Friday, April 05, 2013

Advocates gather near Taos to celebrate Río Grande del Norte

Hundreds of supporters packed Taos Mesa Brewing on a sunny Saturday (March 30) for a visit from federal dignitaries to celebrate the new Río Grande del Norte National Monument. Outgoing Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, retired U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman, Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-NM, and Rep. Ben Ray Luján, D-NM, were among those in attendance, and they were joined by a celebratory crowd that included conservationists, government leaders and business representatives. The event, which featured food, music and speeches, was held to commemorate the March 25 signing of a presidential proclamation creating the 242,555-acre Río Grande del Norte National Monument. Addressing the standing-room-only crowd, Bingaman, who introduced legislation to create a national conservation area around the Río Grande del Norte, thanked the people of Taos County and Northern New Mexico, saying without their enthusiastic support the monument designation would not have happened. He also suggested the day be recognized as “Ken Salazar Appreciation Day” for the secretary’s efforts. Heinrich said the Río Grande del Norte provides a “textbook example” of what can be accomplished with broad, effective community support. He said the monument designation can serve as a lesson to other communities throughout the country. Salazar said representatives like Bingaman are able to bring people together, adding that his love of the state and decades spent problem-solving on behalf of his constituents “forever make him part of the landscape of New Mexico.”...more

Lawsuit to Protect Border-crossing Wolves in NM & AZ, plus additional maps and commentary

The Center for Biological Diversity filed a lawsuit today challenging a permit issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that will allow federal and state agencies to capture wolves that enter Arizona and New Mexico from either the north or the south and keep them in captivity indefinitely. Mexico has an ongoing program to reintroduce endangered Mexican gray wolves in the Sierra Madre, and wolves from the northern Rockies could move into the Southwest at any time. The Center’s lawsuit seeks protection of wolves found in New Mexico and Arizona, north of Interstate 40 and south of Interstate 10, from federal and state trapping. The lawsuit does not apply to wolves emanating from the Mexican wolf reintroduction program, begun in 1998, in the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area, which lies between the two interstate highways. Those wolves, which already suffer from reduced protections, are the subject of a separate Center lawsuit seeking science-based reforms in their management. The contested permit allows the live capture of any number of endangered wolves for any reason, including the primary rationale of protecting livestock. The permit does not require livestock owners to undertake any measures to reduce their risk of losing livestock to wolves before trappers could remove wolves...more

It's pretty easy to see what's going on here.  This is the proposed jaguar critical habitat:

Then there is the Sky Islands project, interested in the same area plus corridors to land in Mexico.

Here is a different view of their map.

Then there was the Bingaman Wilderness bill, which zeroed in on Dona Ana County for now.  Reportedly Senators Heinrich & Udall will be reintroducing similar legislation this summer.

Bob & Carol Richardson

And most recently, the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance proposal for a National monument.

Why is Las Cruces and Dona Ana County so prevalent in all these proposals?  Take a look at this map, which shows gov't land in black and private property in white. 

There are other projects and more maps, but this should give you a feel for what they have planned for us.  Using existing law and administrative tools, plus new legislative proposals, they will keep throwing mud until something sticks.

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Idaho Senate passes federal lands transfer resolution

Idaho wants its land back, lawmakers in the Idaho Senate said Tuesday before passing a resolution that asks Congress to transfer title for federally owned lands within Idaho’s borders to the state government. The resolution, known as House Concurrent Resolution 22, was passed by the Idaho House on March 21. It passed 55-13 in the House and 21-13 in the Senate. The resolution has no legal effect. Sen. Branden Durst, D-Boise, argued Tuesday that he believes the federal government would simply ignore it. Supporters in the state Senate on Tuesday cited breaches of promises and mismanagement of lands by the federal government. The resolution would apply to about 16 million acres of public lands managed by the BLM and the U.S. Forest Service. Wilderness lands, national defense areas and the Idaho National Laboratory would not be included in the transfer. Sen. Jeff Siddoway, R-Terreton, said in introducing the bill that the United States had promised Idaho at the time of statehood that the federal government would sell any land it held and would give 5 percent of the proceeds to the state. The resolution states that Idaho ceded its unappropriated lands to the federal government with that understanding—which, Siddoway said, has now been breached. He said that in addition, the federal government has been mismanaging public lands. Sen. Sheryl Nuxoll, R-Cottonwood, argued during debate over the resolution that she believes that mismanagement by the federal government had led to larger, more damaging wildfires. Sen. Marv Hagedorn, R-Meridian, further argued that forests have been wasted under federal management, left to be “eaten by bugs”—a reference to the mountain pine beetles that are killing trees on Idaho’s national forests. He argued that this mismanagement has left lands vulnerable to large wildfires, which he said damage homes, property and the lungs of Idaho residents. Hagedorn argued that allowing the state to control these lands and increase timber production would reduce wildfire and timber waste while boosting the state’s economy. “If we were to get some of those acres of timber … and utilize that biomass that is going to waste, we could generate jobs and electricity that we could then sell out of state,” he said. “There are some good reasons why we should do this, and putting people back to work is a great reason.” Other senators argued that the bill was “premature,” and should be held until a study group to investigate the issue had convened, following a measure approved earlier Tuesday by the Senate...more

Sen. Michelle Stennett, D-Ketchum, had this beautiful quote:

“Senators, the only reason you want title to a land is to sell it,” Stennett said. “And I don’t think Idaho should be for sale.” 

In other words, she'd prefer envirocrats in DC determine the use of the land, rather than private citizens in Idaho.

FBI Documents Connect Aryan Brotherhood with Mexican Cartels

 by Brandon Darby

...Evidence suggests that the Aryan Brotherhood has morphed into what is primarily a drug-trafficking gang, and there is a more frightening possibility: that the Aryan Brotherhood is acting as a conduit, doing the dirty work for a Mexican drug cartel criminal insurgency into the United States.

