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Superintendent accuses top education official of retaliation

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SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — The superintendent for Santa Fe schools is speaking out against a top official from the state education department who singled out her school district in a report.

An annual report by the Public Education Department released last week shows that more than half of Santa Fe schools received a D or F grade.

Currently, the Santa Fe school district is the “most concerning” among the state’s largest school districts, said Christopher Ruszkowski, the Secretary-designate for the department.

When districts fare poorly, “you have to look at the superintendent,” Ruszkowski said.

“I have never seen a secretary single out a school district in this manner,” said Santa Fe Public Schools Superintendent Veronica Garcia.

She believes Ruszkowski’s comments are a form of retaliation for her support of a lawsuit against the state education department that she was a lead witness for. She has also spoken out against the Public Education Department’s decision to appeal the ruling which said New Mexico is violating the constitutional rights of “at-risk” students.

She disagrees with the notion that the grade shows her district is in crisis.

When asked for comment on the accusations, Ruszkowski said in a statement that the Santa Fe school district should ask itself why the similarly-sized Gadsden Independent School District, which is has a higher percentage of students from low-income backgrounds, is earning better grades.

The Santa Fe school district’s Board President Steven Carrillo also found issues with Ruszkowski’s comments.

“To attack Dr. Garcia in that way, given the stature of his office, I think was wholly inappropriate,” he said.

He thinks school grades should emphasize proficiency scores more.

School grades primarily measure student growth, not solely proficiency, the state education department said in a statement Monday.

“Santa Fe is really struggling at growing all children, even while making some important gains in students reading and doing math on grade-level,” it said.

Sheriff’s Office: Jail officer accused of raping officer

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Bernalillo County authorities says a male Metropolitan Detention Center officer is accused of raping a female jail inmate.

The Sheriff’s Office says Officer Johnny Reveles (ray-VAY’-lace) was arrested on suspicion of criminal sexual penetration after the inmate said during a court appearance that Reveles raped her Monday while in the shower.

The office says the arrest was based on evidence from statements made by the victim and from evidence obtained from an interview with Reveles.

Online court records don’t list an attorney for Reveles who could comment on the allegations.

Authorities: Iowa student killed by Mexican in US illegally

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This undated photo provided by the Iowa Department of Public Safety shows Cristhian Bahena Rivera. Authorities said on Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2018, that they have charged a man living in the U.S. illegally with murder in the death of Iowa college student, Mollie Tibbetts, who disappeared a month ago while jogging in a rural area. Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation Special Agent Rick Rahn said that Rivera, 24, was charged with murder in the death of Tibbetts. (Iowa Department of Public Safety via AP)

MONTEZUMA, Iowa (AP) — A man from Mexico living in the U.S. illegally has confessed to kidnapping college student Mollie Tibbetts while she was running in her small Iowa hometown, killing her and dumping her body in a cornfield, authorities said Tuesday.

Cristhian Bahena Rivera, 24, was arrested and charged with first-degree murder in the death of Tibbetts, whose July 18 disappearance set off a massive search involving state and federal authorities.

Rivera led investigators early Tuesday to a body believed to be Tibbetts in a cornfield about 12 miles (19 kilometers) southeast of Brooklyn, Iowa, where Tibbetts was last seen running, Division of Criminal Investigation special agent Rick Rahn said.

“I can’t speak about the motive. I can just tell you that it seemed that he followed her, seemed to be drawn to her on that particular day, for whatever reason he chose to abduct her,” Rahn told reporters at a news conference outside the sheriff’s office in Montezuma, where Rivera was being jailed.

The news that the highly publicized and gruesome crime was allegedly committed by a person in the country illegally drew immediate outrage. Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, a Republican, said: “As Iowans, we are heartbroken, and we are angry.”

“We are angry that a broken immigration system allowed a predator like this to live in our community, and we will do all we can to bring justice to Mollie’s killer,” she said in a statement.

The arrest is likely to spark calls for a further crackdown on illegal immigration, which President Donald Trump has made a core policy of his administration.

He often has claimed widespread crime by people living in the country illegally, citing among other things the indictments of 11 suspected MS-13 gang members from El Salvador charged in connection with the slayings of two Virginia teens. Trump also has held events at the White House with members of “angel families,” whose relatives were killed by immigrants.

Although Trump claims legal U.S. residents are less likely to commit crime, several studies from social scientists and the libertarian think tank Cato Institute find that isn’t accurate and states with a higher share of people living in the country illegally have lower violent crime rates.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said that it lodged a federal immigration detainer for Rivera after he was arrested on the murder charge. That move means the agency has probable cause to believe he is subject to deportation.

Investigators said they believed Rivera had lived in the area from four to seven years. Rahn declined comment on his employment history, but described Rivera as someone who lived in a rural area and kept to himself. A search of Iowa court records revealed no prior criminal history, and it’s unclear whether he had ever been subject to prior deportation proceedings.

Investigators said they zeroed in on Rivera after obtaining footage from surveillance cameras in Brooklyn. The footage showed a Chevy Malibu connected to Rivera that was driving back and forth as Tibbetts was running in the area, Rahn said.

An affidavit attached to the criminal complaint against Rivera alleged that he admitted to investigators he got out of his car and started running alongside Tibbetts.

Tibbetts grabbed her phone and said she was going to call the police. The affidavit says Rivera panicked and then said he blacked out. Rivera next remembers seeing her earphones on his lap, and taking her bloody body out of the trunk of his car, it said.

“The defendant further described during the interview that he dragged Tibbetts on foot from his vehicle to a secluded location in a cornfield,” the affidavit said.

Investigators said they had earlier searched the area for Tibbetts but didn’t find her, noting the body was covered by corn stalks when recovered early Tuesday.

Rahn said that Rivera was cooperating with investigators and speaking with the help of a translator. He said an autopsy would be performed on the body Wednesday by the state medical examiner’s office, which would assist investigators in understanding whether Tibbetts had been assaulted or tried to fight him off.

A conviction on first-degree murder carries a mandatory sentence of life in prison without parole in Iowa, which doesn’t have the death penalty.

Tibbetts’ disappearance set off a massive search involving dozens of officers from the FBI, as well as state and local agencies. They focused much of their efforts in and around Brooklyn, searching farm fields, ponds and homes. Investigators asked anyone who was around five locations, including a car wash, a truck stop and a farm south of town, to report if they saw anything suspicious on July 18.

Last week, Vice President Mike Pence met privately with the Tibbetts family during a visit to Iowa and told them that “you’re on the hearts of every American.”

At Brooklyn City Hall, city clerk Sheri Sharer said Tuesday was a sad day for the town.

“It never crossed our mind that she wouldn’t come home safe,” she said.

The University of Iowa mourned the loss of Tibbetts, a psychology major who would have started her junior year this week.

“We are deeply saddened that we’ve lost a member of the University of Iowa community,” said university official Melissa Shivers, who urged students to seek counseling and other support services as needed.

Father-in-law glares at Colorado man accused of killing 3

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Frank Rzucek the father of Shanann Watts, listens during Christopher Watts' arraignment hearing at the Weld County Courthouse on Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2018 in Greeley, Colo. Watts is charged with first-degree murder in the deaths of his wife, Shanann, and 4-year-old Bella and 3-year-old Celeste. (RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post via AP, Pool)

GREELEY, Colo. (AP) — Frank Rzucek Sr. leaned forward in a Colorado courtroom, weeping with his face in his hands as his son-in-law, just feet away, was told Tuesday he could face the death penalty if convicted of killing Rzucek’s daughter and two granddaughters.

Collecting himself, Rzucek glared as that son-in-law, Christopher Watts, was escorted back to jail.

The brief hearing came a day after court documents revealed that Watts told police that it was Rzucek’s daughter, Shanann Watts, who strangled the kids after he told her he wanted a separation.

Watts told police that he flew into a rage and strangled his wife, took the three bodies to a remote oil site, buried Shanann in a shallow grave and dumped the girls’ bodies inside nearby oil tanks.

Rzucek’s silent angst dominated Tuesday’s routine court hearing in which Christopher Watts, wearing an orange jail suit and cuffed at the wrists and ankle, stoically answered, “Yes sir,” as District Judge Marcelo Kopcow told him he could face life in prison or the death penalty if convicted of killing Shanann, 34, and their daughters Celeste, 3, and Bella, 4.

Shanann’s brother, Frank Rzucek Jr., rubbed his father’s shoulders and glared unflinchingly at Watts. A deputy stood between the men and the suspect.

