Shipping Resumes To Underground Nuclear Waste Dump, Bills Flounder On Both Transparency And Secrecy

Apr 10, 2017

Shipping Resumes To Only US Underground Nuclear Waste DumpThe Associated Press

The nation's only underground nuclear repository has received its first shipment of waste, more than three years after shipping was halted in response to a radiation release that contaminated part of the facility.

The U.S. Energy Department said Monday that the shipment from a federal facility in Idaho marked a milestone for the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant and the government sites where waste left over from decades of nuclear weapons research and development has been stacking up.

The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant was forced to close in February 2014 after an inappropriately packed drum of waste ruptured, hampering the government's multibillion-dollar cleanup program.

Some operations at the repository resumed in December after an expensive recovery effort, but federal officials have acknowledged the resulting backlog.

The facility hopes to receive four shipments a week by the end of 2017.

Bills Flounder On Both Transparency, Secrecy In New MexicoThe Associated Press

Residents of New Mexico may be none the wiser when it comes to information about independent political expenditures and everyday spending by lobbyist after key transparency measures were vetoed by Gov. Susana Martinez. At the same time, a long list of anti-transparency initiatives designed to restrict access to government information have floundered.

Some advocates for greater transparency in government were breathing a sigh of relief Monday after the demise of a bill to prohibit the law enforcement authorities from releasing the names of victims in sexual assault and stalking cases.

The defeat of a proposal to make more information available about so-called dark money political donations drew mixed reactions, with prominent Democrats expressing disappointment and one conservative-backed group describing a victory for open debate.

The Intel Plant In Rio Rancho Continues To Shed JobsThe Associated Press & The ABQ Journal

The Intel plant in Rio Rancho continues to shed jobs.

According to the company's latest annual report to the Sandoval County Commission released Monday, the number of full-time workers directly employed by Intel Corp. at its Rio Rancho plant fell by 37 percent in 2016.

The plant has gone from 1,900 salaried workers in 2015 to 1,200 as of last December.

About half of the 700 employees who departed from Rio Rancho last year were retirements.

The Albuquerque Journal reports Intel still employs about 1,000 contract workers, about half of whom are generally on site daily to work on specific projects.

The company announced in April 2016 that it planned to lay off about 12,000 people worldwide, or about 11 percent of its global workforce.

New Mexico Medical Pot Board Wants To Add Health Conditions – Santa Fe New Mexican, Associated Press

New Mexico officials want to expand the state's list of qualifying conditions for medical marijuana, to include attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, autism and anxiety, among other ailments.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports that the New Mexico Medical Cannabis Advisory Board also voted Friday to increase the amount and potency allowed for an approved user.

Other conditions the board wants to recognize include depression, chronic headaches, including migraines, sleep disorder and dystonia, a neurological condition that causes muscle spasms, tremors and other problems with movement.

The recommendations now go to the state Health Secretary Lynn Gallagher for final approval.

The board's recommendations in November to add Alzheimer's disease and opiate use disorder to its current list of 20 qualifying health conditions are still pending.

Border Agency: Driver, Agents Exchange Gunfire At CheckpointThe Associated Press

A man was transported to a hospital after exchanging gunfire with Border Patrol agents at an immigration checkpoint on Interstate 25 in southern New Mexico, federal officials said.

Police have released few details about the encounter but said it began Sunday evening when the man was driving through the checkpoint and was referred to a secondary inspection.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection says the man brandished a handgun as he was being questioned and then fired one shot through his car in the direction of Border Patrol agents. Agents returned gunfire and then secured the scene and administered first aid.

CBP's Office of Professional Responsibility, the FBI and state authorities are investigating.

Immigration checkpoints are common around the southwest and can be as far as 100 miles from the international border.

Customs and Border Protection says checkpoints strategically located and serve to catch and deter human and drug smuggling.

DA Letter Describes 'Strained' Relationship With Las CrucesThe Associated Press & The Las Cruces Sun-News

Dona Ana County's district attorney has issued a scathing letter to the Las Cruces Police Department after learning of alleged problems with the department's investigation into the fatal shooting of a Santa Fe County sheriff's deputy in Las Cruces.

