Complaints Against Cigarette Maker to Procede, UNM Plans New Purpose For Building

Dec 29, 2017

Some Complaints Against Natural Cigarette Maker To ProceedThe Associated Press

A federal judge in New Mexico has dismissed more than two dozen complaints but is allowing others to proceed against the company behind a line of cigarettes touted as natural.

Scores of plaintiffs sued the maker of American Spirit cigarettes — Santa Fe Natural Tobacco Co., and its parent company, Reynolds American Inc. — after the federal Food and Drug Administration in 2015 found consumers were misled regarding risks associated with the products.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports that U.S. District Judge James Browning in a Dec. 21 ruling cited various state laws as he weeded out some complaints.

Some rejected claims were premised on the theory that by labeling cigarettes as "additive-free" and "natural," the company tried to suggest its products were less processed than other cigarettes.

UNM Plans New Purpose For BuildingThe Associated Press

The University of New Mexico is planning to transform a vacant biology annex building to house an interdisciplinary teaching and learning center for sciences and the museum sciences program.

The Albuquerque Journal reports the university previously planned to use the 8,000-square-foot (743-square-meter) building as art studio space for graduate students.

Art students and faculty members railed against that plan, which the board of regents had approved. The board later scrapped it after finding it too costly.

Official say that under the new plan, the building will feature labs, teaching spaces and storage areas to house the university's collection of thousands of fossils.

Regents have approved the new recommendation, but the board still must approve a detailed design and reallocate the funding.

Experts Try To Keep Georgia O'Keeffe Paintings From FadingThe Associated Press

Chemical reactions are threatening to discolor and deform the surface of Georgia O'Keeffe's famously vibrant paintings, and experts are hoping new digital imaging tools can help them slow the damage.

Art conservationists in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and the Chicago area on Thursday announced a federally funded project to develop new 3-D imaging tools to detect destructive buildup in paintings by O'Keeffe and potentially other artists in museum collections around the world.

Dale Kronkright, art conservationist at the Georgia O'Keefe Museum in Santa Fe, says the project builds on trial efforts that started in 2011 to monitor the preservation of O'Keeffe paintings without disturbing or damaging the works.

The buildup on her art is soap. It emerges when fats in the original oil paints combine with alkaline materials contained in pigments or through drying agents.

Arizona Man Pleads Guilty To Intimidating NM Flight CrewThe Associated Press

An Arizona man whose behavior aboard a flight earlier this year forced an emergency landing in New Mexico has pleaded guilty to charges that he assaulted and intimidated crew members and flight attendants.

Federal prosecutors say 55-year-old Robert Tomblin of Phoenix entered his plea during a hearing Friday in Albuquerque. Sentencing has yet to be scheduled.

The charges stem from an August flight between Roswell, New Mexico, and Phoenix.

According to court documents, a flight attendant reported to the captain that Tomblin, who was seated in an emergency exit row, appeared to be intoxicated and was acting belligerent.

Attendants asked him to move to another seat due to safety concerns but he refused.

Tomblin was accused of head-butting two police officers before being carried off the plane after the flight was diverted to Albuquerque.

Jail Lawsuit Settlements Cost Bernalillo County $1.1 MillionAlbuquerque Journal

Three cases by former inmates alleging brutality at the Bernalillo County Metropolitan Detention Center were settled for a total of $1.1 million.

The Albuquerque Journal reports it obtained the settlement agreements from the county, which declined to comment. The county settled lawsuits ahead of the indictment of Eric Allen, a jail supervisor who allegedly ordered guards to hurt a state prison inmate, Joe Ray Barela, in December 2015.

Allen is on paid administrative leave but the Journal reports the county is in the process of firing him.

Barela alleged he was blasted with pepper spray, threatened with a Taser and slammed into a cabinet. Another plaintiff who settled her case, Susie Chavez, was captured on video sobbing and shrieking as officers used a stun gun and Mace on her.

A third lawsuit brought by Justin Allen alleges officials used inflammatory spray and a Taser on him when he asked for antidepressants and breathing medication.

There was no admission of liability in the settlement agreements. An attorney for one of the plaintiffs says the MDC has a long history of violence among its staff.

Law Allows New Year's Eve Exception For Sunday Liquor Sales Associated Press, KOB-TV

A New Mexico law enacted earlier this year will allow New Year's Eve liquor sales to continue past midnight — the usual cutoff time for sales on Sunday.

KOB-TV reports state Rep. Jim Trujillo introduced the bill that took effect in June, extending liquor sales when the last day of December falls on a Sunday.

The law only applies to businesses with full liquor licenses, so certain restaurants or breweries will not be able to sell past midnight depending on their license.

The law also does not apply to towns or counties that do not allow liquor sales at all on Sundays.

The next time New Year's Eve falls on a Sunday is in 2023.

