Classes To Resume At Aztec High School, APD Officer Honored For Adopting Opioid Addicted Baby

Dec 12, 2017

Classes To Resume After Shooting Rocks New Mexico SchoolThe Associated Press

Classes will resume next week as a New Mexico community works to recover in the wake of a school shooting that left two classmates and the gunman dead.

District Superintendent Kirk Carpenter announced the schedule for Aztec High School on Tuesday.

Students and families can visit the school and reconnect with teachers on Thursday and Friday. On Monday, they'll start the day with an assembly before heading to class.

Carpenter says he wants to respect and honor the two victims of last Thursday's shooting by providing time for students and staff to mourn. He also said students need a sense of normalcy and returning to class will help with that.

Officials say the school has received a waiver for state-required end-of-course exams as the semester is close to wrapping up.

Officer Honored For Adopting Baby From Opioid Addicted MomThe Associated Press

A police officer who persuaded a pregnant woman he found using heroin to let him adopt her unborn child has been honored by the city of Albuquerque.

Officer Ryan Holets and his wife were praised Monday for adopting a baby girl they named Hope after the addicted mom agreed to let the couple raise her baby.

Police say Holets found the homeless woman and a man using heroin near a convenience store in September. But instead of charging the couple with drug possession, he asked to adopt her child.

Holets and his wife had four other children, including a 10-month-old infant.

Holets says the baby is recovering after being born with an opioid addiction.

Albuquerque Police Sgt. Jim Edison says "he couldn't be more proud" of Holets.

Federal Officials Probe National Lab After Worker IncidentThe Associated Press

Federal officials are investigating the Los Alamos National Laboratory after an employee was involved in an incident described as a "near-miss to a fatality."

A letter sent to the outgoing lab director by the Department of Energy's Office of Enforcement says a worker entered a lab room despite a low-oxygen alarm sounding. The September incident was characterized in the letter as potentially deadly and a violation of building requirements and emergency response protocol.

Officials say the investigation will include a visit to the lab, interviews with employees and a review of lab documents.

A lab spokesman says they are cooperating with the federal probe.

An official with the National Nuclear Security Administration says the agency is committed to ensuring employees are safe.

Navajo Nation Sues Wells Fargo For Alleged Predatory TacticsThe Associated Press

The Navajo Nation is suing Wells Fargo for allegedly engaging in predatory and unlawful banking practices that targeted and harmed tribal members.

In a statement Tuesday, Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye says the tribe's lawyer has been directed to seek restitution, damages and civil penalties based on Wells Fargo's alleged violations of federal, state and tribal law.

The tribe alleges employees at Wells Fargo branches on the vast reservation "routinely misled customers into opening unnecessary accounts and obtained debit and credit cards without customers' consent."

They also allege that Navajo elders "were purposely confused and deceived into purchasing products to help employees meet banking quotas."

The suit was filed in a federal court in New Mexico.

The Navajo Nation covers parts of northeastern Arizona, southeastern Utah and northwestern New Mexico.

Federal Judge Dismisses Lawsuit Challenging New Bond RulesThe Associated Press

A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit against the New Mexico Supreme Court over changes to the bond system, finding the case was without merit.

The Albuquerque Journal reports the ruling issued Monday came after the Bail Bond Association of New Mexico, some state lawmakers and a woman who spent time in the Albuquerque jail filed the suit in July to challenge the new bond rules.

The state Supreme Court issued the rules after voters last year supported a constitutional amendment to allow people who do not pose a risk to be released from custody even if they cannot afford bail. It also allowed people to be held in jail without bail until their trial if they are deemed dangerous.

The bond association claimed the new rules harmed its profession.

FBI May Launch Investigation Over Fetal TissueAlbuquerque Journal

The Federal Bureau of Investigation confirmed it is looking into the use of tissue from aborted fetuses for medical research in New Mexico.

The Albuquerque Journal reports an FBI official wrote in a letter to U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce that the FBI is following up on a request by the House Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives to open criminal inquiries into abortion providers who make fetal tissue available for research.