Watts didn’t enter pleas to three first-degree murder charges, two counts of killing a child under 12, one count of unlawful termination of a pregnancy and three counts of tampering with a deceased human body. A status conference was set for Nov. 19.

GPS coordinates provided by the Frederick Police Department suggest the bodies were found at an oil work site on or near a sprawling ranch close to the hamlet of Roggen, a high plains town about 40 miles (65 kilometers) east of the family home in Frederick.

The oil site was not clearly visible Tuesday from the borders of the ranch, set in grazing land with sagebrush, yellow wildflowers and the occasional cottonwood tree. Gates to the property were closed, and the ranch owner did not immediately respond to a telephone message.

Watts worked as an operator for Anadarko Petroleum, a major Colorado oil and gas producer. He was fired the day of his arrest on Aug. 15.

Police first visited the Watts home on Aug. 13, after a friend asked officers to check on Shanann. Police searched the house and found the woman’s cellphone stuffed inside a couch. Her purse was in the kitchen and a suitcase was at the bottom of the stairs.

A detective spoke to Watts and learned about his plan to leave his wife. Watts told officers the conversation with Shanann was civil at first but that later “they were both upset and crying” and she planned to go to a friend’s house, court papers said.

When she and the girls did not return home Aug. 14, investigators ramped up their efforts with help from the FBI and Colorado Bureau of Investigation. Christopher Watts was interviewed by several local television stations, saying he missed his family.

In court papers, investigators said they learned that Watts was “actively involved in an affair with a co-worker,” something he first denied.

Separate documents filed by Watts’ defense attorney last week said the girls’ bodies were submerged in crude oil for four days before police found them late Thursday.

Shanann’s social media accounts are filled with photos and videos of the girls playing with their father and the couple smiling. They married in North Carolina nearly six years ago and moved to Colorado soon afterward.

The judge also said Tuesday the unlawful termination of pregnancy charge carries penalties between 16 years to 48 years in prison.

Prosecutors in Colorado have 60 days after someone is arraigned to say if they will seek the death penalty. No date has been set for Watts’ arraignment and District Attorney Michael Rourke said Monday that it was too early to discuss if he will pursue the death penalty.

Shanann Watts had told family and friends she was expecting a boy. Colorado is one of 12 states without a law broadly allowing for homicide charges in the violent death of fetuses, but state lawmakers in 2013 made the unlawful termination of pregnancy a felony offense.

Several efforts to change state law to allow murder charges in the death of a fetus have stalled, amid disagreement about how to pass such a law without infringing on abortion rights.

As the district attorney of Boulder County, Stan Garnett remembers receiving dozens of calls and letters as his office prosecuted a woman accused of cutting open a pregnant woman’s belly and removing her unborn daughter. Garnett said a murder charge is impossible in Colorado unless prosecutors can show a fetus lived outside of its mother before death.

A case involving the death of a fetus is inevitably controversial, but for prosecutors “all that matters is what the law is and what the evidence is,” Garnett said.

Ex-Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort guilty of 8 charges

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This courtroom sketch shows Paul Manafort listening to U.S. District court Judge T.S. Ellis III at federal court in Alexandria, Va., Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2018. Manafort, the longtime political operative who for months led Donald Trump's winning presidential campaign, was found guilty of eight financial crimes in the first trial victory of the special counsel investigation into the president's associates. A judge declared a mistrial on 10 other counts the jury could not agree on. (Dana Verkouteren via AP)

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (AP) — Paul Manafort, the longtime political operative who for months led Donald Trump’s successful presidential campaign, was found guilty of eight financial crimes Tuesday in the first trial victory of the special counsel investigation into the president’s associates.

A judge declared a mistrial on 10 other counts the jury could not agree on.

The verdict was part of a stunning one-two punch of bad news for the White House, coming as the president’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, was pleading guilty in New York to campaign finance charges arising from hush money payments made to two women who say they had sexual relationships with Trump.

The jury returned the decision after deliberating four days on tax and bank fraud charges against Manafort, who led Trump’s election effort during a crucial stretch of 2016, including as he clinched the Republican nomination and during the party’s convention.

Manafort, who appeared jovial earlier in the day amid signs the jury was struggling in its deliberations, focused intently on the jury as the clerk read off the charges. He stared down blankly at the defense table, then looked up, expressionless, as the judge finished thanking the jury.

“Mr. Manafort is disappointed of not getting acquittals all the way through or a complete hung jury on all counts,” said defense lawyer Kevin Downing. He said Manafort was evaluating all his options.

The jury found Manafort guilty of five counts of filing false tax returns on tens of millions of dollars in Ukrainian political consulting income. He was also convicted of failing to report foreign bank accounts in 2012 and of two bank fraud charges that accused him of lying to obtain millions of dollars in loans after his consulting income dried up.

The jury couldn’t reach a verdict on three other foreign bank account charges, and the remaining bank fraud and conspiracy counts.

The outcome, though not the across-the-board guilty verdicts prosecutors sought, almost certainly guarantees years of prison for Manafort. It also appears to vindicate the ability of special counsel Robert Mueller’s team to secure convictions from a jury of average citizens despite months of partisan attacks, including from Trump, on the investigation’s integrity.

The verdict also raised immediate questions of whether the president would seek to pardon Manafort, the lone American charged by Mueller to opt for trial instead of cooperate. The president has not revealed his thinking but spoke sympathetically throughout the trial of his onetime aide, at one point suggesting he had been treated worse than gangster Al Capone.

The president Tuesday called the outcome a “disgrace” and said the case “has nothing to do with Russia collusion.”

The trial did not resolve the central question behind Mueller’s investigation — whether Trump associates coordinated with Russia to influence the election. Still, there were occasional references to Manafort’s work on the campaign, including emails showing him lobbying Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner on behalf of a banker who approved $16 million in loans because he wanted a job in the Trump administration.

Manafort urged Kushner to consider the banker, Stephen Calk, for Secretary of the Army. Though Kushner responded to Manafort’s email by saying, “On it!” Calk ultimately did not get an administration post.

For the most part, jurors heard detailed and sometimes tedious testimony about Manafort’s finances and what prosecutors allege was a years-long tax-evasion and fraud scheme.

Manafort decided not to put on any witnesses or testify himself. His attorneys said he made the decision because he didn’t believe the government had met its burden of proof.

His defense team attempted to make the case about the credibility of longtime Manafort protege Rick Gates, attacking the government’s star witness as a liar, embezzler and instigator of any crimes as they tried to convince jurors that Manafort didn’t willfully violate the law.

Gates spent three days on the stand, telling jurors how he committed crimes alongside Manafort for years. He admitted to doctoring documents, falsifying information and creating fake loans to lower his former boss’ tax bill, and also acknowledged stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars without Manafort’s knowledge by filing fake expense reports.

Beyond the testimony, prosecutors used emails and other documents to try to prove that Manafort concealed from the IRS, in offshore accounts, millions of dollars in Ukrainian political consulting feeds. Overall, they said, he avoided paying more than $16 million in taxes.

Central to the government’s case were depictions of an opulent lifestyle, including a $15,000 ostrich jacket, luxury suits and elaborate real estate that prosecutors say was funded through offshore wire transfers from shell companies in Cyprus and elsewhere.

U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III repeatedly grew impatient with prosecutors as they sought to demonstrate Manafort’s garish tendencies. The clashes between the judge and the prosecutor became a sideshow of sorts during the weeks-long trial, with the judge at one point appearing to acknowledge that he had erroneously scolded them.

After the trial, Ellis complimented lawyers on both sides for “zealous and effective representation.” He also remarked on his surprise at the level of attention the case has received and the criticism he received for his management of the trial.

“We all take brickbats in life,” Ellis said.

The trial in Alexandria, Virginia, is the first of two for Manafort. He faces a trial later this year in the District of Columbia on charges of conspiracy against the United States, conspiracy to launder money, making false statements and acting as an unregistered foreign agent for Ukrainian interests. He is also accused of witness tampering in that case.

Microsoft uncovers more Russian hacking ahead of midterms

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In this Nov. 7, 2017, file photo, a man is silhouetted as he walks in front of Microsoft logo at an event in New Delhi, India. Microsoft says it’s uncovered new Russian hacking attempts targeting U.S. political groups ahead of the midterm elections. The company said Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2018, that a hacking group tied to the Russian government created fake internet domains that appeared to spoof two conservative organizations: the Hudson Institute and the International Republican Institute. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri, File)

Microsoft has uncovered new Russian hacking efforts targeting U.S. political groups ahead of the midterm elections.

