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Game of Thrones for Noobs XX: Season Finale Edition

Season VI, Episode X: The Winds of Winter

Pop CultureMonday, June 27, 2016 by Alex De Vore

The Story Thus Far
A whole lot happened last week, but we can really just boil it down to one sentence: A couple of bastards went to war, and one of ’em had his face eaten by dogs. The end.


The Gist

Obviously, we all would have loved it had the season ended with Ramsay Bolton having his face torn off by adorable pit bulls, but there are still all kinds of plot threads left loose, and we double learn this in the “Previously On …” section that shows us shit from, like, so many episodes ago that we had forgotten completely. So I guess this-here season finale is all about tying up some of these threads in a way that’s as satisfactory to us as the reported major pay increases were for the show’s principal actors. But, as always, they leave plenty of stuff unanswered. Dammit.


We open on Cersei who, if you’ll recall, recently learned there’s no such thing as a trial by combat anymore as decreed by her shithead son, the weak-ass king, but who also loves wine. We flash around to all the pertinent players like the aforementioned king, his dumb wife, the dumb High Sparrow, et al. After the kickass battle of last week, however, this just seems like a bunch of slow nonsense. Still, that star-shaped window in the courthouse is cool, right? Right. There’s nudity for a second, too, but that’s not the point—the point is that Cersei is fucked, and everyone knows it. Oh shit, this might actually be Slow Loras’ trial, and we totally stand by our earlier comments on the politics of being gay in this wacky kingdom. It’s pretty clear that the High Sparrow has to die, but Loras confesses to his crimes. “All of them,” he says. “I banged a Baratheon, I lied to all you jive turkeys constantly, I hung around looking all moody and bummed all the time … all of it.” 

The High Sparrow makes a smug speech about whatever ridiculous fucking god they’re worshipping, and Slow Loras does his best impression of Theon—by weeping all hard and sniveling like a little bitch. He offers to volunteer for the church and its Meals on Wheels program, but the High Sparrow is nothing if not harsh, which Loras knows because he must promise to give up his name and never have kids. Is this dude gonna have to do the naked shame walk that happened to Cersei? Psssshht! No! But he does have to kneel in front of the whole town and talk about how he sucks and stuff, and he also has to get that totally brutal forehead pentagram carving that all those jive-ass Sparrows get. It’s over, and Margaery tries to play it cool, but she’s mad that Cersei is hanging out someplace else, probably talking shit about them with her bodyguard, Half-Dome.


Outside, the second-in-command of the Sparrows follows some dumb kid for some reason, while this bearded Franciscan monk is tricked into the workshop of Cersei’s spooky mad scientist pal. It's the Grand Maester, and some little kid is about to stab the shit out of him. Oh shit! It’s a bunch of little kids! They’re all pissed at him for some reason, and the mad scientist tells him that he wishes it doesn’t have to be this way, but we’re all psyched that this dude meets such a brutal end at the hands of children (Author’s note: I don’t have a clue what this Grand Maester guy’s deal is). The second-in-command Sparrow guy is also stabbed by a kid because, of course, the kids of this town are all about stabbin’ fools—all they see is fools gettin’ stabbed, so they think that’s how life goes. Cersei, meanwhile, looks out over her city, and it all becomes clear: She hired these kids to stab her enemies! Bazam! Back in the courthouse, Margaery tries to convince the High Sparrow that something is up, but he’s too busy daydreaming about Birkenstocks to really worry about that, which is stupid, because everyplace else in the town is a fucking free-for-all of kids stabbin’ fools. 

Margarey does finally convince everyone to at least leave the courthouse, but it’s a little too late, because there’s all this explosive slime under the court, which explodes like fuck and kills them all. And I’m talkin’, like, Gary Oldman screaming in The Professional, EV-ER-EEEEEEE-ONE! We jump back to the Queen Mother, who has taken that totally shitty and judgmental nun into a pit somewhere to give her the old waterboarding treatment as a means to punish her in the most satisfying way. She explains to the nun why she does the things she does and scares the hell out of her, like woah. The nun tries to play it cool about death, but Cersei is like, “Oh, I ain’t killing you right now, girl! I’ma kill you slowly after a really long time!” She calls in her bodyguard, K2, and lets the nun know that he’s all about two things: not talking ever and torturing nuns in an extremely slow fashion. Man, that’s brutal. Cersei leaves while Mount Everest tortures the nun, the sound of screams fading behind her. 

What she doesn't know, though, is that Tommen is so bummed out by the slime-splosion that he slowly removes his crown, takes a good long last look at his kingdom, reminds himself that he's a stupid little jerk and then throws himself out of his tower in shame. Boom—more king death. 

We might have felt bad for this dude had he not been such a punk-ass little whiner the whole time, and we almost feel bad for his mom because no matter how many people she kills or how many times she bangs her brother, she just can't seem to keep her kids alive. Ruh-roh. Still, you've gotta feel at least a little bad for the poor kid. I mean, he was too young to be king.  

Elsewhere, Hogwarts Janitor celebrates how Jamie took over Riverrun without even going into battle, and Jamie and his pal Baron Chinstrap feast with them and check out the chicks. The chicks dig it, and Jamie misses his sister because he’s gross as fuck. Hogwarts Janitor regales him with tales of the past while Jamie hangs around sighing all moody and shit. Are they friends? Does it matter? Know what’s a good movie? Hot Fuzz. I could go for watching that right now. Then maybe I wouldn’t be so bored. You know in Hot Fuzz when the journalist guy gets a piece of church dropped on him and his head explodes? That four seconds is cooler than 90 percent of this dumb show.


Of course, Cersei has heard about her kid by now and has to ask herself if she’s the common denominator when it comes to her kids dropping like flies. She has to make funeral arrangements, but all she can think about is that sweet, sweet brother-lovin' she’ll get when Jamie returns, and she sings a song to that effect to the tune of Grease's "Summer Loving." Ha ha ha! Gross!


