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TUES: Study Finds Cancer More Likely In Those Exposed To Trinity Test, + More

Atomicarchive.com via WikiMedia Commons
Trinity Test in 1945, the world's first atomic explosion

Study Finds Cancer Cases Likely In Those Exposed To Atomic Test - By Susan Montoya Bryan, Associated Press

After years of study, the National Cancer Institute says some people probably got cancer from the radioactive fallout that wafted across New Mexico after the U.S. government detonated the first atomic bomb in 1945.

However, the exact number is unknown.

The institute disclosed its conclusions in a series of scientific papers on radiation doses and cancer risks resulting from the Trinity Test, which marked a key point in the once-secret Manhattan Project. The findings were  published in the journal Health Physics.

Researchers say it's impossible to know with certainty if New Mexico's cancer rates changed in the first decades after the test given the lack of comprehensive data. They did conclude that whatever excess cancer cases did arise would have been limited to those alive at the time of the blast and that effects on those born in subsequent years would be too small to expect any additional cases.

The researchers suggested in their work that exposure levels would have been substantially higher than naturally occurring background radiation only in the areas immediately downwind of the detonation site. They listed five counties — Guadalupe, Lincoln, San Miguel, Socorro, and Torrance — based on a map of the fallout pattern developed decades earlier using measurements of radiation collected by government scientists in the immediate days after the test. People exposed to fallout are known as downwinders.

The latest research also notes that most of New Mexico's exposure from Trinity was small compared to the subsequent radiation exposure from the Nevada Test Site and fallout from atmospheric nuclear tests elsewhere.

Government scientists never discounted the potential for fallout before moving ahead with the Trinity Test. The detonation changed the course of history, ensuring the end of World War II and marking the dawn of the atomic age.

In the 75 years since then, some residents have been fighting for recognition from the government, saying generations of people have been dealing with effects from the blast.

The institute's research comes as Congress considers legislation that would include the downwinders in New Mexico in a federal compensation program for people exposed to radiation released during atmospheric tests or employees in the uranium industry.

Reports On Trinity Test Fallout, Cancer Cases To Be Released - By Susan Montoya Bryan Associated Press

Government scientists never discounted the potential for radioactive fallout before detonating the world's first atomic bomb at a military outpost in New Mexico in 1945. 

Residents of the Tularosa Basin have been fighting since then for recognition from the U.S. government, saying generations of people have been dealing with cancer and other effects from the blast. 

After years of research, the National Cancer Institute on Tuesday finally plans to release a series of papers related to radiation doses and cancer risks resulting from the Trinity Test. 

The institute's research comes as Congress considers legislation that would include the downwinders in New Mexico in a federal compensation program for people who were exposed to radiation released during atmospheric nuclear tests or employees in the uranium industry.

While the full impact on southern New Mexico residents is difficult to gauge, experts and historians have said people in Tularosa Basin were almost certainly exposed to dangerously high levels of radiation following the Trinity blast. Fallout was thought to have affected the holding ponds and cisterns that were used by locals for fresh water as well as gardens and livestock that would have been used for food. 

Downwinders have said their communities have been plagued by cancer, birth defects and stillbirths — all problems that can come from radiation exposure.

New Mexico Surpasses Colorado In Per-Capita Virus CasesAssociated Press

New Mexico health officials reported 110 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 and eight related deaths on Tuesday.

The Doña Ana County area that includes Las Cruces led all counties in terms of new infections with 32 cases. Cumulative statewide deaths from the coronavirus now number 787.

The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in New Mexico has decreased over the past two weeks, going from 156 new cases per day on Aug. 17 to 127 new cases per day on Aug. 31. That's according to an analysis by The Associated Press of data collected by Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering.

The rolling average of statewide daily deaths fell during the same period from 4.1 to 3.6.

Comparing seven-day averages of new cases smooths out anomalies in the data, including delays in test results.

New Mexico confirmed 88 new coronavirus cases per 100,000 people over the past two weeks, far fewer that neighboring Texas with 250 but more than Colorado's 71.

New Mexico Agency Says It Is Unable To Move Despite MandateAlbuquerque Journal, Associated Press

The New Mexico Public Regulation Commission has been asked to vacate its office space by Sept. 30, but a top official says it is ill-prepared to do so.

The Albuquerque Journal reports officials had previously issued an order for the commission to vacate its building in Santa Fe by June in order to make room for the newly created Early Childhood Education and Care Department. That order was later extended to September.

PRC chief of staff Jason Montoya says the office is in no position to move due to a lack of funds. The commission is seeking either a grant or loan from the state in order to find new housing.

The PRC has called the PERA Building home for more than two decades.

New Mexico Aims For 5% Reduction In Annual State Spending - By Morgan Lee Associated Press

The administration of New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham is directing executive agencies to reduce annual spending by 5% to help ease an anticipated budget deficit for the coming fiscal year. 

Agency budget proposals are due Tuesday in an annual rite that provides time for legislators to craft a balanced budget before they reconvene in January. 

A memo to state agencies obtained by The Associated Press calls for a 5% reduction in general fund levels for the fiscal year starting on July 1, 2021, compared with current-year spending. That is in line with recommendation from the Legislature's budget and accountability office. 