The company said Tuesday that a group tied to the Russian government created fake websites that appeared to spoof two American conservative organizations: the Hudson Institute and the International Republican Institute. Three other fake sites were designed to look as if they belonged to the U.S. Senate.

Microsoft didn’t offer any further description of the fake sites, although it has previously outlined in court filings how this hacking group operated a network of fake sites designed to trick victims into installing malicious software.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said that Microsoft’s report reflects a “witch hunt” in the U.S. The ministry said Tuesday that Microsoft’s statement lacked any proof of Russian involvement because “there can’t be any.”

The revelation of new hacking efforts arrives just weeks after a similar Microsoft discovery led Sen. Claire McCaskill, a Missouri Democrat who is running for re-election, to reveal that Russian hackers tried unsuccessfully to infiltrate her Senate computer network.

The hacking mirrors similar Russian attacks ahead of the 2016 election, which U.S. intelligence officials have said were focused on helping to elect Republican Donald Trump to the presidency by hurting his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton.

This time, more than helping one political party over another, “this activity is most fundamentally focused on disrupting democracy,” Brad Smith, Microsoft’s president and chief legal officer, said in an interview this week. The FBI said Tuesday it’s aware of Microsoft’s actions to disrupt the sites but the agency wouldn’t provide details about whether it’s working with the company to combat the hacking group.

Microsoft’s court filing last week said the hackers “registered or used” the fake domains at some point after April 20.

Smith said there is no sign the hackers were successful in persuading anyone to click on the fake websites, which could have exposed a target victim to computer infiltration, hidden surveillance and data theft. Both conservative think tanks said they have tried to be vigilant about “spear-phishing” email attacks because their global pro-democracy work has frequently drawn the ire of authoritarian governments.

“We’re glad that our work is attracting the attention of bad actors,” said Hudson Institute spokesman David Tell. “It means we’re having an effect, presumably.”

The Hudson Institute, which promotes American global leadership on multiple fronts, doesn’t always see eye-to-eye with President Donald Trump, particularly with respect to Russia. In April, the institute published a report entitled “Countering Russian Kleptocracy” that laid out a blueprint for punishing Russian corruption and discouraging it through sanctions, including on Russia’s sovereign debt.

The International Republican Institute, the GOP counterpart to the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, trains foreign political operatives and parties on how to run elections and govern. Its members help political parties organize campaigns and observe election processes with the aim of fixing flaws and improving public confidence in elections.

It is led by a board that includes six Republican senators, and one prominent Russia critic and Senate hopeful, Mitt Romney, who is running for a Utah seat this fall.

The group’s president, Daniel Twining, said in a statement that the apparent hacking is “consistent with the campaign of meddling that the Kremlin has waged against organizations that support democracy and human rights.”

“It is clearly designed to sow confusion, conflict and fear among those who criticize (Vladimir) Putin’s authoritarian regime,” Twining wrote.

But Thomas Rid, a cybersecurity expert at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, said he thought the Microsoft finding as presented were nothing particularly extraordinary.

“This looks like run-of-the-mill espionage to me, something that happens all the time,” he said. Think tanks in rival nations are generally fair game for cyberspies, including for U.S. and other Western intelligence agencies, he said.

Microsoft calls the hacking group Strontium; others call it Fancy Bear or APT28. An indictment from U.S. special counsel Robert Mueller has tied it to Russian’s main intelligence agency, known as the GRU, and to the 2016 email hacking of both the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign.

“We have no doubt in our minds” who is responsible, Smith said.

Microsoft has waged a legal battle with Strontium since suing it in a Virginia federal court in summer 2016. The company obtained court approval last year allowing it to seize certain fake domains created by the group. It has so far used the courts to shut down 84 fake websites created by the group, including the most recent six announced Tuesday.

Microsoft has argued in court that by setting up fake but realistic-looking domains, the hackers were misusing Microsoft trademarks and services to hack into targeted computer networks, install malware and steal sensitive emails and other data.

Smith also announced Tuesday that the company is offering free cybersecurity protection to all U.S. political candidates, campaigns and other political organizations, at least so long as they’re already using Microsoft’s Office 365 productivity software. Facebook and Google have also promoted similar tools to combat campaign interference.

Rockets strike Afghan capital in latest spike of violence

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An MD 530F military helicopter targets a house where suspected attackers are hiding in Kabul, Afghanistan, Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2018. The Taliban fired rockets toward the presidential palace in Kabul Tuesday as President Ashraf Ghani was giving his holiday message for the Muslim celebrations of Eid al-Adha, said police official Jan Agha. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Rockets slammed into the heart of the capital of Kabul on Tuesday as President Ashraf Ghani delivered a speech marking a Muslim holiday, the latest in a series of brazen attacks that highlighted Afghanistan’s deteriorating security.

No injuries were reported from the mortar rounds that hit in the diplomatic quarter; one struck near the presidential palace, another near a NATO compound and the U.S. Embassy, according to police official Jan Agha.

In response, Afghan helicopter gunships bombed the house from which the rockets were believed to have been launched. Hours later, at least two militants were reported killed.

The booms of the mortar rounds echoed during the live broadcast of Ghani’s speech commemorating the Eid al-Adha holiday, and the president interrupted his remarks to say: “If they are thinking the rocket attack will keep Afghans down, they are wrong.”

The attack came amid an unrelenting wave of deadly violence across the country in recent weeks and dealt another blow to Ghani’s efforts to revive peace talks to end the 17-year war. On Sunday, he had offered a holiday cease-fire, saying it would only take effect if the Taliban reciprocated.

An affiliate of the Islamic State group claimed responsibility, saying its fighters had fired the shells that struck the heavily fortified Kabul neighborhood. There was no immediate comment from the Taliban.

The Interior Ministry launched an investigation into the security breach.

Former Interior Minister Noorul Haq Olomi blamed political squabbling inside Ghani’s government for distracting the president’s attention from security matters, allowing the near-daily violence by insurgents to continue.

“The deaths every day of our security forces is a big calamity for our country,” said Olomi, now a defense analyst.

He also blamed neighboring Pakistan, saying that the international community has done too little to force Islamabad to shut down safe havens for terrorist groups inside its territory. The U.S. and Afghanistan also have routinely alleged that Pakistan harbors Taliban insurgents,

Pakistan denies the allegation and says some of the deadliest terrorist attacks on its territory have been plotted by the Islamic State affiliate based in Nangarhar province in eastern Afghanistan.

Afghan security forces, aided by U.S. air support, have repeatedly struck IS redoubts in Nangarhar in recent months with some success, although the group still has been able to carry out attacks. Last week, it claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing that killed 34 high school graduates, most of them Shiites, who were taking university entrance exams in Kabul. The IS affiliate is known as the Islamic State in Khorasan Province, the ancient name of an area that once spanned parts of Iran, Afghanistan and Central Asia.

In Islamabad, new Prime Minister Imran Khan condemned the rocket attack.

“We are with the Afghan people and government to fully defeat this cowardly thinking,” Khan said in an Urdu language statement.

The Kabul neighborhood where the mortar rounds hit is one of the most secure in the capital, where embassies and government buildings are surrounded by concrete blast walls and coils of razor wire. Many streets near the U.S. Embassy are closed off, along with those near sensitive government and military installations.

“It is clear that those that carried out the attack are enemies of Afghanistan, enemies of Islam and enemies of peace,” said Lt. Col. Martin O’Donnell, a spokesman for U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

Police had noticed a suspicious vehicle and followed it to a mud-brick house near the sprawling Eid Gah mosque, where hundreds were praying during the Eid al-Adha holiday, said police spokesman Hashmat Stanekzai. He told The Associated Press that the militants were believed to have fired the rockets from the house.

A helicopter gunship bombed the location, destroying the house and the vehicle.

After the explosions, witnesses reported sporadic shooting could be heard from the area, though it wasn’t clear who was firing. The witnesses spoke on condition of anonymity, fearing for their safety.

O’Donnell said four attackers were killed and five surrendered. But Interior Ministry spokesman Najib Danish said two attackers were killed.

Danish initially said that two Afghan security forces were wounded in a subsequent firefight, but later revised the number to six, including some civilians. The gunbattle also ignited a fire that burned down a nearby market, he said.

The U.N. special representative to Afghanistan, Tadamichi Yamamoto, pleaded for peace on the Muslim holiday.