Meanwhile, Snow’s friend, Pudgy, and his dumb-ass family have made their way to, uh, someplace with a bitchin’ lighthouse that seems to have birds flying out of it at all times. They stop by the customs office, natch (Pudgy is all about the law), to drop off a letter from Snow. “You a bitch, Pudgy!” it reads, and the guy in charge silently judges everyone in the room. Turns out Pudgy is supposed to be the new Maester of whatever the fuck town this is, but the records keeper guy ain’t having it. He doesn’t much care for irregularities, to which Pudgy says, “I suppose that life is irregular,” like it’s some kind of new information or a deep statement when in reality everyone in the room is like, "Shut. The. Fuck. Up. Dude!" Even his wife and kid think he’s a goddamn embarrassment, and he leaves them to stand around while he checks out the weird new library for which he now works. Shit’s huge, son. Like, Library of Congress huge, and he nervously surveils the bazillion scrolls he’ll have to keep an eye on in his new dumb job. Pudgy lives for red tape ... and Jon Snow. 


Who, meanwhile, continues his long-standing tradition of standing around all moody in wintery, sun-bleached castle rooms. He’s hangin’ with the Red Woman who is wearing clothes (for now) when Davos comes in and is all, “Yo, grrrl, I hate you for having Stannis burn his snake-faced daughter alive!” Why this hasn’t come up before now is anyone’s guess, but Snow has changed a lot since dying and coming back to life, and whereas he once would’ve said something all crazy and brash, he’s now just standing there like a goddamn mute. They fight over whether or not little girls should be burned alive (they shouldn’t, for the record), and Snow looks like he’s gonna puke. The Red Woman reminds them all that it’ll soon be ice zombie season, charred little girls or not, and Snow, unfazed, tells her to get the fuck out of town. Davos is like, “Yeah!” and so she leaves. Man, Winterfell sucks. Even Sansa, totally still pumped on how Ramsay got eaten, is kind of in a bad mood. She hangs around with Snow on the castle wall in the snow. She also looks sick. Everyone looks sick. It does, however, look like they’re gonna make out. But of course, Snow is above that shit. He prefers stabbing to loving, and they both laugh and catch snowflakes on their tongues like a couple of rom-com morons.


Meanwhile, in Dorne, Margaery’s grandma with the stupid hat meets with those women who killed basically everyone a few episodes back. This is a mission of diplomacy, but Grandma is pissed off and wants to kill everyone she can. The new queen of Dorne is down with killing everyone, obviously, but she spouts some nonsense about how they need to play it cool until they can make sure the stabbin' they're plannin' will be super effective. And then Varys appears to lament how he lost his dick lo those many years ago. What's this fool up to? 


In Meereen, Dragon Tits drinks wine and hangs out with the dude from Nashville. They’re strategizing, maybe, but this dude hates this town and doesn't care who knows it. She basically kicks him to the curb as she renames Slaver’s Bay as The Bay of Dragons and reminds this chump that he’ll have a list of chores while she’s gone. 

In the next room, Tyrion hangs around drinking (duh), and when Daenerys pops in to be like, “We broke up!” he’s like, “So it goes … he a dog anyway!” She doesn’t like that one bit, so he makes a speech about cynicism and tells her he likes her cool belt. OHMYGOD! Are they gonna kiss!? Dinklage is super good-looking, and so is she. She just kind of looks at him all smugly and gives him a medal with a hand on it. "This is because you're the best masturbator in all the land," she says. "Why don't you tell me something I don't know?" Tyrion asks. 

Back in the land run by Hogwarts Janitor, the party is long over, but Janitor himself is still maid-spankingly drunk. This maid, though, has served him the bodies of his friends and—OH SHIT! It’s Arya, and she’s using that faceless magic to sneak in and stab fools! You’d better fucking believe she slashes his throat because … well, I don’t know, but if I were guessing, I’d say this clown had a hand in her dad dying. We’ll give it to her: That was badass.

In Winterfell, Peter “Quantum Break” Baelish keeps on trying to make amends with Sansa for the whole marrying-her-to-Ramsay thing. She ain’t having it, though, even though he’s pretty good looking. He steps closer and closer and talks about how his brain works. She’s all hypnotized by this weirdness and even more so by his proposal, but when he tries to make out with her, she stops him. Sansa has become pretty tough to be sure, but Baelish is still a punk-ass. Snow falls all around, and the pine trees look sad.


Elsewhere, Oat-Bran Stark and his half-zombie of an uncle part ways. Bran still can’t walk, and everyone is still pretty bummed out about Hodor, but Uncle Ice Zombie’s ponytail gleams in the sun, as if to let them know it’ll all be OK. Off he rides, leaving Bran to wonder how the fuck he’s supposed to get around without working legs. He pledges allegiance to some magic tree and gets another view into his family’s past. This time, his lame-ass dad climbs some tower to save, uh, some, uh, girl who is clearly in pretty bad shape. Oh, it’s his sister, and she’s pretty busy bleeding out but glad to see her brother. She doesn’t want to die, but he’s too late. She whispers hollow words that turn to so much ash in Ned’s ears, and he realizes she just had a baby. What the hell baby is this? Oh wait, will they tell us? I hope so. I mean, it must be important and—OH FUCK! It’s Jon Snow! He is a Stark after all! Sucks for him, though, that he killed his poor mom while being born. This guy can't go two seconds without ending someone, even from the day he was born. Get real, Jon Snow. Get real, everyone.


Back in Winterfell, a counsel of jerks has convened to talk about what’s up with the impending winter. They know it’ll be cold (it’s always cold) and that the ice zombies will come (they always come), and that’s when that one little girl who runs Bear Island tells them all they’re a bunch of sorry bitches. She rouses them with her strong words, and it looks like everyone is going to fight the ice jerks after all. Not only that, but people are ready to start calling Jon Snow King of the North. One by one, these jabronis all stand up to tell Snow he rules. I mean, it’s a little late, but, y’know, good for them. They all chant. It’s stupid. Does this mean he has to start boning down with Sansa to protect some dumb idea of bloodline? Who knows? Baelish is bummed as fuck, though, that much we know.


Meanwhile, Jamie has returned home to discover the slime-splosion, but he ought to at least be psyched that Cersei is OK, since he really likes her. She finally gets to sit on that stupid sword chair everyone is always so excited about, and she is coronated as the queen of the land. Too bad all her kids are dead and she’s a huge jerk. Still, she looks pretty cool with her gleaming platinum shoulder pads. Are the people down with this? That might be a next-season question. Where’s Arya at this point? Is Jamie bummed? He looks bummed.


