Voting was done by a panel of sports writers and broadcasters.
CONCORD, N.C. (AP) — Kyle Busch will start at the front of the field Sunday in the Coca-Cola 600, and NASCAR Cup Series points leader Kevin Harvick will begin in the rear.
Busch took the pole for NASCAR’s longest race by turning a lap of 191.836 mph Thursday night at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Joey Logano will start alongside Busch on the front row.
But the big story was Harvick, who never got on the track after failing pre-race inspection three times. Car chief Robert Smith was ejected, and Harvick will have to sit out the first 30 minutes of practice Saturday.
Harvick has been dominant this season, winning five Cup races — including the last two — and the $1 million exhibition All-Star race Saturday.
Joe Gibbs Racing had all four cars qualify in the top 10.
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — The Latest on the investigation into the killing of two people in Albuquerque (all times local):
A suspect in a double homicide in New Mexico who was later shot and critically wounded by officers in Colorado has been identified as 31-year-old Dustin Brian Montano.
Authorities say Montano is hospitalized in critical condition after he was shot Thursday morning outside a Walmart in Fort Morgan, a small city on Colorado’s Eastern Plains about 500 miles (805 kilometers) north of Albuquerque.
Fort Morgan police say they were told Montano might be in the area and his car, which was stolen, was found in the store’s parking lot. They say Morgan County Sheriff Jim Crone and Undersheriff Dave Martin confronted him when he came out of the store and opened fire after he made a “threatening gesture.”
Fort Morgan authorities say Albuquerque police confirmed Montano is a suspect in the killings there.
Officials say Montano is from Sterling, Colorado, about 50 miles (80 kilometers) northeast of Fort Morgan.
Authorities in Colorado say deputies shot and critically wounded a man believed to be the suspect in a double homicide in Albuquerque.
The shooting happened Thursday morning outside a Walmart in Fort Morgan, a small city on Colorado’s Eastern Plains about 500 miles (805 kilometers) north of Albuquerque.
Police say they were told the suspect might be in the area and his car, which was stolen, was found in the store’s parking lot. They say Morgan County sheriff’s deputies confronted him when he came out of the store and opened fire after he made a “threatening gesture.”
Police Sgt. Kevin Campbell says authorities are fairly certain that the man who was shot is the same one wanted in the deaths of two people found at an apartment complex in Albuquerque overnight.
Authorities in Colorado say deputies shot and wounded a man wanted in a double homicide in New Mexico.
The shooting happened Thursday morning outside a Walmart in Fort Morgan, a small city on Colorado’s Eastern Plains about 80 miles (129 kilometers) northeast of Denver.
In a statement, the city’s public safety chief, Paul Schultz, says the suspect’s car, which was stolen, was found in the store’s parking lot. He says Morgan County sheriff’s deputies confronted him when he came out of the store and they opened fire after he made a “threatening gesture.”
The man was flown to the hospital in critical condition.
Colorado authorities didn’t say whether the killings the suspect was wanted for are the ones discovered earlier Thursday at an apartment complex in Albuquerque. However, Albuquerque police have said that a person of interest had been located in Colorado in that case.
Albuquerque police are investigating two deaths that are being called a double homicide.
Officer Simon Drobik said a resident called police around 3:30 a.m. Thursday after discovering the bodies at an apartment complex in northwest Albuquerque. He did not say how the two people died.
Drobik did not release any other details about the case, saying only that a person of interest had been located in Colorado but it was unclear if that person was being detained.
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Environmental groups are accusing U.S. regulators of violating clean water rules by repeatedly delaying action on a discharge permit for a coal-fired power plant that provides electricity for customers in three western states.
The Sierra Club and others contend in papers filed Wednesday in federal court that without a new permit, the communities surrounding the Four Corners Power Plant in northwestern New Mexico remain exposed to heavy metals and other pollutants that are released into drainages that eventually lead to the San Juan River.
They are seeking to force the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to take action on a permit renewal application that was initially filed in 2006.
They called the delays unreasonable, saying that in the 12 years the agency has failed to take final action there have been technological advances that could have further reduced degradation of the area’s water quality.
“The water pollution permit for the Four Corners coal plant is based on facts and technology from last century,” Gloria Smith, an attorney with the Sierra Club, said in a statement. “In 2018, it is unconscionable for the EPA not to protect public health and the environment from the coal pollution that now flows into the San Juan River.”
An agency spokeswoman did not immediately return a message seeking comment.
Arizona Public Service Co., the utility that runs the plant, said the permit has been extended administratively by the agency over the years and that it is meeting water quality regulations.
Federal regulators have done numerous inspections and no violations have been found, utility spokeswoman Suzanne Trevino said Thursday.
Located on tribal land, the Four Corners plant produces electricity for customers in Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. It’s one of three coal-fired generating stations in the region that have scaled back operations as utilities shift toward natural gas and renewable sources because of regulations and economic forces.
Critics have long complained that the Four Corners plant and the nearby San Juan Generating Station emit more pollution than any other source in North America and that the pollution degrades air and water resources throughout the San Juan Basin.
The two remaining units at Four Corners burn about 19,000 tons of coal a day, according to the complaint.
Water discharge permits are supposed to be renewed every five years as part of a process that includes public comment and a chance for people to appeal once a final permit is issued.
