More Safety Issues At New Mexico Nuclear Lab, Advocates Eye NM Fund For Rural Libraries

Jun 18, 2018

Panel Cites More Safety Issues At New Mexico Nuclear LabThe Associated Press & The Santa Fe New Mexican

An independent panel that monitors federal nuclear installations around the United States has documented more safety issues at Los Alamos National Laboratory's plutonium facility.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports that a crew of pipefitters in May was decontaminated after radioactive contamination was found on a worker's hands, on the crew's protective clothing and in the work area.

The contamination wasn't discovered until after the job was finished, and all pipefitting work was paused.

Weekly briefings from the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board also show that members of another crew placed plutonium salts in a prohibited area last month.

The instances are the latest in a series of radiation releases and operational mistakes as Los Alamos lab ramps up its work with nuclear material.

Advocates Eye New Mexico Fund For Rural Village LibrariesThe Associated Press & The Santa Fe New Mexican

Dozens of nonprofit village libraries across New Mexico are in danger of closing without adequate funding and a steady stream of municipal support.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports advocates are pushing for new legislation that would create a $50 million state permanent fund to save small libraries in rural areas that lack bookstores. Advocates say the permanent fund would provide an estimated $50,000 per year for more than 40 rural community libraries.

Under the proposal, New Mexico voters would have to approve a constitutional amendment creating the endowment.

Leaders from the Embudo Valley Library in Dixon, New Mexico, and the Pueblo de Abiquiú Library in Abiquiú, New Mexico, say the plan would give them a greater ability to thrive with annual disbursements from a state rural library endowment.

Private Jet Once Owned By Elvis Presley For Sale AgainThe Associated Press

A private jet once owned by Elvis Presley that has sat on a runway in New Mexico for nearly four decades is back on the auction block.

The online auction site IronPlanet announced this week that the plane with red velvet seats had returned the market after its current owner bought it last year for $430,000.

A previous auction house says Elvis designed the interior that has gold-tone woodwork, red velvet seats and red shag carpet. But the red 1962 Lockheed Jetstar has no engine and needs a restoration of its cockpit.

The plane was owned by Elvis and his father, Vernon Presley.

It has been privately owned for 36 years and sitting on a tarmac in Roswell, New Mexico.

Photos of the plane also show the exterior in need of restoration.

Agency Disciplines Workers In Wake Of Trafficking CaseThe Associated Press & The ABQ Journal

An internal investigation by New Mexico's child welfare agency into its handling of the case of a 7-year-old girl who authorities say was sexually exploited has resulted in 11 suspensions, demotions and terminations.

State Children, Youth and Families Cabinet Secretary Monique Jacobson confirmed the disciplinary action in an interview with the Albuquerque Journal.

She said all of the employees were from the agency's office in Bernalillo County. They ranged from case workers to supervisory management.

Court documents say the agency and law enforcement had encountered the girl and her family multiple times dating back to 2012.

The girl's father is charged with human trafficking, promoting prostitution and other counts. The mother was taken into custody on charges of child abuse and contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

New Mexico Legislature Resurrects Bill Pushed By UtilitySanta Fe New Mexican, Associated Press

Lawmakers are poised to resurrect legislation that would have helped New Mexico's largest electric utility recoup some of its costs from closing the coal-fired San Juan Generating Station in the northwestern corner of the state and would have provided economic development money for the surrounding community.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports many lawmakers said last week they are in talks with Public Service Company of New Mexico representatives and some legislative leaders about the bill — or, at least, pieces of it — which ultimately died during the last legislative session.

Critics of the bill argue it would have amounted to a bailout of the company's investment in coal energy. They also say the measure was an end run around the state's utility regulator and would have left customers with higher bills.

New Mexico Catholic Bishops Dismayed With Border PoliciesAssociated Press

New Mexico's Catholic bishops have joined other religious leaders in opposing policies that are resulting in immigrant children being separated from their parents after entering the United States illegally.

Santa Fe Archbishop John Wester, Las Cruces Bishop Oscar Cantu and Gallup Bishop James Wall issued a statement Friday saying they're also dismayed by the overturning of asylum protections for victims of domestic violence.

Under a "zero tolerance" policy announced by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, officials are referring all cases of illegal entry for criminal prosecution.

Protocol prohibits detaining children because they aren't charged with a crime as their parents are.

Asylum seekers aren't separated from their families, except in specific circumstances — such as if the safety of the children is in question or if the adult is being prosecuted.

Scientists Find Respiratory Pathogen In Alaska AnimalsPeninsula Clarion, Associated Press

Officials say a respiratory pathogen previously believed to be restricted to sheep and goats has been detected in Alaska moose and caribou.

The Peninsula Clarion reports scientists have identified Mycoplasma ovipneumoniae, known as Movi, in other animal species for the first time, including a bison in Montana and mule deer in New Mexico.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game says Movi may have contributed to the death of a caribou in the Fortymile herd last month. Tests confirmed the pathogen's presence in the caribou's lungs.

Division of Wildlife Conservation Director Bruce Dale says four Alaska herds have tested positive for the bacterium, but sickness has not been spotted. He says the pathogen may have been in caribou for a while but it is not believed to be "rampantly present."

Albuquerque Police Fatally Shoot An Armed Robbery SuspectAssociated Press, Albuquerque Journal

Police in Albuquerque say an armed robbery resulted in a police pursuit and an officer-involved shooting in which one suspect died and another was arrested.

The names of the two suspects in Saturday afternoon's incident haven't been released yet.

Police say the two allegedly were involved in the robbery of a cellphone store.