“To allow all Afghans to commemorate this auspicious celebration, I strongly urge the parties to the conflict to demonstrate good will, to respect this time of joy and tolerance and to refrain from resorting to violence,” he said.

On Monday, the Taliban ambushed a convoy of buses and abducted scores of people, including women and children. Afghan forces rescued nearly 150 of them.

Earlier this month, the insurgents launched a coordinated assault on Ghazni, a strategic provincial capital only 120 kilometers (75 miles) from Kabul. It took Afghan forces, aided by U.S. airstrikes and advisers, more than five days to drive them out in a battle that killed at least 100 security forces and 35 civilians, while about 200 militants were killed.

Both the Taliban and the Islamic State group are fighting to overthrow the U.S.-backed government and impose a strict form of Islamic rule. But they are fiercely divided on leadership, tactics and ideology, and routinely clash with one another.

The U.S. and NATO officially ended their combat mission at the end of 2014 but have repeatedly come to the aid of Afghan forces in recent years to prevent the Taliban from advancing into major cities. The U.S. has long insisted on an “Afghan-led” peace process between the government and the Taliban but recently has indicated it would be open to direct talks with the insurgents.

The Taliban have sent delegations to Uzbekistan and Indonesia in recent weeks. On Tuesday, Russia’s foreign minister Sergey Lavrov said the Taliban have accepted an invitation to attend talks on Afghanistan in Moscow on Sept. 4.

All this has raised the Taliban’s diplomatic profile while carrying out the deadly attacks. The Taliban say they met with a U.S. diplomat in Qatar this month for what the group described as “preliminary” talks, and said it expected further negotiations.

Ward 4 residents raise traffic concerns during forum

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City Manager Joe Neeb answers citizens’ questions during the Ward 4 public forum on Thursday evening in the gym at Valley View Elementary School. Other city staff and councilors were present and also fielded questions and got feedback from residents. (Alison Penn Photo)

Around 14 citizens attended the city of Roswell’s public forum in Ward 4 on Thursday night. Councilors Savino Sanchez, Judy Stubbs, Barry Foster and Jeanine Corn Best were present — along with 10 city staff members.

The agenda listed the following items: Valley View Elementary School’s traffic congestion, critters (specifically squirrels), off-road vehicles, Superfund sites, trash/alleys, abandoned cars and other code enforcement issues, demolitions, sinkholes, trees and the Yucca Recreation Center.

Kurt Greer brought up traffic congestion around Valley View Elementary School, close to his home, during pick-up and drop-off hours. Greer has lived in Roswell for 24 years and said he felt “it was about time” that he was heard by the city. He called traffic congestion “dangerous” and “absolutely insane.” His main concern was a fire truck not being able to access the surrounding neighborhood during emergencies due to illegally parked cars and difficult traffic from 2 to 3 p.m. Greer alleged that the traffic is coming from families who live outside of the district. He suggested a parking lot or garage nearby to combat the problem.

In response to Greer, City Manager Joe Neeb said this is the first time traffic congestion has been brought up at the public forums. To approach the issue, Neeb said the city will consider a study on how the neighborhood is using the space to determine what can be done. After a study is done, Neeb said the public safety departments would collaborate with the city’s engineering departments to come up with the best solution.

Neeb also said the Roswell Independent School District and city are “two peas in a pod” when it comes to their responsibilities to Roswell residents.

On the subject of the Yucca Recreation Center, Neeb said the city should be receiving demolition proposals within the next week and he is looking into “workforce” or affordable housing development on the property. Neeb said the city is having a conversation with an individual who has come forward with another use for the Yucca Center. Neeb said anyone interested in the property must meet the reserve price, provide a benefit to the community, and have a proposed timeline for negotiating with the city.

Tamara Gedde asked if the city would look into the impact on the surrounding schools if workforce housing brought future students to the area. As a RISD teacher on special assignment, Gedde said many of the schools are crowded as is, and she hopes the city would be cognizant about the impact. Neeb confirmed that the city would look into the matter. According to RISD maps, the Yucca Center would be in the Missouri Avenue Elementary School, Mesa Middle School and Roswell High School boundaries.

Gedde said she was concerned about congestion at Valley View Elementary school and came to listen, for suggestions for parents and the school district. She said the city answered citizens positively on the matter and it was helpful for her to hear what the school’s neighbors said. In her opinion, there should be no street parking on both sides to help parents follow the school’s intended layout for pick-up and drop-off and benefit those already complying.

On other traffic issues, Neeb said older neighborhoods are not built for the amount of cars people have now. Bill Morris, the city’s community development director, said the city has been looking into the impact of how many cars can be at homes, and is exploring solutions.

Police Chief Phil Smith shared information on mopeds and other motorized bicycles that citizens may see. Neeb and Smith encourage citizens to report those that are dangerous or loud. Smith said if the vehicle travels at under 30 miles per hour the operator does not have to be licensed. He also said if people are avoiding DWIs they tend to ride low-quality versions of the mopeds.

One citizen asked what can be done about squirrels taking pecans. Mike Mathews, the city’s public safety director, fielded these questions and said he and animal control would look into a solution.

Kaarina Jager, a citizen, asked about the Superfund sites where the soil was contaminated by dry cleaning companies’ chemicals. Morris said the Environmental Protection Agency is still looking into what can be done about the sites and expects more information in the next six months.

Sanitation Director Steve Miko answered questions about the alleys and trash cans. In response to one citizen, Miko said the landfill takes household hazardous wastes and will help citizens find the best way to dispose of materials the landfill may not be able to take.

Citizens asked again about lids for the trash cans. Neeb reminded those in attendance that lids are no longer made for the black containers and the shipment of lids for the tan containers has been delayed. He said the city is expecting the tan lids at the end of October.

Neeb also asked citizens if they would be interested in transitioning to 96-gallon roll-off containers for each household as opposed to the 300-gallon containers serving three to four houses on average. Some of the citizens showed interest in this idea.

For code enforcement issues like weeds and abandoned vehicles, Neeb encouraged that citizens report such issues when they see them. Neeb and Morris also said that the legal committee will be reviewing the proposed rental registration program, minimum property standards, chronic nuisance and property maintenance codes.

City/RISD reporter Alison Penn can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or at reporter04@rdrnews.com.

Roswell Community Little Theatre celebrates 60th season

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From left are presenter Louise Montague, Edie Stevens, Bianca Cheney, Betty Lou Cheney, Hugh Taylor, Reece Blake, Carole Schlatter, Jim Goss, J.P. Cheney, Carol Bignell, Tom Blake, Kevin Roe and Bob Lynd. One of the highlights at the Roswell Community Little Theatre’s 60th anniversary celebration at the Roswell Country Club on Saturday evening was the platinum member awards presentation. The new platinum members of the Roswell Community Little Theatre are seen here. Each member has been active with the theater for a minimum of 25 years. (Christina Stock Photo)

RCLT’s anniversary celebration provides laughter, memories and a look into the future

The four c’s (cut, color, clarity and carat) show the value of a diamond. But in the case of the Roswell Community Little Theatre (RCLT), its value for the community can’t be measured. Looking back on 59 seasons, the thespians were surrounded by their fans who came to celebrate the 60th — diamond — season of RCLT on Saturday evening at the Roswell Country Club.

Edie Stevens is proud to present Jim Goss with his platinum members pin. Fellow platinum members in the background are Reece Blake and Carole Schlatter. (Christina Stock Photo)

Doors opened to the tunes of the Roswell Flute Ensemble and the guests — actors, directors, sponsors, politicians and fans of the theater — were seated at exquisitely decorated tables fitting the event.

Once everybody was seated, RCLT president Connie Hester welcomed everybody and thanked the guests for coming out. After the welcome, Hester introduced some of the longest active members of RCLT.

Reese Blake started out with the theater when it was known as the Roswell Players. “She is probably our oldest living member,” Hester said. “We do have some others who are real close behind her. She was also Miss Roswell of 1947.

“In 1958 we became the Roswell Community Little Theatre,” Hester said. “We have several people who have gone on and are no longer with us. If you come to the theater we have their names up on plaques. We have people who donated money; we have people who directed and donated money; we have people who spend a lot of time with the theater and we appreciate every single person. We are also saddened because tonight Mr. Goss is here, but he was not able to bring his wife Vonnie.”

Hester continued with the introduction of Carole Schlatter — Schlatter was in more than 50 shows at RCLT and is still actively helping the theater — as well as Hugh Taylor, who has been in 60 shows at RCLT.