Out at sea, Theon and his sister She-on are boatin’ it up for who knows what reason. Do they work for Daenerys now? Is she on their boat? Who’s that one guy they just panned past? Can we just—oh wait, there's Daenerys. OK, cool. Shit. This show is so confusing, but at least they’ve got a lot of boats. The dragons fly above, being all dragon-y in case anyone decides to fuck with them, which we really doubt will happen. Daenerys and Tyrion stand there silently but excitedly, while we wonder if they’ll just stand there like a couple of jerks for the whole voyage. It’s possible, maybe? Anything is possible when it comes to Game of Thrones.


The Good

I’ll hand it to them—that bit with Jon Snow actually being a Stark was pretty cool. It was also cool when Arya slayed Hogwarts Janitor. She's just done with everyone's shit and is all about stabbing from here on out.


The Bad

More shit that moved way too slow. They should call it Game of Slow-ns.


The Grade

D: How you gonna have a sick-ass battle episode and follow it up with more talking? That slime-splosion was all right, but all the really cool stuff was relegated to the beginning of the episode, and the rest was every bit as boring as the whole season itself was. Snooze.

Season Grade:
C: I stand by everything I've ever said about this season being slow, and it would have been cool to have more answers. That's always cool, and it's usually possible to leave a few cliffhangers but remain satisfactory. Word on the street is that there are only two seasons left, and that had better be true. Cersei is kind of a jerk, but everyone learned a valuable lesson about her: She doesn't care who will die in her quest to sit on the sword chair. Mostly this season just kind of existed. People I spoke to who reportedly love the show even admitted they're only still watching because they've invested the time up til now, and they cannot stop themselves. It's a little weird that they've gotten to the point that the source material is no longer applicable, but HBO probably makes so much money off this thing that they don't even care. We love George RR Martin for pumping tons of money into Santa Fe and making fun things happen, but GoT is still crazy confusing. That said, they've certainly set the stage for a most violent series of events for next year. Let's just hope that's how it goes down because, and I mean this with respect, I am fucking sick of watching these people talk when there are perfectly good dragons just waiting to burn chumps alive.

Morning Word: Wildfire 100 Percent Contained

Morning WordMonday, June 27, 2016 by Peter St. Cyr
Fire Contained
Officials with the US Forest Service say the fire near the Santa Fe watershed is now 100 percent contained. The blaze burned about 7.6 acres.
Meanwhile, the North Fire in the San Mateo Mountains is 69 percent contained, the Forest Service said Sunday morning. That lightning-sparked fire burning since May 21 has grown to 42,107 acres in an area 25 miles southwest of Magdalena.
Contract Scams
Also, officials are cautioning residents returning to damaged property near the Dog Head Fire to be aware of potential contractor scams. The Regulation and Licensing Department urges people to make sure vendors are properly licensed to do work in New Mexico. 

Gila River Diversion Plan Scaled Back  
New Mexico In Depth’s Laura Paskus reports, “The state agency in charge of building a diversion on the Gila River has scaled down plans for capturing the river’s water.”
The agency’s decision might mean good news for project critics who feared its environmental consequences and high cost. But many questions remain around how much money the state has to build the project, the location and scale of the diversion, and who would buy the water once it’s built.
Meanwhile, experts up in Farmington plan to talk about the health of fish in the Animas River after the toxic Gold King Mine spill.

Supreme Court Decisions Expected Monday
It promises to be a big day at the US Supreme Court, as two big decisions are expected on abortion access and public corruption.
The court's decision on whether a Republican-backed 2013 Texas law placed an undue burden on women exercising their constitutional right to abortion is one of three remaining cases for the court to decide on Monday, the last day of its term. The other major one involves whether the justices will overturn the corruption conviction of former Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell.
And Andrew Oxford reports that other recent Supreme Court decisions could reduce lengthy prison sentences for 300 federal inmates from New Mexico. 

Strict New DWI Laws Roll Out This Week
Strict new DWI laws go into effect on July 1. They provide tougher penalties for repeat offenders as well as for drivers charged with vehicular homicide after a DWI crash. 

Sanders Supporters Still Vocal
Steve Terrell reports that Bernie Sander supporters aren’t quite ready to give up on the Vermont senator’s campaign, and they made their voices heard at the state Democratic Party convention over the weekend.

Medicaid Cutback Could Be Illegal
The Albuquerque Journal reports that University of New Mexico CEO Steve McKernan thinks the “state’s plan to save up to $33.5 million by cutting Medicaid payments to New Mexico doctors, hospitals and dentists would violate federal law and regulations if it results in the denial of services to low-income patients.”

NMSU Employee Benefits on the Cutting Block
Meanwhile, New Mexico State University regents are scheduled to meet today to discuss cutting employee benefits, and Heath Haussamen says the group's meeting won’t be webcast, as they have in the past.
The looming employee benefit cuts are part of the university’s efforts to eliminate $10.7 million from its annual budget. That’s necessary because the state decreased funding for the university earlier this year and enrollment has fallen. The Regents rejected a proposed tuition increase to help cover the shortfall in April.
Santa Feans Remember Orlando Victims During Pride Festival
Santa Fe residents participating in the city’s gay pride festivities over the weekend took time out to remember the 49 people killed in Orlando.
Each June, pride events commemorate six days of violent demonstrations that began at a gay bar in New York City on June 28, 1969, after police raided the Stonewall Inn in the early hours of the morning, intent on enforcing anti-sodomy laws. The riots that ensued marked a turning point in the gay rights movement.

On Friday, President Barack Obama proclaimed the Stonewall Inn a national monument, an action applauded in New Mexico by U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján and Sen. Martin Heinrich, both Democrats. The designation was the first of its kind in the gay rights movement.

But city and state officials, as well as advocates for the LGBT community, said the Orlando shooting was a reminder — a year after the U.S. Supreme Court’s milestone ruling on same-sex marriage — that the fight for equality is far from over. 