In November of last year, for example, an Aryan Brotherhood member went on the record stating that he had helped smuggle hundreds of pounds of methamphetamine across the border from Mexico. According to the Mexican newswire Notimex, the AB member "stated that he had some important connections with Mexican drug cartels."

On Tuesday of this week, a federal task force apprehended an Aryan Brotherhood "general" who "had ounces of crystal methamphetamine" on him at the time of his arrest...

The FBI has declassified 156 pages of internal documents that shed light on the inner workings of the Aryan Brotherhood from its inception in the late 1960s through the 1980s. The documents show that the AB is known for engaging in brutal, high-profile killings to impress upon foreign narcotics cartels and other organized crime groups that they are the best organization to handle a domestic US ground game.

The clearest analysis of the AB’s motivations are revealed on page 56:

The purpose of the AB is now power and is not a racial organization as it has been deemed in the past. The AB’s continue to be aligned with members of the Mexican Mafia (EME) and certain motorcycle type inmates. [emphasis added]

This passage refers to the same US-based Mexican Mafia verifiably operating as hitmen and narcotics traffickers for various Mexican Drug cartels. It is the same US-based group that was hired by the Tijuana Cartel to assassinate the head of the Sinaloa Cartel, killing a priest in the process. The FBI documents reveal that the AB has kept an alliance with the US-based Mexican Mafia since 1968. The Mexican Mafia has used the AB as hitmen.

The National Gang Intelligence Center (NGIC), a Congressionally-mandated effort led by the FBI, reports that the AB works directly with Mexican cartels. The FBI’s 2011 NGIC report states:

MDTOs (Mexican Drug Trafficking Organizations) use street and prison gang members in Mexico, Texas, and California to protect smuggling routes, collect debts, transport illicit goods, including drugs and weapons, and execute rival traffickers...

The report specifically names the Aryan Brotherhood as working with the Mexican drug trafficking groups.

Homicides In Juarez Spike, But Still Below Drug War High

During the month of March, 45 homicides were reported in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, according to Chihuahua Attorney General’s Office. The deaths mark a spike, and growing concern during a relatively calm period for the border city. But in the context of the Drug War, these numbers still represent a peaceful lull in recent history. In March 2010, at the peak of the Drug War, there were 240 reported homicides in Juarez. In March 2011, there were 106. Yet the 45 reported deaths in March are the highest so far in 2013, nearly doubling the numbers from both January (25) and February (26).  Fronteras

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Texas AG to Obama: I’ll sue if U.N. Arms Treaty is ratified

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott wrote a letter to President Obama on Tuesday saying that the state will head to court over the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty should Mr. Obama sign it and the U.S. Senate ratify it. “The UN has concluded its negotiations on the Arms Trade Treaty,” Mr. Abbotwrites. “It is now up to you to sign it — or reject it. Do not sign this treaty.” Mr. Abbott writes that he understands the apparent purpose is to combat illegal arms trafficking around the world, but that the treaty could draw law-abiding gun owners and gun operators “into a complex web of bureaucratic red tape created by a new department at the UN devoted to overseeing the treaty.” “As with most so-called international-law documents promulgated by the UN, the draft treaty is not written using the precise, unambiguous language required of a good legal document,” he continues. “Instead, the treaty employs sweeping rhetoric and imprecise terminology that could be used by those who seek to undermine our liberties to impose any number of restrictions on the right of law-abiding Americans to keep and bear arms.” Darryl G. Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, said the National Rifle Association and other gun-rights groups have distorted the meaning of the treaty. He said it is about the global trade of dangerous weapons, not individual rights within the United States...more

The NM AG, Gary King, is reportedly running for Governor.  Wonder where he stands on this? 

New Giant Tarantula Discovered in Sri Lanka

A new type of tarantula about the size of your face has been found in northern Sri Lanka. Scientists found the spiders — with a leg span up to 8 inches across — living in trees and the old doctor’s quarters of a hospital in Mankulam. Covered in beautiful, ornate markings, the spiders belong to the genus Poecilotheria, known as “Pokies” for short. These are the tiger spiders, an arboreal group indigenous to India and Sri Lanka that are known for being colorful, fast, and venomous. As a group, the spiders are related to a class of South American tarantula that includes the Goliath bird-eater, the world’s largest. Spider, named Poecilotheria rajaei after a local police inspector who helped the team navigate post-civil war northern Sri Lanka, differs from similar species primarily in the markings on its legs and underside, which bears a pink abdominal band...more

Green Car Company Teetering on Bankruptcy ($529 million gov't loan)

As a major financial deadline looms, a green car company that was approved for a $529 million loan from the U.S. Energy Department is keeping quiet about whether it could be headed towards a Solyndra-like collapse, following reports the company may be preparing for bankruptcy. "We are not offering any official comment on the speculation around bankruptcy at this stage," Roger Ormisher, a spokesperson for the electric car company Fisker Automotive, told ABC News recently. Ormisher was responding to questions about reports last week that Fisker had hired a prominent law firm to advise it on possible bankruptcy proceedings. The Anaheim, Calif.-based company recently disclosed that it had furloughed non-essential U.S. workers in March, a move made as the company is "in the process of identifying a strategic partner... [but] continuing to manage its day-to-day operations," Ormisher said. Fisker Automotive entered the electric car market with hefty support from the U.S. Energy Department and backing from such celebs as Justin Bieber and Leonardo DiCaprio, but the company and its high-priced Fisker Karma have continued to skid financially. If the California-based luxury carmaker goes bust, it will be the most high profile failure of an alternative energy firm backed by the Obama administration since the solar company Solyndra filed for bankruptcy in 2011...more

