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Join your neighbors for National Night Out

Block parties, ice cream socials and potlucks may seem like a strange way to prevent crime, but that’s what neighborhoods throughout Albuquerque will do on Aug 2. for the 28th Annual National Night Out. Events take place between 7 and 9 p.m.

National Night Out aims to strengthen community bonds to deter incidences involving drugs and violence. The events also create partnerships between civilians and police and send the message that neighborhoods are organized to fight back against crime.

APD Crime Prevention Manager Steve Sink says Albuquerque has participated in National Night Out at least since 1999. Every year, he says, about 120 events organized by Neighborhood Watch Programs and Neighborhood Associations occur throughout the city. Nationally, more than 15,000 communities from all 50 states, Canada and military bases join the cause.

Although communities throughout the city participate, Sink says the Northeast area is typically the most organized. He says approximately 30 to 35 Neighborhood Associations throw picnics and parties in local parks. The rest of the events are individual block parties for Neighborhood Watch Programs.

together again


Karl Rove in the Land of Enchantment

When you Google: Karl Rove scandal, Heather Wilson makes the top 10 search results. Despite a history of “he said, she said,” former Rep. Wilson (R) asked Rove, the former deputy chief of staff for President Bush, to join her at an Aug. 11 fundraising reception. The event in Albuquerque will benefit her 2012 campaign.

In 2006, Rove and Wilson were implicated in a scandal involving the firings of eight U.S. attorneys, including N.M. Attorney General David Iglesias.

Rove says Wilson called on the Bush administration to fire Iglesias because he was not progressing quickly enough with a corruption probe into state democrats. Wilson denies that she said anything about the matter. “Attorneygate” ended without criminal charges, but U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales resigned.

Rove left the Bush administration in 2007 amid rampant unpopularity due, in part, to his leak of CIA agent Valerie Plame's identity.

The campaign ties between Rove and Wilson prompted outrage from democrats, who say this is why she was named one of “Congress' most corrupt members by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington in 2007.”

Wilson, who served in the House of Representatives from 1998-2009, entered next year's race to fill the seat vacated by Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D). She is running on a platform of protecting the free-market system, economy and limited government.

Sen. Jeff Bingaman


Down With DOMA

Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D) joined Sen. Tom Udall (D) in calling for the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act.

This move comes in part after the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico collected more than 1,400 signatures supporting the end of the act. The DOMA defines marriage as “a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife.” It further specifies: “The word 'spouse' refers only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife.” Because of this federal law, states are not obligated to recognize same-sex marriages performed elsewhere.

Bingaman voted in favor of the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996, but he will co-sponsor the 2011 Respect for Marriage Act to repeal it. “I now believe it was a mistake for the federal government to legislate in this area ... ,” he said on the Senate floor earlier this month when he announced his decision. The federal government should not be able to override state laws, he added, and married couples should be treated the same, regardless of sexual orientation.

Twenty-seven senators co-sponsored the bill.

In January, Attorney General Gary King said in his legal opinion, same-sex marriages from other states should be recognized in New Mexico. However, Gov. Susana Martinez opposes gay marriage. State courts or the Legislature have not weighed in.


Martinez requests proof of residency from 10,000 undocumented immigrants

Gov. Susana Martinez announced Tuesday that the Motor Vehicle Division sent letters to 10,000 foreign nationals with state driver's licenses to request proof of residency. Letter recipients will have 30 days to contact the MVD and schedule an in-person appointment to verify their New Mexican address.

According to the guv's July 19 news release, there are about 85,000 foreign nationals with N.M. driver's licenses. The letters were sent to one-eighth of them, selected at random.

Martinez is seeking data on the percentage of driver’s licenses that have been issued to people from other countries who are no longer residents of New Mexico, according to the news release. If results indicate many licenses are held by nonresidents, the Tax and Revenue Division and the MVD will investigate the residency of more people.

Since passing a 2003 law, New Mexico is one of two states that allows drivers to obtain licenses without a Social Security number. The other state, Washington, permits residents to sign a declaration of their legal foreign worker status to obtain a license. Although Utah allows undocumented immigrants to get driver's licenses, they cannot be used for identification purposes.

Since Martinez took office earlier this year she has fought to repeal policies that allow undocumented immigrants to obtain driver's licenses. Advocates of the practice argue that licensing is beneficial for public safety and the economy.


Newsland is closing

Saddest thing I've heard all week

When I heard Newsland is closing on July 24, part of me died inside. The fight for print media will lose a valuable asset.

Newsland, across from UNM, opened in 1972 in a very different world. It was a world before the Internet, Kindle, iPads or smart phones. Owner Roger Walsh says business dropped off after the popularization of online media and declined even more in the past two years as the economy suffered. Walsh bought the store 29 years ago.

Sales no longer generate enough money to keep the store afloat, Walsh says. The most popular magazines he sells are Scientific American and Albuquerque the Magazine. I go for Harper's Magazine orJuxtapoz. Or to peruse the shelves looking for an obscure poetry journal to bring to Winnings and leaf through over a cup of coffee.

Newland's closure comes on the heels of the national liquidation of Borders by the end of September due to a lack of interested buyers. It's hard not to feel a little doomed.

Walsh says the store will receive credit from the publishers for any magazines they do not sell in the next couple days. He doesn't know what his next step will be, he says, but it would be nice to work for someone else and skip the long hours and responsibility of owning a business.

My next step will be to head on over, load up my arms with magazines and search for another venue half as good as Newsland.


Do you know what cosmology is?

If you're as into pondering the nature of reality and pretending to understand quantum physics as I am, check out scientist Scott M. Tyson's cosmology talk at Page One bookstore on July 20 at 7 p.m.

Cosmology is the study of the universe including its beginning, growth, shape, size and future. It's not for the narrow minded.