Fire in Watershed Half Contained

Managers Credit Strong Response for Reining In Flames

Local NewsFriday, June 24, 2016 by Elizabeth Miller

The McClure Fire in the Santa Fe Municipal Watershed is considered 50 percent contained, according to Friday afternoon media advisories, and some of the many resources allocated to that fire have been released. 

Firefighters using GPS to measure the fire Friday morning revised the size of the fire to 7.6 acres after aerial surveys Thursday reported it at 15 acres. As of 4:30 pm Friday, they said the fire had not grown in size. Air operations had been put on hold while hotshot crews worked on the ground on containment and mop-up until about 8 pm Friday. 

The Barillas Lookout Tower in the Pecos/Las Vegas Ranger District of the Santa Fe National Forest first reported smoke from the fire at 12:21 pm on Thursday, June 23. A lightning strike has been blamed for starting the fire, which ignited 3 miles northeast of McClure Reservoir, a key source for the city’s drinking water supply. It caught in steep terrain densely forested with ponderosa pine not yet thinned or treated with prescribed burn to prevent catastrophic wildfire. The fire was considered at high potential for growth initially, but was downgraded to moderate as of Friday afternoon, according to a media advisory. 

As a threat to the Santa Fe Municipal Watershed and a communication site used by the FAA and EMS, it was met with a robust response from aerial crews Thursday afternoon and hotshot ground crews on Friday morning. Santa Fe Fire Department credited “strong work being done” in a Tweet about containment reaching 30 percent by about 1pm.

Ground response included the city-managed Atalaya hand crew, while aerial work saw two fixed-wing aircraft, two heavy air tanks, one single engine air tanker, seven helicopters, three Forest Service engines and multiple city and county engines.

“This fire is a high priority and I think the reflection of that is the resources that are being assigned to it,” Porfirio Chavarria, wildland urban interface specialist for Santa Fe, said Thursday afternoon.

The Forest Service reported the fire as under 30 percent control by 1 pm after hotshot crews completed a perimeter line of the fire and containment was considered sufficient to begin releasing some of the helicopters dropping water to other assignments.   

Rain and lower temperatures followed through Thursday and Friday evening, and winds hovered below 15 mph.

The City of Santa Fe, Forest Service and other management partners in the Greater Santa Fe Fire Shed have authority to conduct prescribed burns and, according to a media advisory from June 24, would plan to do so after this year’s fire season.

New Mexico wildfire managers are dealing with multiple other blazes throughout the state, and even just in the county, with Santa Fe County Fire Department among the crews responding to the Goldmine Fire, which had burned more than 43 acres in the Ortiz Mountains near Madrid. The county fire department reported that fire as about 50 percent contained by noon Friday, with a line around the fire and mop-up operations beginning.

The latest update for the Dog Head Fire, suspected to have been human-caused in the Manzano Mountains east of Albuquerque, was released at 8 am Friday, June 24, and reported that fire at 83 percent contained, having burned 17,912 acres and damaged 24 single residences and 21 other minor structures. An increase in rainfall and humidity was seen as decreasing the probability of ignition. The 625 total personnel working that site were continuing to mop-up fire, holding and patrolling the perimeter, and trying to finish securing the east side of the fire. Managers aimed to have it under control by June 30 and expected no new perimeter growth, despite warmer temperatures in the forecast for Saturday.

This Weekend

Beat the heat, or at least just live with it

Weekend PicksFriday, June 24, 2016 by SFR

67th Annual Rodeo de Santa Fe

Mutton bustin', roping and all kinds of riding and Wild Western events. Concessions and a carnival midway offer fun for everyone. Yee-haw!

More Info >>

Nina Tichava: Ever Since Happiness Heard Your Name

Dark layers and lots of abstraction are this artist's technical game. She stresses the relationship between material and method and was influenced by her construction-working father.

More Info >>

Community Cluck

Join Joe West, Joey Wilson and Laurianne Fiorentino at this fundraising event for the legal fees of the infamous Eldorado 9—that awesome group who fought to make chicken ownership legal within the Santa Fe subdivison. Bring your best dish with you, because its potluck style. Cash bar and the Chickendales provide extra entertainment.

More Info >>


Santa Fe Pride Parade

See the train of celebration and pride, sure to feature sparkle and fun. Starts at the State Capitol and ends on the Plaza, with a party to follow. Support your community and show your love. Make sure to keep an eye out for all the other Pride activities this weekend.

More Info >>

Summer Trains Show

Santa Fe Model Railroad Club shows off the best of their models at this annual event. Kids will love this.

More Info >>

Vanilla Pop

Wacky mash-ups and music from the wacky, '80s-lovin' pair. Like dancing? You'll like this.

More Info >>


Volunteer River Cleanup

Lend a hand to keep our rivers clean and beautiful. Please bring gloves, waterproof shoes and water bottles, and prepare for the feeling of self-satisfaction that comes afterwards.

More Info >>

The Last Five Years

Catch a matinee performance of this musical love story that spans half a decade and is told from beginning to end by one lover and end to beginning by the other. That's a visual palindrome, which is pretty excellent.

More Info >>

Whitney

A case of a band being greater than its individual members, where they produce a melancholic, haunting sound which has become their own kind of Americana.

More Info >>

Get more information about how to spend your fun days when you sign up for the SFR Weekend newsletter, delivered to your inbox each Friday afternoon.

Morning Word: SFR Ranks Top 10 Selling Medical Cannabis Producers

New Mexico Health Department under-reports first quarter receipts

Morning WordFriday, June 24, 2016 by Peter St. Cyr

Wildfire News   

Two fires broke out near Santa Fe’s watershed on Thursday. SFR’s Elizabeth Miller reports, “Because the area has not yet been thinned or treated with prescribed burns, the fire is considered at high risk of growing. 

Meanwhile, the huge Dog Head Fire is now more than 80 percent contained, but officials are worried about flood damage ahead of this summer’s monsoon season.

Health Department Posted Inaccurate Medical Cannabis Sales Numbers

The New Mexico Department of Health under-reported medical cannabis sales numbers for the first three months of 2016. SFR discovered the error during a review of individual producers’ sales, gross profits, net earnings and harvest yields. See who the Top 10 sellers are and which growers are making and losing the most money here.