Steven E. Boyd, assistant attorney general for legislative affairs in Washington, did not confirm or deny an investigation. But he told Pearce the FBI has forwarded relevant information to its field offices. That includes referrals to the New Mexico Attorney General about Southwestern Women’s Options in Albuquerque and the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center.

Southwestern Women's Options, which is a provider of early and late-term abortions, has provided fetal tissue to UNM for medical research. Federal law prohibits selling the tissue, but clinics can recover costs involved in providing the material.

The House panel has argued the clinic and UNM are violating the law. Southwestern Options and the university say the transfer of the fetal tissue is legal.

New Mexico Gets Tax Forecasting Tool To Address Loopholes Associated Press

New Mexico lawmakers are getting a new financial planning tool designed to help them forecast future tax revenues as they contemplate changes to the state tax code.

Republican Sen. Bill Sharer said Monday that he hopes the forecasting tool will help lawmakers move forward with efforts to lower tax rates by closing loopholes in the state's complex gross receipts tax laws.

The Legislature is spending $400,000 on the fiscal calculator to anticipate the consequences of tax reform on state government income, family finances and business interests.

Proposals to do away with dozens of tax credits, deduction and exemptions stalled in the Statehouse this year.

Leading lawmakers say they're unlikely to take up comprehensive tax reforms during the upcoming 30-day session in January and will focus on budgetary and crime issues.

Lobbyist Reports Harassment To Attorneys For LegislatureAssociated Press

A registered lobbyist in New Mexico has submitted a detailed account of being sexually harassed by a former state lawmaker in writing to the Legislature's legal oversight agency.

Lobbyist Vanessa Alarid on Monday submitted a letter to the Legislative Council Service that accuses former Rep. Thomas Garcia of offering to vote for a bill in 2009 if Alarid would have sex with him. Garcia has vigorously denied the allegations.

The Legislature, which is led by Democrats, is preparing to rewrite its anti-harassment policy in response to a groundswell of reports from women of sexual misconduct in the Statehouse.

Alarid says current policies leave lobbyists with little recourse against sexual harassment by lawmakers.

Since her story went public Friday, Alarid says she received over 70 messages and calls recounting sexual misconduct at the state Capitol.

Mining To Resume At Nuke Waste Dump For 1st Time Since LeakBy Susan Montoya Bryan, Associated Press

Officials at the nation's only underground nuclear waste repository will be flipping the switch on an interim ventilation system this week, allowing mining to resume for the first time since a 2014 radiation release contaminated part of the facility.

Still, they caution it will be a few years before the flow of air is enough to meet the pace of operations before the leak.

Bruce Covert, president of the contractor that runs the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, said testing was done and the U.S. Energy Department approved starting up the ventilation system.

He called it a big step for the facility, which disposes of waste from decades of bomb-making and nuclear research.

Officials are planning for a permanent system that's expected to cost a quarter-billion dollars and take until 2021 to complete.

New Mexico Students Gather Belongings After School ShootingAssociated Press

Students who attend a New Mexico high school where a shooting rampage claimed the lives of two classmates are being allowed to retrieve belongings left behind after the gunfire erupted.

The San Juan County Sheriff's Office said a large crowd of Aztec High School students waited Monday to be escorted to their classrooms for the first time since last Thursday morning.

That's when the shooting happened. Authorities say former student William Atchison shot and killed Casey J. Marquez and Francisco I. Fernandez at random before killing himself.

Investigators say the 21-year-old gunman carefully planned the attack.

Memorial services for the victims are being planned for later this week. Officials say the high school will remain closed indefinitely.

Man Pleads Guilty To Threatening Las Cruces School StudentsAssociated Press

A man has pleaded guilty to using interstate communications to threaten students at a Las Cruces elementary school.

Prosecutors say 24-year-old Michael Anthony Estrada, of Las Cruces, entered his plea Monday in federal court.

Estrada was arrested on a criminal complaint on Sept. 15.

He was accused of posting online threats that he allegedly planned to shoot children at a school.

The threats led authorities in Las Cruces to put the elementary school on lockdown until Estrada was arrested.