The environmentalists say that hasn’t happened in the case of the Four Corners permit. They argue that the result has been unnecessary delays in the monitoring and management of pollution seeping from the plant’s coal ash disposal areas as well as a delay in the collection and dissemination of information about the effects of pollution on endangered fish in the San Juan River.
The other environmental groups include: The Center for Biological Diversity, the San Juan Citizens Alliance, Amigos Bravos and Dine CARE.
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — The New Mexico Attorney General’s Office says it will review a drunken-driving case involving state Rep. Monica Youngblood to see whether the 41-year-old Albuquerque Republican inappropriately tried to use her legislative position to influence police.
Youngblood was arrested early Sunday on suspicion of aggravated DWI at an Albuquerque checkpoint where she complied with a field sobriety test but refused a blood-alcohol test.
Police video released Tuesday recorded Youngblood mentioning her legislative work several times at the checkpoint, and the Attorney General’s Office said Wednesday it would review the matter.
Youngblood defense attorney Paul John Kennedy did not immediately return a call Thursday from The Associated Press for comment.
Youngblood on Sunday said in a statement that she regretted the situation, particularly her decision not to take the blood-alcohol test.
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — A Democratic candidate for New Mexico governor wants to ensure state residents are not wrongfully denied a driving credential and also make it possible to renew driver’s licenses by mail.
Democratic gubernatorial candidate and Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham on Thursday announced plans if elected to reform the state’s two-tier system of driver’s licenses.
New Mexico adopted new driver identification standards to meet tougher U.S. ID requirements aimed at safeguarding commercial airlines, military bases and other federal facilities. But the system has prompted a discrimination lawsuit and widespread complaints of inconveniences since implementation in 2016 by the administration of Republican Gov. Susana Martinez.
Lujan Grisham says applicants for driving credentials should be able to identify themselves using proof-of-residency documents from a homeless shelter or specified medical records.
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jeff Apodaca says he wants New Mexico lawmakers to become paid politicians to help eliminate financial conflicts of interest between their legislative duties and outside careers.
Apodaca said Thursday that he supports reforms to provide state legislators with a full-time salary and lengthen legislative sessions that currently last 60 days or less.
Limited safeguards against self-enrichment in the nation’s only unsalaried legislature are under scrutiny in the wake of a corruption trial against a former state Sen. Phil Griego.
Apodaca is calling attention to state contracts for a high-risk insurance pool that went to a consulting company co-founded by primary election opponent Michelle Lujan Grisham and her campaign treasure, state Rep. Deborah Armstrong. Lujan Grisham, a U.S. congresswoman, says she divested from Delta Consulting last year.
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump abruptly canceled his summit with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un Thursday, blaming “tremendous anger and open hostility” by Pyongyang and abandoning for now a meeting that held the promise of a historic peace deal but also the risk of diplomatic meltdown.
In a letter to Kim announcing his decision to back away from the June 12 summit, Trump pointed to America’s vast military might and warned the rising nuclear power against any “foolish or reckless acts.”
The letter kicked off a day of mixed messages by the president, who declared hours later that “I really believe Kim Jong Un wants to do what’s right.” Then, after that, a senior White House official said the North lacked judgment and had reneged on its promises ahead of the summit. Trump said from the White House that a “maximum pressure campaign” of economic sanctions and diplomatic isolation would continue against North Korea, with which the U.S. is technically still at war, but he added that it was possible the summit could still take place at some point.
North Korea issued a statement Friday saying it is still “willing to give the U.S. time and opportunities” to reconsider talks “at any time, at any format.”
Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan called Trump’s decision “unexpected” and “very regrettable,” and said the cancellation of the talks shows “how grave the status of historically deep-rooted hostile North Korea-U.S. relations is and how urgently a summit should be realized to improve ties.”
Trump’s surprise exit capped weeks of high-stakes brinkmanship between the two unpredictable leaders over nuclear negotiating terms for their unprecedented sit-down. The U.S. announcement came not long after Kim appeared to make good on his promise to demolish his country’s nuclear test site. But it also followed escalating frustration — and newly antagonistic rhetoric — from North Korea over comments from Trump aides about U.S. expectations for the North’s “denuclearization.”
The senior U.S. official said the North violated a pledge to allow international inspectors to monitor the supposed implosion of the site Thursday. International journalists were present, but the U.S. government can’t verify the site’s destruction. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid overshadowing Trump’s comments Thursday.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, a staunch Kim ally, said the North Korean leader had in fact done “everything that he had promised in advance, even blowing up the tunnels and shafts” of his country’s nuclear testing site. Putin said of Trump’s announcement, “In Russia we took this news with regret.”
Trump, in his letter to Kim, objected specifically to a statement from a top North Korean Foreign Ministry official. That statement referred to Vice President Mike Pence as a “political dummy” for his comments on the North and said it was up to the Americans whether they would “meet us at a meeting room or encounter us at nuclear-to-nuclear showdown.”
Underscoring the high stakes, Trump said he had spoken with military leaders, as well as Japan and South Korea, and stressed that the United States was prepared for any threat.
Still, Trump’s announcement appeared to surprise South Korea, which had pushed to keep the summit on track as recently as Tuesday, when President Moon Jae-in met with Trump in the Oval Office and said the “fate and the future” of the Korean Peninsula hinged on the talks. The Blue House said Thursday that it was trying to figure out Trump’s intentions in canceling the summit.