Ahead of the awards, former RCLT president and director Edie Stevens talked to the Roswell Daily Record about the new awards to be given. “We are pinning a little lapel star on the members whom we call platinum members,” she said. “They have been with us longer than 25 years and they are active. We have some that are with us that long, but they are members who support us by buying tickets, we appreciate that as well, but it’s different. To be active you can build sets, you can do costumes, you can help us in the lobby. There are a lot of things to do.”

Hester asked the guests and RCLT members to find new members, to find new sponsors to be able to continue to put on new shows and plays. She then talked about the theater upgrades that were recently done, including lighting upgrades to reduce energy costs and traveling lights that were put in front of the stage at the event.

“We want to continue working on lights, sound system, our backrooms, kitchen and makeup room. That’s our focus for this season,” Hester said. “We are hoping that all come and watch our shows, support us so we can keep our Little Theatre here.”

According to Hester the new season will have a wide variety of shows. The first show will be “Willy Wonka,” directed by Zack Anderson, on the weekends from Sept. 14 to 30. On the weekends from Nov. 30 to Dec. 9, the production of “A Christmas Carol” follows under the guidance of new director Don (Donald) James; Feb. 8 to 17 weekends will feature the production of “Lovers, Wives and Tennis Players,” directed by Louise Montague and April 26 to May 5, “Southern Fried Funerals,” directed by Alethea Hartwell.

The last show of the season will be directed by Michelle Massey, though the title is not yet known. “It is between two, we have to make sure to get the royalties,” Hester said. “We have season tickets available, call 622-1982 to get yours.”

Hester then asked the new platinum members one-by-one to step forward and receive their star pins, joking and talking about each member’s part in the theater. Every announcement was accompanied with loud applause and hooting, celebrating the award winners.

First to be pinned with the star was Reece Blake, followed by Schlatter and Taylor.

Stevens then stepped forward and told the audience she had asked to be the one to award Jim Goss. “He has been with the Roswell Community Little Theatre for well over 25 years,” she said. “I was very lucky — when I had my term as president — to have him as vice president and I learned a lot. Jim and I were the ones that signed off to have the building at South Union (Avenue). I am very honored to present to him his pin.”

The other awardees are Betty Lou Cheney, J.P. Cheney, Bianca Cheney, Carol Bignell, Stevens, Tom Blake, Kevin Roe and Bob Lynd.

Goss was then asked to talk about some of his early memories with the theater. The witty thespian had several anecdotes to share.

The highlight of the evening followed the dinner, a whodunit murder mystery performance of “The Curse of the Hopeless Diamond,” which was written by Eileen Moushey, directed by Louise Montague and cast with award-winner Taylor, Gina Montague, Veloy Millet, Mathew McNeil, Donna Paul and Joshua Carrell. The host role went to Zack Anderson. Sound and lights were in the hands of Mim Carrell, Kim Seyler and award-winner Blake. Choreographer was Kendrick Smith.

After the murder was solved, Jean Glover was announced as the lucky winner of a $1,200 diamond necklace by Bullock’s Jewelry.

Diamonds are forever and hopefully, so will be the Roswell Little Theatre.

Christina Stock may be contacted at 622-7710, ext. 309, or at vision@rdrnews.com.

Officials address citizens’ lack of trust on financial issues

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City Manager Joe Neeb answers a question from RDR editor John Dilmore (not pictured). Finance Director Monica Garcia listens to the explanation. On the table is her binder of budget information. (Alison Penn Photo)

Editor’s note: Roswell Daily Record staff recently conducted an in-depth interview with City Manager Joe Neeb and Finance Director Monica Garcia, asking more than 30 questions — many submitted by the public — about the city’s budgeting process. Today’s story is the second of two articles resulting from the interview. The first appeared in the Sunday, Aug. 19 RDR.

Neeb and Garcia met with RDR staff for two hours to discuss the fiscal year 2018-2019 (FY 19) budget, along with a number of related financial matters — including the public’s perception of the city’s finances, challenges when it comes to communicating with citizens and where Roswell residents can find information on city finances.

Financial trouble and distrust

City Manager Joe Neeb said the city is trying to make things better, when it comes to citizens who have a hard time trusting the city when it comes to financial matters. He said this distrust is not coming from anyone’s actions — but he thinks citizens and some councilors alike sometimes think city finances work like a checkbook, or a business account.

“We have so many different guidelines as to what money we have coming in and what it can be used for,” Neeb said. “It’s part art, part science — that’s what the problem with governmental finance is.”

Neeb said citizens questioning the city’s integrity should pay attention to how money is spent and where it is being moved. He said they would find the city’s actions are not creating huge fluctuations, and the process is something they can trust.

“Our job as stewards of the funding and of the projects and everything is to try and make it easier for everybody to understand — and I think we work hard at trying to take all of this technical knowledge and break it down to a layman level so everybody can understand that,” Neeb said.

Neeb said distrust develops over time and the challenge the city faces is that citizens think if the money is not spent on their priorities, then it is being spent incorrectly.

To maintain transparency, Neeb said the city prepares a budget to explain what the city will spend, and an annual report offers information to justify where the dollars go. Neeb said he hopes the annual report and budget match, so a public perception of untrustworthiness isn’t created.

During election season, a candidate alleged that the city was in dire financial straights — and many citizens say that message has lingered.

“We’re not going bankrupt,” Neeb said. “We will not go bankrupt ever. We’re a long ways away from that. What is actually happening though is that we are tightening up. Our expenditures are getting closer to the amount of revenue that we have. And so, we’re not having as much savings or funding. That is a very tight line that we walk with that … every year we are required to have a balanced budget — once we’ve determined what our revenue is, we have to cut expenses to match up to the revenue.”

Neeb said the perception that the city is in a difficult situation comes from the public seeing the city spend more cash on hand to cover services. Neeb said that at this time the expenses are exceeding revenues and the council is facing the challenge of balancing that out.

Neeb said he thinks the suggestion of bankruptcy or financial trouble was just politics.

“We are tight,” Neeb said. “We are frugal. We watch our revenue and expenditures closely. If our revenue estimates are not being met, then we are going to reduce expenses to cover that.”

When asked about the state of the city’s finances during a committee meeting, Neeb said certain projects could not be funded — but the city’s funds were rated as 10 out of 10. A citizen wanted clarification.

“I appreciate that question and I knew it would happen as soon as I said that,” Neeb said. “When you look at our overall financial picture, when you look at our challenges here, we’re financially stable — but we have hard decisions to make every year. We can’t afford to do every project that is out there and for one reason or another, there are certain projects that do not happen.”

Neeb said this goes back to the city’s priority-based budget.

“Even like this year, we have a balanced budget,” Neeb said. “Our revenue and expenses budget together. We don’t have enough money to do every project out there. It has to be prioritized and we have to focus on what we are spending our money on.”

When asked if city officials would tell the public if the city was in financial trouble, Neeb said the city would share it — and that it is not information kept secret from the citizens. In the case of a financial emergency, Neeb said a conversation would be necessary since services would have to be reduced and citizens could opt-in to keep services going.

“We would have the conversation and I’ll guarantee you that this city council would be the first ones to tell the public — if we didn’t,” Neeb said.

If the city was actually in financial trouble, Garcia said people would see services impacted and personnel layoffs occurring.

“We were able to fund everything we needed this year, so I wouldn’t say we are in financial trouble,” Garcia said.

Though communication between citizens and the city is a struggle, Neeb said the city council’s willingness to be open is apparent in the regular public forums.

“The strength of Roswell is its people,” Neeb said. “The more we involve our people then the stronger we are. When we have a disconnect between our citizenry, our staff or our city council — then we’re not going to function as well. Every day we have tough decisions on exactly what we’re going to put our money to.”

Audits

“If we were financially in bad shape, we would get bad audits,” Neeb continued. “We’d get a lot of other issues and we’re not seeing those issues, so it really becomes a prioritization of how much money we do have coming in.”

Garcia said for cities an annual financial audit of the previous year is required by the state. The city also has a lodgers’ tax audit, whereby a vendor benefiting from lodgers’ tax is chosen at random and an audit is performed.

Garcia said the city chooses an auditor from a list that the state provides and receives two professional quotes for the audit, which is estimated to cost $60,000. The city has worked with Pattillo, Brown & Hill, L.L.P. from Albuquerque for three years. Garcia said the agreement lasts for three years and then the city will test the market again.