Senator Reid’s New Tax on Guns

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) wants to tax your gun rights. His new legislation charges you a fee that is in essence a federal tax on selling or giving away your firearm, and he lets Attorney General Eric Holder decide how big that tax will be. Senate Democrats Charles Schumer of New York, Patrick Leahy of Vermont, and Barbara Boxer of California have introduced a raft of gun control legislation (S. 374, S. 54, and S. 146, respectively). Senator Leahy, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, rammed the legislation through committee in record time—not even bothering to issue the customary committee reports to explain the bills—and Reid combined the bills into a single gun control bill (S. 649). Firearms owners across the country and others who care about their right to keep and bear arms should keep a close eye on the Reid legislation. Your rights are under attack. Title I of the Reid gun control bill purports to “fix gun checks.” The proposed “fix” in section 122 of S. 649 is to take away an individual’s right to sell or give away a firearm to another individual unless, in most cases, the individual (1) uses a licensed importer, dealer, or manufacturer to make the transfer of the firearm and (2) pays a fee to that importer, dealer, or manufacturer to make the transfer. The individual transferring the firearm is not actually receiving a service; the federal government is receiving the service. The service the government gets is a background check on the intended recipient of the firearm, because the law requires the importer, dealer, or manufacturer to run the recipient through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. Forcing the individual to pay for the government-mandated service, which is in fact a service to the government, is in essence a federal tax on the individual...more

Call that Title I the DC Deep Thinkers Dream Bill.  Not only do they bring the gift or sale of a firearm amongst private individuals under tighter federal control, they also tax the transaction. 

More control + More Tax Revenue = The Perfect Bill.

Governor signs law to give homegrown chiles a boost

Gov. Susana Martinez signed a bill Monday to strengthen the New Mexico Chile Advertising Act. Stores and restaurants selling chile grown elsewhere but carrying names such as Hatch or Chimayo would have to add a label stating that they were not grown in New Mexico. The measure doesn’t go beyond existing legislation, which allows state inspectors to stop the sale of misleadingly-labeled chiles, but it makes clear that New Mexico is serious about protecting its most envied brand, the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Rudy Martinez, D-Bayard, told the Las Cruces Sun-News...more

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Gun measures may be in jeopardy in Congress

Gun-control measures that seemed destined to become law after the school shootings in Newtown, Conn., are in jeopardy amid a fierce lobbying campaign by firearms advocates. Despite months of negotiations, key senators have been unable to find a workable plan for near-universal background checks on gun purchases — an idea that polls show nine in 10 Americans support. Another provision that garnered bipartisan support — making gun trafficking a federal crime — could be gutted if Republican lawmakers accept new language being circulated by the National Rifle Association. The failure of those two measures would be a major setback for the White House and its allies, who have acknowledged that two other proposals — bans on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines — are not politically viable.  President Obama plans to visit a police academy in Colorado on Wednesday to renew an urgency to overhaul the nation’s gun laws that has ebbed in the more than 100 days since the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School.  Obama and his allies have not been able to leverage nationwide support for the proposals into a will to pass them on Capitol Hill. And a television ad campaign targeting 13 senators, financed by New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg (I) and in its second week on the air, has not swayed enough lawmakers to ensure passage of the background-check measure...more

 Let's not forget Las Cruces Mayor Ken Miyagishima, and Mayors Joe Murrieta of Grants, Ray Alborn of Ruidoso, David Coss of Santa Fe, Darren Cordova of Taos, Albert Campos, Jr. of Santa Rosa, Barbara Cottam of Angel Fire and Gloria J. Chavez of Tijeras are members of Bloomberg's Mayors Against Illegal Guns, the group sponsoring the television ads.

Read on down in the article and you will find this jewel:
“If there was a secret-ballot vote it would pass overwhelmingly, because from a substantive point of view most of these senators understand that this is the right thing to do,” said Matt Bennett, a gun-control advocate and senior vice president at Third Way, a centrist think tank. “What’s holding them back is pure politics.”

Apparently listening to your constituents during the Easter recess is "pure politics", while negotiating with paid DC lobbyists is what?...statesmanship?  That, Mr. Bennett and the rest of you DC Deep Thinkers is:

I believe Senator Pryor has a better understanding of our system and how it should work. 

Now some of the same senators targeted by the Bloomberg ads as potential gun-control supporters are showing greater skepticism about expanding checks. The group facing growing pressure from both sides includes a handful of Democrats who will be up for reelection in 2014 in conservative states with strong traditions of gun ownership: Mark Begich (Alaska), Mark Pryor (Ark.), Mary Landrieu (La.), Max Baucus (Mont.), Kay Hagan (N.C.) and Mark R. Warner (Va.). Pryor, for instance, responded tersely to Bloomberg’s ads, saying last week: “I don’t take gun advice from the mayor of New York City. I listen to Arkansans.”

As Views Shift on Guns, Reid Corrals Senate

It was, Senator Harry Reid of Nevada ebulliently proclaimed, a “happy day for me” as he stood with Wayne LaPierre, the head of the National Rifle Association, in 2010 at a new shooting range in Las Vegas made possible by federal money secured by Mr. Reid. “People who criticize this probably would criticize baseball,” Mr. Reid said before firing off a few rounds. These days, Mr. Reid, the Senate majority leader, is far more likely to meet with Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg of New York, an outspoken advocate of stricter gun control, than with Mr. LaPierre as he prepares to bring the most expansive package of gun safety legislation in a decade to the Senate floor over the next few weeks. Mr. Reid’s evolution from a proponent of gun rights to the shepherd of legislation that would expand background checks, among other gun control measures, emerges from a complex web of political calculations that have come to define his leadership style over the last decade. How tenacious Mr. Reid is willing to be — and whether he will extract votes one by one as he has for other big pieces of legislation — may well determine the fate of the measures...more

Folks think this is about the second amendment or public safety.  Wrong.  This is about Nevada politics.  If Republicans had carried Nevada last fall this bill wouldn't have seen the light of day.

