WIPP Workers Practice Handling Nuclear Waste, ABQ Officials To Meet In Wake Of 10-Year-Old's Death

Aug 29, 2016

Workers At New Mexico Plant Practice Handling Nuclear Waste – The Associated Press & The Carlsbad Current-Arugus  

Workers at New Mexico's Waste Isolation Pilot Plant are completing training exercises as they prepare to resume handling nuclear waste.

The Carlsbad Current-Argus reports that the training exercises taking place 2,150 feet underground Thursday lasted five hours. A team of Department of Energy experts kept an eye on the radiation control technicians and waste handlers during the task.

Jim Blankenhorn, the vice president and recovery project manager for Nuclear Waste Partnership, said Friday that the exercise should normally take three to four hours, but the exercise was delayed and ended up being interrupted by a shift change.

Nuclear Waste Partnership Assistant manager Bobby St. John says WIPP will only receive five shipments a week when operations first resume. In a typical week, workers would process 20 to 25 shipments.

Albuquerque Officials To Meet In Wake Of 10-Year-Old's DeathThe Associated Press & KOB

Officials with Albuquerque and Bernalillo County are meeting to discuss ways to better prevent child abuse after a 10-year-old girl was murdered last week.

KOB-TV reports officials will meet Tuesday to discuss possible solutions for better drug treatment, mental health services and child abuse prevention in the wake of the death of Victoria Martens.

Police say Victoria was drugged, raped and strangled before her body was dismembered the day she was supposed to celebrate her 10th birthday with family and friends.

Three people — including the girl's mother and the mother's boyfriend — have been arrested in the killing.

The meeting, organized by Bernalillo County Commissioner Debbie O'Malley and Albuquerque City Councilor Klarissa Pena, will also look for funds for more social workers and find ways for schools and law enforcement to work more closely to fight abuse.

Supporters Mark Slain Girl's 10th Birthday In Albuquerque Associated Press

Thousands of supporters of a girl who police say was raped and killed held a birthday party and memorial service in her honor.

KRQE-TV reported the party Sunday at Mariposa Basin Park in Albuquerque was meant to celebrate the birthday of Victoria Martens, who police say was drugged, raped and strangled before her body was dismembered the day before she turned 10.

Many people wore purple at the event, Victoria’s favorite color. They brought balloons and stuffed animals.

The Albuquerque Journal reports people also brought cash donations for family members of Victoria who were present, including grandparents.

Three people including the girl's mother and the mother's boyfriend have been charged in the killing.

New Mexico Economic Development Secretary Moves OnThe Associated Press

New Mexico Economic Development Secretary Jon Barela is leaving his Cabinet post to take a job with a nonprofit group that promotes business expansion along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Gov. Susana Martinez announced the departure Monday in a news release and credited Barela with helping New Mexico diversify its economy and reduce reliance on federal government.

Barela has been named CEO of Borderplex Alliance. He was appointed as secretary at the outset of the Martinez administration nearly six years ago. He served in government previously an assistant attorney general and an aide to former U.S. Rep. Joe Skeen.

The Economic Development Department this year has announced a string of business expansions tied to training and infrastructure subsidies, though employment in New Mexico lags behind most of the country.

Heavy Rain Could Produce Flooding In Eastern New Mexico – The Associated Press

Forecasters say parts of eastern New Mexico are in for heavy rain this week, with the possibility of flash flooding in the southeastern corner of the state through Monday night.

The National Weather Service says slow-moving thunderstorms are expected to develop late Monday, some with heavy rainfall. The ground in some areas is already saturated from heavy rain over the past several days, so more heavy rain could produce flooding.

According to forecasters, rainfall of 1.5 to 4 inches is possible through Thursday with higher amounts in some places.

The weather services says areas west of the state's central mountain chain will see some increase in showers and storms starting as early as Tuesday, but more so Wednesday into Friday.

Ex-Inmate Sues Bernalillo County Officials Over Alleged Rape Albuquerque Journal, Associated Press

A former inmate is suing a Bernalillo County jail, alleging he was raped by his cellmate and mocked by guards.

The Albuquerque Journal reported Sunday that the ex-prisoner filed the lawsuit earlier this month against Metropolitan Detention Center, the county sheriff's office and other officials.

According to the victim, the authorities were told of several similar unwanted sex acts.

The victim's attorney, Shannon Kennedy, says no cases are being thoroughly investigated.

Jail spokeswoman Nataura Powdrell-Moore says all sexual assault allegations are investigated by the jail and the sheriff's office.

Sheriff's spokeswoman Felicia Romero says a team assigned to investigate sex crimes in the jail is looking into the case in the lawsuit.

She says allegations made in the last several months since the team was assigned have been unfounded.

Justice Dept. Focuses On Police Treatment Of Mentally IllThe Associated Press

Justice Department lawyers investigating police agencies for racial discrimination and excessive force are increasingly finding a different problem: officers' interactions with the mentally ill.