Citizens can see the presented and approved audit on the finance page of the city’s website (http://roswell-nm.gov/Archive.aspx?AMID=39).

Neeb said the audits have been “very clean.” Garcia added that more than 13 issues were identified in the audit the year before she began working for the city, five years ago. Garcia said there have been no more than three issues a year since then.

Encumbrance funds

This fiscal year, the city had $34,000,000 in encumbrance funds. Neeb said these funds are encumbered to protect a project or activity. If a project is not completed, the funds are carried over to the following fiscal year to be reallocated to necessary projects.

Neeb said every city encumbers funds in this way. He said this year the finance department was very aware of closing projects and purchase orders that were more than a few years old.

Neeb said generally encumbered funds stay within the originating fund, unless council takes action to re-appropriate them or there are requirements to move them.

Garcia said the largest encumbrances involved the recreation center, around $17,000,000. Garcia said a substantial amount of funding is encumbered from wastewater and the water department projects every year.

Understanding for citizens

For citizens who want to examine the city’s finances, Garcia said revenue and expenditure reports are posted on the city’s website monthly.

After agreeing that citizens should be concerned about finances, Neeb and Garcia said it can be a challenge to understand the reports if a citizen does not have a background in finances, but they are both willing to explain issues for anyone in question. Neeb also said citizens should contact their city councilors if they have questions.

Neeb said communicating with the residents can be difficult because not all citizens are on social media, subscribe to the newspaper, or even have internet access. Despite these challenges, Neeb said the city will continue to provide needed information.

Finance department

When asked about her background in governmental finances, Garcia said she has her associate’s degrees in finance and applied science. Garcia was born and raised in Roswell.

Garcia said she has been in accounting since her early twenties and worked in the finance departments of the Roswell Regional Hospital (for five years) and Kymera before joining the city five years ago.

She joined the city as finance director and said she did plenty of research on governmental accounting and finances to be fully informed. She attends training annually to keep up with current governmental finance procedures.

Neeb said that Garcia is leading a team of professional finance staff. He said he offers his master’s degree in business administration and brings other experience to the table. Garcia said her department is comprised of 10 people.

“We’re actually a pretty small department for servicing the whole city,” she said. “Essentially everything comes through us.”

On the broader level, Neeb said adjustments require the council’s approval and departments are allowed to move funds within departments. If a question is outside the council’s scope, Neeb said the state will decide on approval or denial.

Neeb said the budget is a living document and a snapshot of the city’s needs and what it wants to see happen.

City/RISD reporter Alison Penn can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or at reporter04@rdrnews.com.

Pearce emphasizes bipartisan appeal during Roswell visit

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Republican candidate for governor Steve Pearce. (Daily Record File Photo)

Though surrounded by fellow Republicans, it was an ability to work with and win over Democrats that candidate for governor Steve Pearce emphasized when he spoke at the opening of the Chaves County Republican Party campaign office in Roswell Saturday.

Pearce, who represents New Mexico’s 2nd Congressional District — that includes Roswell and the southern portion of the state — is the Republican candidate for governor. He faces Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, a Democrat, in November.

Pearce told the crowd he had just completed his second or third trip through several Democratic strongholds in the northern part of the state — including three days on the Navajo reservation. Pearce added that he has received a positive reception in each of them.

Pearce stated that he always has reached out to Democrats.

“The second district is 52 percent Hispanic, 60 percent minority, is one of the poorest districts in the U.S. and a Republican represents it because I went into those places that Republicans typically don’t go and that was the process,” he said.

He touted recent endorsements he received from two high profile Democrats: Dorothy Runnels, the widow of former U.S. Rep. Harold Runnels, and former New Mexico Gov. Jerry Apodaca, as proof of his cross party appeal.

“They are supportive because they know me, that I work across party lines, across the racial lines across every line that divides us as people,” he said.

Apodaca’s son, Jeff, lost the June 5 Democratic primary to Lujan Grisham.

A Hobbs resident, Pearce was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2002. He opted not to seek re-election in his reliably Republican district in 2008, when he made an unsuccessful run against then-Rep. Tom Udall, D-New Mexico, for an open U.S. Senate seat.

Two years later, he was again elected to the seat he held. During his time in the U.S. House, he amassed a conservative record, receiving an 86 percent lifetime rating from the American Conservative Union.

He also is a member of the House Freedom Caucus, a group of conservative Republicans who often bucked their party’s leadership in the House.

If elected governor though, Pearce will have to work with Democrats who now hold majorities in the both chambers of the state legislature.

Pearce said although he has a conservative voting record, he also collaborates with Democrats on legislation. A member of the House Financial Services Committee, Pearce said he has worked well with Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., who President Donald Trump has routinely taunted in tweets. Reps. Beto O’Rourke of Texas and Luis Gutierrez, of Illinois, are Democrats Pearce said he has worked with on immigration legislation.

“Yes I am conservative, but I also work well with people,” he said.

Pearce said he decided to run to succeed Gov. Susana Martinez, a Republican unable to run for re-election due to term limits, because New Mexico is suffering.

He said he made the decision after consulting with his wife.

“So we felt at some point that we had an obligation to run,” Pearce stated.

Education, jobs, crime and poverty are the issues Pearce said he has heard most about on the campaign trail.

“Those are the four things I hear about everywhere I go,” he said.

Like Martinez did in her campaign, Pearce is running on a pledge to not raise taxes. He said revenue can be generated other ways, such as getting money back from overpaying insurance companies on Medicaid claims.

Pearce said that he does have concerns about the security of the election system but thinks those threats will not be from Russian hackers. The real threat, he said, is people voting multiple times or casting the ballots of other people.

He said people tell him that their sons or daughters who attend college have gone to vote, but discovered someone already had cast a ballot using their name.

A requirement that someone present a photo ID before they can vote is something Pearce said he would like to see.

New Mexico does not require voters show a photo ID or any documentation in order to vote, according to the website of the National Council of State Legislatures.

Breaking news reporter Alex Ross can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 301, or at breakingnews@rdrnews.com.

Race for governor tightening, Johnson shakes up U.S. Senate race, new poll says

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With 78 days remaining until Election Day, the race for New Mexico governor is tight and the entry of former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson has affected the New Mexico U.S. Senate race, according to a new poll.

The poll of 500 registered voters conducted Aug. 17 and 18 by Emerson College shows Democrat Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham clinging to a two-point lead against Republican Rep. Steve Pearce in the race for New Mexico Governor, well within the polls’ margin of error of plus or minus 4.6 percent, according to the poll.

Lujan Grisham leads Pearce 42 to 40 percent, according to the poll.

Eighteen percent say they are undecided how they will vote in the race.

Lujan Grisham of New Mexico’s 1st Congressional District and Pearce who represents the 2nd Congressional District, which includes Roswell, are both competing to succeed two-term Gov. Susana Martinez, a Republican. Martinez is unable to seek re-election because of term limits.

Pearce and Lujan Grisham have relatively similar levels of popularity, according to the poll results.

The poll states 45 percent have a favorable view of Lujan Grisham and 29 percent an unfavorable view.

Pearce is viewed favorably by 41 percent of voters, unfavorably by 31 percent, according to the poll.

The poll when divided by congressional district shows Lujan Grisham leads the 1st Congressional district, which she represents, 48 to 32 percent . Pearce carries the 2nd District — which also includes his hometown of Hobbs — 43 to 35 percent.

Pearce also has a lead in the 3rd Congressional District of 46 to 42 percent.

The poll also looked at New Mexico’s U.S. Senate race.

The race received renewed attention last week when Johnson, a former two-term Republican governor and 2016 Libertarian Party presidential candidate, announced he would enter the race.

Democratic Sen. Martin Heinrich leads the field with 39 percent to Johnson’s 21 percent. Republican candidate and businessman Mick Rich trails with 11 percent, according to the poll.

The polls states that Johnson takes 27 percent of the vote from Republicans, 13 from Democrats and 25 percent from self-described independents.

Heinrich leads in all three congressional districts by varying margins, the poll says. He wins the 1st Congressional District with 43.2 percent, compared to 23.6 percent for Johnson and 8.8 percent for Rich.

Rich has his best showing in the 2nd Congressional District with 14 percent but falls behind Heinrich’s 34.6 percent and Johnson’s 15.6 percent. Heinrich also carries the 3rd  Congressional District 39 percent to 22.5 percent for Johnson and 8.7 percent for Rich.

