Luján Seeks Expanded Compensation For Nuclear Testing, Medical Pot Program Sees Enrollment Increase

Jul 16, 2019

Lawmaker Calls For Expanded Compensation From Nuclear Weapons TestingAssociated Press

A compensation program for those exposed to radiation from years of nuclear weapons testing and uranium mining would be expanded under legislation that seeks to address fallout across the western United States, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands.

Rep. Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico is rolling out the measure Tuesday on the 74th anniversary of the Trinity Test.

As part of the top-secret Manhattan Project, government scientists and the U.S. military dropped the first atomic bomb in the New Mexico desert in 1945. Nearly 200 atmospheric tests followed. Uranium mining persisted even after the tests ceased.

Citing affected downwinders and Native American tribes, Luján says coverage must be expanded. A paper published this week in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists on state health data showed a spike in infant mortality with no known cause other than it began a month after the Trinity Test.

Among other things, the measure would require Congress to issue a formal apology to people in a dozen U.S. states. Similar legislation has been introduced by U.S. Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich.


Border-State Senate Candidate Wants To Scrap ICEAssociated Press

New Mexico’s secretary of state, who is seeking the Democratic nomination to an open Senate seat, wants to disband U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and turn its responsibilities over to the FBI and others.

Maggie Toulouse Oliver said Tuesday in a statement that she wants to "abolish ICE" and accused the agency of undermining community safety and stability.

She is competing with U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján in the 2020 election to succeed retiring Democratic Sen. Tom Udall.

ICE activities are in the spotlight as the Trump administration says the agency will sweep 10 major cities for families who are in the country illegally and have been ordered to leave.

Toulouse Oliver says ICE has strayed from its core mission of preventing terrorist acts and removing dangerous people.

FBI Says Body Found In Trunk Of Burning CarAssociated Press

Authorities say a dead body has been found in the trunk of a burning car in northwestern New Mexico.

The FBI says the body and burning car found Monday in an isolated area north of Church Rock are the subject of an investigation by the FBI and the Navajo Nation Division of Public Safety.

The FBI says the badly burned body was taken to the state Office of the Medical Investigator in Albuquerque for determination of cause of death and identification.

Church Rock is eight miles east of Gallup.

$5K Reward Offered For Info On New Mexico Church ArsonFarmington Daily Times, Associated Press

Federal authorities have announced a $5,000 reward for information on those responsible for a church fire in New Mexico.

The Farmington Daily Times reported Monday that investigators suspect arson was the cause of a June 1 fire that damaged a Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The Farmington Mormon church was built in the 1950s and is currently being reconstructed.

Investigators say the fire caused extensive smoke damage to the lobby, but fire doors prevented further damage to the building.

Church representatives say operations have been relocated off-site and there are plans to proceed with an annual celebration at the end of the month.

Authorities say people can direct tips to the San Juan County Crime Stoppers or the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

New Districts Upheld In Navajo Voting-Rights CaseAssociated Press

A federal appeals court has upheld a ruling that found voting districts in a Utah county were racially gerrymandered and violated the rights of Navajo voters.

The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver handed down the opinion Tuesday in the case that resulted in the election of the first majority-Navajo commission in San Juan County, which overlaps with the Navajo Nation.

Republican commissioner Bruce Adams says in a statement he's disappointed by the ruling. He says the new districts unfairly carve up the county's largest city of Blanding, and he had hoped for a new solution.

The opinion comes after U.S. District Judge Robert Shelby found in 2016 that the voting maps packed Democratic-leaning Navajo voters into just one of three districts in the sprawling county located near the Arizona border.

Man Accused Of Deadly I-40 Shooting Surrenders To PoliceAssociated Press

Authorities say a man accused of a deadly shooting on Interstate 40 in Albuquerque has surrendered to police.

Albuquerque police arrested 51-year-old Donald Durquette on a murder charge after he turned himself over to New Mexico State Police.

Police found a pickup truck with the driver dead early Monday, prompting authorities to shut down the interstate and launch a homicide investigation.

