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The Associated Press

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — A former Santa Fe hospital executive has pleaded guilty to conspiracy and fraud charges but will avoid jail time as part of a plea agreement with the state Attorney General's office.

Richard Crabtree also agreed to repay St. Vincent Hospital, now known as Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center, for losses it suffered in a scheme he allegedly ran with a former girlfriend to receive kickbacks from her brothers in a computer upgrade contract.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Detectives are investigating allegations of steroid use among Albuquerque police officers.

Albuquerque Police Chief Ray Schultz confirmed the probe at a news conference Wednesday but said he did not know how many officers may be involved. Schultz also said the Federal Bureau of Investigation is "monitoring" the department's investigation amid the FBI's own probe into Albuquerque police over excessive force claims.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A health clinic in Las Cruces is getting a half-million-dollar grant to expand into the border community of Santa Teresa.

U.S. Senator Tom Udall announced Wednesday that La Clinica de Familia will receive a two-year, $500,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to build a new health center next to Santa Teresa High School and strengthen its existing school-based health services. The funding comes from capital project outlays under the Affordable Care Act.

Bingman.senate.gov

  U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman has bid his farewell to Washington.

In his speech on the Senate floor Thursday, the retiring Democrat said it was an honor and a privilege to have represented the people of New Mexico in the Senate for the last 30 years. And he thanked New Mexicans for their confidence in his representation.

Bingaman will be replaced by Democratic Rep. Martin Heinrich, who defeated Republican Heather Wilson for the coveted seat.

An Albuquerque organization will receive more than $820,000 from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for its Early Head Start program.

Native American Professional Parent Resources serves more than 70 families, including expectant moms and families with infants and toddlers. The funds will be used to expand its services.

U.S. Sen. Tom Udall announced the funding this week. The New Mexico Democrat says most families living in poverty have difficulty accessing resources to support their children's development.

Gov. Susana Martinez has appointed former Alamogordo mayor Ron Griggs to a vacancy in the state Senate.

Griggs was elected to the southern New Mexico Senate seat in the general election and succeeds Republican Vernon Asbill, who did not seek re-election and resigned at the end of October.

By serving the remainder of Asbill's term through the end of the year, Griggs gains an advantage in seniority, which will help him in landing committee assignments

A statewide off-highway vehicle user group is suing the Santa Fe National Forest over its travel management plan.

The New Mexico Off Highway Vehicle Alliance filed the lawsuit in federal court Tuesday.

The group's president, Jim Tyldesley, says the complaint is being filed on behalf of all forest users. He contends the plan closes more than 70 percent of existing roads and trails on the northern New Mexico forest, significantly reduces camping options and makes it difficult for hunters to retrieve game.

Cm0rris0n

Environmentalists have filed another lawsuit as they push for reforms of the federal government's troubled effort to reintroduce Mexican gray wolves in the American Southwest.

The latest lawsuit centers on a decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to reject a petition that sought the classification of Mexican wolves as an endangered subspecies or separate population of gray wolves.

The Center for Biological Diversity says specific protection is needed for wolves living in the wild in New Mexico and Arizona.

Gov. Susana Martinez and Attorney General Gary King may ask the Legislature to clarify registration requirements for out-of-state sex offenders who move to New Mexico.

Sex offenders are required to register with law enforcement for certain New Mexico crimes or the equivalents of those crimes in other states.

Legislative auditors say New Mexico's colleges of education should toughen their admission standards to provide more qualified teachers and potentially improve student performance.

A Legislative Finance Committee audit on Wednesday said none of the colleges with teacher preparation programs require minimum ACT scores by students for admission.

Auditors recommended the Public Education Department increase the passing scores on competency tests required for a teaching license.

Two members of New Mexico's congressional delegation are pushing for a House vote on legislation that would free up federal funding to clean up abandoned uranium mines.

U.S. Reps. Steve Pearce, R-N.M., and Ben Ray Lujan, D-N.M., say House approval is needed to get the bill to the president's desk. Pearce and Lujan spelled out their request in a letter to House leaders on Wednesday.

The legislation was introduced by U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M. The Senate has already voted unanimously in favor of the bill.

The Albuquerque Police Department

Prosecutors say two of three Albuquerque police officers who were investigated for their conduct during a May arrest at a park will not be criminally charged in the incident.

The Albuquerque Journal reports that Officers Ronald Surran and Shad Solis will not be charged in the May 31 incident, but misdemeanor battery and aggravated battery charges are pending in state District Court against officer Connor Rice.

The officers were responding to reports about suspected drug activity.

New Mexico's securities regulator says in a new report the New Mexico Finance Authority's former controller was able to forge a financial audit because of management and oversight failures at the agency.

The Securities Division said Monday those problems were aggravated by a "culture of complacency" at the authority that played down the importance of the audit to investors and placed too much of an emphasis on obtaining high credit ratings for agency bonds.

Former authority CEO Rick May disputed the report's conclusions.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Environmentalists say the survival of two six-month old Mexican gray wolf pups is in question now that the animals have become separated from what's left of their troubled pack.

Tracking shows members of the Fox Mountain pack have separated since the alpha female, the pups' mother, was captured and removed from the wild.

Federal wildlife managers ordered her removal following a string of cattle kills in southwestern New Mexico.

  COLUMBUS, N.M. (AP) — Inspectors working border crossings in southern New Mexico and West Texas have discovered two types of agricultural pests in separate shipments of red peppers from Mexico.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials say last week stink bugs were found during an inspection at the Columbus, N.M., port of entry and flea beetles were found by inspectors working in Presidio, Texas.