Immigrants on Edge

A tie vote at the US Supreme Court means a lower federal court’s decision halting the president’s executive order shielding most undocumented immigrants from deportation will stay in place.  For now, Uriel  J Garcia reports, the decision has immigrants in Santa Fe on edge.

Public Official Drives Away from DWI Stop 

KOB obtained and broadcast body camera video of Francesca Estevez, the newly re-elected district attorney for Grant, Luna and Hidalgo counties, that appears to show her drunk.  No arrest was made during the traffic stop. New Mexico State Police Chief Pete Kassetas has launched an investigation.

Kubiak Drops Out 

Simon Kubiak, the Bernalillo County Republican Party’s candidate for district attorney, dropped out of the race on Thursday.  Kubiak told Andy Lyman he’s getting out for “personal reasons” but also cited his opponent’s huge campaign cash advantage.

Cash Payouts to Cops Still Controversial 

Joey Peters report the Albuquerque Police Officers Association is still giving officers up to $500 cash after a shooting.

Officials Urge SNAP Investigation 

“The New Mexico congressional delegation and a high-ranking USDA official want a federal investigation into the state’s handling of food benefit applications,” reports New Mexico Political Report editor Matthew Reichbach.

The calls for an investigation from all five members of the delegation and the USDA Undersecretary of Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services comes after a federal court case included allegations of the department changing applications and adding assets so the applicant no longer qualified for emergency food aid benefits.

Cameron Resigns 

So this happened while you were sleeping: British Prime Minister David Cameron resigned after voters approved a referendum mandating the country leave the European Union.

The prime minister campaigned hard in the divisive referendum on Britain’s relationship with the EU, appearing at hundreds of public events up and down the country to argue that Brexit would be an act of “economic self-harm.”

But a frustrated electorate used the poll to reject the status quo, and, as the Ukip leader, Nigel Farage, described it, “stick two fingers up” at Britain’s politicians.

Hawks Get Attention at NMSU 

Birdwatchers will love this story out of Las Cruces, where a pair of Swainson's hawks appear to have built a nest and welcomed hatchlings, on New Mexico State University’s campus. The birds are protected under the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act, “but in the past two years at least 18 people at NMSU have been injured by swooping hawks trying to protect their nests, causing a safety conundrum for the campus.

Haussamen Top Investigative Reporter

A big shout-out to Heath Haussamen for winning the National Federation of Press Women’s investigative reporting award for his stories about “a possible conflict of interest current N.M. State Auditor Tim Keller had when he was a state senator.

“This is an amazing honor and confirmation of the importance of our journalism,” said Haussamen, NMPolitics.net’s editor and publisher. “Devoting resources to investigative reporting is challenging for news organizations these days, but it’s critical to keeping our society healthy.”

And not to toot our own horn, but the same group awarded us its top award for news reporting for “War on Sentences,” a story about advocates who want to reform mandatory prison sentences for nonviolent drug offenders.

Santa Fe Prepares to Celebrates Gay Pride 

It’s gay pride weekend in Santa Fe, and Julie Ann Grimm’s got the preview on all the glitz and glamour, and an interview with organizer Richard Brethour-Bell, former board president for the Santa Fe Human Rights Alliance and also a regional director of InterPride, an international organization of Pride organizers that helped him visit Pride parties in other communities. 

Health Department Under-Reports Medical Cannabis Sales

Who's growing and selling the most and where? SFR obtains financial data for the first time

Local NewsThursday, June 23, 2016 by Peter St. Cyr

New Mexico’s Medical Cannabis Program is growing at an even more rapid pace than reported by the public health agency tasked with regulating the industry.

Financial reports from growers that were made public for the first time this spring show total receipts during the first three months of 2016 topped $10.2 million—more than a quarter-million dollars above the $9.9 million claimed by the New Mexico Health Department on May 26. That figure does not include revenue from the 12 new producers who are still in various stages of setting up their grow sites and dispensaries.

Patient registrations, which reportedly have been taking up to 90 days to process, are also on the rise. The number of people legally permitted to use cannabis for medical relief in the state has almost doubled since February 2015, from 13,000 to more than 25,000 today.

SFR pored over individual profit-and-loss statements for 22 of the 23 licensed producers operating in New Mexico. (Grass Roots in Albuquerque did not file a quarterly report.)  After crunching the numbers, we built this online database.

SFR’s analysis shows that almost 60 percent of New Mexico’s 2016 first quarter 1.2 ton yield was harvested by five growers.
SFR File Photo

Tracking the cannabis growers' financial and production results is a big deal and something that wasn’t possible before February when the agency amended its confidentiality rules, which had shielded information since the inception of the program. The rule change came after a public hearing and a lengthy legal battle with open government advocates, including this journalist.

An analysis of the producers’ financial paperwork shows the health department miscalculated first-quarter sales (or total receipts) by $256,112. SFR questioned the department’s number after determining Fruit of the Earth Organic’s $246,545 gross profit could not have been generated from $7,068 in sales listed on the group's financial summary sheet. By any accounting process, that just didn’t add up.

A spokesman for the health department says staff used the numbers provided by producers to add up the Q1 sales total, but It appears the regulators didn’t double-check the numbers on Fruit of the Earth's cover sheet against the grower's underlying profit and loss statement before making the statewide 2016 First Quarter Report Summary public.

Justine Freeman, the deputy chief of staff at the State Auditor’s Office says the health department needs to develop a method to catch errors and ensure the accuracy of their accounting before making reports public.

“Sound financial reporting is key to the public’s understanding of how the medical cannabis program is working,” Freeman tells SFR.

Top Sellers

Ultra Health’s Duke Rodriguez is among those who have been pushing Health Department Secretary-designate Lynn Gallagher to remove the grower’s plant limits. He tells SFR that if lawmakers or voters approve cannabis for social use by adults, he predicts annual dispensary revenues could top $525 million in the first year.

That estimate is based on close to $1 billion in sales in Colorado last year, adjusted for New Mexico’s smaller population and lower income rates.

Rodriguez, who made a presentation to Legislative Finance Committee Director David Abbey and staff analyst Eric Chenier on Jan. 4, says if the state taxed legal sales, it would generate between $78 million and $131 million in new tax revenue depending on the tax rate adopted by lawmakers. 