Some exceptions apply. The administration says it will consider additional funding to services such as Medicaid health insurance that may experience population increases and may support permanent programs that lack a permanent source of revenue.

Finance officials are suggesting that state agencies delete staff positions that have been vacant for more than two years.

New Mexico has so far steered away from furloughs that were instituted in the wake of the Great Recession.

The state may also be able to forgo spending on rent and utility expenses at vacant offices at agencies where staff are mostly working from home because of COVID-19.

In June, state economists warned of a possible $990 million shortfall in general fund revenues for the coming fiscal year, to meet spending annual spending obligations of $7.4 billion. 

New Mexico state government has tapped $750 million in federal coronavirus relief funds and is rapidly drawing down financial reserves that stood at $1.5 billion in June.

New Mexico Decides On Relief Funding For Local Governments - Associated Press

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham's administration has reached a decision on how to distribute $100 million in federal coronavirus relief funds to local governments. 

Finance agency spokesman Henry Valdez said Monday that county and municipal governments were being notified and details will be made public Tuesday. 

The state is taking into consideration local compliance with its emergency health orders that can be costly to local governments. That has also led to concerns of possible favoritism amid clashes between local and state officials over the governor's approach to reopening the economy. 

Applications for relief funding have far exceeded the amount that is available.

The Department of Finance and Administration says it received requests for $192 million from 83 local governments for the $100 million that is available.

In economic matters, Albuquerque and surrounding Bernalillo County are the only local governments to receive direct federal relief. The $2.2 trillion federal package aims to help businesses, workers and a health care system staggered by the coronavirus by replacing money lost in the collapse of the U.S. economy.

Declines in local government income have been especially pronounced since the pandemic hit in regions of the state that rely heavily on tourism and oil production. 

N.M. COVID-Related Death Average Falls As State Maintains Region’s Lowest Positivity Rate - Associated Press

State health officials announced 73 newly identified coronavirus cases on Monday and nine virus-related deaths, bringing total pandemic fatalities to 779.

New Mexico saw improvements in major indicators related to the spread of the virus, as a rolling daily average for deaths fell below four.

The seven-day rolling average of the positivity rate in New Mexico declined over the past two weeks, going from 2.6% on Aug. 16 to 1.9% on Aug. 30, according to an analysis by The Associated Press of data collected by Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering. 

That's the lowest positivity rate in the western U.S. Comparing seven-day averages of new cases smooths out anomalies in the data, including delays in test results.

Heat, Drought Make For Miserable Combo For Southwest US - By Susan Montoya Bryan Associated Press

It's grim news for the western U.S. The latest maps show most of the southern half of the region is mired by drought, with the most extreme conditions centered over parts of Utah, Nevada, Arizona and Colorado. 

Some parts of Nevada have gone months without measurable rain.

New Mexico's state climatologist says the state has its own problems, where drought has been compounded by dismal spring runoff and now a nearly nonexistent monsoon season. 

Dave DuBois says many measures — such as precipitation, soil moisture and reservoir levels — are all below average in New Mexico and across the Southwest.

The outlook for September doesn't appear to bring much relief to the region as probability favors lower precipitation and higher temperatures across much of the southwest.

Drought also is expected to persist through November, and forecasters say it's looking likely that a La Niña weather pattern is setting up for the winter. That typically means drier and warmer conditions for New Mexico.

"Not a lot of good news I'm afraid," DuBois said.


Democratic Party Launches Hotline On Voting Procedures - Associated Press

The Democratic Party of New Mexico hopes to broaden participation in the Nov. 3 election as it launches a daytime telephone hotline and online resources about balloting. 

State Democratic Party Executive Director Chelsey Evans said the initiative began Monday and aims to inform voters about new options and deadlines for requesting and casting absentee ballots. 

The coronavirus pandemic already reshaped voting in New Mexico during the June primary as absentee voting by mail or drop-off delivery soared in popularity. 

Temporary election reforms were adopted in June by the Legislature and governor that alter ballot-request deadlines, add a new signature requirement and provide ballot tracking by postal barcodes.

Evans said the voter education project sponsored by Democrats will publicize key deadlines such as Oct. 20, the last date when absentee ballot requests can be received by county clerks. She said hotline operators won't ask callers about party affiliation and are available to help anyone with voting questions.

Prominent Democratic officials are concerned that President Donald Trump may be trying to undermine the U.S. Postal Service ahead of the election. Evans said voters can limit the impact of mail delays by using a website to request an absentee ballot, and then using drop-boxes or going to election offices directly to turn them in.

Navajo Nation Reports 11 New COVID-19 Cases, 1 New DeathAssociated Press

Navajo Nation health officials report 11 new confirmed cases of coronavirus and one additional death.

The latest numbers released Sunday bring the total number of people infected to 9,800 with 502 known deaths. Tribal health officials said 94,403 people have been tested for COVID-19 and 7,057 have recovered.

The Navajo Nation lifted its stay-at-home order on Aug. 16, but is asking residents to leave their homes only for emergencies or essential activities.

Much of the Navajo Nation has been closed since March as the coronavirus swept through the vast reservation that extends into New Mexico, Utah and Arizona.