With guns, as with gay rights and immigration, Washington has observed in Mr. Reid an evolution — less flip-flops than slow dances to the left — that reflects shifting attitudes not only in his Democratic conference but also in Nevada, where Democrats have gained an edge in the last decade. Voter registration in the state has become increasingly Democratic as its population has swelled, and Barack Obama won the state twice, the only Democrat besides Bill Clinton to win the state in the last 40 years. “Harry Reid is the most calculating individual I have ever covered in politics,” said Jon Ralston, editor of Ralston Reports, who has covered Nevada politics for three decades. “If he is making the right move for his members, he is making the right move for himself.” 

This is also about political retribution.

Mr. Reid voted proudly against an assault weapons ban in both 1993 and 2004, even as most Senate Democrats voted for it, and voted for a successful 2005 measure that limited lawsuits against gun manufacturers and dealers for negligence. He has also long supported the N.R.A. Mr. Reid, aides said, is also motivated by both the personal angst he felt over the killing of 20 schoolchildren in Newtown, Conn., last year, as well as the anger he feels toward the N.R.A., which was widely expected to endorse him in his 2010 re-election campaign but then declined to do so. 

Now you know why the Senate will consider gun control legislation. 

Let's hope the filibuster by Senators Cruz, Lee and Paul stops this train.  But, uh oh, we now have a dispute between the GOA and the NRA, over whether the NRA is working behind the scenes on a compromise.  The GOA issued the following alert on Monday.

GOA to NRA Leadership  

Please Urge Senators to Support the Paul-Cruz-Lee Filibuster  

   We are going into a battle which will determine the future of gun control for the next decade - and perhaps for the rest of our lifetime.
    Here's the status: On or around April 8, Harry Reid will move to proceed to S. 649. That "base bill" contains the Veterans Gun Ban, which could send you to prison for 15 years if you sell a gun to a veteran, without realizing he has PTSD. The bill will also contain the Schumer version of Universal Gun Registries.
    S. 649 does not have the 60 votes necessary to break a filibuster on final passage. However, if Reid can get the motion to proceed adopted - and get on the bill itself - he will play let's-make-a-deal and use bribes and kickbacks to buy the 60 votes he needs.
    In particular, Reid and Schumer will probably try to prune the universal registry bill to buy off the vote of Oklahoma Republican Tom Coburn. They may pretend to prohibit recordkeeping by the FBI, but you can bet their "compromise" will contain a big, juicy loophole.
    In addition, they may pare it back to gun shows and internet sales, although the most recent "gun show" bill we have seen would effectively ban gun shows.
    The media has been reporting that the NRA leadership is working with West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin to craft these compromises, although NRA vehemently denies it.
    As a result of anti-gun rules changes, there are two ways to proceed to a bill in the Senate. One requires 60 votes, which we have. The second requires 50 votes (plus Biden), but requires Reid to give up some of his control of the floor.
    The point is this: Our efforts will be tremendously helped if the NRA leadership publicly calls on Senators to oppose the motion to proceed, opposes cloture on the motion to proceed, and scores both votes.
    If it does this, the motion to proceed will die. Reid will be unable to move to any gun control legislation. Gun control will die.
    We believe that, because of the strength and fervor of our membership, we are very close to winning this battle - but it would be so much easier if we were both singing off the same page.
    ACTION: If, you are an NRA member, contact them. Urge them to join with us in supporting the Paul-Cruz-Lee filibuster. That means they should tell Senators to oppose the motion to proceed to any gun control vehicle, and to oppose cloture on the motion to proceed to any gun control vehicle.
   CONTACT: You can use the message below to direct your comments to NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre.
Call 1-800-392-8683
or send him a message at

Well isn't this just dandy. You might want to give the NRA a jingle or message. You're probably wasting your dime to call Senator Udall, who will be lock-step with the gun controllers.  Not sure about Senator Heinrich, who has supported sportsmen in the past.

Investors in Wyoming equine slaughterhouse watch N.M. project carefully

A group of potential investors in a Fremont County horse slaughtering plant are watching the national political scene to see whether such projects can get started in other states. Valley Meat Co. — a proposed slaughterhouse in Roswell, N.M. — is slated to open in late April. According to published reports, the plant is expected to receive approval despite strong opposition from various advocacy groups, including the Humane Society of the U.S., and efforts to block it in Congress. Four members of Congress recently introduced federal legislation to ban the slaughter of American horses and to prohibit shipping horses out of the country for slaughter. The attorney for the owner of the Valley Meat Co. in Roswell is A. Blair Dunn. The plant’s plans are still on track, Dunn wrote Thursday in an email to the Star-Tribune. If the Roswell plant opens, it will be the first operation to slaughter horses in the United States since 2007. Federal legislation that year prohibited the U.S. Department of Agriculture from spending its budget on the inspection of horse meat. Since horse slaughterhouses can’t operate without USDA inspections, the law effectively banned the plants. The 2007 prohibition against inspections was removed from the law in 2011. Since then several companies, including Valley Meat Co., have applied to the USDA to resume inspections of horses for slaughter. In Wyoming and particularly in Fremont County, there is considerable interest in establishing a horse slaughtering plant, said Keja Whiteman, a Fremont County commissioner. “Nothing is set in stone but there definitely is interest for a multitude of reasons,” Whiteman said last week. In addition to being centrally located, the county has a significant population of feral, as opposed to wild, horses. “People are turning out their domestic horses out on tribal land and federal land in Fremont County,” Whiteman said. “And, frankly, horses are starving to death and the ones that aren’t are multiplying, and neither is good.”...more