Tyson will present a multi-media presentation explaining the mysteries of the universe in terms the rest of us can understand, as well as signing copies of his book The Unobservable Universe.

A former Sandia National Laboratory physicist, Tyson brings three decades of research to the subject of the origin of the universe. His book includes his take on questions concerning the Big Bang, the composition of dark matter and the speed of light.

Also covered are complex scientific principles regarding the inconsistencies and paradoxes of modern science without causing flashbacks to college Physics.

To figure out what this means for you attend the lecture, learn some big words to bring up at cocktail parties and try not to sink into the hole of despair that suggests nothing you believe exists.


Reporting from the tracks

It’s a Wednesday morning, and the New Mexico Rail Runner Express presents a smorgasbord of snacking children, camera flashes, gimmicky tourist cowboy hats and the unmistakable crinkling sounds of unfolded, then refolded, maps. A handful of bowed head locals immerse themselves in the faint glow of a laptop screen, but the average age of rider seems to be about seven.

We leave the city and pass mobile homes, parking lots of eighteen-wheelers and neat stacks of bricks and cement blocks waiting for transport. A cluster of horses snooze under the shade of a lone tree, and a shirtless older man pushes a wheelbarrow through the hay brown fields.

The train jostles past the snarled mess of mangled electronics at the dump before gliding sweetly past white linens hanging on a laundry line. Shrubs like cotton balls dot the twisting mesas and low hills.

Eventually the buzz of just-boarded passengers dies down to a reasonable murmur. I sit back in the red canvas seat and settle in to research the budget deficit facing this train.

The Rio Metro Regional Transit District Board voted on June 17 to eliminate weekend train service, starting at the end of August. They also plan to replace the early morning northbound and southbound trains with a bus service due to the limited number of pre-dawn commuters.

The schedule changes reflect an attempt to alleviate the $1.2 million budget shortfall this year. Since the train was completed in 2008, it received federal money labeled Congestion Mitigation Air Quality Funds. The funds’ three year expiration date just passed, leaving us to grapple with serious deficit.

Some people argue the Rail Runner is money pit that will never even earn enough money to cover the start up cost. Others say that trains are the wave of the future and encourage growth in cities.

Attempts to raise fares have met with resistance since part of the train’s appeal lies in its laughably cheap ticket cost. With my student ID, I paid $6 for a round trip. That’s only half the cost for lunch in Santa Fe.

Personally I love the ease, convenience and affordability the train offers and will continue to ride it as long as it’s around. Plus, I could never have written this article on I-25.


Art auction for Japan tomorrow

Across the Pacific Ocean, Japanese coastal towns are still in need of volunteers and donations as they struggle with the aftermath of March's earthquake and resulting tsunami.

Sunday's fine art auction “Hands Together for Japan” at the Albuquerque Museum of Art and History refocuses attention on ongoing relief efforts. Decorating your home has never been so karma-positive:

Albuquerque Museum (2000 Mountain NW)
Sunday, July 10
6 p.m to 9:30 p.m.

Five aid organizations put the event together. It features work from various Southwest artists including Anthony Abbate from Beals & Abbate Fine Art in Santa Fe.

Pieces for sale include pottery, oil paintings and prints that represent the culture of the Southwest and Native American traditions.

All proceeds go to Ananda Marga Universal Relief Team, an organization that provides aid around the world. The team's efforts in Japan focus on restoring the homes and lives of the displaced elderly and affected communities. It also offers counseling and activities to help alleviate mental trauma after the disaster.


Standoff at Girard

I met my neighbors yesterday. We stood on the corner of Girard and Silver for a couple hours, smoking cigarettes, chatting and trying to stay out of the afternoon sun.

I also met two cops and saw members of the SWAT team ducking under the “Police line do not cross” tape with their thigh-length guns and padded vests. It was the biggest gathering in Nob Hill since Pride.

Around 3 p.m. a man called APD saying he had a gun and was going to shoot anyone who tried to enter his house, according to police. The standoff lasted four hours—complete with megaphones and Army-green Hummers—and ended with the unidentified man exiting the house voluntarily. No one was hurt.

The same questions emerged repeatedly from the stream of redirected traffic.

“What's going on?”

“I live right over there. Can't I just go home?”

Two foreign exchange students from Germany told me they'd planned on running home to get a tennis racket, only to discover the sirens and police tape. A family worried about leaving their dog in the house. Another man asked the police if he could free his employees from behind the barricade. A group of guys took one look at the situation and retreated to Walgreens for beer.


The Coen brothers' latest gambit

In the land of hard-boiled loners doing whats right against all odds, Joel and Ethan Coen are kings. They roam from North Dakotan small towns to Los Angeles bowling alleys to the streets of Washington, D.C. trailing ironic dialogue and darkly lit scenes.

This month they regroup amongst the modern-day cowboys in the rolling landscapes of New Mexico to shoot their latest film.

Gambit tells the story of an art curator, Colin Firth, who hatches a con to sell a fake Monet painting to a wealthy collector, Alan Rickman. Cameron Diaz plays a Texan rodeo queen masquerading as a woman whose grandfather liberated the painting after World War II.

The film is a remake of the 1966 crime comedy starring Sir Michael Caine and Shirley MacLaine.

Production started in May in London and moves to New Mexico in July. Scenes will take place in and around Carrizozo, Galisteo, Laguna Pueblo, Los Lunas, Rio Rancho and Socorro. The cast and crew includes at least 130 New Mexicans as well as more than 400 actors and extras.

The Coen brothers have filmed here before, with True Grit and No Country for Old Men. New Mexico's Film Crew Advancement Program provides incentives for filmmakers to hire New Mexican film and television professionals. FCAP reimburses the company 50 percent of a participants wages up and offers a 25 percent film production tax rebate.