Other findings in the poll:

• Outgoing New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez has an approval rating of 30 percent, to 47 percent who disapprove

• President Donald Trump has a 35 percent approval rating, compared to 54 percent who disapprove

• Heinrich has an approval rating of 39 percent, while 25 percent disapprove

• A majority of New Mexicans — 54 percent — are are against significantly expanding construction of walls along the southern border, while another 38 percent favor such an expansion

• In the 2nd Congressional District 38.7 percent would vote for the Republican candidate, 35 percent for the Democrat, 5 percent for someone else and 21.3 percent are undecided

Breaking news reporter Alex Ross can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 301, or at breakingnews@rdrnews.com.

Back to school with the Gonzales family giveaway

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Cameron Kanoho accepts a Spiderman backpack filled with school supplies from Mary Gonzales after answering a biblical-themed trivia question at the Johnny Gonzales school supply giveaway. Reverand Jim Ridgway stands next to Gonzales. Kanoho, 8, attends Del Norte Elementary School and said the giveaway was, “The best thing I have experience in my life.” His mother Michelle Gonzalez said the event gave her hope for her family (two boys, one girl, and a baby on the way) and a renewed belief in the kindness of people. Kanoho’s little sister Michelle Rose Gonzales, 2, in the red dress stands nearby as other children gather around to potentially win backpacks. As hundreds gathered at Cahoon Park, the Gonzales family and volunteers passed out school supplies, pizza and canned goods. Churches donated food and desserts and Anthony Garza from Walgreens South handed out drinks and donated supplies for the giveaway. (Alison Penn Photo)

Revocation of clearances by no means shocking

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Discontinuing (revoking) one’s security clearance. Shocking? Atrocious? Unthinkable? I think not. During my 28 years in the U.S. Army I had many occasions to be “granted” (yes, allowed or permitted) a security clearance at various levels. It started with Confidential, then upped to Secret and eventually to Top Secret. When I did a stint at the Lawrence Radiation Lab, under the aegis of the (then) Atomic Energy Commission (AEC), I held the AEC’s “Q” clearance.

In every instance, when assigned to a job requiring a clearance, I was briefed on the seriousness and responsibilities of the clearance and I signed statements to that effect — and — when I no longer had the need for the clearance, i.e., left the job, my clearance was discontinued. And again I was debriefed and signed statements verifying that I no longer had or was entitled to the clearance.

Frankly, I’m shocked — shocked to learn that these high muckety-mucks retain their clearances after leaving their jobs, no matter under what circumstances they left, favorable or unfavorable. It seems only sensible to withdraw a security clearance when one leaves the job requiring it. If the advice or consult of the departed one is so important to get a job done, then that person may be “granted” a temporary security clearance.

It should be de rigueur to discontinue a person’s security clearance when that person leaves the job — regardless of what level the job was. Discontinuing a clearance is no impediment to one’s First Amendment “right to speak” as long long as the “speech” does not contain classified information.

Robert F. Lynd
Roswell

Dangers of energy production pose conundrum

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Martin Kral is certainly a well known proponent of nuclear energy. He has written extensively about it in our newspaper. I admired his honesty in a recent letter to the editor where he mentioned the environmental concerns regarding the safe storage and transport of spent nuclear fuel (SNF). Often, an advocate of a particular industrial endeavor will only enumerate its benefits and advantages without divulging any of its known negative aspects. Mr. Kral is very upfront and transparent when he acknowledges the drawbacks of nuclear energy production.

The Three Mile Island and Chernobyl accidents (accident an inadequate term to describe the devastation and long-term deleterious magnitude of both calamities) understandably create a class of reactionary types who unconditionally will oppose anything associated with the commercialization of nuclear power such as the Holtec Project, where SNF will/might be stored halfway between Carlsbad and Hobbs.

An excerpt from a May 2018 Albuquerque Journal editorial states: “New Mexico, a poor minority-majority state, is once again destined to be the dumping ground for dangerous items no other state will take, and those items will be vulnerable to train wrecks, container leaks and terrorist attacks.”

This concern has to be noted, but the oil and gas industries certainly do not enjoy a short list of environmental hazards as well. Energy production from its various sources poses a genuine conundrum regarding which path to take.

Let’s hope Bill Gates’ company, which is striving to generate nuclear energy without the SNF and meltdown problems, makes some rapid advances.

Steven Young
Roswell

Brion C. Lee

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Brion C Lee of Roswell, New Mexico, went to be with his Lord and Savior on Wednesday, August 15, 2018. Graveside Services will be held at South Park Cemetery on Thursday, August 23, 2018, 2:00 PM, followed by a Greet and Celebration of Brion’s Life at Eastern New Mexico Fairgrounds, 2500 S. Main Street, Roswell, New Mexico. Celebrate Brion’s life by visiting www.andersonbethany.com to offer a memory or expression of sympathy for his family.

On August 27, 1981, Brion was born in Roswell, New Mexico, to Lonnie and Brenda Kay Lee, whom survive him and loved him dearly. He was a gifted Plumber and Heavy equipment operator, who worked for his favorite uncle at Delton’s plumbing in Roswell, New Mexico.

The Lord took another Angel home to be by his side. If you ever wanted to meet Jesus, all you had to do was hang out with a special boy named Brion. He walked with Jesus every day. As a family we questioned God, we questioned life, we questioned the why’s and how comes, and at times, had the “why Brion Lord?,” but we sat with Brion, we loved on him, we cried over him, and he introduced us to the essence of what Jesus was, and his daily walk took all of us on a journey that I would have never thought possible. But not one of us can deny the miraculous view of heaven our son gifted to us, and how we became the ones humbled to know that we were not only given the honor, but also the privilege to be the father and mother and family of the most precious boy who walked with Jesus every day, and because Brion walked knowing he did not have to be perfect, he showed us all how to be authentic.

Brion taught us that we are born to be who we are and each of us walks our own path and he was here to serve one master, and he did it as Brion Charles Lee, and he walked with Jesus, we have no doubt, he sits with Jesus today, in Heaven. He was authentic, clear, and if you knew him, we all know he put a little Jesus on you just as he did all of us. Everyone loved him the most, and everyone liked him the best, and we are now bound by that love, only strengthened by many who will walk with Jesus in our hearts.

Preceding Brion in death were his brother, Zachery; both paternal grandparents: William and Noemi Shelton, and Charlie and Joann Correll.

Surviving to cherish Brion’s memory are his three sons: Nathan, Ryan, and Abrian Lee; sisters: DeAnna Omera and husband John, Lydia Kuykendall and husband Brandon, Megan Griffith and husband Ian; and numerous special uncles, aunts, cousins, nieces and nephews.

Brion was loved by many friends and all who knew him. He was given the gift of knowing his Lord and Savior, who he loved dearly and is now sitting at the side of Jesus Christ. Brion only had one wish and that was that everyone accepts Jesus and walk through this world with Him by their side.

Brion’s tribute was beautifully written in his honor by his family.

In Loving Memory of Donna Lee Torres-Reyes

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Donna Lee Torres-Reyes, 61, entered into rest on Monday, August 13, 2018, in Roswell, New Mexico. There will be a Viewing on Thursday, August 23, 2018, 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM, at Anderson Bethany Funeral Home. A Memorial Service will be held on Friday, August 24, 2018, 2:00 PM, at Anderson Bethany Funeral Home. Celebrate Donna’s life by visiting www.andersonbethany.com to offer a memory or expression of sympathy for her family.

On April 8, 1957, Donna was born to Beatrice Torres in Roswell, New Mexico. She was a dedicated employee at CCDC for sixteen years and had recently retired. Donna was loved and will be greatly missed by many friends and family members.

Those left to honor and cherish Donna’s memory are husband, Arturo Jose Reyes; three daughters: Valerie Torrez, Rachael Torrez, Gabriel and Yvonne Thyberg; fourteen grandchildren, two of which captured her heart, were Brooklyn and Alejandro; six great-grandchildren, who she loved very much; sisters: Irene Otero and Brenda Moreno; and loving pet, Gemini.

Preceding Donna in death were her mother, Beatrice Torres; niece, Brandy Otero; nephew, Chris Otero; and beloved pets: Sage, Chiquita, Negro, Gage and Budda whom will be joining her.

23rd Psalm

“The Lord is my
shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures:
He leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul:
He leadeth me in the path of righteousness for His name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through
the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil: for Thou art with me;
Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the
presence of mine enemies:
Thou anointest my head with oil;
my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy
shall follow me all the days of my life:
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
forever.”

