of small explosions.

Teacher Retirements Increasing In Albuquerque

May 27, 2014
Night Owl City via Flickr / Creative Commons License

Albuquerque's public school district is seeing a spike in teacher retirements and resignations.

School district data show a nearly 19 percent increase in retirement filings as of early May over last year and a 44 percent increase over the year before that.

Meanwhile, non-retirement departures are up by 13 percent from last year and 32 percent from the year before that.

expertinfantry via Flickr / Creative Commons License

U.S. Sen. Tom Udall has called for federal authorities to broaden their investigation into alleged secret waiting lists at VA hospitals to include Albuquerque after whistleblower reports that the VA hospital in New Mexico's largest city is plagued with problems.

The Veterans Affairs Department is grappling with allegations of treatment delays, preventable deaths and a cover up by top administrators that were first reported in the VA system in Arizona.

Mixxie Sixty Seven via Flickr / Creative Commons License

Environmentalists are taking aim at efforts to revamp rules that govern how the New Mexico dairy industry deals with waste water.

The Environment Department is planning the first of two meetings this Friday to address changes proposed by the industry, but a coalition of environmental groups claims the meetings are exclusive and may be a violation of state law.

State officials have said the meetings by the advisory committee will help flush out technical issues and other concerns before the matter goes before the Water Quality Control Commission later this year.

  Outcry over recent police shootings continues to rattle New Mexico's largest city, spreading from street protests to rowdy demonstrations in government buildings.

Angry protesters took control of an Albuquerque City Council meeting this week, demanding the police chief's firing, shouting at council members and causing such a ruckus that the panel's president adjourned the meeting. Activists vow to return to Thursday's rescheduled gathering.

Democrats running for governor directed a barrage of criticism at Republican incumbent Susana Martinez at a candidate forum rather than sniping at each other.

With the primary election a month away, Democrats assailed Martinez on Saturday for New Mexico being rated the worst in the nation for child well-being and for the economy's weak job growth.

All of the Democrats pledged support for raising the state's minimum wage to at least $10.10 an hour.

The wage rate has been $7.50 an hour since 2009.

Police Investigating Man's Death During Standoff

May 4, 2014

UPDATE Mon. 5/5 5:30a - Albuquerque police said Sunday that an officer shot a man during a long SWAT standoff, but it remains unconfirmed if that caused the man's death.

Police said that 50-year-old Armand Martin walked out of an Albuquerque home Saturday and fired two handguns.

The Albuquerque Journal reports that police said at a news conference that he fired at least 11 shots from inside and outside his West Side home before a SWAT team member fired a single shot that struck his chest.

Elaine Baumgartel

Forecasters with the National Weather Service are warning New Mexicans that it could be a windy weekend.

They say a strong cold front will be sweeping into the state late Saturday through Sunday, bringing with it potentially damaging winds for much of the area.

Snow in the northern mountains and below-normal temperatures are also possible thanks to the storm system.

Public domain image.

Department of Energy investigators say a radiation release from the federal government's underground nuclear waste dump in southeastern New Mexico was the result of a slow erosion of safety at the 15-year-old site.

In a report released Thursday, they also say the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad fails to meet federal standards for nuclear facilities and its employees bungled their response to the emergency.

  UPDATE 4/23 1:45 p: Two days after Albuquerque police shot and killed a 19-year-old female who was suspected of truck theft, the chief of the troubled department says he has little information about the latest shooting.

Democrats are calling on Republican Gov. Susana Martinez to apologize after a liberal publication released recordings in which she and aides used profanity and offensive names to describe political opponents.

Martinez said the tapes are stolen recordings of private debate prep sessions when she was running for her first term four years ago. She called their release by Mother Jones "the absolute height of desperation" by liberals trying to unseat her. But she does admit having "to fund the cuss jar a few times."

US Department of Energy

UPDATE 3/10 7a: The U.S. Department of Energy says new air testing in the nation's only underground nuclear repository shows no detectable radioactive contamination from a leak last month.

Officials at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad said Sunday that instruments used to measure air quality and radioactivity were sent underground Friday and Saturday in the first step to resuming operations at the plant.

They say initial results indicate no contamination in the air or on the measuring equipment.

Randy Montoya

The results of new monitoring data show slightly elevated levels of airborne radiation at and around the U.S. government's nuclear repository in southeastern New Mexico.

The U.S. Department of Energy said Monday the results are from samples collected last week at numerous air monitoring stations at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant and in the surrounding area.

The results are consistent with the kinds of low-grade nuclear waste stored at the underground site, but both federal and state officials say there's no indication of any public health threat.

Public domain image.

UPDATE 7:20p 02/21:

Department of Energy officials say radiation levels detected in and around the nation's only underground nuclear waste repository are consistent with a leak at the southeastern New Mexico facility.

Carlsbad field office manager Jose Franco said Thursday that readings from sensors above and below ground indicate the radiation is coming from waste stored at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant. But officials won't know what caused the leak until they can get underground to investigate. That could be weeks.