The Las Cruces Sun-News reports District Attorney Mark D'Antonio's letter to police Chief Jaime Montoya accuses the department of maintaining a culture of disrespect and undeserved criticism toward his office.

The Tuesday letter follows Detective Irma Palos' lawsuit alleging her investigation into the 2014 fatal shooting was obstructed by her supervisors.

D'Antonio says he had not been informed by the department of Palos' lawsuit, which was filed in October.

Las Cruces City Manager Stuart Ed said he will work to improve communications between D'Antonio's office and the Police Department.

TV Series On Branch Davidian Shootout To Film In New MexicoThe Associated Press

A six-part television series covering a deadly standoff between the federal government and the Branch Davidians spiritual sect more than two decades ago will be filming in New Mexico starting this month.

The New Mexico Film Office says Monday that locations for "Waco" will include everything from the rural reaches of Santa Fe County to urban spots and studios.

The series will star Michael Shannon and John Leguizamo and will premiere on Paramount Network in 2018. It will be directed by John Erick Dowdle and Dennie Gordon and The Weinstein Co. will be the producer.

The series will explore the details leading up to and chronicling the 51-day standoff in 1993 in which four federal agents were killed along with some 70 people inside the sect's Texas compound.

New Mexico Supreme Court To Hear Bond Amendment ArgumentsSanta Fe New Mexican, Associated Press

The New Mexico Supreme Court will soon consider two cases involving the state's rules for granting bail.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports that the cases are very different, but both ask what evidence prosecutors must provide to justify keeping an accused person in jail without bond.

A state constitutional amendment passed in November gives judges the authority to keep a defendant in jail without the option of posting bond, but only if prosecutors present "clear and convincing evidence" that the person is dangerous. Prosecutors and criminal defense attorneys are still unsure how to implement the amendment.

Several cases involving the interpretation of the amendment are already pending in the New Mexico Court of Appeals.

New Mexico Outlaws Lunch-Debt Stigma At Public Schools Associated Press

New Mexico has a new law that ensures children are served school meals even if their parents do not pay on time.

The law signed by Gov. Susana Martinez on Thursday was designed to ensure that students whose parents owe money at the cafeteria are still fed adequately and do not face public embarrassment.

The legislation outlines debt collection procedures for unpaid breakfasts and lunches at public, private and religious schools that accept federal subsidies for student meals.

Martinez is signing scores of bills ahead of a deadline at noon on Friday to act on legislation. After the deadline, bills without a signature are effectively vetoed.

No Specifics On New Mexico Utilities Company's Lawyer FeesAssociated Press

A New Mexico utilities company doesn't want to disclose specifics about its attorney fees, as it seeks a rate increase.

The Albuquerque Journal reports that the Public Service Company of New Mexico has been pushing to conceal the hourly rates it pays its lawyers.

Though it disclosed how much it spends in total, the utility says more specific information will compromise future rate negotiations for its legal services.

But multiple environmental groups are pushing back.

New Mexico Industrial Energy Consumers, Western Resource Advocates and the Coalition for Clean Affordable Energy have filed counter briefs, saying the public paying for the attorney fees has a right to know about those bills.

The utility is seeking an average rate increase of about 14 percent, or about $10 more each month.

Navajo Nation Police, Prosecutors Push For Safety Fund Gallup Independent, Associated Press

Law enforcement agents and prosecutors on the Navajo Nation have joined forces to advocate for the creation of a public safety fund to help deal with an increase in violent crime.

The Gallup Independent reports authorities say criminals have been getting more aggressive and do not fear prosecution because they are aware of the shortage of police officers, prosecutors and judges. The public safety fund would help hire more people to fill these positions.

The call for more reinforcement comes after Navajo Nation Police Officer Houston Largo was shot and killed after responding to a domestic disturbance call in March.

Navajo Nation lawmakers are considering legislation that would create the public safety fund with money earned from a $58 million court settlement for the tribe. It has support from President Russell Begaye.

New Mexico State Police: Oklahoma Man Shot In Traffic StopAssociated Press

New Mexico State Police say an officer shot and wounded a man from Oklahoma during a traffic stop on Interstate 40 in Gallup.