Trump, who considers himself a master dealmaker, has confounded aides and allies at every turn of the fateful flirtation with the North. He looked past the warnings of senior aides when he accepted Kim’s invitation to meet back in March. He unveiled the date and the time with characteristic showmanship. And after initially projecting calm in the face of North Korea’s escalating rhetoric, he made a sudden about face, though his letter also waxed poetic about the “wonderful dialogue” emerging between the two leaders.
Wrote Trump: “If you change your mind having to do with this most important summit, please do not hesitate to call me or write.”
It was unclear whether Trump’s move marked a negotiating ploy or a manifestation of mounting internal concerns over ensuring a successful outcome for the summit.
Trump was briefed Wednesday night and made the decision to exit Thursday morning after consulting with top advisers, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Adviser John Bolton, to whom he dictated the letter, said the senior official.
The question now is how Trump’s maneuvering will be received. His letter could make the situation worse in a society where saving face can be pivotal. Kim might well take offense at the hardnosed U.S. approach after he released American detainees and destroyed a nuclear site.
Trump’s aides had warned that merely agreeing to the summit had provided Kim with long-sought international legitimacy and, if Trump ultimately backed out, risked fostering the perception that the president was insufficiently committed to diplomatic solutions to the nuclear question.
U.S. defense and intelligence officials have repeatedly assessed the North to be on the threshold of having the capability to strike anywhere in the continental U.S. with a nuclear-tipped missile — a capacity that Trump and other U.S. officials have said they would not tolerate.
Pompeo, testifying on Capitol Hill, said North Korea had not responded to repeated requests from U.S. officials to discuss logistics for the summit. He told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee the lack of response was an additional reason for Trump’s decision.
“We got a lot of dial tones, Senator,” he told committee chairman Bob Corker.
A White House team was set to fly to Singapore this weekend to continue logistical planning for the meeting.
Pompeo said the North’s posture had changed markedly since he returned from Pyongyang earlier this month, a trip during which he met with Kim and oversaw the release of three Americans being held. Trump suggested this week that China was to blame for “a little change” in Kim’s attitude. Kim paid a secret visit to his primary ally just before Pompeo’s visit, and China is wary of any shift in the balance of power on the Korean peninsula.
Trump’s allies in Congress applauded the president, saying he was justified in pulling out of the meeting.
“North Korea has a long history of demanding concessions merely to negotiate. While past administrations of both parties have fallen for this ruse, I commend the president for seeing through Kim Jong Un’s fraud,” said Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark.
Critics were less impressed.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said it was clear Trump “didn’t know what he was getting into and now he’s walking away” in a “very chummy, palsy-walsy letter” that’s “kind of like a valentine to Kim Jong Un.”
White House officials have privately predicted for weeks that the summit could be canceled once or twice before actually taking place. Trump has seemed to welcome chatter of a Nobel Peace Prize, but that has yielded in recent weeks to the sobering prospect of ensuring a successful outcome with the Kim.
A school bus driver with a history of driver’s license suspensions caused a fatal crash on a New Jersey highway last week by crossing three lanes of traffic in an apparent attempt to make an illegal U-turn, according to a criminal complaint released Thursday.
Authorities charged Hudy Muldrow Sr., 77, with two counts of vehicular homicide in the deaths of 10-year-old student Miranda Vargas and 51-year-old teacher Jennifer Williamson. More than 40 others were injured, some seriously, in the May 17 crash between the bus and a dump truck.
The bus was one of three carrying students and teachers from a middle school in Paramus on a field trip to a historic site in New Jersey, about 30 miles (48 kilometers) away.
Muldrow missed a turn, then merged onto Interstate 80 in Mount Olive, according to an affidavit filed by New Jersey state police. He quickly crossed three lanes toward a break in the median reserved for emergency vehicles to attempt an illegal U-turn, the affidavit says.
Muldrow “disregarded the marked No Turn sign” and turned his bus “to the left in an apparent attempt to gain access to an official-use only access point,” according to the document.
It adds that Muldrow turned his bus “so that it was positioned in an almost-perpendicular direction in relation to the lanes of travel” on westbound I-80.
The crash, about 45 miles west of New York City, sheared the bus from its wheelbase and crushed the front end of the dump truck. The bus wound up on top of the guardrail on the eastbound side of the highway.
In an interview this week on CBS, Muldrow’s son said his father denied making a U-turn.
Muldrow had his license suspended 14 times between 1975 and 2017, mostly for administrative reasons, according to state motor vehicle records. The most recent license suspension was in December for failing to pay parking tickets. He also had eight speeding violations between 1975 and 2001.
At the time of the crash, Muldrow had valid driving privileges, a valid commercial driver’s license and a valid school bus endorsement, according to the Motor Vehicle Commission. He had earned his commercial driver’s license in 2012 and his school bus endorsement in 2013. The bus endorsement requires drivers to pass a background check, road test and a written test.
In the last 10 years, Muldrow has had three moving violations, for not wearing a seatbelt, careless driving and making an improper turn. None caused accidents or led to suspensions, according to Motor Vehicle Commission records.
There were no drunken-driving infractions on Muldrow’s record.
State police said Muldrow would be taken into custody Thursday. He was expected to make an initial court appearance Friday.
It wasn’t immediately known if Muldrow had retained an attorney.
