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THURS: Fossil unearthed in NM identified as more primitive relative of T. rex, + More

The teeth and jawbone of a newly identified subspecies of tryannosaur are displayed at New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science in Albuquerque, N.M., on Thursday, Jan. 11, 2024.
Susan Montoya Bryan
The New Mexico Legislature.

Fossil unearthed in New Mexico years ago is identified as older, more primitive relative of T. rex - By Susan Montoya Bryan Associated Press

The Tyrannosaurus rex seemingly came out of nowhere tens of millions of years ago, with its monstrous teeth and powerful jaws dominating the end of the age of the dinosaurs.

How it came to be is among the many mysteries that paleontologists have long tried to solve. Researchers from several universities and the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science say they now have one more piece of the puzzle.

On Thursday, they unveiled fossil evidence and published their findings in the journal Scientific Reports. Their study identifies a new subspecies of tyrannosaur thought to be an older and more primitive relative of the well-known T. rex.

There were ohs and ahs as the massive jaw bone and pointy teeth were revealed to a group of schoolchildren. Pieces of the fragile specimen were first found in the 1980s by boaters on the shore of New Mexico's largest reservoir.

The identification of the new subspecies came through a meticulous reexamination of the jaw and other pieces of the skull that were collected over years at the site. The team analyzed the specimen bone by bone, noting differences in numerous features compared with those synonymous with T. rex.

"Science is a process. With each new discovery, it forces us to go back and test and challenge what we thought we knew, and that's the core story of this project," said Anthony Fiorillo, a co-author of the study and the executive director of the museum.

The differences between T. rex and Tyrannosaurus mcraeensis are subtle. But that's typically the case in closely related species, said Nick Longrich, a co-author from the Milner Centre for Evolution at the University of Bath in the United Kingdom.

"Evolution slowly causes mutations to build up over millions of years, causing species to look subtly different over time," he said.

The analysis — outlined Thursday in the journal Scientific Reports — suggests the new subspecies Tyrannosaurus mcraeensis was a side-branch in the species's evolution, rather than a direct ancestor of T. rex.

The researchers determined it predated T. rex by up to 7 million years, showing that tyrannosaurs were in North America long before paleontologists previously thought.

With no close relatives in North America, co-author Sebastian Dalman wanted to reexamine specimens collected from southern New Mexico. That work started in 2013 when he was a student.

"Soon we started to suspect we were on to something new," Dalman said.

T. rex has a reputation as a fierce predator. It measured up to 40 feet long and 12 feet high. Dalman and the other researchers say T. mcraeensis was roughly the same size and also ate meat.

Thomas Richard Holtz, a paleontologist at the University of Maryland who was not involved in the study, said the tyrannosaur fossil from New Mexico has been known for a while but its significance was not clear.

One interesting aspect of the research is that it appears T. rex's closest relatives were from southern North America, with the exception of Mongolian Tarbosaurus and Chinese Zhuchengtyrannus, Holtz said. That leaves the question of whether these Asian dinosaurs were immigrants from North America or if the new subspecies and other large tyrannosaurs were immigrants from Asia.

"One great hindrance to solving this question is that we don't have good fossil sites of the right environments in Asia older than Tarbosaurus and Zhuchengtyrannus, so we can't see if their ancestors were present there or not," Holtz said.

He and the researchers who analyzed the specimen agree that more fossils from the Hall Lake Formation in southern New Mexico could help answer further questions.

APS Board names superintendent semi-finalists - By Tierna Unruh-Enos, City Desk ABQ

This story was originally published by City Desk ABQ.

Four semi-finalists have emerged from the list of two dozen local and national educators who last month submitted their applications for the top job of Albuquerque Public Schools superintendent.

The semi-finalists are:

  • Thomas Ahart the former superintendent of Des Moines Public Schools, now a consultant with the Council of the Great City Schools
  • Mason Bellamy, the Chief of Academics and Schools for Metro Nashville Public Schools
  • Gabriella Durán Blakey,  the current Chief of Operations Officer at APS
  • Channell Segura, the current Chief of Schools at APS

The APS Board of Education will meet in executive session on January 16 to interview the semi-finalists and choose the finalists.
“This is a critical decision and a great opportunity for the board and community,” said Albuquerque Public Schools Board of Education President Danielle Gonzales. “The futures of our children depend on finding an accomplished educator who prioritizes student learning and social-emotional wellness and commits to the strategic plan to make it all happen. We need to hear from our students, staff, families, and communities and encourage everyone to attend our January 30 public forums to meet the superintendent finalists and provide input.”