They say 33-year-old Steven Thompson of Oklahoma City was shot in the abdomen and taken to a hospital for treatment Friday morning.

State police say an officer stationed in Gallup stopped a vehicle on the west end of Gallup for a traffic violation around 7 a.m.

The officer asked the driver — later identified as Thompson — to stay out of the vehicle.

But state police say Thompson got back in his vehicle and drove off with the officer getting in through the open passenger door.

Thompson was shot shortly afterward.

State police say no charges have been filed yet against Thompson, but their investigation is continuing.

High Winds, Blowing Dust Causing Problems Across SouthwestAssociated Press

High winds and blowing dust are causing problems across the Southwest.

It's causing a closure on Interstate 10 along the New Mexico and Arizona border.

State transportation officials in both states say they're diverting traffic off I-10 to Highway 70, at San Simon, Arizona, and Lordsburg, New Mexico.

No timeline was given for when the roads would reopen.

In southern Nevada, Clark County's Department of Air Quality issued a dust advisory in effect through Saturday evening.

Officials are warning residents and local construction sites that the winds are causing an elevated amount of blowing dust, which could aggravate respiratory conditions.

The National Weather Service has also issued a hazardous weather warning and wind advisory for Saturday, with winds peaking by the evening.

MDC Corrections Officers Arrested For Domestic ViolenceKRQE-TV

A corrections officer with the Bernalillo County Metropolitan Detention Center was arrested Saturday for allegedly choking his wife and chasing her with a shotgun.

KRQE-TV reports Tyler Nafus was charged with aggravated battery and child abuse. According to a criminal complaint, Nafus and his wife returned to their home Friday night after celebrating a surprise birthday party for him. She told police he began choking her and threatening to kill her.

One of the couple’s two children tried to intervene, but he pushed the child away. He then allegedly threw his wife out and chased her down the street with a shotgun.

The Albuquerque Journal reports Nafus has been placed on administrative leave with pay while the county investigates.

Local Election Bill Doomed By Pocket VetoAssociated Press

There will be no reshaping of the political landscape for school boards, cities and other nonpartisan local governments in New Mexico through the consolidation of elections.

Gov. Susana Martinez did not take action on the bill before Friday's signing deadline, resulting in an automatic veto.

The measure would have allowed such local elections to be combined and put before voters in November every other year.

Experts had suggested that doing so could boost turnout. Currently, such elections draw little attention, with some failing to garner a single ballot.

Dona Ana County Clerk Scott Krahling says this marks the third time the legislation has failed. Krahling says democracies aren't successful if only a few people vote and consolidating elections would have been a step in the right direction.

New Mexico Cities Honor Veterans Of Bataan Death March Associated Press

Survivors of the Bataan Death March in the Philippines and their descendants gathered across New Mexico to mark the 75th anniversary of the infamous event.

Events commemorating the march were scheduled Sunday in Santa Fe and Las Cruces, while Albuquerque held an event at Bataan Memorial Park on Saturday.

In 1942, Japanese soldiers forced tens of thousands of U.S. and Filipino soldiers on a 65-mile trudge through hot jungle to a prison camp.

Hundreds of American soldiers and thousands of Filipinos died along the way.

Of the 1,800 soldiers from New Mexico, only about 1,000 survived the march.

The Albuquerque Journal reports only a dozen of the New Mexico soldiers are still alive today. Most of them attended Saturday's event in Albuquerque.

Native American Students In Other States Outpace Peers In NMAlbuquerque Journal


Native American students in New Mexico are lagging behind their peers in other states particularly in fourth-grade reading levels.


The Albuquerque Journal reports recently released data from the National Center for Education Statistics show fourth grade Native American students in New Mexico were 20 points behind in reading skills. The data is culled from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, a federally administered standardized test.


Researchers compared results across 14 states with large Native American populations including Alaska, Arizona, Minnesota, Montana, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming.


Oklahoma usually ranks at the top while New Mexico tends to be near the bottom.


New Mexico Education Secretary Hanna Skandera told the Journal there is “a lot of room for academic growth and achievement for our American Indian students.”


But she added Farmington, Gallup and Los Lunas have shown good progress among Native American students. Also the national study found New Mexico students have good access to traditional language classes and curricula that is culturally sensitive.