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US Laser Investment Announced in ABQ, Groups Push To Save Or Reduce Monuments

Aug 23, 2017

'Sci-Fi To Real Life': US Invests $17 Million In Laser TechThe Associated Press

The U.S. Defense Department is investing $17 million in high-powered laser technology that has the potential for practical uses on the battlefield, from destroying enemy drones to disrupting communication systems.

U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich announced the funding during a news conference Wednesday at a Boeing lab in Albuquerque, where many of the innovations needed to track targets and control the intensity of the high-powered lasers were developed.

A member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, the New Mexico Democrat said the biggest challenge has been getting colleagues in Congress and others to realize that the lasers are no longer science fiction but rather critical tools that the U.S. military can use in difficult situations.

He says the laser weapons systems are small and portable and would be more economic for the military to operate.

Groups Make Last-Minute Push To Save National Monument AreasThe Associated Press

Conservation groups are airing TV ads, planning rallies and creating parody websites in a last-minute blitz to stop Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke from downsizing or eliminating national monument areas that cover large swaths of land and water from Maine to California.

The deadline for Zinke to announce his recommendations is Thursday following a four-month review of 27 sites ordered by President Donald Trump.

The outdoor recreation industry has hammered home its message that peeling back protections on areas where its customers hike, bike and camp could prevent future generations from enjoying the sites.

In addition, the Wilderness Society has created a parody website featuring Trump and Zinke selling luxury real estate at the sites.

Groups that want to see the areas reduced have been less vociferous, pleading their cases on social media and working behind the scenes to lobby federal officials.

They say past presidents have misused a century-old law to create monuments that are too large and stop development of energy and other resources.

Christian Sect Accused Of Hiding Children From PoliceThe Associated Press

Documents say a member of a paramilitary Christian sect in New Mexico with members accused of child sex abuse told authorities the group blocks parents from keeping records about their children so they can be hidden from police.

Court documents obtained Wednesday say member Jamie Bridgewater told deputies that leaders of the Aggressive Christianity Missions Training Corps tried to keep parents from notifying state officials about births at the isolated compound.

Bridgewater also told Cibola County deputies that leaders James and Deborah Green ordered members to bury photos of children after the Greens were interviewed by deputies investigating allegations of abuse.

Bridgewater also told investigators children at the compound were taught to hide from law enforcement officers.

Deborah Green and another sect member are facing child sex abuse charges.

The sect denies the claims. No attorney is listed for Green.

State Investment Council Bars Members Who Appose Ethics CodeThe Associated Press & The Albuquerque Journal

The New Mexico State Investment Council has decided to bar the state land commissioner and treasurer from participating in closed-door meetings and certain votes because they haven't signed paperwork acknowledging they've read the council's ethics code.

The Albuquerque Journal reports the dispute surfaced in a public meeting on Tuesday when the council — led by Gov. Susana Martinez — voted 7-2 in favor of imposing sanctions on four members who haven't signed the ethics code.

Martinez said the ethics code is especially important, given the investment scandal under the administration of her predecessor. But Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn said the sanctions are simply an attempt by the council to force him and others into a confidentiality agreement that shields the council's work from public view.

New Mexico Congressman Cites Stall Tactics In Court DelaysThe Associated Press

An attorney for Republican Congressman Steve Pearce is accusing elected New Mexico officials of using politically motivated stall tactics to starve his campaign for state governor of funding.

As he runs for governor in 2018, Pearce has filed a lawsuit seeking access to a $1 million campaign war chest that he assembled over the years as a congressman.

Attorney Bill Canfield said Tuesday that political maneuvering is behind a request for an extended period to respond to the lawsuit in federal court.

Democratic New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver and Attorney General Hector Balderas have requested 60 days to respond as defendants instead of three weeks. They cite legal complexities and ample time before 2018 elections.

Canfield says delays gradually hurt Pearce's prospects and serve Democratic political interests.

Police Shoot Man In Albuquerque After Chase – Associated Press

Police in an Albuquerque suburb have shot and killed a man after authorities say he rammed into a patrol car and threatened officers with a gun.

Rio Rancho Captain Ron Vigil said officers opened fire Tuesday on the suspect following a pursuit in an Albuquerque neighborhood on the city's Westside.

Vigil says the chase began after officers were called to a reported shooting at a Rio Rancho Walmart. He says officers traced the man to an Albuquerque home. He then fled from police.

Vigil says officers opened fire after the suspect rammed his car into a Rio Rancho patrol car and threatened officers with a gun. He did not say how many officers were involved.

The suspect has not been identified. Vigil says no officers were injured in the shooting.

He says a multiagency task force is investigating the shooting, which comes as the Albuquerque metro area has seen more than a dozen shootings by law enforcement officers amid rising crime.

Authorities Eye Immigration Status Of Children Found At Sect – By Russell Contreras and Morgan Lee, Associated Press

Authorities investigating a paramilitary Christian sect for child sexual abuse say they looking into whether the New Mexico group brought children into the country illegally. Former group members say leaders kept them and the children living at sect's compound in "slavery."

Cibola County Sheriff Tony Mace told The Associated Press Tuesday that investigators found numerous children during a Sunday raid of the armed Aggressive Christianity Missions Training Corps in remote Fence Lake.

Exactly where the children came from is unknown because the sect apparently kept members from reporting births to state officials, Mace said.

A former sect member says the group illegally brought at least one child to the United States from one of its foreign missions, which according to its website were operated in Africa, India and the Philippines.

During the raid, authorities arrested three sect members in connection with a child abuse and child sex abuse investigation. A former group member was arrested in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico.