A funeral Mass was celebrated Thursday for Williamson in Paramus. Her obituary noted she had taught in the same grade and same classroom at East Brook Middle School for 20 years. Vargas’s funeral was Monday.
A GoFundMe site set up for victims of the crash and their families had raised more than $41,000 as of Thursday afternoon.
LONDON (AP) — A London couple delusionally obsessed with a former boy-band star were found guilty Thursday of murdering their French nanny and burning her body on a bonfire in their backyard.
A jury at the Central Criminal Court convicted 35-year-old Sabrina Kouider and 40-year-old Ouissem Medouni after six days of deliberation.
The French couple, who had a turbulent on-off relationship, denied killing Sophie Lionnet, though they admitted disposing of the body. Each defendant blamed the other for the death of the 21-year-old Frenchwoman.
Prosecutors say the pair killed Lionnet after becoming obsessed with the belief she was in league with Kouider’s ex-boyfriend Mark Walton, a founding member of Irish boy band Boyzone.
Kouider was said to be fixated on Walton and believed Lionnet was having an affair with him and helping him carry out a sex-abuse plot — though in fact the two had never met. Kouider and Medouni, a banker, repeatedly interrogated Lionnet in an attempt to make her confess.
Prosecutors said the couple starved the nanny, beat her with an electrical cable and tortured her by dunking her head under water. After killing her in a bathtub in September, they threw her body on a bonfire in their yard in an affluent area of southwest London near the home of the Wimbledon tennis tournament.
When neighbors called firefighters because of the pungent-smelling smoke, Medouni claimed the charred remains belonged to a sheep.
Walton, a music producer who lives in Los Angeles, said his two-year relationship with Kouidar was “the most turbulent relationship I had ever been in.”
He described in court how she would sometimes “flip, get very angry, very loud and just not care where we were. She would just go crazy over something trivial.”
He continued to pay Kouidar’s rent for a time after they split up in 2013. After he stopped, she began a campaign of harassment, reporting him to police more than 30 times for allegedly sexually abusing a cat, using black magic and hiring a helicopter to spy on her. Frustrated that police were not taking her seriously, she accused Walton on Facebook of being a pedophile.
Prosecutor Richard Horwell told jurors that the couple’s “unhealthy, myopic, all-consuming and groundless” obsession with Walton had deprived them of reason.
Kouider collapsed in tears as the jury foreman delivered the verdicts, while Medouni hung his head. The pair will be sentenced June 26.
The victim’s father, Patrick Lionnet, said in court that his daughter was a “kind, quiet and reserved” young woman who loved children and animals.
Her mother, Catherine Devallone, wept in court and called her daughter’s killers “monsters.”
“These monsters repeatedly beat Sophie,” she said in a statement. “They starved, tortured and broke her. They took away her dignity and finally her life.
“Our Sophie will soon be laid to rest. No god will ever forgive you both for what you have done to our daughter.”
Aisling Hosein of the Crown Prosecution Service said “only Kouider and Medouni know exactly how they killed Sophie but the prosecution was able to prove that she died as a result of purposeful and sustained violence, and not by accident.”
Detective Inspector Domenica Catino, who led the investigation, called it an “extremely harrowing and tragic case.”
“I believe that we are Sophie’s voice telling of the torment, abuse and torture she suffered, and today she has finally been heard,” Catino said.
NEW YORK (AP) — Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein is expected to surrender to authorities Friday to face charges involving at least one of the women who have accused him of sexual assault, two law enforcement officials told The Associated Press.
It would be the first criminal case against Weinstein to come out of the barrage of sexual abuse allegations from scores of women that destroyed his career and set off a national reckoning that brought down other powerful men in what has become known as the #MeToo movement.
The two officials said the criminal case involves allegations by then-aspiring actress Lucia Evans, who told a magazine that Weinstein forced her to perform oral sex. She was among the first women to speak out about the 66-year-old film producer. It was unclear whether the case might involve other women who accused Weinstein of attacks.
The officials spoke Thursday to the AP on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to discuss the investigation.
A grand jury has been hearing evidence in the case for weeks, and the precise charges against Weinstein weren’t immediately known. Weinstein’s attorney, Benjamin Brafman, declined to comment, though Weinstein has said repeatedly through his lawyers that he did not have nonconsensual sex with anyone.
Evans told The New Yorker in a story published in October that Weinstein forced her to perform oral sex during a daytime meeting at his New York office in 2004, the summer before her senior year at Middlebury College.
“I said, over and over, ‘I don’t want to do this, stop, don’t,’ ” she told the magazine. “I tried to get away, but maybe I didn’t try hard enough. I didn’t want to kick him or fight him.”
Evans, who is now a marketing consultant, didn’t report the incident to police at the time, telling The New Yorker’s Ronan Farrow that she blamed herself for not fighting back.
“It was always my fault for not stopping him,” she said.
Brafman said in court paperwork filed this month in a bankruptcy proceeding that the allegations that Weinstein forced himself on women were “entirely without merit.”
“I am trying my very best to persuade both the federal and state prosecutors that he should not be arrested and or indicted, because he did not knowingly violate the law,” Brafman wrote.
Brafman said in the same court filing that he had been informed that Weinstein was a “principal target” of an investigation being conducted by the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan.
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance has come under enormous public pressure to bring a criminal case. Some women’s groups, including the Hollywood activist group Time’s Up, accused the Democrat of being too deferential to Weinstein and too dismissive of his accusers.
