Border town once invaded by Pancho Villa rejects talk of troops

COLUMBUS, New Mexico — A small New Mexico border town once attacked by Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa is rejecting talk of a wall and troops while embracing its legacy to draw tourists.

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has cited Villa's 1916 raid of Columbus as an example of why President Donald Trump was deploying active-duty troops along the U.S.-Mexico border.

The deployment comes as thousands of migrants fleeing gang violence and poverty in Central America head toward the U.S.

Residents of Columbus say those living on both sides of the border in the area have co-existed peacefully since the Villa invasion. They say the raid was a phenomenon of a different era, and that using it to justify tighter border security ignores more pressing needs such as economic development and better roads.

Columbus is set to launch a campaign called "Where Old Mexico Meets New Mexico" that spotlights Pancho Villa State Park as a place where visitors can explore the area near the scene of the attack and the spot where the military planned its unsuccessful bid to retrieve Villa from Mexico. The town also has a small museum featuring U.S. Army recruitment posters and weapons.

Residents mark the day of the raid every year to remember the Americans killed. Sometimes there is a quiet moment with candles displayed in the middle of the village. Other times there is a parade through the streets with volunteers dressed as Pancho Villa and U.S. General John J. Pershing.

Shouting "Viva Villa! Viva Mexico!" Villa's forces attacked Columbus in the early morning of March 6, 1916, looting and burning homes and businesses. Around a dozen or so Columbus residents and eight U.S. soldiers were killed before members of the U.S. 13th Cavalry Regiment drove the Villistas back across the border.


Race for next New Mexico GOP chair draws familiar faces

ALBUQUERQUE — The race to be the next chairman of New Mexico's Republican Party after historic defeats on Election Day is drawing at least two familiar faces.

The Albuquerque Journal reports outgoing U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce, a Hobbs Republican, and businessman John Rockwell have announced they will seek the job.

The 71-year-old Pearce was defeated in the governor's race by Democrat Michelle Lujan Grisham, who got about 57 percent of the votes cast in the contest. Rockwell, who is 67, unsuccessfully sought the chaiman position in 2012 and 2016.

A campaign spokesman said that Pearce's bid for party chair does not rule out a possible run for his old southern New Mexico congressional seat — the 2nd District — in 2020.

Rockwell said he supported Pearce's gubernatorial bid and described him as a good congressman.

But he also said Pearce has been closely aligned with current party leaders in recent years and would represent a status quo choice at a time when Republicans should be aiming to be more inclusive.

The state GOP's central committee will meet Dec. 8 in Albuquerque to pick a successor to Ryan Cangiolosi, who is not seeking re-election as party chairman.

The party chairman position is a volunteer post that oversees staffers, coordinates fundraising and messaging efforts and helps identify potential candidates.


Mattis: Return of war-trophy bells to help ties with Philippines

CHEYENNE — Three war-trophy bells seized by U.S. troops over a century ago got a send-off back to the Philippines by U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis, who called the controversial decision to repatriate them an important gesture of friendship between the two countries.

Some veterans and officials in the U.S. oppose returning the Bells of Balangiga, calling them memorials to American war dead. But Filipinos revere the bells as symbols of national pride.

U.S. Army soldiers took the bells after an attack killed 48 American troops in 1901, during the U.S. occupation of the Philippines. Two of the Bells of Balangiga are at F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne, and the third is with the U.S. Army in South Korea.

Philippine presidents, including current President Rodrigo Duterte, have repeatedly called for the bells' return. President Donald Trump's administration agreed that bolstering the U.S. relationship with a key international ally outweighs concerns at home, even among Republican political allies.

Mattis marked the start of a several-weeks process to return the bells to a church in the Philippines with a recent visit to the two bells at the Wyoming Air Force base. With him was the Philippine ambassador to the U.S, H.E. Jose Manuel G. Romualdez.

Those opposed to returning the bells include Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead, a Republican. Mead took part in the ceremony even as he sides with U.S. veterans who worry that returning the bells could lead to the repatriation of any number of items serving as memorials to American war dead.

Wyoming's all-Republican congressional delegation also opposes the bells' return, saying in a joint statement that repatriation sets a dangerous precedent for other veterans' memorials in the U.S.


Officials differ on Montana’s voting needs

HELENA, Montana — Montana's midterm elections saw a record number of absentee ballots overwhelm voting machines, found election officials in a dozen counties hand-counting votes and underscored the need to replace hundreds of aging voting machines for the disabled.

But money for equipment is scarce and state law restricts when absentee ballots can be counted, meaning the circumstances that resulted in votes still being counted days after the Nov. 6 election aren't likely to change anytime soon, according to Associated Press interviews with election officials across the state.

Some help is coming from the U.S. government, which this year distributed $380 million in grants to states to improve their election systems and security. Montana's share was $3 million, and Secretary of State Corey Stapleton released the plans that he submitted in September to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission on how to spend it.

The bulk of the money, $2 million, will go toward a new voter registration system to replace the one that was installed in 2005 to comply with the Help America Vote Act requirement that all states have a registration system. Another $150,000 will go toward information technology security and $100,000 will pay for the salary of Stapleton's election supervisor, Stuart Fuller.

The rest, $750,000, will go to counties for voting equipment.

That amount isn't likely to go very far. The price of one voting machine for the disabled, which every polling place is required to have and several county officials identified as their most pressing need, starts at $3,500. There were 343 polling locations across the state for this year's election, meaning it would cost at least $1.2 million to replace the aging, bulky machines now being used throughout Montana.

At the other end of the price spectrum are the speedy central-count tabulating machines that can cost up to $120,000 apiece. Missoula County used three of those machines in this election just to count absentee ballots, which topped 50,000 this year.

One of the county's machines broke down on election night, slowing a count already made difficult by a state law that forbids counties from tabulating absentee ballots until Election Day. Equipment upgrades aside, election results would come a lot more quickly if state legislators changed the law to allow officials to begin the count earlier, elections officials said.


Survivor of 1921 Tulsa race riot dies at 103

OKLAHOMA CITY — One of the last survivors of the 1921 Tulsa race riot, one of the worst race riots in U.S. history, has died at age 103.

Olivia Hooker was 6 years old when the late-spring riot destroyed much of a Tulsa neighborhood that had been known as "Black Wall Street." She told National Public Radio in an interview this year that she hid under a table as a mob of torch-carrying people destroyed her family's home.

The violence began after a black man allegedly assaulted a white woman in an elevator. The number of deaths was never confirmed and varies from about three dozen to 300.

Hooker's goddaughter, Janis Porter, says her godmother died last week at their home in White Plains, New York. Porter didn't provide a cause of death.

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