The Albuquerque Journal reports a foot pursuit ended in the parking lot of the Smith’s supermarket at Yale and Coal SE.

Police say one suspect died at a hospital.

Witnesses say one of the suspects fired at officers during the pursuit. A nearby resident, Freddie Lam, told the Journal the man was being chased by several officers through the parking lot when he reach for his waist. Lam said that’s when officers opened fire.

Lam said the parking lot was crowded when the shooting happened.

Wool, Mohair Program Stops At Navajo Nation For Seventh YearFarmington Daily Times, Associated Press

A program designed to promote the purchase of wool and mohair from producers on the Navajo Nation has returned to the reservation as part of a project developed through a partnership between Black Mesa Water Coalition and Dine College's Land Grant Office.

The Daily Times reports the Mid-States Wool Growers Cooperative Association returned to the Navajo Nation for the seventh year. The wool and mohair buy made stops at Window Rock, Arizona, Dine College Center in Crownpoint and the Dine College's north campus in Shiprock this week.

The program's Arizona stops include Tsaile, Kaibeto, Pinon, Tuba City and Dilkon.

Wool Manager Stanley Strode says the wool and mohair will be examined to determine their grade then weighed before the pricing is finalized.

The price is also based on market value.

Authorities Says New Mexico Jail Officer Helped Inmates EscapeAssociated Press, Eastern New Mexico News

Law enforcement authorities in eastern New Mexico say an officer helped three inmates escape from a county lockup.

Curry County Sheriff Wesley Waller says detention officer Sarina Dodson was arrested Saturday in Texas on a felony charge of assisting escape.

Waller says Dodson was working when three inmates escaped from the detention center in Clovis Friday.

The inmates were identified as Aaron Clark, who was accused of attempted child abuse and identity fraud; Ricky Sena, who was facing charges of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon and auto theft; and Victor Apodaca, who had been jailed on drug charges.

Dodson is at the Lubbock County jail. Records do not list an attorney.

The Eastern New Mexico News reports the jail has had multiple escapes, including eight one night in 2008.

New Mexico Lawmakers Challenge Navajo Water CompactAssociated Press

Republican New Mexico lawmakers say the state Legislature never signed off on an agreement awarding water rights from the San Juan River to the Navajo Nation.

Ten lawmakers from districts stretching from the northwest of the state to Albuquerque on Friday asked the New Mexico Supreme Court to suspend the water settlement until the Legislature can enact, reject or modify the pact. They assert that former Gov. Bill Richardson signed off on the idea without giving the Legislature a say in the matter.

Congress approved the Navajo water rights settlement in 2009 but final approval from the state did not come until 2013. Water districts in New Mexico's San Juan River basin have unsuccessfully opposed it, arguing the resources are not needed for a troubled Navajo irrigation system.

Report Says 2 Mexican Wolves Found Dead In Arizona Last MonthAssociated Press

Arizona wildlife managers say two endangered Mexican gray wolves died, bringing the statewide total of dead this year to six.

The Arizona Game and Fish Department said in a news release Friday that the animals were found dead in May. Authorities did not release any details about the circumstances or where the wolves were found.

Their deaths are under investigation.

Each wolf was part of a separate pack located in the east-central portion of the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest.

Efforts to reintroduce the endangered wolves in Arizona and New Mexico have been ongoing for two decades.

New Mexico Insurance Pool Refusing To Turn Over AuditsAlbuquerque Journal, Associated Press

A high-risk insurance pool in New Mexico refusing to turn over its annual financial audits to the state Auditor's Office for approval says it does not meet the definition of a state agency.

A contract attorney representing the insurance pool says in a June 4 letter that the pool is a "nonprofit entity made up of private business members."

The Albuquerque Journal reports the attorney later added the pool will post the audits on its website.

About 2,400 New Mexico residents are enrolled in the high-risk insurance pool. Many of people it serves are kidney dialysis patients who are disabled, while others are living in the country illegally and cannot qualify for federally subsidized health insurance.

The insurance pool has come under fire in recent weeks for the political ties of its administrators.

People Gather Near Border Town To Protest Family SeparationAlbuquerque Journal

New Mexico residents joined hundreds of others near a temporary shelter in Tornillo, Texas Sunday to protest children being separated from parents who cross the border illegally.

The Albuquerque Journal reports up to 1,000 people attended the protest, including Democratic U.S. Rep. Joe Kennedy of Massachusetts.

Nearly 2,000 children have been separated from their parents since the Trump Administration began its zero tolerance policy in May toward people entering the country illegally.

State lawmaker Bill McCamley, a Democrat from Las Cruces, called the policy evil and said it needs to be changed.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has set up a tent city in Tornillo, about 45 miles southeast of El Paso, for unaccompanied children crossing the border.

U.S. Rep. Will Hurd, R-Texas, toured the facility and said it has 360 beds and is air conditioned, but he has spoken out against the policy of separating children from their families.

Erosion Of Immigrant Protections Began With Trump Inaugural - By Amy Taxin, Associated Press

The Trump administration's move to separate immigrant parents from their children on the U.S.-Mexico border has been brewing since the week President Donald Trump took office, when he issued his first order signaling a tougher approach to asylum-seekers.

Since then, the administration has been steadily eroding protections for immigrant families.

Jennifer Podkul is director of policy at Kids in Need of Defense, which represents children in immigration court.

She says the administration is willing to risk harm to children to deter illegal immigration.

The parents' plight was preceded by a series of measures making it harder for kids arriving on the border to get released from government custody and to seek legal status here.

About 2,000 children were separated from their families over a six-week period ending in May.