Owl Population On Los Alamos Lab Property Holding SteadyAssociated Press, Los Alamos Monitor

A recent survey of endangered species that live within the borders of Los Alamos National Laboratory shows the population of Mexican spotted owls appears to be holding steady.

The northern New Mexico lab, which covers about 38 square miles, recently released the findings. The survey covers the owl, the Jemez Mountains salamander and the southwestern willow flycatcher.

The survey found a pair of Mexican spotted owls living and breeding in Threemile Canyon and at least one Mexican spotted owl in Mortandad Canyon. There may also be siblings living in Acid Canyon.

The Los Alamos Monitor reports that surveyors located the owls by playing a recording of the species' four-note location call and listening for a response. Surveyors spent at least 20 minutes at each station listening for a call.

Agency: Southwestern Songbird To Retain Protected Status Associated Press

A federal agency says a migratory songbird that breeds in vegetation along rivers and streams in Arizona and New Mexico will remain an endangered species.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's announcement Thursday says the Southwestern willow flycatcher will keep the protected status following a review of a 2015 petition in which industry groups argued the bird isn't a valid subspecies under the Endangered Species Act.

The announcement says an "exhaustive review" of scientific information reached the conclusion that the flycatcher is a protectable subspecies.

It also says some flycatcher populations "have made considerable progress toward recovery" but that threats still exist and warrant protection.

A 2012 assessment estimated a population of only 1,629 breeding territories. Those are places where a male sings to attract a mate.

Sophia And Noah Are Top Names For New Mexico Babies In 2017Associated Press

Sophia has overtaken Mia as the top name for baby girls in New Mexico, and Noah is the favorite for boys.

The New Mexico Department of Health released the list of top baby names Thursday. The list is compiled by the agency's vital records and health statistics bureau based on birth certificates submitted to the state.

The Health Department has been releasing the top 10 list since 2014.

For 2017, Olivia, Isabella and Emma rounded out the top five for girls. Aurora and Charlotte also made their debuts in the top 10 while Aria returned to the list after dropping off in 2016.

Aside from Noah, the top names for boys in 2017 included Santiago, Elijah, Ezekiel and Josiah.

Sandoval County Using New Fund To Attract, Grow BusinessesAssociated Press, Albuquerque Journal

A New Mexico manufacturer has been awarded a $50,000 grant from an economic development fund established by Sandoval County.

The Albuquerque Journal reports that Geobrugg North America LLC will add 7,000 square feet to its current 16,000-square-foot facility in Algodones where it makes high-strength steel wire netting for safety applications.

The company plans to install new machines to add lower-strength netting to its product line and that's expected to result in seven more jobs. The company currently has 30 employees.

The grant will help offset the $500,000 cost for expansion. It comes from a new $3 million fund the county created to help recruit, retain and expand businesses.

County Commissioner Don Chapman says it's the first investment to date from the fund and more projects are in the works.

Police Say Home Invaders Wore Law Enforcement DisguisesAssociated Press, KOB-TV

Authorities say two men who were shot during a home invasion in Silver City had disguised themselves in camouflage and clothing resembling that of a police officer.

Police Chief Ricky Villalobos tells KOB-TV that 48-year-old Eric Arzate died following Tuesday's shooting. The other suspect, 45-year-old John V. Shivner, was hospitalized with gunshot wounds.

Police executed a search warrant and found Arzate's body dressed in a vest with a badge and markings resembling a police officer. He also had a helmet with the word "police" written on the front.

Authorities believe Arzate and Shivner were armed with handguns when they went inside the home and wanted to rob it. A resident opened fire on the intruders.

Shivner is facing aggravated burglary, robbery and other charges.

New Mexico Utility Wants Regulators To Reconsider RatesAssociated Press

New Mexico's largest electric provider wants state regulators to reconsider a recent decision that allows a rate increase for customers but limits the amount of money the utility can recoup on upgrades at a coal-fired power plant.

Public Service Co. of New Mexico filed the request Thursday, saying an agreement reached in May with other stakeholders sets a better path forward as the company transitions away from coal.

If the Public Regulation Commission doesn't approve the settlement agreement, the utility warned there could be legal action.

Utility officials claim the order issued last week by the commission muddies the regulatory waters.

One group that opposes the settlement, New Energy Economy, said the utility has failed to convince commissioners that investments in the coal plant are prudent.

New Mexico Ad Warns Teens, Parents About Online Predators – Associated Press

New Mexico officials are launching a new ad campaign to warn teens and their parents about online sexual predators.

The Attorney General's Office says the ad called "Monsters" can be viewed on Facebook.

Attorney General Hector Balderas says parents and teens must be on guard for online sexual predators who lurk behind the screens of computers, tablets and phones.

Balderas' office says the Facebook ad was funded by a federal grant to the New Mexico Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, which Balderas' office oversees.

A similar ad is running on screens at theaters in Albuquerque and Santa Fe this holiday season.