The latest example came in Baltimore.

A harshly critical report this month found that city officers end up in unnecessarily violent confrontations with mentally disabled people who in many instances haven't even committed crimes.

Though past federal investigations have addressed the problem, the Baltimore report marked the first time the Justice Department has explicitly found that a police department's policies violated the Americans with Disabilities Act.

That finding is intended to chart a path to what federal officials hope will be far-reaching improvements, including better-trained dispatchers and officers, diversion of more people to treatment rather than jail and stronger relationships with mental health specialists.

Study Finds PreK Brings Better Results By 3rd GradeSanta Fe New Mexican

A new legislative study finds children from low-income families who enrolled in the state’s pre-kindergarten program outperformed their peers on standardized tests as third graders.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports the study also lauds the benefits of home visiting and other early childhood initiatives. It’s the first to delve into how students enrolled in New Mexico PreK are performing academically.

The report found 24 percent of low-income students who enrolled in PreK were proficient in math and 22 percent were proficient in reading and writing. That compares to 18 percent proficiency among low-income kids who didn’t get PreK .

The PreK program serves about 9,300 children. Gov. Susana Martinez pledge $3.5 million to expand the program. But that state would need $34 million more to serve all eligible children according to the new report.

The study is renewing calls by some lawmakers to push for more funding from the state’s Land Grant Permanent Fund.

Former Edgewood Veterinarian Convicted Of Animal CrueltySanta Fe New Mexican

A former Santa Fe area veterinarian has been found guilty on multiple charges of animal cruelty.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports that it took a jury one hour Friday to convict Debra Clopton on 22 counts. She was also convicted of one count of practicing veterinary medicine without a license.

She could face nearly 23 years in prison.

Authorities raided Clopton's Edgewood home in 2013. They found 48 dogs living in squalor.

Some had to be euthanized but most were adopted.

Clopton, who lost her veterinarian license after working for 20 years, admitted during her three-day trial that she disobeyed a county ordinance limiting dog ownership to 10 dogs.

She was initially charged with 48 counts of animal cruelty and for illegally possessing veterinary drugs.

Concerns Arise About Retirement Savings In New Mexico Associated Press

National experts in retirement planning are descending on New Mexico as lawmakers contemplate what can be done to help private-sector workers who don't have access to a retirement savings program.

The AARP says New Mexico has the highest rate in the country of private sector workers without access to an employer-sponsored retirement plan.

A legislative committee that oversees state pensions and investments meets Monday to learn about reform efforts by several states to increase individual retirement savings among private-sector workers. Committee Chairman George Munoz says it is time to look beyond the retirement security of state employees to the needs of the general public.

States including Maryland and Illinois are requiring many small businesses to offer retirement investment plans, while state-run marketplaces were set up in New Jersey and Washington.

Annual Indian Market In Santa Fe To End Artist Tenure Santa Fe New Mexican, Associated Press

Seasoned artists who have always had a place at the Indian Market in Santa Fe will have to vie for a spot like everyone else starting next year.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports organizers are doing away with tenure for some artists, a decision that is receiving a mixed reaction.

Some say this will push more senior artists aside in favor of contemporary, younger ones.

Supporters of the decision say the event cannot truly be a juried show unless all participants are juried.

Members of the Southwestern Association of Indian Arts unanimously supported ending tenure by 2017.

The tenure policy was instituted in 1992 as more out-of-state artists were seeking a spot at the market.

Association chief development officer John Jones says tenured artists number less than 200.

Police Academy Proposals Raise Transparency, Access Concerns Associated Press, Santa Fe New Mexican

A proposal to do away with a rule that requires the director of the state law enforcement training academy to post lesson plans online for public review is drawing fire.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports a second proposal allows the academy director or board chair to reject any of the public's requested agenda items.

Critics say the changes would limit transparency and prevent residents from raising concerns about police tactics.

Board member Elisabeth Miller and academy Director Stephan Marshall say the public can address the board during every meeting's comment portion.

Miller told board members about the proposals during a sparsely attended meeting.

The measures could be tabled pending additional public input or come up for a vote during two days of meetings starting Sept. 6.

Ruidoso Residents Up In Arms Over Horse Roundup By StateKOAT-TV, Associated Press

Residents in Ruidoso are outraged after they say the state rounded up a dozen horses without any notice.

KOAT-TV in Albuquerque reports that the state's Livestock Board have had them since Friday after someone registered a complaint.

Ruidoso's tourism director, Gina Kelley, says the horses are a staple of the area and have moved freely near the village for years.

She says residents volunteer to provide food and look after them.

Representatives from the Livestock Board did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Some horses are protected under federal law.

Residents have already raised more than $10,000 to buy the horses if they go up on the auction block.

An online petition asking Gov. Susana Martinez to step in has more than 2,000 signatures.