The board is encouraging the public to submit a question for the superintendent finalistat this linkno later than January 26.

APS staff and the public will have the opportunity to meet the finalists in several public forums scheduled for Tuesday, January 30 at the Berna Facio Professional Development Complex located at 3315 Louisiana Blvd. NE.

The board is scheduled to meet in executive session on Wednesday, January 31 to interview the finalists. The new superintendent will replace Superintendent Scott Elder, whose contract expires June 30.

Bill would bar landlords statewide from turning away tenants with government vouchers - Patrick Lohmann, Source New Mexico 

Legislation introduced for the upcoming session would prohibit landlords across New Mexico from refusing to lease housing to tenants whose rent is subsidized by the government.

Local elected officials have already banned so-called “source-of-income discrimination” in Bernalillo County, Albuquerque and Las Cruces in recent years. The policy aims to make it easier for renters with Section 8 and other government-funded housing vouchers to find places to live.

Rep. Kathleen Cates (D-Rio Rancho), a licensed realtor, prefiled House Bill 25, one of several housing-related measures she will push in the 30-day session that begins January 16.

HB 25 seeks to add “source of income” to a list of categories in the state Human Rights Act that already bans discrimination to renters based on their race, sexual orientation, gender, disability or other characteristics.

Cates said landlords turning away renters who have subsidies is just the latest in a long and ugly history of housing discrimination in the country, and ending that practice is a small but necessary step required to confront the state’s housing crisis.

“People of color could not find housing unless they were in a neighborhood far away from where they work, because nobody where they work would rent or sell to them,” Cates told Source New Mexico. “And they used all kinds of ridiculous excuses why. Then they did that with gay people. They did it with AIDS. They did it for single parents. And now they’re doing it for vouchers.”

If her bill passes, those who face subsidy discrimination would be able to file a complaint with the New Mexico Attorney General’s Office. Cates said this process would be the same as the one people use when they file other types of discrimination claims under the Human Rights Act.

More than 12,000 households across New Mexico have successfully found housing using federal Section 8 vouchers, and 13,000 households have another federal subsidy, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Nearly 20,000 people in rural areas in New Mexico receive some form of federal housing subsidy, including from the United States Department of Agriculture, the center found.

Section 8 vouchers allow tenants to pay 30% of their income toward rent, with the government picking up the rest of the tab up to a limit. But some would-be tenants can lose their vouchers if they don’t find housing within a specified time period, a consequence more likely in a market where landlords can refuse Section 8 vouchers. In Albuquerque, for example, vouchers last 60 days, although a tenant can request an extension.

Tenants in rural areas already have few affordable housing options, said Rachel Biggs, chief strategy officer at Albuquerque Healthcare for the Homeless, so the legislation is all the more necessary for rural tenants with vouchers.

“This would lessen one of those barriers for folks to be able to access housing quicker,” she said.

And tenants in hot markets like Santa Fe have few places to go. On Wednesday, for example, at least five rental listings on the city’s Craigslist page told prospective tenants that they wouldn’t accept Section 8 vouchers.

Banning rent subsidy discrimination statewide was introduced in the 2021 legislative session, but it was removed from a broader tenants’ rights package during negotiations, Biggs said. It was left out of a tenant protection act in the2022 session, as well.

If previous sessions are any indication, Biggs and Cates said, the bill will face pushback from state landlord and apartment associations.


In 2022, the City of Albuquerque banned source-of-income discrimination. At the time, 65% of 176 landlords surveyed said they refused to rent to subsidized tenants, according to a survey conducted at the time by the city.

They cited fears of administrative delays for inspections or approvals and also accused Section 8 tenants of being more destructive – an allegation Cates said she has yet to see statistical proof of, despite repeatedly asking fellow realtors and other critics of the policy.

Las Cruces recently banned the practice, as did Bernalillo County in 2022.

At the beginning of the year, Bernalillo County officials rolled out a pilot program to pay landlords for any damage caused by subsidized tenants that isn’t covered by rental deposits. It’s an effort to give landlords additional incentives to rent to those with vouchers.

Cates said she thinks landlords, even without a law, should already have enough incentive to rent to those with vouchers. She noted that landlords still can refuse to rent to tenants based on low credit scores, past eviction history or not generating income at least three times as much as what the subsidy doesn’t cover.

