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Wednesday News Roundup
Wed August 13, 2014
Headlines: UNM Reinstates Accused Players, Medical Marijuana Changes And More...
Delay Urged On Medical Marijuana Program Changes - The Associated Press and Santa Fe New Mexican
A state hearing officer says New Mexico should delay making changes to its medical marijuana program.
The Santa Fe New Mexican reports that hearing officer Susan Hapka recommends that current rules remain unchanged until an advisory board makes its own recommendations and another public hearing is held.
Hapka reviewed numerous written comments and listened to comments from 140 people during a July hearing on the Department of Health proposals.
Those proposals include expanding testing of medical marijuana, increasing fees for patients and producers and reducing how many plants patients may grow.
The department has said it has decided against reducing the number of plants that patients can grow, and spokesman Kenny Vigil says final decisions won't be made on other proposed changes before the advisory board meets Aug. 25.
UNM Reinstates Players After Rape Charges Dropped – The Associated Press and Albuquerque Journal
New Mexico is reinstating two football players who were suspended from the team after being arrested in April on rape and kidnapping charges.
The Albuquerque Journal reports that Athletic Director Paul Krebs confirmed Tuesday that running back Crusoe Gongbay from Rockville, Maryland, and cornerback SaQwan Edwards from Houston had been reinstated and are rejoining the Lobos.
The Bernalillo County District Attorney's Office chose to drop the criminal case against the two players and Ryan Ruff, a former New Mexico student who wasn't on the team.
The District Attorney's Office had dismissed the charges in June, but at that time held open the possibility that they could be refiled.
La Bajada Mesa Mine Decision Punted - Again - The Associated Press and the Santa Fe New Mexican
Santa Fe County Commissioners have postponed for a second time a decision on a proposed 50-acre basalt mine on La Bajada mesa.
The Santa Fe New Mexican reports that commissioners punted a final decision Tuesday following a closed-door session.
The move drew an angry response from residents who are fighting the proposed mine.
Commissioners did not set a date for future votes.
Buena Vista Estates owns the 5,400-acre property east of Interstate 25, which is currently zoned for residential and agricultural uses.
Rockology wants to mine basalt and crush it into aggregate for construction material.
The black basalt rock is prized as the crushed material used in asphalt, roadway base course and ready-mix concrete.
Health Officials Urge Steps To Avoid West Nile - The Associated Press
New Mexico health officials are urging residents to take steps to avoid contracting the West Nile virus, a potentially fatal neurological illness typically spread by mosquitoes.
No human cases have been confirmed in New Mexico this year but the threat of West Nile has increased with recent monsoon storms.,
State records indicate that New Mexico recorded 38 human cases of the virus in 2013. Those included three fatalities.
Officials in cities such as Albuquerque and Las Cruces recommend that residents to protect their skin and to reduce mosquitoes' breeding areas by draining standing water, mowing lawns and pulling weeds.
Fever, nausea, headache and muscle aches are common symptoms of West Nile.
Report: Arts, Culture Have $5.6B Impact In NM - The Associated Press
A study to be released today shows the arts and culture industries have a $5.6 billion dollar economic impact in New Mexico.
The state Cultural Affairs Department will be releasing the report this afternoon during an event at the National Hispanic Cultural Center in Albuquerque.
Aside from detailing the dollars behind the state's arts and cultural attractions, the report says there are shortfalls that need to be addressed if the state wants to realize even more of the sector's economic potential.
The report challenges businesses, government agencies and nonprofit groups to find more ways to take advantage of the state's strengths.
The study was done by the Bureau of Business and Economic Research here at the University of New Mexico.
VA Awards $2M To Address Homelessness In NM - The Associated Press
Efforts to prevent homelessness among veterans in New Mexico are getting a boost.
The Veterans Affairs Department has awarded more than $2 million dollars in grants to three organizations. They include Goodwill Industries of New Mexico, New Mexico Veterans Integration Centers and Mesilla Valley Community of Hope.
Officials say Goodwill will also serve numerous tribal communities throughout New Mexico, Arizona and southern Colorado.
More than 760 homeless and at-risk veteran families will be served through the grants. They will be able to get help in obtaining VA benefits and other public assistance aimed at promoting housing stability.
The program is in its fourth year. Federal officials say homelessness among veterans has declined by 24 percent since 2009.
State Panel To Consider 7 Proposed Charter Schools - The Associated Press
The Public Education Commission plans hearings next week on seven proposed charter schools in five communities.
The commission meets Aug. 18 in Navajo, Aug. 19 in Albuquerque on two school applications, Aug. 20 in Albuquerque, Isleta Pueblo and Rio Rancho to consider three school proposals and Aug. 21 in Columbus.
The commission will hear comments from those seeking to start the schools, the public and from local school district representatives.
The commission is to vote on whether to approve the schools Sept. 25-26 in Santa Fe.
The school applications can be viewed at the Public Education Department's web site.
Charter schools are public schools that operate independently from a school district to help them offer innovative programs. Local school boards or the state can approve charters.
Judge Rules Against Independent Candidate - The Associated Press
A federal judge has ruled against a Public Education Commission member seeking to be placed on the general election ballot despite failing to turn in enough nominating signatures to qualify as an independent candidate.
District Judge Martha Vazquez last week denied Tyson Parker's request for an injunction against the secretary of state's office.
Parker sued last month, contending that New Mexico's election laws discriminate against independent candidates by requiring them to submit an unfairly high number of voter signatures on nominating petitions.
Vazquez ruled Parker hadn't showed he was likely to succeed in his constitutional challenge. She said the U.S. Supreme Court and 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals have rejected similar election law challenges.
Parker says he is considering whether to appeal the ruling.
Elephant Skull In Albuquerque Museum Exhibit - The Associated Press and Las Cruces Sun-News
A prehistoric elephant skull called one of the most intact ever found is now part of a New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science exhibit in Albuquerque.
The Las Cruces Sun-News reports that the rare fossilized skull is part of the FossilWorks display, a laboratory where fossils are painstakingly prepped for research and an eventual installation.
A museum spokesman says the public can watch staff and volunteers as they work to clean the skull.
The 3 million-year-old stegomastodon fossil was found at Elephant Butte Lake earlier this year.
Officials say it doesn't yet have a name.
State Officials Close Boat Ramp At Heron Lake - The Associated Press
Persistent drought along with demands for water along the Rio Grande have forced New Mexico officials to temporarily close the only remaining boat ramp at Heron Lake.
State parks officials say other areas of New Mexico have received much needed rain, but not enough has fallen to replenish the dwindling levels at Heron Lake.
The level has dropped about 5 feet in the last two weeks. It's about 84 feet below the high water mark.
There's enough water for small vessels, canoes and kayaks, but state officials say they're working with the Bureau of Reclamation to determine options for re-establishing boat ramp access.
The lake was built decades ago to hold San Juan-Chama water for Albuquerque and Santa Fe. With the drought, downstream users have been taking their share from the lake.
Late Navajo Code Talker's Uniform To Be Displayed - The Associated Press
A Navajo Code Talker's uniform that had been locked away in a storage unit will be displayed at the tribal museum.
The uniform belonging to the late George Kirk Sr. will be unveiled tomorrow ahead of a parade honoring the Code Talkers. Kirk was among hundreds of Navajos who used a code based on their native language to confound the Japanese during World War II.
He died in 1999, and some of his belongings remained in a storage unit that was auctioned off.
Navajo President Ben Shelly says he contacted a military historian who was ready sell the uniform and asked that it be given to the Navajo Nation. Craig Gottlieb says he was honored to do so.
Shelly says the uniform symbolizes the strength of the Navajo language.