The new tax revenue, Rodriguez suggests, could be used to prop up the state’s Medicaid fund and that money would then make the state eligible for close to another $325 million in federal matching funds.

"Money spent on health care would have a huge impact on the state’s economy," says Rodriguez. “It would generate 15,000 new jobs and fill the equivalent of 125 football fields in office space.That would benefit not only hospitals, but real estate agents, landlords and bankers."

Like Freeman at the auditor's office, Rodriguez says he’s concerned about the department’s first-quarter reporting error.

“If you found the error during your simple macro analysis, you can only imagine what other errors may have been easily missed,” says Rodriguez. “These are huge numbers which add up quickly, so it is easy to get the reporting materially off."

The first-quarter results, while not a trend, do provide important market insights. Production reports provided by the health department since 2013 have indicated that not all growers are producing large harvests. Indeed, SFR’s analysis shows that almost 60 percent of the quarter’s 1.2 ton yield was harvested by five growers: R Greenleaf Organics, The Verdes Foundation, Compassionate Distributors, Minerva Canna Group and Medzen.

Percentage of Total Crop Yield

Willie Ford’s Reynold Greenleaf Associates, which manages R Greenleaf and Medzen dispensaries in Albuquerque, produced 28 percent of the total yield. Eric and Rachel Speegle’s Verdes Foundation, which topped the sales charts with over $1.1 million in Q1, generated close to 10 percent of the harvest between January and March.

Statewide, producers reported a total net gain of $986,105 between January and March on gross profits of just over $6.6 million. Red Barn, a producer in Grants, did not report its gross profit or net income or loss. On average, producers netted almost $47,000. Mother Earth Herbs reported breaking even. Seven other producers claim they are losing money and reported an average loss of $41,045. R. Greenleaf reported the quarter's largest net income loss: $82,382.

Santa Fe growers New Mexicann Natural Medicine, Sacred Gardens, Ultra Health and Fruit of the Earth Organics generated $2.4 million in total sales during the quarter and provided patients almost 350 pounds of cannabis. The Santa Fe nonprofits also paid $203,455 in gross receipts taxes during the quarter. Overall, the tax department collected $768,605 in taxes from the growers in Q1.

New MexiCann’s $656,000 gross profit generated a quarterly income gain of $61,000, while Zeke Shortes’ Sacred Garden, which has the third highest overall cannabis staff payroll, reported a net income loss of $78,142 on its $492,536 gross profit. Lyra Barron’s Fruit of the Earth Organics, with a net income gain of $116,332, bested all the other Santa Fe-based producers.

Producers, who are still working out bugs using the health department’s new “seed to sale” tracking software, which requires them to enter product test results for plant potency and microbiological contaminants, reported spending nearly $80,000 on laboratory testing services in Q1. Two producers did not report their test numbers, and Vivian Moore’s Mother Earth Herbs in Las Cruces is exempt from testing since her dispensary is located south of US Border Patrol checkpoints. The amount producers spend on testing is expected to increase in the second quarter, as testing is now mandatory for all harvest batches and cannabis-derived products.

Editor’s note: We’ve made it easy for you to look at individual producers’ Q1 results by posting each group’s Q1 datacard online. Check out our analysis, or use Silk’s "explore" button to do your own analysis and build your own charts and tables.

Fire Starts in City Watershed

Major resources on tap to fight fire that began Thursday in the Santa Fe Watershed

Local NewsThursday, June 23, 2016 by Elizabeth Miller

This is a breaking news story and will be updated as additional information becomes available. 

A small wildfire has ignited in the Santa Fe Municipal Watershed, just upstream of McClure Reservoir and in the wilderness portion of the watershed. Because that area has not yet been thinned or treated with prescribed burns, the fire is considered at high risk of growing. 

Throughout the afternoon, as aerial crews waited out a brief storm, their surveys showed it holding at around 5 acres. 

“It’s got a fair amount of fuel available, but we’re keeping it at 5 acres so far,” says Julie Anne Overton, acting public affairs officer for Santa Fe National Forest. “The plan is to hit it hard tonight from the air, and then first thing in the morning get some hotshot crews in there.”

In a later press release update, forest officials said air tankers started dropping fire retardant around 5 pm, with the intention of boxing in the fire to keep it from spreading. They targeted the heel of the fire and its west flank.

"Due to steep terrain and snags in the immediate area of the fire, hotshot crews are on hold tonight and expected to hike into the area in the morning," the press release said.

By 9 pm, the Forest Service was reporting that the fire had spread to 15 acres and was 0 percent contained. Air operations concluded for the night at about 8 pm.

The fire, labeled the McClure Fire, poses a threat to the watershed and the McClure Reservoir 3 miles southwest of the fire and Nichols Reservoir farther west and downstream. Those reservoirs provide much of the city’s drinking water supply and could see their water quality and engineering degraded by a severe fire in that area. The fire also threatens a communications tower used by EMS, fire departments, the FAA and law enforcement agencies.

“That’s the reason that we’re putting so many resources on something that’s at this point 5 acres,” Overton says.

The cause is not yet known. Initial reports, sent out at 2:30 pm after smoke was first reported at 12:21 pm, mentioned "isolated torching" and the fire moving at a moderate speed through heavy fuels, dead and downed timber and ponderosa pines.

Earlier this year, when Porfirio Chavarria, the city’s Wildland Urban Interface Specialist, spoke to city councilors campaigning for official designation for the Greater Santa Fe Fire Shed to align resources around mitigating wildfire risks, he described a fire that would burn forests down to bare soil, which could feed into flash floods that could wipe out downstream communities and Hyde Park Road toward the ski basin. 

Asked today if that’s what we’re facing, Chavarria said, “That’s what they’re trying to prevent. All the fire responders right now are trying to prevent it from becoming that catastrophic kind of wildfire. They're aggressively attacking the fire with aircraft and trying to keep it as small as possible.”