Prosecutors say Estrada faces a sentence of up to five years in federal prison.

He remains in custody pending a sentencing hearing, which has yet to be scheduled.

Authorities Monitor 3 Nitrate Plumes In Kirtland GroundwaterAlbuquerque Journal, Associated Press

Authorities are keeping tabs on three nitrate plumes in groundwater on Kirtland Air Force Base.

The nitrate plumes are in addition to the toxic groundwater plume that resulted from a decades-long jet fuel leak at the base.

The Albuquerque Journal reports nitrates can be naturally occurring and are caused by septic systems and fertilizers, and they biodegrade over time.

High levels of nitrate are harmful to humans and can lead to "blue baby syndrome," caused when blood cells are unable to transport oxygen.

Scott Clark of the Air Force Civil Engineer Center says above-allowable levels are present in each of the three plumes, but all are within base boundaries and far from drinking well locations.

Clark says the situation doesn't pose an imminent threat to human health.

Officer Raises Possibility Of Police Ramming MotorcyclesAlbuquerque Journal, Associated Press

Motorcyclists who caused a disturbance on an Albuquerque roadway by doing stunts amid traffic prompted a Bernalillo County sheriff's lieutenant to broach the idea of ramming motorcycles with police vehicles in similar incidents in the future.

Officers circulated emails after the Oct. 7 incident in which deputies reported that motorcyclists surrounded them, blocked them in and made threatening gestures.

They say an officer who was concerned about a motorcycle hitting a police car had pointed a gun at the motorcyclist who got close to the cruiser on Tramway Boulevard.

The Albuquerque Journal reports Lt. AJ Rodriguez told a superior in an email that the deputies were in a borderline deadly-force situation and if similar incidents happen again he would approve hitting the bikes.

Tribes Decry Proposal For Co-Management Of Utah Monument - By Felicia Fonseca, Associated Press

President Donald Trump's decision to drastically reduce and break up a national monument in Utah wasn't the only blow Native American tribes say they were dealt last week.

The president's proclamation on Bears Ears National Monument changes the makeup of a tribal advisory commission for the land. It adds a San Juan County, Utah, commissioner who supported peeling back protections for the monument.

The new commissioner — now Rebecca Benally — will have the same authority as the other members. All five others represent tribes.

Federal legislation also would create tribal co-management councils. The proposal by Utah Republican Rep. John Curtis excludes tribes outside Utah and lets the president hand-select most members.

The Utah congressional delegation sees the changes as unifying forces.

Tribes say they're another example of Native Americans being told what's good for them.

Detained By US, Mexican Journalist Fears Death If DeportedBy Nomaan Merchant, Associated Press

Advocates for a Mexican journalist detained in a remote West Texas facility are asking the U.S. government to grant him asylum instead of deporting him to a country where he believes he'll be killed.

Emilio Gutierrez Soto fled to the United States a decade ago after articles he wrote alleging corruption in the Mexican military in Chihuahua, which borders New Mexico and part of West Texas, caused his name to land on a hit list. After coming within hours of potential deportation, Gutierrez is appealing the denial of his asylum request while in detention.

His lawyer, Eduardo Beckett, said Monday that he thinks the U.S. government is trying to push Gutierrez into leaving.

But Gutierrez says he's afraid of taking "one step into Mexico."

Mexico is one of the world's most dangerous places for journalism, in league with Syria and Iraq.

New Mexico AG, Others Support Proposed Wind FarmsAssociated Press

New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas, consumer advocates and others have reached a settlement with Xcel Energy over the utility's plans to add more wind power for customers in New Mexico and parts of Texas.

The proposed agreement was filed Monday with New Mexico utility regulators for approval. The Public Utility Commission of Texas also would have to sign off.

The Sagamore Wind Project is planned for Roosevelt County. It would be the largest wind farm in New Mexico, providing more than 520 megawatts of power. The other — with a capacity of nearly 480 megawatts — would be located in Hale County, Texas.

The attorney general's office, the staff of the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission and others are seeking certain assurances that the wind farms would benefit customers.