And a rent check paid directly by the government, she often reminds landlords, is never late.

“I always tell them, ‘Hey, it doesn’t bounce and arrives on time,’” she said. “Why do you want to say no to it?”

New Mexico Attorney General’s Office rebrands as state Department of Justice - KUNM News, Santa Fe New Mexican

New Mexico Attorney General Raúl Torrez announced Wednesday that the office he leads is no longer called Attorney General’s Office, but instead the New Mexico Department of Justice.

The department’s announcement said the change aligns New Mexico’s office with those of other states’ Attorneys General, but also language in state law. It cited a statute that refers to the office led by the AG as “the Department of Justice.”

Torrez told the Santa Fe New Mexican that he believes many New Mexicans don’t have a “clear sense” of what the office does, or that it's a place they could go to seek justice as citizens or consumers. He told the newspaper that the name change could also help the public understand that the office aims to “lend our voice to big national issues.”

The name change comes along with a larger rebranding effort, including a redesigned website and a logo that features a doric column in the shape of New Mexico. In the announcement, the state DOJ said its new seal is meant to convey “strength, fairness, and inclusivity.”

New Mexico Legislature confronts gun violence, braces for future with less oil wealth - By Morgan Lee, Associated Press

New Mexico's Legislature convenes Tuesday for a rapid-fire 30-day session amid a multibillion-dollar financial surplus and concerns about violent crime, homelessness and childhood wellbeing in an election year for House and Senate legislators.

Lawmakers are searching for new ways to invest a bonanza in state income from oil and gas production — while also planning for an eventual decline in petroleum production.

Legislators and Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham also are floating ambitious proposals designed to curtail gun violence, expand affordable housing, recycle fracking wastewater and incentivize electric vehicle sales.

Here are a few things to know about the session.


Lawmakers are anticipating a $13 billion windfall in state general fund income that would provide a $3.5 billion surplus over current annual spending obligations. At the same time, legislators are recommending only a 5.9% increase in general fund spending for the fiscal year that starts July 1.

That is because the state's unprecedented surge in oil production is beginning to level off, as legislators call for greater results from school districts and state agencies.

A new "accountability" trust fund would make as much as $300 million available for pilot programs in public education, childhood well-being, workforce training and more — measuring success before permanent funding is guaranteed.

Major progress in public education has been elusive in recent years as lawmakers increase per-student spending and teacher salaries without also raising average high school graduation rates and academic attainment to national averages. State support for annual school district spending has increased from roughly $2.8 billion in 2019 to $4.1 billion currently.

A budget panel led by state Sen. George Munoz of Gallup also is proposing a new endowment for higher education to sustain the state's recent transition to tuition-free college for New Mexico residents.


Lujan Grisham, a second-term Democrat who leaves office by 2026, has identified affordable housing as a major priority. She is proposing one-time spending of $250 million to expand housing opportunities through down-payment assistance on mortgages.

The state separately would use $40 million to launch a statewide homelessness initiative, and devote $250 million to expand loans for residential and commercial construction and renovation projects, under the governor's proposal.

In November, voters signaled frustration with surging home prices in fast-growing Santa Fe by approving a tax on mansions to pay for affordable-housing initiatives.

A tally of the homeless population in New Mexico one year ago showed an abrupt jump in the number of people living without permanent housing or with no shelter at all.


Proposed solutions to New Mexico's dwindling water supplies and wildfire vulnerabilities also are on the legislative agenda.

The governor has outlined a $500 million plan to develop a strategic new source of water for industrial uses by treating water that originates from the used, salty byproducts of oil and natural gas drilling.

The goal is to reduce demands from fresh water from strained aquifers. But environmentalists fear it only will encourage more petroleum exploration.

Environmentalists are seeking a ban on oil and gas production within a mile (1.6 kilometers) of schools and day care centers across New Mexico, as state regulators explore ways to protect children from pollution.

The state and governor were recently sued by environmental groups over alleged failures to meet constitutional provisions for protecting against oil and gas pollution.

Democratic lawmakers are pursuing tax credits toward the purchase of plug-in electric vehicles — incentives aimed at reducing climate-warming pollution from transportation.

New Mexico regulators recently adopted an accelerated timetable for automakers to nearly phase out deliveries of gas- and diesel-burning cars and trucks — amid concerns about the affordability of electric vehicles in a state with high rates of poverty.