Report says mitigation measures lessen the impact of wildfires

How valuable are Santa Fe’s efforts to reduce fire risks on private and public property? Similar mitigation efforts by its neighbors to the north in Colorado Springs helped save thousands of homes and millions of dollars last year during the Waldo Canyon wildfire, according to a new report. The report found $300,000 spent to reduce fire risks in one subdivision alone helped the neighborhood avoid an estimated $77 million in losses due to the fire. The report, “Lessons Learned from Waldo Canyon,” analyzed the fire’s aftermath and is the first of its kind produced in a collaborative effort between the U.S. Forest Service, fire chiefs, the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety, the National Fire Protection Association and The Nature Conservancy. In July, a wildfire mitigation assessment team went back to the communities to see which fire prevention techniques had worked best to protect homes. Structural experts analyzed the fire’s impacts on 40 homes — some destroyed, some damaged and some unscathed. Social science and education experts talked to residents who had experienced the fire. The team’s report looks at vegetation near the homes, building materials, windows and home-to-home spacing that either contributed to a structure’s destruction, or helped save it. They looked at how groups had worked with the city and fire officials to prepare ahead of time for wildfire...more

You can view the report and a companion video by going here

Judge sides with backcountry skiers in use lawsuit

A federal judge in Idaho says the U.S. Forest Service broke the law when it didn’t craft rules to govern snowmobile travel, handing powder-loving backcountry skiers and snowshoe enthusiasts a victory that could extend to national forests nationwide. U.S. District Magistrate Judge Ronald Bush ruled Friday that the Forest Service must go back to work on its 2005 Travel Management Rule and draw up regulations designating areas of use and non-use by all off-road vehicles, including snowmobiles, on national forest lands. The Idaho-based Winter Wildlands Alliance had argued the agency’s decision to allow individual forests to exempt snowmobiles from the rules was illegal and has created conflicts between snowmobiles and backcountry skiers. The judge agreed with the skiers’ group, ordering the Forest Service to write a new rule consistent with his decision within 180 days. The decision will lead to changes in national forests in Idaho, but could also prompt national forests across the West and other states to revisit their off-road policies. “The Court finds the OSV (over-snow vehicles) exemption is contrary to law,” Bush wrote. “The Court finds that the 2005 Travel Management Rule is arbitrary and capricious to the extent that it does not require designations for the use of OSVs upon the national forest lands.” The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Idaho, which represented the Forest Service in the case, said the review process has not yet started to determine if an appeal is appropriate...more

Feedin' A Nation (Parody Song)

Monday, April 01, 2013

Mexican cartels dispatch agents deep inside US - spread into non-border states

Jack Riley, DEA
Mexican drug cartels whose operatives once rarely ventured beyond the US border are dispatching some of their most trusted agents to live and work deep inside the United States — an emboldened presence that experts believe is meant to tighten their grip on the world's most lucrative narcotics market and maximize profits. If left unchecked, authorities say, the cartels' move into the American interior could render the syndicates harder than ever to dislodge and pave the way for them to expand into other criminal enterprises such as prostitution, kidnapping-and-extortion rackets and money laundering. Cartel activity in the US is certainly not new. Starting in the 1990s, the ruthless syndicates became the nation's No. 1 supplier of illegal drugs, using unaffiliated middlemen to smuggle cocaine, marijuana and heroin beyond the border or even to grow pot here. But a wide-ranging Associated Press review of federal court cases and government drug-enforcement data, plus interviews with many top law enforcement officials, indicate the groups have begun deploying agents from their inner circles to the US Cartel operatives are suspected of running drug-distribution networks in at least nine non-border states, often in middle-class suburbs in the Midwest, South and Northeast. "It's probably the most serious threat the United States has faced from organized crime," said Jack Riley, head of the Drug Enforcement Administration's Chicago office...more

Report: Drug cartels No. 1 crime threat in Texas

A new report released by the Texas Department of Public Safety reveals cartels are operating in Texas and are the No. 1 threat to the Lone Star State. The Gulf Cartel, Los Zetas, La Familia Michoacana and the Beltran Leyva cartels’ areas of approximate operations include Cameron and Hidalgo counties, according to the report. “The threat to Texas is significant due to the prevalence of lucrative trafficking routes and smuggling networks throughout the state, as well as the state’s proximity to cities and towns steeped in cartel violence and influence just across the border in Mexico,” the report states, adding that Texas faces a full spectrum of “unique challenges to public safety and homeland security.” But cartels are at the top. The report also notes that the Sinaloa Cartel might operate in Zapata County and, according to some reports, is working with the Gulf Cartel to eliminate the Zetas. “These powerful and ruthless criminal organizations use military and terrorist tactics to battle each other and the government of Mexico for control over the lucrative U.S. drug and human smuggling markets,” the report states. “The violence associated with this conflict has increased significantly since 2006. Some 60,000 lives have been lost, and cartel tactics in Mexico have escalated with the continued use of torture and beheading, improvised explosive devices, military-grade weapons such as grenades, and attacks against U.S. officials and diplomatic facilities.” And with thousands of Texans and Mexicans crossing the border daily to visit family or conduct business, the drug war has hit close to home for many residents on both sides of the Rio Grande. “I just hope that the legislators know that until things settle down in Mexico we don’t know how things are going to go,” Brownsville Police Chief Orlando C. Rodriguez said. “We’re just going to have to wait and see, but one thing that is important to me is the continued support we have with federal agencies and how we are sharing information.” The reality of cartel violence in Brownsville became publicly apparent as early as September 2010 in what had been dubbed the “FM 511 murders.” Two men were found shot to death inside a gray Dodge Ram pickup that was riddled with bullets. The truck was found on FM 511, a few miles away from the Cameron County Sheriff’s Department and the U.S. Border Patrol Station. Police linked the killings to Mexican drug cartels. The suspects accused in the murders are still at large...more