In March, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo took the extraordinary step of ordering the state’s attorney general to investigate whether Vance acted properly in 2015 when he decided not to prosecute Weinstein over a previous allegation of unwanted groping, made by an Italian model.
Vance had insisted any decision would be based on the strength of the evidence, not on political considerations. His office declined comment Thursday.
More than 75 women have accused Weinstein of wrongdoing. Several actresses and models accused him of criminal sexual assaults, including film actress Rose McGowan, who said Weinstein raped her in 1997 in Utah, “Sopranos” actress Annabella Sciorra, who said he raped her in her New York apartment in 1992, and the Norwegian actress Natassia Malthe, who said he attacked her in a London hotel room in 2008. Another aspiring actress, Mimi Haleyi, said Weinstein forcibly performed oral sex on her in his New York apartment in 2006.
New York City police detectives said in early November that they were investigating allegations by another accuser, “Boardwalk Empire” actress Paz de la Huerta, who told police in October that Weinstein raped her twice in 2010.
McGowan said she was “in shock” at the news that Weinstein would face charges.
“I still have very guarded hopes. The justice system has been something very elusive. And I hope in this case it works. Because it’s all true. None of this was consensual.” she said. “I hope this gives hope to victims and survivors everywhere, that we are one step closer to justice. Because one win is a win for all of us. It shows that it can be done.”
The statute of limitations for rape in New York was eliminated in 2006, but not for attacks that happened prior to 2001.
Several filed a federal lawsuit claiming his efforts to prey on women and cover up complaints amounted to a criminal enterprise.
Authorities in California and London are also investigating assault allegations. Britain has no statute of limits on rape cases; some of the allegations under investigation there go back to the 1980s.
Harvey and his brother Bob Weinstein started his now-bankrupt company after leaving Miramax, the company they founded in 1979 and which became a powerhouse in ’90s indie film with hits like “Pulp Fiction,” and “Shakespeare in Love.” The Weinstein Co. found success with Oscar winners “The Artist” and “The King’s Speech.”
Even in a Hollywood where some film producers have long enjoyed outsized power, Weinstein stood out as someone who could make or destroy careers — a factor that kept many of his accusers, and people aware of his problematic conduct with women, from speaking out.
The public allegations against Weinstein helped prompt a broad public reckoning about sexual misconduct.
Major figures in media and politics have lost their jobs or had their reputations tarnished by allegations that they subjected women to unwanted advances or outright assaults. They include TV hosts Matt Lauer and Charlie Rose, comedian Louis C.K, Democratic Sen. Al Franken, chef Mario Batali, casino magnate Steve Wynn and, most recently, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.
BUNNIK, Netherlands (AP) — The missile used to shoot down a Malaysia Airlines passenger jet over eastern Ukraine in 2014, killing all 298 aboard, belonged to a Russia-based military unit, an international team of investigators said Thursday after painstakingly studying video and photos of a military convoy.
The criminal investigation team “has concluded that the Buk Telar with which Flight MH17 was shot down is from the 53rd anti-aircraft missile brigade from Kursk in the Russian Federation,” said Wilbert Paulissen, head of the Netherlands’ National Crime Squad, referring to the missile system used.
It was the clearest link yet published by the investigators to the involvement of Russian military in the deadly surface-to-air missile strike on the Boeing 777, and it echoed findings published in 2016 by the Bellingcat investigative group.
Russia has always denied involvement in the downing of Flight 17, which was en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, when it was blown out of the sky at 33,000 feet (about 10,000 meters) over war-ravaged eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014.
Bodies, debris and burning wreckage were strewn over a field of sunflowers near the rebel-held village of Hrabove in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine, about 40 kilometers (25 miles) from the Russian border, where fighting had been raging for months.
On Thursday, Russia criticized the Joint Investigation Team, or JIT, for relying on claims by Bellingcat.
“If the international investigative team is indeed interested in tracking down the real culprits of the MH17 catastrophe, its members would better rely on facts and witness testimony and not fakes produced by Bellingcat and Ukraine’s Security Service,” the Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement.
The Russian Foreign Ministry also criticized the investigators for allegedly ignoring evidence provided by Russia, including radar surveillance of the airspace at the time of the flight.
“In these circumstances, we have legitimate questions about the true underlying cause of the decision of the JIT to disclose the preliminary conclusion,” the Foreign Ministry statement said.
Prosecutors said they have presented their findings to Moscow and are seeking answers, but so far have not received a response. The international team running the criminal investigation appealed for help from witnesses who can testify about the involvement of the Russian military’s 53rd anti-aircraft missile brigade.
Prosecutor Fred Westerbeke said the new conclusion raised new questions, “such as the question about how actively involved the brigade itself was in bringing down Flight MH17.”
Westerbeke said the JIT is not yet ready to identify suspects, but added: “I can say that we are now entering the … last phase of the investigation.”
Prosecutors said in 2016 that the plane was shot down by a Buk 9M38 missile fired from territory controlled by Russia-backed rebels, using a mobile launcher trucked in from Russia and hastily returned there.
Thursday’s presentation went a step further by identifying the exact unit allegedly involved in the transport. It showed a compilation of video and photos from social media tracing the missile brigade convoy’s journey in the weeks before the incident.