That the fire is a high priority, even amid ongoing burns including the Dog Head Fire closer to Albuquerque, the Battleship Fire in the Santa Fe National Forest near the Jemez District, and the Gold Mine Fire in the Ortiz Mountains, is reflected in the resources immediately allotted to it. Those include three and a half hotshot crews, hailing from Wyoming, Nevada and Boise, Idaho, as well as multiple helicopters, air tankers and engines and the city’s Atalaya Crew. Hotshot crews were stationed near Nichols Reservoir for the night, in position to hike to the fire first thing in the morning with the goal of digging a hand line to prevent it from spreading. 

The terrain where the fire started is steep and densely forested, and lies in the area of the 17,200-acre watershed that has been closed to public since 1932. Recent years have seen the Forest Service hand-thinning 5,500 acres of the hillsides around the watershed in an effort to prevent severe wildfire from taking hold and wreaking millions of dollars in damage to the city’s water system. The efforts have been aimed at recreating the conditions that appear to have existed in these forests for centuries before human intervention put a stop to them: which is to say, looser, park-like stands of ponderosas, rather than the continuous tangle of branches now often found. This portion of the forest, which lies in the Pecos Wilderness, hadn’t been treated but lies near areas that have been.

There's no telling where the fire will move and what weather and terrain will press it to do, of course, but thinning and reintroduced fire in the form of prescribed burns has interrupted an otherwise continuous canopy of pine trees and broken up the fuel load. Those efforts should allow incident managers space and some measure of comfort as they send in ground crews Friday morning.

“The investments in thinning and prescribed fire that the city and the Santa Fe National Forest have made in the last few years are going to be tested and probably are going to pay off in an incident like this,” says Eytan Krasilovsky, Southwest director of The Forest Stewards Guild, which has long campaigned for prescribed burns and fire management to recreate the ecosystems generated by the natural burn cycle before fire suppression began a century ago.

“If those investments hadn’t been made, I think people should be very alarmed and concerned, but because they’re in place, they give managers more options and decision space,” says Krasilovsky, who has also worked as a wildland firefighter and maintains those qualifications to allow him to work on prescribed burns. 

Thinning and reintroduced fire in the form of prescribed burns that has interrupted an otherwise continuous canopy of pine trees and broken up the fuel load should allow incident managers space and some measure of comfort as they send in ground crews.

“Any time you have to deploy ground and air resources, there’s always a risk to the responders and their safety, so I think that’s the primary concern in all of this,” Krasilovsky says. “We just have to wait and see what happens with the weather and whatever the decisions being made are. We just need to wait and see.”

As rain showers that arrived shortly after news about the fire tapered off, Fire Chief Erik Litzenberg told Santa Fe city councilors during a Thursday evening meeting, “The rain is a mixed blessing. It’s certainly good. It helps with some of the firefighting. It’s in heavy timber, so the rain only goes so far in heavy timber. That being said, it also stops the air assault.”

“We are all sitting here with our fingers crossed on this,” said Councilor Signe Lindell, “and we know that we have very, very, very well-trained people, and we are just really hoping for a very good outcome."

Julie Ann Grimm contributed to the reporting for this story.

The Fork

So Hot in Here

The ForkThursday, June 23, 2016 by Gwyneth Doland

Ah, summer in Santa Fe, when you walk outside at 9 am and the sun hits your exposed shoulders, making them tingle from the sunburn you got from spending an hour on the roof tinkering with the swamp cooler, which all of a sudden seemed sooooo important. (What, you’ve never replaced your own cooler motor? Here’s a how-to.)

While you’re outside, you might as well make a pitcher of sun tea. I use a 2-quart pitcher with a built-in mesh filter for loose-leaf tea – and it works for cold brew, too.

This is weather that calls for a little Nelly, which will have your booty bumpin’ all over the roof. (Although … sigh, it’s not suitable for little listeners who have started understanding the words to things, thereby ruining approximately 34 percent of your music collection until 2030. Dammit.)

On your way back in to the kitchen, grab that bottle of red wine you were thinking of having with dinner and stick it in the fridge. Because what is it, like 75 degrees in your house? Your light, fruity reds should be somewhere between 50° and 60°, while a cabernet or zinfandel should be more like 65°. Leave it in the fridge for a couple of hours, and it should be pretty close to serving temp. If you forget, just submerge the bottle in a bucket (or small sink) filled with half ice and half water. Add a handful of salt to the water, and it will lower the freezing point of the mixture, making the water even colder and the bottle chill even faster. It’s science.

Have you ever put a bottle of wine in the freezer to chill it and then forgotten about it? What a mess. Don’t do that. But do freeze a bottle of pink wine and drink some … wait for it … frosé. Bon Appetit recommends you pour the wine into a 9 x 13 pan and freeze it, then blend with some lemon juice and strawberry simple syrup. I’d add a fancy paper straw.

And then I’d get to making a cold soup for dinner. Food & Wine has a collection of more than 30 great cold soup recipes here.

But of course, that won’t be enough dinner for everyone, so what about asparagus pesto? Mark Bittman has a simple recipe. The commenters say you should roast the asparagus first, which sounds like genius!

I’m craving chicken lettuce wraps, which are good made with coarse-ground or finely diced chicken (cut it when it’s frozen).

Or cold sesame noodles, which you can make with literally any kind of noodles you have in the house.

When I was a kid (and we didn’t have any cooling at all in our house), there were many summer days when my mom would come home from work and announce there would be absolutely no cooking going on. We often had summer dinners made up of things a woman who had been sweating in a wool suit and pantyhose for nine hours could buy on her way home from work. There were a lot of grapes. Apple. Cheese and crackers. Sometimes heat exhaustion would short-circuit her otherwise strict twigs-and-berries nutritional standards, and we’d get weird “composed salads” from the deli case. Mmm … ambrosia.