School Grades Show Growing Divide In New Mexico Schools - By Susan Montoya Bryan, Associated Press

New Mexico's top education officials are concerned about a growing divide between public schools that are earning top marks and those that are falling behind when it comes to student achievement and learning opportunities.

The Public Education Department on Tuesday released its annual report card for schools. While the percentage of schools earning As and Bs remained unchanged at 38 percent, 20 more schools earned Fs.

Education Secretary Christopher Ruszkowski says the findings show which districts have made an effort to adopt reforms that focus on student performance as well as mentoring programs for struggling teachers and principals.

He pointed to the Farmington, Alamogordo and Gadsden districts, saying there are no F schools in those communities after five years of work.

In the state's largest district in Albuquerque, more than a third of schools earned Fs.

Mosquitoes Linked To Zika Virus Found In Socorro CountyAssociated Press

Authorities say mosquitoes capable of transmitting the Zika virus have been found in Socorro County.

Officials with the New Mexico Department of Health and New Mexico State University said Tuesday that it's the first time a species of mosquito capable of transmitting Zika virus has been found in Socorro County.

However, there have been no identified human cases of Zika virus in the county so far.

The addition of Socorro County brings the total number of counties in the state with mosquitoes capable of spreading Zika to nine.

There haven't been any confirmed cases of Zika virus in New Mexico residents so far this year, compared with 10 cases in 2016.

City Of Las Vegas, Police Chief Sparring Over Budget, StaffLas Vegas Optic, Associated Press

A northern New Mexico city and its police chief are locked in a public battle over funding, staffing levels and allowing officers to coach at area schools.

The Las Vegas Optic reports the city of Las Vegas recently received a letter from Las Vegas Police Chief Juan Montaño's attorney informing officials he has filed a tort claim against the city.

Attorney Raul Carrillo wrote that the claim comes amid acts against Montaño around funding issues, hostile work environment, whistleblower issues and retaliation against the chief.

The letter, obtained by the Optic, said Montaño's claim is a result of a "string of actions" against him.

City spokesman Lee Einer says the matter is under investigation.

New Mexico Congressman Cites Stall Tactics In Court DelaysAssociated Press

An attorney for Republican Congressman Steve Pearce is accusing elected New Mexico officials of using politically motivated stall tactics to starve his campaign for state governor of funding.

As he runs for governor in 2018, Pearce has filed a lawsuit seeking access to a $1 million campaign war chest that he assembled over the years as a congressman.

Attorney Bill Canfield said Tuesday that political maneuvering is behind a request for an extended period to respond to the lawsuit in federal court.

Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver and Attorney General Hector Balderas, both Democrats, have requested 60 days to respond as defendants instead of three weeks. They cite legal complexities and ample time before 2018 elections.

Canfield says delays gradually hurt Pearce's prospects and serve Democratic political interests.

Critics Maintain Utah Mustang Meeting A 'Slaughter Summit' - By Michelle L. Price And Scott Sonner, Associated Press

Federal scientists and mostly rural interests are gathering at a conference in Utah this week to discuss the growing number of U.S.-protected wild horses roaming 10 Western states.

Mustang-protection advocates maintain the National Horse and Burro Summit is a thinly veiled effort to promote increased roundups and eventual slaughter of tens of thousands of animals from California to Colorado without any public input.

Utah officials, ranchers and even some federal officials have argued that swollen populations of wild horses, an icon of the American West, have created an expensive government problem of starving animals and damaged rangelands.

Horse-protection groups contend officials kowtowing to livestock interests won't look at solutions other than euthanizing mustangs.

Summit organizer and Utah State University Professor Terry Messmer says the event was put together by a broad coalition of horse advocates, not activists.

No Violations Found In Case Of Navajo Housing Authority - By Susan Montoya Bryan, Associated Press

Federal housing officials have found no legal or regulatory violations following an inquiry into the nation's largest Native American public housing authority.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has issued its final report on an investigation into the Navajo Housing Authority that was prompted by criticisms over management and the spending of federal grants.

The investigation included visits earlier this year to housing projects in New Mexico and Arizona, interviews and a review of housing plans and contractor agreements.

Investigators did identify one concern regarding a project in Arizona in which the housing authority did not retain legal control of the site through its agreement with the developer in 2001. That lack of authority led to problems and the homes remaining vacant.

The report says the tribal agency has since developed new policies.

$1M Lottery Ticket Sold In New MexicoAssociated Press

New Mexico lottery officials say an Albuquerque man has claimed a $1 million Mega Million prize.

The lottery announced Tuesday that Leonard Bulmer had initially purchased two wagers for the Aug. 11 drawing. When he didn't win, he returned to the grocery store and purchased a couple more tickets for the Aug. 18 drawing.

He learned Friday night that he had a winning ticket with the numbers 1, 31, 34, 40, 75 and Mega Ball 6. He had to wait until Monday to claim the prize since lottery headquarters was closed over the weekend.

Lottery officials also noted that the jackpot for Wednesday's Powerball drawing has reached $700 million, the second-largest jackpot in U.S. history.

Española Police Chief To Retire Following IndictmentSanta Fe New Mexican, Associated Press

Española Police Chief Matthew Vigil will be retiring next month following his recent indictment on charges from domestic violence incidents.

City of Española Human Resource Director Sally Baxter tells The Santa Fe New Mexican that Vigil's retirement is effective Sept. 1. She did not say why the 41-year-old was leaving the police force. Vigil did not respond to phone calls from the newspaper seeking comment.

Mayor Alice Lucero placed Vigil on administrative leave after he was indicted by a Taos grand jury last week. Vigil is accused of touching his wife in an "angry manner" and throwing a pair of shoes at his 13-year-old daughter.

Attorney Alan Maestas, who is listed as Vigil's lawyer on court documents, was out of office Monday and could not be reached for questions.

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