Report: ‘Criminal aliens’ linked to Mexico drug cartels

A record number of immigrants died in Texas last year, according to a report released this week. But while many continue to risk their lives to reach the United States with hopes for a better future, others arrive with malicious intent, authorities warn. They are referred to as “criminal aliens.” Although some of them act alone, others are affiliated with the cartels or gangs, a Texas Public Safety Threat Overview report found. “A review of these 141,982 defendants shows that they are responsible for at least 447,844 individual criminal charges over their criminal careers, including 2,032 homicides and 5,048 sexual assaults,” the report released Wednesday states. Mexican cartels control either directly or indirectly most human smuggling and trafficking routes and networks in Texas, according to the DPS threat report. “The nature of the cartels’ command and control of human smuggling and human trafficking networks along the border is varied,” the report states, adding that cartels either have direct organizational involvement or are paid by smuggling organizations to operate in their territory...more

Report: Drug war spills over into Rio Grande Valley

Mexican cartels’ use of explosives “represents a significant and emerging threat to Texas.” According to the DPS report, the agency is concerned that cartels might use the weapons in Texas or that Texas-based gang members could acquire training or explosive materials and weapons from the cartels. In Brownsville, that fear hit close to home when a family living on Resaca Vista Drive woke up to a normal-looking package on their doorstep. But the family wasn’t expecting any packages. When it was brought inside, the package exploded and severely injured a young girl, her mother and father. The ongoing investigation is now in the hands of the FBI, but investigators have declined to comment on whether the bombing might be cartel related — or something else. “That is something that has us gravely concerned,” Rodriguez said. “They are very creative and we’ve seen the use of explosive devices along the border on the Mexican side — and possibly here — but that’s not our investigation.” And according to the report, cartel members have a presence in Texas and have “demonstrated ability to carry out attacks and other criminal activity in the state, as well as elsewhere in the United States.” Cartel members and associates have been caught with explosive weapons or components smuggled into Texas from Mexico, according to the report. “This trend is particularly concerning, due to the potential for these powerful weapons to be used in Texas,” the report states. Aside from cartels’ use of explosives emerging as a threat, smugglers are showing increased aggression toward U.S. law enforcement agents. “Recently, smugglers and others associated with Mexican cartels have shown an increase in aggression toward U.S. law enforcement officers, including shootings, vehicle assaults, and other threats to officer safety,” the report states. “Some of this aggression has been targeted toward U.S. officers operating in Mexico, but multiple incidents in Texas have occurred. Since 2009, there have been 76 incidents in which shots were fired at 83 law enforcement officers in Texas.” On the social media platforms of Twitter and Facebook, Rio Grande Valley residents who follow profiles in Reynosa, Matamoros and Mexico learn that narco-blockades can be a part of life as those users tweet and post to inform each other about the blockades’ location. “One dangerous cartel tactic that has recently emerged in Texas is the narco-blockade, a tactic that had previously only been used in Mexico,” the report states. The blockades are used to prevent access by first responders and isolate areas used during their operations. “Multiple blockades can be conducted simultaneously, and, in Mexico, the vehicles are typically disabled or ignited, making their removal even more difficult,” the report states. And authorities now say narco-blockades are used in Texas and use the following examples to illustrate that point...more

Drug war death tolls a guess without bodies

REYNOSA, Mexico — Heavy gunfire echoed along the main thoroughfare and across several neighborhoods in a firefight that lasted for hours, leaving perforated and burned vehicles scattered across the border city. Social media exploded with reports of dozens dead. Witnesses saw at least 12. But the hours of intense gun battles in Reynosa on March 10 gave way to an official body count the next day of a head-scratching two. The men who handle the city’s dead insist the real figure is upward of 35, likely even more than 50. Ask where those bodies are and they avert their eyes and shift in their seats. Cartel members, they say, are retrieving and burying their own casualties. “Physically, there are no bodies,” said Ramon Martinez, director of Funerales San Jose in Reynosa, who put the toll at between 40 and 50. “It’s very delicate.” If Reynosa is an example, even the government can’t count how many are dying from drug violence...more

How Mexico’s Drug Cartels Recruit Child Soldiers as Young as 11

In case you thought Mexican drug cartels had sunk as low as they could get, a new report details how they use children as young as 11 years old to do their murderous bidding. In the last decade, the cartels “have recruited thousands of street gang members, school drop-outs and unskilled workers,” (.pdf) the International Crisis Group recently reported. The ICG, a non-government organization that seeks to prevent conflict, notes many of these “recruits” — to use a clumsy term — are younger than 18, considered expendable, and deliberately ordered to attack superior Mexican military forces. According to military officers interviewed by the organization, the “cartel bosses will treat the young killers as cannon fodder, throwing them into suicidal attacks on security forces.” First, the children are enticed or manipulated into joining the cartels, and given basic weapons instruction at training camps, many of which have been discovered in the jungles along the Guatemalan border. The weapons are varied, ranging from AR-15 rifles to Uzi submachine guns, and .38 and 9-mm caliber pistols. Next, the kids are put into cells led by experienced cartel soldiers, who have some prior training with the military or police...more

Police: Mexican cartels seek vehicles; urge residents to secure vehicles

Brownsville police warn owners of 2002 to 2006 model Chevy Silverado pickups and Tahoes to secure their vehicles because a cartel in Mexico has high demand for the vehicles. Police spokesman Billy Killebrew said police know of seven such vehicles stolen in the last two weeks alone, but that’s only what’s been reported. “The ‘02 to ‘06 are being stolen and taken across,” Killebrew said. “All of the vehicles stolen don’t have alarms. We are investigating the case and have a few leads that we are working on at this time.” Mexican cartels use pickup trucks to transport “sicarios” — men — and the Tahoe-type vehicles are often used to smuggle drugs and people, he said. Police believe several people are working together to steal the vehicles and take them to Mexico, Killebrew said. Killebrew said the increase in stolen vehicles is sharp, and no residential area is immune. “It’s all happening between 11 p.m. and 4 a.m. in all residential areas. There haven’t been any thefts from businesses or anything like that,” he said. “When people are waking up in the morning, they discover their vehicle is gone and has been taken.” Thieves also are targeting those vehicles because they are easy to steal and aren’t as advanced as newer models, he said...more