Orlando Corona Archuleta

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Services are pending at Ballard Funeral Home and Crematory for Orlando Corona Archuleta, 83, who passed away Sunday, August 19, 2018 in Roswell. A further announcement will be made once arrangements have been finalized.

Ravens crash Luck’s homecoming with 20-19 preseason win

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Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck warms up before an NFL preseason football game against the Baltimore Ravens in Indianapolis, Monday, Aug. 20, 2018. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Joe Flacco threw a touchdown pass in the first half, Lamar Jackson added another in the second half and the Baltimore Ravens ruined Andrew Luck’s Indianapolis homecoming by topping the Colts 20-19 on Monday night.

Flacco looked sharp, going 7 of 9 for 72 yards before departing.

Jackson then showed flashes of what helped him win the 2016 Heisman Trophy. He was 7 of 15 for 49 yards and carried four times for 26 yards before giving way to another Heisman winner, Robert Griffin III, in the fourth quarter.

But Colts fans wanted to see what Luck would do for an encore following a solid start in their preseason opener at Seattle.

This time, Luck had a tough night. He threw an interception before logging his first completion, took a hard hit from Terrell Suggs on the first of two sacks and only led Indy on one scoring drive — setting up 45-year-old Adam Vinateiri for a 57-yard field goal.

Luck was 6 of 13 for 50 yards with a quarterback rating of 24.5.

The Colts (1-1) blew one red-zone scoring chance on Luck’s pick and another when they turned the ball over on downs at the Ravens 3 in the third quarter. They got their first touchdown when Jordan Wilkins’ fumble bounced right into the hands of Chester Rogers in the end zone.

After Tarell Basham’s fumble recovery at the Ravens 9 led to Phillip Walker’s TD pass to Zach Pascal with 2:24 left, giving the Colts a chance to come back, Walker was stopped short on the 2-poiont conversion run.

Baltimore recovered the onside kick to seal it.

Flacco gave the Ravens a 7-3 lead early in the second quarter when he hooked up with John Brown for a 7-yard score.

After Indy made it 10-7 on Rogers’ improbable score, Jackson led a masterful hurry-up drive at the end of the first half, which ended with Justin Tucker’s 38-yard field goal with 2 seconds left.

The Ravens’ backup quarterback took advantage again after Colts rookie Nyheim Hines lost a fumble on the opening kickoff of the second half.

Five plays later, Jackson hooked up with Chris Moore on a 7-yard TD pass to make it 17-10 — a lead the Ravens never relinquished.

Baltimore’s Kaare Vedvik made a 48-yard field goal and Indy’s Michael Badgley also made a 43-yarder in the fourth quarter.

STAYING CALM

Saturday’s joint practice between the teams was marred by two skirmishes, one which resulted in both teams running from the sideline to the middle of the field.

Though the officials called 21 penalties, including five that went for at least 15 yards, there were no such incidents Monday after Colts coach Frank Reich publicly criticized his team for being undisciplined in practice.

NATIONAL ANTHEM

There were no protests by either team during Monday’s national anthem.

During pregame warmups, Colts players donned T-shirts promoting their new message “Breaking Barriers,” a community effort team officials and players hope will promote equality and justice for everyone while unlocking more opportunities for those who don’t always get them.

The Colts say there are three key components: Creating dialogue within the community, inspiring local citizens to lead and funding community initiatives such as the team’s newly established Social Justice Club Fund. The Colts also plan to award grants from the Players Action Fund, which was boosted by a $100,000 donation from team owner Jim Irsay when it formed last year.

INJURIES

Ravens: Right guard Marshal Yanda and cornerback Jimmy Smith did not play. Rookie Orlando Brown Jr. made the start on the offensive line. But the Ravens did not announce any significant injuries during the game.

Colts: Indy played without receiver T.Y. Hilton (shoulder), running back Marlon Mack (hamstring), left tackle Anthony Castonzo (hamstring) and safety Malik Hooker (knee) — all projected starters. Starting safety Clayton Geathers saw his first game action since undergoing offseason knee injury. But after losing their top two running backs in Seattle — Mack and Robert Turbin (ankle) — they lost another one, Josh Ferguson (groin), on Monday. Ferguson did not return.

UP NEXT

Ravens: Visit Miami on Saturday,

Colts: Host Seattle on Saturday.

Kluber, Indians top Porcello, Red Sox 5-4

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Boston Red Sox right fielder Mookie Betts (50) watches as a drive by Cleveland Indians' Greg Allen lands in the Indian's bullpen on a two-run home run during the seventh inning of a baseball game at Fenway Park in Boston, Monday, Aug. 20, 2018. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

BOSTON (AP) — Greg Allen hit a tiebreaking homer right after Boston pitcher Rick Porcello was struck in the midsection by a line drive, and Corey Kluber tied for the major league wins lead as the Cleveland Indians beat the Red Sox 5-4 Monday night.

Kluber (16-6) pitched into the seventh inning and matched Washington’s Max Scherzer and the Yankees’ Luis Severino for the most victories in the majors. Michael Brantley and Melky Cabrera also homered to help the AL Central-leading Indians improve to 14-4 in August.

Xander Bogaerts had an early two-run single and an RBI single in the ninth for East-leading Boston. Ian Kinsler flied out with two runners on base, leaving the Red Sox with just their fifth loss in 22 games.

In a matchup of the AL’s last two Cy Young Award winners, it was 3-all into the seventh. Porcello (15-6) retired the leadoff batter and retired the next hitter. Yan Gomes followed with a liner that hit Porcello near the stomach — Porcello retrieved the ball near the mound, threw to second for a forceout and then slid to his knees, grabbing the spot where he was hit.

Porcello was checked on the mound, took a practice toss or two, and stayed in the game. Two pitches later, Allen hit a drive into the Indians’ bullpen for his second home run of the season.

Kluber, who won his second Cy Young last season, gave up three runs and nine hits, striking out six and walking one in 6 1/3 innings. Cody Allen got the final three outs, holding on for his 25th save.

Porcello allowed five runs on three homers, fanning six and walking one over seven.

The game featured four top contenders for the AL MVP award: Boston outfielder Mookie Betts, who leads the majors in hitting (.342), and DH/outfielder J.D. Martinez, the majors’ home run (38) and RBIs leader (106), along with Cleveland third baseman Jose Ramirez (second in homers with 37) and shortstop Francisco Lindor.

Trailing 3-0, Cabrera homered into Boston’s bullpen in the fifth and Brantley hit his drive into Cleveland’s bullpen the next inning.

Bogaerts flicked a low-and-away pitch into right-center with two outs in the first for his single. .

Andrew Benintendi’s opposite-field RBI single made it 3-0 in the third.

RESPECT

Indians manager Terry Francona, who managed the Red Sox from 2004-11, talked about one of his favorite players, Boston 2B Dustin Pedroia, who has missed most of the season recovering from offseason left knee surgery.

“There’s nobody like him and I don’t imagine there will be,” Francona said. “He willed himself to be the player he is, and his body is paying for it.”

SHOW THAT LEATHER

The clubs combined for a half-dozen highlight defensive plays. The best two were: a long running grab by CF Allen off the bat of Kinsler and a diving catch by LF Benintendi, robbing Allen.

DIFFERENT LEATHER

Members of both pitching staffs were tossing footballs around in opposite sides of the outfield about 3 1/2 hours before the start, with Boston’s crew laughing and smiling as they ran fly patterns.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Indians: DH Edwin Encarnacion (disabled list since Aug.12, right wrist contusion) took batting practice on the field.

Red Sox: Manager Alex Cora said lefty ace Chris Sale (went on DL Saturday, mild left shoulder inflammation) hasn’t thrown yet. “We’re shooting whenever he’s ready,” Cora said. “We’re not going to push him.” . C Christian Vazquez (DL, fractured right pinkie) has been catching bullpens and hitting soft toss. Cora hopes he’ll start taking BP later this week. He also was in CF catching pop ups from a machine before BP. . 3B Rafael Devers (DL, strained left hamstring) did some light running on the field.

UP NEXT

Indians: Rookie RHP Shane Bieber (6-2, 4.37 ERA) is scheduled to make his first career start against the Red Sox on Tuesday.

Red Sox: RHP Nathan Eovaldi (5-4, 3.62) is set to start. He’s 2-0 with a 1.99 ERA in four starts with Boston since being acquired from Tampa Bay before the trade deadline.

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