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August 5, 2015

NM offers amnesty for unpaid child support scofflawsLas Cruces Sun News

Gov. Susana Martinez's administration again is offering temporary amnesty for parents facing possible arrest for unpaid child support. The governor's office announced this week an enforcement crackdown will start at the end of the month targeting those who don't take advantage of the program.

State officials say individuals can visit a state Child Support Enforcement Division office without fear of arrest and pay a bond to cancel outstanding bench warrants for not paying child support. -- 8/5/15


Officials delay reopening of New Mexico nuclear waste site -- Reuters

The planned March 2016 reopening of an underground nuclear waste dump in New Mexico has been pushed back indefinitely because of unanticipated challenges, U.S. officials said.

A radiation leak at the U.S. government's Waste Isolation Pilot Plant that originated in a disposal chamber half a mile (1 km) below ground at the center near Carlsbad, New Mexico, exposed more than 20 workers to small amounts of radiation in February 2014, officials have said.

The accident led to the suspension of key operations at the site, the Energy Department's only permanent underground repository for certain types of radiological waste tied to U.S. nuclear labs and weapons sites.

Dana Bryson, acting manager for the Department of Energy's Carlsbad Field Office, said in a statement on Friday: "We are disappointed that we will not meet the original target date for beginning waste emplacement."

He did not provide a date for reopening the facility.

"While the WIPP recovery program continues to make significant progress, the original target date of March 2016 for resuming waste emplacement operations is no longer viable due to a variety of unanticipated issues," said a news release from the U.S. Department of Energy that contained Bryson's statement. – 8/1/2015

July 31, 2015

NIST explores new tech for tattoo recognition -- GCN

Forensic analysis of tattoos is important to law enforcement activities such as solving crimes, identifying victims and gathering intelligence on gangs, according to NIST.  The goal of the Tattoo Recognition Technology-Challenge (Tatt-C) is to advance research into automated image based tattoo recognition technology that focuses on retrieving and matching tattoos from still images captured by law enforcement agencies.  In a preliminary trial of existing tattoo recognition software, the FBI’s Biometric Center of Excellence (BCOE) provided thousands of images to NIST.  Government researchers have been working on automated tattoo recognition technology since 2012 when BCOE issued a request for information on the best way to build a tattoo database. -- July 2015


FEMA launches visualization tool for disaster data -- GCN

Thanks to a new tool from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), citizens and local emergency managers can get a better understanding of the relative risk and impact of a variety of disasters.  The interactive tool maps historical data to help communities plan for disasters and gain insight into how assistance funds are allocated.  Users can view disaster declarations by hazard type, location, year (back to 1953) and the financial support provided through an easily viewable and clickable interface, while maintaining access to raw datasets for research and analysis.  The data can also help governments more accurately anticipate the financial impact of a disaster.  FEMA’s motivation is simple and powerful.  “By providing this information in a way that is visual and easy to understand, people will be moved to action to prepare their families and communities,” said Tim Manning, FEMA’s Deputy Administrator of Protection and National Preparedness.-- July 2015

July 16, 2015

Constituents rally against Pearce legislation regarding wolf reintroduction programLas Cruces Sun News

Constituents of U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce, R-N.M., rally in front of his Las Cruces office on North Telshor Boulevard Wednesday to protest Pearce's sponsorship of a House Bill 2910 to strip protections away from Mexican gray wolves. Pearce has said the legislation, cosponsored by U.S. Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., would help protect farmers, ranchers and rural communities in Arizona and New Mexico from economic losses stemming from the reintroduction of the wolves. There are now at least 109 wolves in the wild in the two states. That's more than at any time since the reintroduction started in 1998. -- 7/16/15


Atomic bomb test marks 70th birthday amid renewed interestLas Cruces Sun News

When a flash of light beamed from the arid New Mexico desert early on July 16, 1945, residents of the historic Hispanic village of Tularosa felt windows shake and heard dishes fall. Some in the largely Catholic town fell to their knees and prayed. The end of the world is here, they thought.

What villagers didn't know was that just before 5:30 a.m., scientists from the then-secret city of Los Alamos successfully exploded the first atomic bomb at the nearby Trinity Site. Left in its place was a crater that stretched a half-mile wide and several feet deep. - - 7/16/15

July 30, 2015

Rio Grande Trail designations begin– Las Cruces Sun News

The first 23 miles of the Rio Grande Trail has been designated by Gov. Susana Martinez after House Bill 563 was introduced and passed with bipartisan support this year. The plan is for the trail to trace the length of New Mexico along the Rio Grande from Colorado to Texas.

Designated locations for the beginning of the trail project exist in six state parks, including the Mesilla Valley Bosque and the Leasburg Dam in Doña Ana County. - - 7/30/2015


Fine Print In Changes To Food Stamps Program -- KUNM

Almost a quarter of the people in New Mexico rely on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program—about 448,000. And the Human Services Department is once again calling for more work search and volunteer hours or job training for recipients. Opponents say the rule changes are confusing.

Louise Pocock is a staff attorney with the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty. "Our concern is that if the rules are not very clear about what people have to do and what time they have to fulfill those requirements, more people will lose SNAP incorrectly," she said.

HSD spokesperson Matt Kennicott says people with kids 6 and up would only have to meet work search requirements.

Pocock says none of that’s in writing. "As the rule is written now, there’s nothing that guarantees the right to parents only to be limited to job search or to choose alternative activities if they want," she said.

The first phase of the new rules is supposed to go into effect in October.


Future unsure for troubled New Mexico green chile production -- Santa Fe New Mexican / Associated Press

Green chiles have defined New Mexico for generations, gaining fans and fame around the globe.

However, as this year’s harvest begins, labor shortages, shrinking acreage, drought and foreign competition have hurt production in the state.

Farmers and producers say the problems reveal the need for changes in the industry.

To rejuvenate production, investors and inventors are testing machines that would harvest and de-stem the crop. -- 7/29/2015


July 13, 2015

Proposed SNAP Changes in New Mexico Draw OppositionPublic Service News

SANTA FE, N.M. - The state of New Mexico Human Services Department is proposing changes to the work rules of the federally funded Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also called "SNAP" and formerly food stamps.

Opponents say the action could end benefits for tens of thousands of people and cost taxpayers millions of dollars. Louise Pocock is an attorney with the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty, which previously sued the state over the proposed changes.

"We're objecting to expanding mandatory work requirements to thousands more SNAP participants when it's not required by federal law," she says.

Pocock says childless adults ages 18 to 50, who are physically and mentally competent, currently are required to enter an employment and training program to be eligible for SNAP benefits.

The Human Services Department is proposing to widen the range, making it ages 16 to 60, and add people with children over age seven who currently are exempt from the employment requirement. – 7/13/2015