“All findings from this forensic investigation confirm the earlier conclusion of the JIT that Flight MH17 was shot down by 9M38 series missile,” said Jennifer Hurst of the Australian Federal Police.
Investigators displayed parts of the engine casing and exhaust system of a Buk 9M38 series missile recovered from eastern Ukraine and showed photos of its serial number, which they said demonstrated it was made in Moscow.
However, investigators said they could not yet say with certainty that it was the exact missile used to down MH17. They appealed for witnesses to come forward with more information about the missile and the role of the Russian military in transporting it.
In a statement, Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said: “That a sophisticated weapon belonging to the Russian Army was dispatched and used to shoot down a civilian aircraft should be of grave international concern. We are discussing these findings with our partners and considering our options.”
Ultimately, any suspects identified and charged will be prosecuted in Dutch courts — if they can be arrested and brought to trial.
Of the 298 people killed, 196 were Dutch, 42 were Malaysian and 27 were Australian.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said in a Facebook post that he would “do everything possible to ensure that the actions of the Russian Federation as a state which supports terrorism get an appropriate assessment” in the International Court of Justice.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte cut short a visit to India so he could chair a Cabinet meeting to discuss the findings.
Piet Ploeg, a member of a foundation for victims’ relatives, said the Dutch government should not consider legal steps against Russia.
Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders urged all countries to cooperate fully with the investigation “so that those responsible can be brought to justice.”
Committee postpones cost schedule for new rec center; Councilor Roebuck wants all citizens to be considered when determining fees
he city of Roswell’s General Services Committee voted to table the recreation fee schedule as presented.
Elizabeth Gilbert, director of administrative services, presented the resolution pertaining to the recreation division fee schedule and offered to go through each item if the council willed it during the committee meeting on Wednesday afternoon.
City Councilor Savino Sanchez, committee chair, asked Gilbert who has seen the fee schedule as is. Gilbert said the Parks and Recreation staff has been working on it for some time and this was the first time the council has seen it. Sanchez said he wanted the Parks and Rec Commission to see the proposed resolution for the recreation division fee schedule and wanted input from the Parks and Rec staff.
Councilor Jacob Roebuck said despite “spending a few extra hours” looking over the fee schedule, he made the motion to table the resolution. Councilor Juan Oropesa seconded the motion and the measure carried unanimously 4 to 0.
Before the vote, Gilbert reminded the council they covered the cost recovery guideline at last month’s meeting and they would be voting on the next phase as a resolution regarding the fee schedule. She said the biggest change involved a daily entry fee and memberships that would apply to the Roswell Adult & Recreation Center and the Roswell Recreation & Aquatic Center. She clarified that the specific fees for the pool were not included in the councilors’ packets because the city still intends to work with United Pools of Atlanta, Georgia, to finalize the costs.
“In some cases, we are actually — we’re recommending removing some fees because we just don’t really need them anymore,” Gilbert said. “They don’t serve a purpose. Some we are recommending shifting how it’s handled, like whether it be kind of the unit that it’s charged within, which will kind of — it looks like more but it’s actually effectively less if you are charging a per-event fee versus a per-hour fee type thing.”
Gilbert said the staff has worked for months on the rates and recommends them as presented based on their reviews. For informational purposes, Gilbert added that the last fee schedule was approved in 2015 and said they wished the newly proposed fee schedule would have gone through the Parks and Rec commission. She said the commission did not have a meeting opportunity since their meeting schedule has changed to quarterly and that the next commission meeting would be in July.
Councilor Oropesa asked if the staff could call a meeting if there is a need — to which Gilbert said was possible. Based on the councilor’s vote, Gilbert said she would reach out to the commission to possibly schedule a meeting in June. Roebuck asked if a tabling motion would hinder anything, to which Gilbert replied that waiting until the commission meets does not hinder the new facility because other functions have to occur before, such as the implementing of a point of sales and membership management system.
In regards to the opening of the facility, Gilbert said the goal is to have the basketball program running at the end of this year and for the aquatic side to be fully constructed by May 2019.
For possible amendments to the resolution, Councilor Roebuck said he went through the fee schedule looking for anything radically different and determining the validity of each cost. He also said to Gilbert in a previous conversation that, when the city’s data system improves, he would like to see an evaluation, which could lead to potentially lowering the costs when the cost recovery can be determined.
“In this whole process that we have been talking about, how do we set fees and stuff like that? I think that we should never forget that Roswell is essentially a low-income community,” Roebuck said. “And we want to make sure that every citizen has the ability to this, because a $10 fee for someone who makes $80,000 a year is different than somebody — a family that makes $30,000 a year.
“Ultimately, our job is not to run a resort and make money. Our job is to provide — get the most people involved with our facility.”
City/RISD reporter Alison Penn can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or at email@example.com.
Thirteen graduates create a night of firsts; Early College High School celebrates its first graduating class
“Tonight these graduates, unlike any other graduates in the past, have had the opportunity to include both (high school) and post-secondary classes throughout their entire high school career,” Cutrell said. “This gives our students an educational and economic advantage, so, graduates, take advantage of this head start and, remember, you are the beginning of a new generation of high school graduates.”
Of the 13 graduates receiving high school diplomas, nine also earned their associate’s degrees through ENMU-Roswell. In addition, 11 certificates of employability and certificates of occupational training were awarded.
