- SMOKEY BEAR ANNIVERSARY
CAPITAN, N.M. (AP) — Smokey Bear, the icon of the longest-running public service campaign in the U.S., is set to turn 75 years old.Birthday parties are scheduled to take place this week in honor of the bear used to promote forest fire prevention.Smokey Bear was born on Aug. 9, 1944, when the U.S. Forest Service and the Ad Council agreed that a fictional bear would be the symbol for a fire prevention campaign.A badly burned cub found in the aftermath of a fire in New Mexico's Capitan Mountains later became Smokey Bear.The Gila National Forest in Silver, New Mexico, and Wingfield Park in Ruidoso will hold community birthday parties for the bear.Birthday parties also are scheduled in Reading, Pennsylvania, and Entiat, Washington.
- MEDICAL MARIJUANA
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Enrollment in New Mexico's medical marijuana program has increased by more than 30% over the past year.The latest monthly report from the state Health Department shows the number of active patients in the program topped 76,000 at the end of July.Participation in the state's medical cannabis program has grown rapidly since chronic pain and post-traumatic stress disorder were added to a list of qualifying conditions.In June, the list was expanded to include opioid use disorder, Alzheimer's disease, autism spectrum disorder and several degenerative neurological disorders.Producer Ultra Health suggested Wednesday that the state needs to do more outreach to boost patient participation for the new qualifying conditions as only 25 people have qualified under the new conditions collectively.
- FUEL CONTAMINATION
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico environment officials are reviewing a plan that details options for investigating contaminated groundwater at an industrial site on the edge of Albuquerque.The state Environment Department on Wednesday made public the plan for the Phillips 66 fuel facility.Officials say groundwater collected from monitoring wells at the site contains contaminants that are typically associated with fuel releases — such as ethylene dibromide and benzene.Two distinct plumes of contamination have been documented at the site. Both are less than an acre in size.Officials say no drinking water sources have been impacted.If the Stage I abatement plan is approved, another plan outlining cleanup strategies to remediate the contamination will be required.
ROSWELL, N.M. (AP) — A Roswell man arrested on federal firearms and explosives charges is facing a preliminary and detention hearings.Joshua Daniel Vaughn made his initial appearance Wednesday in federal court in Roswell.Prosecutors say the 31-year-old Vaughn is being held on a criminal complaint charging him with being illegally in possession of firearms and making destructive explosive devices.His preliminary hearing has yet to be scheduled, but will be held in federal court in Las Cruces.Vaughn was taken into custody Monday for questioning by the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.According to the criminal complaint, the investigation into Vaughn began Monday after Roswell police received a tip about a man seen loading multiple firearms into a vehicle.Officers stopped Vaughn's car and allegedly recovered seven firearms.
- STATE BUILDINGS-SECURITY
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico is close to hiring a private firm to develop a security master plan for state government buildings in Santa Fe.General Services Secretary Ken Ortiz said Wednesday his department will soon award a contract for the work to one of three firms that were issued price agreements last month for security master planning.The selected firm will work with the state Department of Public Safety and the Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management to assess the buildings and address vulnerabilities.The company will have to come up with security policies and procedures, lead training exercises and develop a three- to five-year plan to implement recommended security measures.State officials say recommendations could include more security cameras and guards, better outdoor lighting, security badges for access and fencing.
- NEW MEXICO ENERGY FUTURE
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham is questioning recent decisions of a powerful regulatory commission that oversees the state's largest electric utility, rural cooperatives and other companies.The first-year governor says reforming the Public Regulation Commission is needed to ensure the success of landmark legislation that sets new renewable energy goals and charts a course for closing a major coal-fired power plant.Lujan Grisham on Tuesday announced her intention to have lawmakers consider reforms during the next legislative session.Her office didn't propose any specifics but plans to hear from stakeholders.The Legislature already has cleared the way for voters to consider a constitutional amendment that proposes reducing the commission from five to three members. Instead of being elected, they would be chosen by the governor from a list of qualified candidates compiled by a nominating committee.
- NATIVE AMERICANS-VIDEO-SCHOOL-LAWSUIT
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Parents of Kentucky teens are suing one of the nation's only Native American congresswomen over comments she made about a viral video of the teens and a Native American drummer.The Albuquerque Journal reports the parents of eight Covington Catholic High School students filed suit on behalf of their sons last week in Kenton County Circuit Court in Kentucky against Democratic U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland of Albuquerque.The lawsuit claims Haaland, a Laguna Pueblo member, and 11 others libeled the minors over the events shown in the video.A federal judge last month threw out a similar lawsuit accusing the Washington Post of falsely labeling one of the teens as a racist.Haaland's office says the congresswoman has not seen the lawsuit.
- BORDER SECURITY GRANT
LAS CRUCES, N.M. (AP) — A New Mexico city has rejected a more than $48,000 grant that supports cooperation between local law enforcement and federal agents on security efforts along the U.S.-Mexico border.The Las Cruces Sun-News reports the Las Cruces City Council voted Monday against participation in the federal program known as Operation Stonegarden, citing concerns about its connection to immigration policy and its lax accountability standards.City officials have vowed to find local funding to replace the federal dollars to the police department.Police Chief Patrick Gallagher advocated for the acceptance of the grant, saying the money is mostly used for narcotics enforcement and to intercept human traffickers.He says the money has also covered overtime and mileage costs and the purchase of three patrol vehicles.