A proposal from Democrats including House Majority Whip Reena Szczepanski would set aside $110 million to help local governments apply and qualify for federal funding toward renewable energy and climate resiliency projects.


Democratic House Speaker Javier Martínez says the scourges of crime, homelessness and drug use are in plain sight across the Albuquerque neighborhood where he grew up. He is hoping for a balanced approach to criminal justice reforms at the Legislature.

"Folks who commit violent crimes, and they're using a gun, should face tough penalties," Martínez said. "At the same time, we've got to keep making the investments that we have been making now for several years into that behavioral-health, drug-addiction treatment as well as violence intervention programs and other strategies to address root causes of crime."

New Mexico may become an early testing ground for a proposal to make assault-style weapons less deadly.

Lujan Grisham wants legislators to consider statewide restrictions that mirror an unconventional proposal from U.S. senators aimed at reducing a shooter's ability to fire off dozens of rounds a second and attach new magazines to keep firing.

The proposed federal GOSAFE Act was named after the internal cycling of high-pressure gas in related firearms and comes from such senators as New Mexico's Martin Heinrich, a Democrat.

The state's pretrial detention system also is coming under renewed scrutiny for possible changes. New Mexico's overhauled the system, starting in 2017, to eliminate money-bail and ensure dangerous individuals can be jailed pending trial.

Republicans in the legislative minority, meanwhile, hope to rein in the governor's authority to restrict gun rights under emergency public health orders in response to shootings last in Albuquerque that killed children. They are also calling for an overhaul of the state's foster care and child protective services agency.

The governor's orders restrict people from carrying guns at public parks and playgrounds in the state's largest metro area — alongside gun buyback efforts, monthly inspections of firearms dealers statewide, reports on gunshot victims at hospitals and wastewater testing for indications of illicit drug use at public schools.

There are 14 Republicans in the 42-seat state Senate. House Democrats hold a 45-25 majority over Republicans.

Former Dem. Sheriff Manny Gonzales to challenge Heinrich as a Republican - By Elise Kaplan, City Desk ABQ

This story was originally published by City Desk ABQ.

Former Bernalillo County Sheriff Manuel Gonzales announced Wednesday morning that he will be challenging Senator Martin Heinrich in the race for Senate this year.

Gonzales, who was previously registered as a Democrat, switched his party registration on Dec. 15. He is now running as a Republican. It is the second time he has run for an office outside of Sheriff—in 2021 he ran unsuccessfully for Albuquerque mayor against incumbent Mayor Tim Keller, a fellow Democrat, in the nonpartisan race. He lost that race by 30 percentage points.

Gonzales made his campaign announcement on Fox News. He did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

According to a news release posted on his website, Gonzales “saw just what the radicals in charge in Washington D.C. were doing to states like New Mexico” and “saw a radical led government and President who saw fit to open our borders allowing crime to pour into our streets across New Mexico and a U.S. Senator in Martin Heinrich who just sits idly by without a shred of respect for our great state to say enough is enough.”

“If anything, Sen. Heinrich has aided in this lawlessness, and allowed our great state to be riddled with crime and low education outcomes,” the news release states. “Manny switched parties to become a Republican with much appreciation for the common sense Democrats and independents who have supported him in the past.”

In response to Gonzales’ announcement Heinrich’s spokeswoman released a statement saying the Senator is running for re-election “to continue delivering real results for New Mexicans.” Heinrich has been in the U.S. Senate since 2012, and before that he served in the U.S. House of Representatives and the Albuquerque City Council.

“He remains committed to investing in the brighter future the people of our state deserve,” the statement reads. “That stands in direct contrast to Manny Gonzales, who, like his hero and role model Donald Trump, is running for office to avoid his legal troubles. Hopefully Manny won’t have to fake signatures to get on the ballot this time around.”

When Gonzales ran for mayor against Keller, an investigation by the city’s Office of the Inspector General found a number of the signatures and $5 contributions his campaign submitted to receive $600,000 in public financing were not in fact from the people they claimed to be from.

Gonzales served in the U.S. Marine Corps and in law enforcement for almost three decades. In 2009 he was appointed Sheriff of Bernalillo County when the sitting Sheriff resigned. He was elected in 2014 and served until 2022.