DHS re-evaluating furlough plans, overtime cuts

The Homeland Security Department says it's re-evaluating plans to furlough border agents and cut overtime because of the automatic federal government spending cuts. U.S. Customs and Border Protection said Monday the agency will postpone previously announced plans to furlough border patrol agents and officers for at least 14 days. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has previously said the forced budget cuts would mean the equivalent of losing about 5,000 border patrol agents. In a statement, the agency said a provision of a spending bill that Congress passed last month allows it to ``mitigate to some degree'' the impacts of the reduced budget on operations and on the workforce.'' The furloughs were expected to begin as soon as later this month. AP

Rabid fox found in Socorro County

MAGDALENA, N.M. (AP) — State health officials are urging pet owners to vaccinate their dogs and cats after rabies was confirmed in a fox in Socorro County. Health Department says the fox had attacked a young dog at a home about a mile south of Magdalena on March 23. Tissue samples from the fox tested positive for rabies. The dog that was attacked had no history of rabies vaccination and had to be euthanized. State veterinarian Paul Ettestad says there's the potential for other foxes in the area to be spreading rabies so it's important that all dogs and cats get vaccinated as soon as possible. Heath officials say the last confirmed animal rabies cases in Socorro County were a calf and a bat, both in 2009. AP

Nevada wind farm could face hefty fine over eagle death

An eastern Nevada wind farm could face a fine of up to $200,000 over the death of a golden eagle.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is investigating the bird's death at the Spring Valley Wind Farm near the Utah border, 350 miles east of Reno, spokesman Jeannie Stafford said. San Francisco-based Pattern Energy, owner of the 152-megawatt wind energy project that sells power to Las Vegas-based NV Energy, turned over the dead eagle to federal authorities within 36 hours of its discovery in February.  Despite reporting the death, the wind farm could face a fine because it does not hold a federal "take" permit that would allow the incidental death of a golden or bald eagle, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported...more

Fusion center director: We don’t spy on Americans, just anti-government Americans

Law enforcement intelligence-processing fusion centers have long come under attack for spying on Americans. The Arkansas director wanted to clarify the truth: centers only spies on some Americans – those who appear to be a threat to the government. In trying to clear up the ‘misconceptions’ about the conduct of fusion centers, Arkansas State Fusion Center Director Richard Davis simply confirmed Americans’ fears: the center does in fact spy on Americans – but only on those who are suspected to be ‘anti-government’. “The misconceptions are that we are conducting spying operations on US citizens, which is of course not a fact. That is absolutely not what we do,” he told the NWA Homepage, which supports KNWA-TV and Fox 24. After claiming that his office ‘absolutely’ does not spy on Americans, he proceeded to explain that this does not apply to those who could be interpreted as a ‘threat’ to national security. Davis said his office places its focus on international plots, “domestic terrorism and certain groups that are anti-government. We want to kind of take a look at that and receive that information.”But the First Amendment allows for the freedom of speech and opinion, making it lawfully acceptable for Americans to express their grievances against the US government. The number of anti-government groups even hit a record high in 2012, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center...more

States, Tribes Feeling Their Way Through Traceability Rule

USDA’s animal disease traceability (ADT) rule went into effect March 11. As individual states feel their way through the process and adopt rules and regulations in response to the new national standard, specialists encourage producers to stay informed on how the rule will impact them. Wyoming State Veterinarian Jim Logan says the rule requires any sexually intact beef animal or bison over 18 months of age to have official ID prior to moving interstate. In addition, all dairy cattle, as well as all recreational and exhibition cattle of any age and gender are required to have official ID. “Every state has its import requirements already in place, and the new rule doesn’t change a lot in that way,” notes Mississippi State Veterinarian Jim Watson. He says the rule is designed to limit impact and change within the livestock industry, while simultaneously expediting traceability to the point of origin in the event of a disease outbreak...more

Easter Bunny On Motorcycle Stopped For Failing To Wear A Helmet

It’s not every day the California Highway Patrol has to make a traffic stop on the Easter Bunny. But that’s exactly what happened on one Southland highway early Saturday morning. Brian Pennings, a public information officer for the CHP in East County, told CBSLA that an officer was on routine patrol on Interstate 8 when he observed a man dressed up as a giant rabbit on a motorcycle traveling down the highway near San Diego. Pennings said the officer proceeded to make a traffic stop after noticing the bunny wasn’t wearing a helmet. Also, he said, the costume posed a safety concern as it was a visual impairment...more

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Happy Easter!

Amazing Grace

Gift through Mary
Amazing Grace
The conversion of John Newton
By Stephen L. Wilmeth

