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Tue June 25, 2013
Tuesday Morning Roundup
Silver Fire Jumps To 125 Square Miles - Associated Press
A furious wildfire torching through the mountains of southern New Mexico's Gila National Forest has grown to 125 square miles and is expected to keep expanding.
Fire officials said late Monday that the Silver Fire continued to burn to the north and west as crews battled the raging blaze amid dry and breezy conditions.
Officials say the fire remains 20 percent contained, mainly in the south toward the bottom of the inferno.
Meanwhile, Gila National Forest officials said that other parts of the park would remain open for the July 4th holiday.
While the Silver Fire burns in the Black Range Mountains and the Aldo Leopold Wilderness on the southeastern part of the forest, the remainder of the 3.3 million acres of forest land would be open to the public.
Albuquerque Council Keeps Police Oversight Panel - Associated Press
City councilors have opted not to shut down an oversight board that hears complaints against Albuquerque police officers.
The Albuquerque Journal reports that councilors voted 6-3 Monday against a proposal to suspend operations of the Police Oversight Commission.
The vote comes as the U.S. Justice Department is investigating the city's police department after a string an alleged excessive force cases, including more than two dozen officer-involved shootings since 2010.
Councilors Trudy Jones and Brad Winter had proposed suspending the commission until the city settles on a new system of civilian oversight for the police department.
But most councilors said after a tense debate that an imperfect oversight commission was better than none at all.
NM Spa Giving 'Breaking Bad' Cooking Classes - Associated Press and KOAT-TV
A New Mexico spa is offering classes on making bath salts that resemble the blue meth made famous by the AMC TV show "Breaking Bad."
KOAT-TV reports that the Albuquerque-based Great Face & Body is offering the BaD Cooking Class on weekends to show costumers how to cook bath salts and blue sheet candy. Both look very similar to the pure meth sold on the drama show filmed in Albuquerque.
The store owners decided to make the class open to fans after teaching journalists how to make the infamous items.
The spa sells a line of "Bathing Bad" bath salts, which are used in baths and not as illegal drugs.
"Breaking Bad" follows the fictional character Walter White, a high school chemistry teacher turned meth lord.
The show's final season begins in August.
Court: Feds Owe Jicarilla Apache $21M - Associated Press and The Albuquerque Journal
The U.S. Court of Federal Claims has ruled that the federal government owes the Jicarilla Apache Nation more than $21 million because the Bureau of Indian Affairs mismanaged funds it held in trust for the northern New Mexico tribe.
The Albuquerque Journal reports that Judge Francis M. Allegra said in an opinion issued Monday that the BIA "grossly mismanaged the Nation's funds, thereby breaching its fiduciary obligations to the Nation."
The amount awarded represents less than a quarter of the $103.8 million the tribe felt it was owed.
From February 1974 to September 1992 the BIA held funds in trust for Jicarilla and was primarily responsible for managing those funds
The tribe sued the federal government in 2002, claiming the BIA had mismanaged those funds.
Audit: NM Mental Health Cos. In Possible Fraud - Associated Press A new state audit says that 15 providers of mental health and substance abuse services failed to meet standards, overbilled the federal government by tens of millions and may have taken part in "potential fraudulent activity" by some health executives.
The New Mexico Human Services Department announced the results of the audit Monday and said Medicaid payments would stop immediately to all to those 15 providers.
Department Secretary Sidonie Squier says the results of the audit have been forwarded to the New Mexico Attorney General's Office to investigate potential fraud allegations.
The five-month audit found that the providers overbilled for services by $36 million and that the companies had error billing rates which far exceeded the national average.
The audit comes as the state battles some of the nation's highest suicide and drug abuse rates.
More time sought for power plant public comment - Associated Press
The operator of a coal-fired power plant on the Navajo Nation is asking the federal government for more time to develop ways to cut pollution.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has proposed that haze-causing nitrogen oxide emissions at the Navajo Generating Station in Page be reduced by 84 percent within 10 years. The EPA says that translates to 28,500 tons a year and improved air quality at places like the Grand Canyon.
The Salt River Project says it has been working with others to come up with alternatives, but they need more time.
The EPA plans to hold a handful of public hearings before the comment period ends on Aug. 5.
An EPA spokesman said Monday that the agency hasn't decided on an extension.
Roaming Young Bear Caught In Albuquerque - Associated Press and KOB-TV
New Mexico Game and Fish officials have caught a small bear roaming around northeast Albuquerque.
KOB-TV reports that the young female bear was captured late Sunday after being spotted near Tramway.
Officials say they caught the bear by darting her out of a tree. The bear is a young female, estimated to be around 8 months old.
Game and Fish will take the bear to the Wildlife Center, where a veterinarian will evaluate her. If she's healthy and large enough, officials say she will be released back into the wild.