Agricultural specialists say stink bugs can ruin entire crops and the beetles can damage crops in a number of ways.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Weather forecasters and state and federal water managers are painting a grim picture of the chances of drought-stricken New Mexico making up any ground this winter.

It's early, but officials say the state is already starting off with half of the average snowpack for this time of year and weather models aren't offering any hope for more snow.

Drought has a lock on nearly three-quarters of the West, including much of New Mexico.

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — State officials say about 7,000 jobless New Mexico will lose unemployment benefits at the end of the year if Congress and the president don't agree to extend the payments.

Workforce Solutions Secretary Celina Bussey told a legislative committee on Friday there will be no federal extended unemployment benefits starting in January unless the program is continued.

The state provides jobless benefits for 26 weeks, and the federal government pays for up to 28 additional weeks of assistance because of high unemployment.

VADITO, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico will be kicking off the start of the ski season Saturday with the opening of the Sipapu resort.

Snowmaking has started at some ski areas around New Mexico, but Sipapu will be the first to open. The resort is reporting an 18-inch base.

Ski resorts in New Mexico and around the West had an unusual season last year. Early on, the snow was relatively good in New Mexico, but resorts in other Western states were forced to close early thanks to lackluster snow.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — One year after being granted reservation status in New Mexico, the Fort Sill Apache Friday raised their flag on their 30-acre plot of land in the Akela Flats of southern New Mexico. But tribal Chairman Jeff Haozous says it will likely take generations to re-establish a true presence on the tribe's homelands.

Key to the plans is resolution of the tribe's long-standing battle to build a casino on the reservation, an area where the tribe has made little progress in the last year.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — President Barack Obama has nominated U.S. Attorney Ken Gonzales to a federal district court judgeship in New Mexico.

Gonzales' nomination was among seven announced by the White House on Wednesday. If confirmed by the U.S. Senate, Gonzales will replace retiring federal Judge Bruce Black of Santa Fe.

Gonzales was one of five candidates recommended to the president in September by New Mexico's two U.S. senators.

Gonzales has served as U.S. attorney since 2010. Before that, he spent 11 years working as an assistant U.S. attorney.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Only 20 percent of Albuquerque officers approved of the job by the city's police chief, and close to a fifth believe bringing in the U.S. Justice Department will improve the department.

Those were the finds from a survey of 450 officers — around half the department's workforce — released Tuesday by the Albuquerque Police Officers Association.

The husband of Governor Susana Martinez, who turned in his sheriff's badge when his wife was elected governor of New Mexico, has gone back to work.

The Albuquerque Journal reports that a Martinez spokesman confirmed First Gentleman Chuck Franco started a new job last week as a security officer at the U.S. Courthouse in downtown Santa Fe.

Franco, former Dona County undersheriff, is working roughly 20 hours a week for a private security company that is under contract with the U.S. Marshals Service.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - Work on a new security system at a nuclear weapons manufacturing site at Los Alamos National Laboratory is being delayed after cost overruns and construction problems.

The Albuquerque Journal reports (http://bit.ly/Rntens ) a preliminary lab estimate contained in a National Nuclear Security Administration issue summary puts cost overruns at up to $25 million. The lab has spent seven years and $213 million on the project.

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — 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.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Environmentalists are accusing federal wildlife managers of keeping secret details about management of a Mexican gray wolf pack in southwestern New Mexico.

The criticism comes after a public records request netted hundreds of pages of blacked-out documents.

The group WildEarth Guardians says nearly 80 percent of the 870 pages released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Services were redacted.

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New voter registration figures show the number of New Mexicans eligible to vote has increased about 5 percent since the last presidential election and independent voters grew the fastest.

The secretary of state's office reported Monday that nearly 1.3 million people are registered to vote in the Nov. 6 general election.

The numbers of voters who are unaffiliated with a political party — so-called independents — increased by 22 percent since Oct. 31, 2008.

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico's highest court has reinstated the convictions of religious group leader Wayne Bent for sexual misconduct with teenage followers. The state Supreme Court today reversed the Court of Appeals, which had tossed out Bent's convictions because the term of a grand jury had expired before it indicted Bent. The case goes back to the appeals court to deal with other pending legal questions in the 71-year-old Bent's case.

FARMINGTON, N.M. (Farmington Daily Times) — Sandia National Laboratories extended an agreement with the Navajo Nation to provide technical assistance as the tribe develops its energy resources.

The Farmington Daily Times reports (http://bit.ly/RgxftQ) that the agreement announced Friday extends the cooperative relationship between the federal lab and the tribe another five years.

The agreement comes as the tribe is forging an energy policy to take advantage of the coal, natural gas, wind and solar resources on Navajo land.

The tribe has rich energy resources.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — An environmental group is pressing federal officials to set aside millions of acres in Arizona and New Mexico for jaguars.

Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity recently told the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that jaguars need more than the 1,300 square miles the agency proposed in August. Robinson says a jaguar reintroduction program, similar to the one for Mexican gray wolves, also is needed.

 A Clovis-based nonprofit organization dedicated to "enhancing the lives of people with disabilities" is facing a lawsuit from clients for neglect and exploitation.

The Albuquerque Journal reports (http://bit.ly/Rfhrrq) that a recently filed lawsuit alleges that the organization Eastern New Mexico Rehabilitative Services for the Handicapped unfairly forced five clients with developmentally disabilities to fend for their medical themselves while the agency amassed more than $13 million in assets in recent years.

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