As Cutrell explained to family and friends in the audience, the graduates have accumulated between 900 and 1,000 college credit hours and have saved $85,000 to $95,000 in college tuition, as well as more than $65,000 in college textbooks costs. They also have received $300,000 in scholarships, with nine graduates indicating they now intend to enroll in college for their four-year degrees.
In 2016 and 2017, two other Early College High School students graduated from the school with diplomas and associate’s, having finished degree requirements early, but the students celebrating this week represent the first cohort of students who enrolled at the school’s inception in 2014.
“Our school started with 60-ish guinea pigs,” said valedictorian Yareli Reyes, “and only 13 of us survived the tormenting experiment of Early College. … It was a bit discouraging to watch more than 70 percent of our class leave over these years, but we managed to overlook these obstacles and persevere.”
Reyes also recalled a quotation she learned while taking a college course, Entrepreneurship 101.
“‘You will have people who will not understand,’” she quoted. “‘They might not be negative but they might not be very encouraging either. So it is really important for you to continue to move forward in the face of adversity and in the face of time commitment and in the face of not really understanding but having that feeling and that passion within.’ I think this quote was so memorable to me because joining Early College High School was probably not the most popular thing to do, but it was one of the most rewarding in my life.”
Salutatorian Brooke Elliott said the high school taught her to grow up fast and manage her time wisely.
“We did not give up and we knew that in the end, all the challenging work would be worth it,” she said. “I am so proud of us for not giving up and for pushing ourselves to be the best. We may have started out big and ended up small, but we can say we made it.”
Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 310, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
[The following article has been updated concerning the purchase date and sales price of lots on Carver Street.]
A couple of contested city zoning matters have been resolved.
One matter led city of Roswell officials to contact area sellers of portable buildings to inform them about required permits and codes, noting that a “risk to health and safety” has been encountered in some instances. The other issue allows a local developer to move forward with his plans, which initially met with some neighbor objections.
Bill Dennis, a local land developer, said he is pleased with the Roswell City Council’s vote May 10 to approve a plat to subdivide what is now a vacant lot in south Roswell but was once a pool. Now up to five residences can be built on the corner lot in the 2400 block of Carver Street.
“I am just glad I got it approved and can move ahead with it,” Dennis said. “I put a lot of investment into it.”
After Dennis purchased the land in March, he tore down the unused and dilapidated Mesa Park neighborhood pool, removed debris and filled in the cavity where the pool had been with the intention of selling lots to homebuilders.
When the matter was first brought to the public on April 24 at the City of Roswell Planning and Zoning Commission meeting, city staff recommended the commission’s approval. But five people spoke in opposition to the plat, which divided the parcel into five lots. They said the houses would be too small and would increase traffic in the neighborhood. Some of those also did express their appreciation that the pool was cleaned up.
City Engineer Louis Najar also told commissioners that 23 percent of the property owners in the area had notified the city of opposition to the plat.
But, in spite of the meeting comments and a petition with 16 signatures opposing the plat sent to the city, no one spoke against the developer’s plan at the city council meeting.
City Planning and Zoning Manager Bill Morris said that the councilors voted unanimously to approve the plat “based on compatibility with the adjacent neighborhood and being consistent with infill policies in the City Comprehensive Master Plan.”
Dennis, who also developed some lots in the Enchanted Hills West subdivision, said that he will begin selling the lots on Carver Street to prospective home builders for a starting price of about $20,000. He noted that the lots provide a more affordable option to homebuilders than the Enchanted Hills lots, which go for about $30,000 to $50,000 each, which is why he went forward with the southside project.
In a separate matter, the Planning and Zoning Commission voted Tuesday night to approve a homeowner’s request for variances for a portable structure used as a garage that was erected without a building permit, as well as for the driveway built to the garage. Both the structure and the driveway on Cedar Drive in south Roswell were “red-tagged” by city staff for being in violation of several city codes, according to city Planning and Zoning staff.
Morris and some commissioners said that they considered the ones most responsible for the code violations to be the contractors who erected the structures and the sellers of the portables.
The matter had been tabled at a March 27 meeting to give the homeowner an opportunity to address safety concerns, including tensioning of electrical wires that city staff said were too close to the portable and demolishing an older structure between the house and the new portable to meet a city fire safety requirement to have at least 10 feet between structures.
Because Garcia had complied with commissioners’ requests, city staff recommended approving his requests for variances.
Morris also said that, since Garcia’s notification to the city that he had done as asked, “We have made some noise with the storage people.”
He explained the the city had sent out certified letters to area companies that sell portable structures to inform them of city ordinances and requirements and asking that they share the letter with those who signed contracts to purchase the structures.
“If it happens again, we can get a lot more snarky,” he said.
“I agree with Bill,” said City Engineer Louis Najar. “Most of the problems reside with the industry. The industry failed to comply with the rules and regulation of the city and did not serve their client well.”
According to the letter dated May 15, companies were informed that “All portable buildings and structures are required to have a permit before being installed on property within the city boundary. This includes storage sheds, carports, garages, gazebos and any other portable structure. All permit applications must be submitted with a site plan.”
The letter also provided more detailed information about permit requirements and stated that both the sellers of the structures and the contractors installing them must have current city business licenses to do business within city limits.
Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 310, or at email@example.com.
A Roswell woman has been arrested on a federal complaint charging her with the May 11 robbery of a bank in Dexter.