In the summer of 2020 he made national headlines when he appeared at the White House with then-President Donald Trump to announce a law enforcement initiative called “Operation Legend.” That operation entailed federal agents being deployed to Democrat-led cities, including Albuquerque, in response to concerns about crime and backlash to police in the wake of the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Keller and Heinrich were critical of Gonzales’ decision to stand with Trump, with Heinrich saying “instead of collaborating with the Albuquerque Police Department, the Sheriff is inviting the President’s stormtroopers into Albuquerque.”

Gonzales’ news release seems to refer to this period, saying that he “implemented comprehensive police reform that did not just follow what the rest of the country was doing due to civil unrest, but reform that served his deputies and the community.”

“This ended up being a balanced and effective approach that would serve citizens efficiently,” the news release said. “Manny has always been a champion for the members of his community and when the political climate across the country got hot, Manny kept his cool which allowed him to be an effective Sheriff.”

More recently Gonzales has been in the news when he and his former undersheriff Rudy Mora were implicated in a cross-country machine gun scheme. They have not been charged.

Federal agents—referring to “MG” and “RM”—say the two signed documents indicating that the weapons would be used for law enforcement demonstrations but they “had no expectation or understanding that such weapons would ever be demonstrated to their respective law enforcement agencies.”

Gonzales and Mora signed more than 100 letters for local gun dealer James Tafoya, the owner of the now-shuttered JCT Firearms, to submit to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives so he could import the guns, according to a federal indictment. Automatic weapons face many restrictions in the United States but they can be imported if the buyer has what is called a “law letter” or “demo letter” from law enforcement saying it will be used for a demonstration.

Tafoya has been charged with conspiracy to violate federal gun laws, unlawful importation of a firearm and making false statements in firearms records in the case.

Three others: Matthew Hall, a former chief of police in Coats, North Carolina; James Sawyer, chief of police in Ray, North Dakota; and Larry Vickers, a firearms dealer and gun enthusiast are also facing charges. The case is being tried in Federal Court in Maryland.

Republican Ben Luna, who describes himself as an “entrepreneur, independent citizen journalist, and American patriot who aims to return America to the founding principles which created the greatest and freest nation,” is also running for Senate. Luna is in Alamogordo.

Blood tests offered in New Mexico amid query into 'forever chemical' contamination at military bases - By Susan Montoya Bryan, Associated Press

Hundreds of residents and personnel stationed at a U.S. Air Force base in eastern New Mexico will be able to have their blood tested as state officials expand their investigation into contamination from a group of compounds known as "forever chemicals."

The New Mexico Environment Department announced Tuesday that it is searching for a contractor that can conduct the tests in the spring. The idea is to host two events where up to 500 adult volunteers living within a few miles of Cannon Air Force Base will have a small amount of blood drawn and tested for PFAS.

Surveys also will be done to determine any potential exposure for those living near the base.

PFAS, which stands for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, have been linked to cancer and other health problems in humans. They are called "forever chemicals" because they don't degrade in the environment and remain in the bloodstream.

The chemicals have been detected at hundreds of military installations across the United States, resulting in what will be billions of dollars in cleanup costs. New Mexico officials said contamination at Cannon and at Holloman Air Force Base in southern New Mexico already has cost the state over $8 million in site assessment, cleanup, litigation and other costs.

The Air Force has spent more than $67 million on its response to PFAS contamination at Cannon so far.

State Environment Secretary James Kenney said PFAS chemicals are used in so many consumer products that it's likely most New Mexicans will have some amount in their blood. Those who live near military bases may be at higher risk, he said.

"This data will help us quantify if there are greater risks and inform how we better protect New Mexicans," Kenney said in a statement.

In early 2023, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed the first federal limits on forever chemicals in drinking water, limiting them to the lowest level that tests can detect. New Mexico had previously petitioned the agency to treat PFAS as hazardous.

The state of New Mexico and the U.S. Department of Defense have been at odds over responsibilities for mitigating PFAS contamination at installations including Cannon and Holloman Air Force bases.

Near Cannon, the Highland Dairy in Clovis euthanized more than 3,000 cows in 2022 after confirmation of PFAS contamination in the herd — and the milk the cows produced.

Officials at Cannon held a meeting in November to update the public on their efforts. They are in the process of determining the nature and extent of contamination on and off the base. The work has included soil and water samples as well as the installation of monitoring wells. Plans also call for eventually building a treatment plant.

Last year, the New Mexico Environment Department also offered to test for PFAS in private domestic wells across the state. Results from that sampling effort, done with the help of the U.S. Geological Survey, showed that PFAS compounds were not detected in the majority of wells tested.