            How many of us consider the gift that has come through the name, Mary?
            The first came from our relationship with the first Mary. After all, she is the blessed mother of our Lord and Savior. She was the original, and, often, those of her namesake continue to remind us of the simple virtues that are basic to our existence.
            In January, a celebration and memorial of the life of Mary Agnew was held in Grant County.  Many friends and family assembled to be with Mary for the last earthly gathering we would share with her. She had a lasting and positive impact on our lives. Never could there be a more uplifting experience than to seek her for a word or a laugh.
            As the service concluded, Mary’s own hymn selection was grandly appropriate.  The second verse, though, was more subdued as the emotion and the words of the first impacted the crowd.
            From the row behind us, arose a young voice with clarity and strength that rallied everybody. The young man was a relative of Mary like so many others present. In an instant, there was a reminder that another elder will emerge to fill her role.
            That leader will urge the return to the strength and courage of the first verse when we sang:
Amazing Grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind but now could see.  
            John Newton
            A very human character born in England in 1725 became a lasting reminder that God’s grace is endless. In fact, a good place to start would be to consider the final words of his diary entry in 1772. He wrote:
“Blinded by the God of this world until mercy came to us not only undeserved but undesired … our hearts endeavored to shut Him out ‘till he overcame us by the power of his Grace.”
As so much of his work reveals, he was prone to write in first person. In fact, the lyrics of “Amazing Grace”, John Newton’s timeless hymn, was centered on first person. He was writing about himself.
Pastor John Newton was born to a Catholic shipping merchant and a devoutly but congregationally independent mother. What is known about her was she did have hope her son would someday consider the clergy. She didn’t live long enough to see that happen. She died when he was six.
That traumatic experience launched John into an abyss of tumult and chaos. Insolent, disobedient, and unmanageable, he was first sent off to boarding school. That ended after he was beaten and humbled to no avail at age 11. His father put him on his sailing ship and proceeded to treat him like the vile urchin he was. By the time he was a middle teen even his father had lost all patience and banned him from his own ship for insubordination and wanton behavior. 
He landed in the English Navy and a growing and persistent pattern of his life emerged. He demonstrated a fatalistic pattern of near death experiences followed by an examination of any relationship with his deity followed by a relapse of unbridled chaos.
Incarcerated following a desertion, he was stripped of his rank and whipped publicly. The humiliation did nothing but redouble his impertinence and rage. He would later write he didn’t commit suicide or kill somebody, especially his captain, because he was concerned a young lady by the name of Polly Catlett would think unfavorably of him.
Who was this young lady who entered into John Newton’s life? She was one of the three most powerful influences of his life, and, ultimately, she would become his wife. Before that occurred, though, Newton would be assigned to a slave ship where its captain would record he was the most profane man he had ever encountered.
  Openly defying all authority and mocking the captain with uninterrupted contempt he was imprisoned at sea and starved. He was then off loaded and rendered a slave on a plantation in Sierra Leone. It was there his father learned of his plight and rescued him.
It was on the ship that assisted in his rescue, the Greyhound, the first step in his monumental transformation began. On the outbound voyage, a great storm nearly sank the ship. Lashed to the bilge pump, Newton was purported to say, “If this will not do (pumping frantically), then Lord have mercy on us.”
He would rest and return to duty at the wheel. For eleven hours he would remain at war against the storm and his own soul. He pondered his divine challenges, and … survived.
The transformation
With horrified and distraught parents, Polly conceded to John’s insistence and married him. The toughest of the toughs, though, he would not immediately remain ashore. Becoming the captain of a slaver himself, he would continue that trade until he collapsed of what might have been a stroke at the age of 30.
He found employment as a customs agent by 1756. It was then he began an educational and spiritual journey that would prompt him to seek the course his mother had desired of her son, the ministry.
He first sought sponsorship from the Bishop of York, but that fellow saw his record and refused. It was the Earl of Dartmouth who found his case interesting. The good Earl took a chance that remains one of history’s most insightful leaps of faith. He agreed to sponsor him. Under his guidance and authority, Newton was ordained.
By 1764, Polly and John were preaching in the small community of Olney. Two profound things happened at Olney. First, Newton’s style of preaching matured. He increasingly concentrated not on an impersonal orthodox delivery, but in first person, up close and personal. After all, he was the sinner of his sermons. He was the modern day miracle!
The other influence was the arrival of William Cowper. Cowper’s life mirrored John’s in terms of disappointment and suicidal tendencies. Together, they not only supported one another’s weakness, they stoked creative genius.
Starting a weekly bible study, they embarked on the attempt to create a new poem or hymn each week. That work would be parlayed into the weekly lesson.  They were preaching to congregants who shared trials and tribulations of everyday life. They became hugely popular among their following.
It was from this effort the lyrics of Amazing Grace in 1772.  It was presented for the first time on the first Sunday in 1773.
The Olney Hymns
Their work, described as the Olney Hymns, became widely popular. The creators of the work, however, were criticized by the prevailing Anglican establishment.
In a scathing assessment, a critic wrote,” (he is) unabashedly (a) middlebrow lyricist writing for a lowbrow congregation.” He substantiated the rebuke reminding his readers that only 21 of the words in the verses had more than a single syllable!
History has shown Newton’s approach to first person was brilliant. His insistence on faith in salvation, wonder of God, Grace, love for Jesus, and his own earthly transformation were the synopsis of Christianity.
Where England failed to accept the popularity, America was a sponge ready to absorb it. It was there the hymn became the anthem of the religious reawakening of the 19th Century. Out of the spiritual grassroots of Kentucky and Tennessee it emerged, caught fire, and swept the country.
It is little wonder and immensely important to note the hymn is a dynamic miracle that has reached beyond the Olney impact.  For example, a following verse often sung today was not from the pen of Newton, but the very slave descendents he carried to America generations earlier.
For some 50 years, many slaves sang this different verse. That one is now the verse that is so often difficult to sing after singing the emotionally charged first one.

When we’ve been there ten thousand years,
Bright shining of the Sun
We’ve no less days to see God’s praise
Than when we first begun
It is unfortunate that John Newton’s name is not more widely known. His gift that remains so powerful every time it is sung remains the spiritual banner hymn for rural folks who must defend their very existence.
We are not alone. The Cherokees sang the hymn translated into their native tongue as they endured the tyrannical tragedy of their dislocation.
In the end, the song embraces original values without trumpeting triumph. It is sung by young and old, rich and poor, Presbyters and Catholics, and Mary Agnew’s friends and family.
She would remind each of this blessed Easter morning … HE HAS RISEN!

Stephen L. Wilmeth is a rancher from southern New Mexico. “Mary Agnew was one of two people who suggested a word now and then from this saddle shop should be shared. God bless her soul and God Bless … our America.”