Annette Christina Chavez, 48, was taken into federal custody Wednesday at the Lincoln County Detention Center, where she was being held on a state charge.
The bank robbery investigation was conducted by the Dexter Police Department, Chaves County Sheriff’s Office, New Mexico State Police and the Federal Bureau of Investigations.
Chavez is accused of robbing the Valley Bank of Commerce at 201 Old Dexter Highway in Dexter.
No further information will be released until after Chavez’s initial appearance in U.S. District Court, which has yet to be scheduled.
The public is reminded that all defendants are considered innocent unless convicted in a court of law.
Police say a 79-year-old male driver and his 81-year-old female passenger were killed around 9:30 a.m. Tuesday in a crash on U.S. 82 at mile marker 70.
The preliminary investigation indicates a GMC pickup traveling westbound on U.S. 82 entered the eastbound lanes of traffic and struck head-on a Chevrolet SUV traveling eastbound, according to a New Mexico State Police crash report.
The driver of the Chevrolet SUV, David Wesley Monson, was ejected during the collision and sustained fatal injuries. The passenger of the Chevrolet, Samme Pauline Monson, also sustained fatal injuries in the crash.
Both were pronounced deceased on scene. The driver of the GMC pickup was transported to Artesia General Hospital for injuries.
This incident remains under investigation with no further information available.
The Roswell Invaders being a new era tonight.
After serving as an assistant coach for the past couple of seasons Relly Mercurio takes his turn as manager as the White Sands Pupfish come to Joe Bauman Stadium for the season opener.
The new boss admits that a lot of people in the Roswell community don’t know the Pecos League team exists and one of his priorities this year is general awareness.
“We’re doing a lot more community involvement,” Mercurio said. “We went to Monterrey Elementary and some of the guys played a kickball game against some of the fifth graders (Wednesday).”
Mercurio said the job promotion has more responsibility than being an assistant. However, he sees an upside.
“I get to build my own team this year,” Mercurio said. “We have five guys returning from last year and a couple of guys that played from some other teams.”
Shortstop Louie Martini is one of the returners and Mercurio feels he has been popular with Invader fans over the years.
One of the new players Mercurio has praise for is outfielder Brian Portelli. The Michigan native hit the long ball recently in a couple of spring training games.
“He can really hit,” Mercurio said. “He’ll be our clean up hitter.”
Portelli has prior baseball experience with the Southern Illinois Miners.
Mercurio said the Invaders have only been in Roswell for a week.
“This is the first time ever we hosted spring training,” Mercurio said. “Santa Fe’s team was here as well. They were practicing in the morning and we did our spring training with them last Thursday. We went to Alamogordo Saturday night and played White Sands. But, usually, there are two teams in the same city for spring training. Last year we were in Alamogordo for spring training and played them three times in spring training games.”
This is the eighth year for the independent league and during its history, the Invaders have won three championships. Mercurio feels the team has fallen short in the last few years.
“We got swept in the best-of-three championship series last year,” Mercurio said. “We won the Mountain Division and fell short of our goal and finished second the last two years of the regular season.”
This season the Pecos League is divided into three divisions as the league stretches from Kansas to California.
“Our division is Ruidoso, White Sands, and Tucson,” Mercurio said. “Ruidoso is kind of the traveling team of the league. I think they only have three home games. It’s a tough life for them, I’ve been in a traveling team in the league and it’s tough. If I had to guess we’ll probably be battling Tucson for the division title this year.”
Mercurio has spent a good chunk of his life in the independent leagues as a player and coach.
“I made it to the United League, which was in Texas,” Mercurio said. “But, it doesn’t exist anymore. It was another independent league, it was higher than the Pecos League.”
Mercurio’s last year as a player was 2014, and then he turned his attention to managing.
“The opportunity presented itself to take the manager job here,” Mercurio said. “It’s kind of one of those places, you kind of have to know what’s going on to be successful.”
Besides being the manager, Mercurio’s role could also be viewed as a teacher and mentor.
“My goal is to get every one of those guys in the clubhouse moved up,” Mercurio said. “It’s more about them than it is about me. I’m trying to provide the best place to play at for them and hopefully, they can take at least one thing away from playing for me, that they can use not even in baseball, but life in general.”
The Invaders and the Pecos League don’t have any major league affiliations and Mercurio said life in the independent leagues can be tough.
“Little pay and live with a host family,” Mercurio said are a couple of things that people have to deal with. “Travel is usually on your own unless you’re in one of the higher up independent leagues. Guys do carpool and drive their own cars to away games. It’s a tough life but the guys that are here love the game.”
Mercurio is thankful that the Invaders don’t have to travel far this season.
“The only time we would play the California teams is if we were in a championship series,” Mercurio said. “We actually have a really good home schedule this year with 38 home games out of 64. We only have four series where we’re staying in hotels.”
The Invaders host the Pupfish at 7 p.m., today at Joe Bauman Stadium.
Making first-team All-District for Roswell was Xavier Gonzales as an outfielder. He was not pictured.
Second Team for Roswell: Drew Graham, pitcher, Rhett Stokes, shortstop.
Honorable Mention: Tarren and Taymen Burrola, Hunter Palma and Xavier Lomeli.
Goddard second-team performers are Mason Sonive, outfielder, Eli Fairbanks, first baseman, and pitcher.
Honorable Mention: Logan Mathison.