What news do you want to see in this newsletter? We want to hear from you! Let us know! Email thefork@sfreporter.com


Morning Word: House Republicans Flee US Capitol

Protesters shout,

Morning WordThursday, June 23, 2016 by Peter St. Cyr
Republicans Flee US House in the Middle of the Night
“A Democratic protest demanding votes on gun-control legislation led to pandemonium in the House chamber that did not end until early Thursday, when Speaker Paul D. Ryan and his fellow Republicans reclaimed control long enough to force through a major spending bill. They then abruptly adjourned and left the Capitol,” according to The New York Times.
The standoff, which began with a Democratic sit-in on the House floor just before noon on Wednesday, did not end until about 3 a.m. Thursday when Mr. Ryan — barreling over Democrats’ objections — took the rare and provocative step of calling a vote on a major appropriations bill in the wee hours and without any debate. He then adjourned the House, with no legislative votes scheduled until July 5. Republicans dashed from the chamber into the sticky heat gripping Washington and were met by protesters who jeered, with some shouting, “Do your job!” 
Earlier, as Democrats [including New Mexico’s Ben Ray Luján and Michelle Lujan Grisham] fought for control of the floor, they pressed against the speaker’s dais, waving signs with the names of gun victims and chanting “No bill! No break!” as Mr. Ryan repeatedly banged his gavel in an attempt to restore order.
Water Dispute Intensifies
Mark Oswald at the Albuquerque Journal North reports that the Nature Conservancy, the owner of the Santa Fe Canyon Preserve, is accusing the city of violating “living river” policies, since water has been cut off to the preserve. At the same time, city officials are threatening to issue a cease-and-desist order if the group doesn’t stop siphoning off water.

Rodeo Improvement Project Controversy 
Meanwhile, James Barron at the New Mexican reports that Rodeo de Santa Fe board members dispute claims by the city of Santa Fe that their construction projects were done without official approval.

Keeping the Bosque Safe
As crews continue to battle wildfires this summer, members of a youth team are working hard this summer clearing the bosque to prevent a catastrophic blaze in the ancient cottonwood forests here.

Balderas Sues Colorado
Farmington Daily Times’  Bret Berntsen reports, “The state of New Mexico has filed a lawsuit against the state of Colorado in US Supreme Court, adding to a string of legal actions in response to the Gold King Mine spill.
New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas filed the complaint on Monday, alleging that Colorado’s policies and practices led to the Aug. 5 incident. In May, Balderas' office filed similar lawsuits against the U.S Environmental Protection Agency and two mining companies.

New Mexico is demanding reimbursements for the costs incurred during the emergency and for cleanup efforts moving forward. The complaint also calls for Colorado to claim partial responsibility for the spill.
Johnson Talks to the Nation
Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson and his running mate, former Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld, got a chance to talk to the nation during a town hall broadcast on CNN last night.
Johnson says he wants to legalize marijuana, embrace gay rights and scale back U.S. military presence in other countries.
The latest CNN poll shows Johnson and Weld carrying 9 percent of the national vote. They need 15 percent to participate in the presidential and vice presidential debates.

Rubio Flip-Flop
US Sen. Marco Rubio, who dropped out of the Republican presidential race after losing his home state, has changed his mind and will seek a second term in Florida after all. Republicans had pressed him to run, hoping Rubio can help them hold a crucial Senate seat.

Citizens United: Part 2
The attorney responsible for arguing and winning Citizens United now has his eyes set on giving the same unlimited contributions advantage to state political parties.

Itty-Bitty Social Security Benefits Increase
The trustees who oversee Social Security say millions of beneficiaries can expect a meager increase in monthly payments next year. The projected 0.2 percent increase in Social Security payments would come a year after beneficiaries received no increase and will only be about $2.50 more a month, or about the price of one gallon of gasoline.

Holm Raring to Fight
Holly Holm, who hasn’t fought since losing her world title belt to Miesha Tate in March, is looking forward to her fight against Valentina Shevchenko next month in Chicago, in the same venue where Michael Jordan played basketball.

Morning Word: Attorney General, State Auditor Probe MedPot Program Delays

Morning WordWednesday, June 22, 2016 by Peter St. Cyr
AG, Auditor Probe MedPot Registration Delays
The attorney general and state auditor’s offices confirmed they are looking into why health department regulators are violating a state law after hearing about monthslong delays processing both new medical cannabis patient registrations and annual card renewals. Cards are required by statute to be approved or denied in 30 days or less, but patients have complained it’s taking up to 90 days.

Dog Head Fire Update
Today should be a big day for residents living near the Dog Head fire. Now that it’s more than 61 percent contained, they’ll be allowed to return home.

Fire Chief Accused of Illegal Traffic Stops
Valencia County Fire Chief Stephen Gonzales, already in trouble for racy pictures with an exotic dancer, is now facing charges of impersonating a police officer for allegedly making traffic stops.

Judges Get Schooled on Social Media Best Practices
State judges need to be careful what they post on social media sites like Facebook. SFR’s Steven Hsieh reports a supreme court justice has provided jurists both a warning and a best practices guide.

Taking a Stand
Speaking of court, we’re fighting a subpoena from the attorney general’s office to testify at Phil Griego’s preliminary hearing on corruption charges, since statements the former lawmaker made to us are protected under the New Mexico News Media Confidential Source or Information Privilege, a rule that gives journalists the right to refuse to disclose their sources and any confidential information obtained in the course of pursuing a story. 

Trump Fundraising Falters
Fundraising for Donald Trump’s general election campaign isn’t going well. In fact, Sandra Fish, the data reporter at New Mexico In Depth, discovered New Mexicans only donated about $11,000 to the presumptive Republican presidential nominee in May; most of that appears to have been generated during his May 24 visit to Albuquerque.

UNM Hospital Won't Renew Contract with Insurer
Dennis Domrzalski reports, “About 2,000 UnitedHealthcare of New Mexico Medicaid members who get their care at the University of New Mexico Hospital will have to find new providers as UNM said Tuesday that it has been unable to reach an agreement with United to serve those patients.”

Investing in Nuclear Deterrence
Admiral Cecil D Haney, commander of US Strategic Command, told about 250 people attending the 2016 Strategic Deterrent Coalition Symposium on Tuesday, at Crowne Plaza Albuquerque, that the country needs to continue to invest in its nuclear weapons stockpile, missiles, submarines and bombers, in order to maintain its nuclear deterrence.

Trunk Show
Now that New Mexico residents will start having to pay museum entry fees on every Sunday, but the first one of the month, it might be a good time to check out the art at the Albuquerque Zoo. An elephant there is painting for charity.


Game of Thrones for Noobs XX: Season Finale Edition
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