Authorities have not released the victim's name.

According to the criminal complaint, Duquette told authorities that he was smoking methamphetamine and marijuana Sunday.

Authorities say Duquette became paranoid and thought he was being followed by the truck.

Authorities say Duquette fired five times at the truck, hitting the man in the head.

Online court records don't list a defense attorney for Duquette who could comment on his behalf.

Enrollment Increase For New Mexico Medical Pot ProgramAssociated Press

Patient enrollment in the state's medical marijuana program has increased by nearly 10% since the start of the year.

Medical marijuana provider Ultra Health on Monday highlighted growth in the market for medical cannabis as the state overhauls cultivation limits, in a statement.

The Department of Health says the number of active patients increased to 74,100 at the end of June. That represents a 1% increase over May enrollment and a 35% expansion since June 2018.

New Mexico's medical marijuana industry is expressing mixed opinions about a proposal to limit production to 1,750 plants per producer and whether it helps ensure adequate supplies to patients.

New Mexico prohibits recreational marijuana. Newly added qualifying conditions for medical marijuana prescriptions include opioid use disorder, Alzheimer's disease and autism spectrum disorder.

New Mexico AG Draws Fire For Working With NYU Energy Center – Albuquerque Journal, Associated Press

The New Mexico Attorney General's Office is drawing criticism for employing two lawyers funded by a New York University center that promotes clean energy and environmental laws.

The energy advocacy group Power the Future and the American Tort Reform Association have raised concerns, with the association describing the arrangement nationally as an improper way for outside interests to embed attorneys in public offices.

The attorney general's office tells the Albuquerque Journal that while the NYU School of Law pays their salaries, the lawyers are managed by New Mexico officials.

Office spokesman Matt Baca says dozens of employees in Attorney General Hector Balderas' office are funded by outside sources, including federal grants or legal settlements.

Larry Behrens with Power the Future says the arrangement makes it look as though positions in public offices are for sale.

Federal Regulators Say Skier Triggered Deadly Snow Slide – Associated Press

The U.S. Forest Service says a skier triggered an avalanche in January at a ski resort in northern New Mexico that led to his death and the death of another skier after they were overrun by snow.

In a written review of the incident obtained by the Associated Press on Monday, the Forest Service found that Taos Ski Valley followed safety procedures under its federal permit in the days and weeks leading up to the Jan. 17 avalanche within ski area boundaries.

The Forest Service reviewed extensive records of avalanche control measures including explosives and interviewed personnel at Taos Ski Valley who responded to the snow slide.

Forest Service regional Winter Sports Coordinator Adam LaDell says the agency's review showed that ski resort personnel complied with operating procedures.

Federal Agencies Missed 2nd Deadline For Tribal Safety Bills - By Mary Hudetz Associated Press

U.S. Senate staffers say officials missed a second deadline last week to offer input on bills on Native American safety, and only one department has since provided "partial comment."

U.S. Sen. John Hoeven set a "hard deadline" of July 8 for Interior and Justice Department officials to offer "definitive conclusions" on legislation after he criticized them for filing late testimony ahead of a key committee hearing last month. Hoeven, a North Dakota Republican, chairs the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs.

A Senate committee spokeswoman says Interior officials ultimately submitted updated documents to senators after the July 8 deadline, while the Justice Department hadn't yet. A Justice Department spokesman says officials are working to do so.

A spokesman for Sen. Tom Udall, a New Mexico Democrat, says the Interior only provided "partial comment."

Longtime Navajo Nation Lawmaker Resigns, Citing Health - Associated Press

A longtime Navajo Nation lawmaker has resigned, citing health reasons.

Nelson S. BeGaye made the announcement Monday in an emotional speech at the start of the Navajo Nation Council's weeklong summer session. He has served on the council since 2003.

He did not elaborate on his health condition but says he wants to spend more time with family.

BeGaye is known for championing a 2005 bill to ban uranium mining on the vast reservation that extends into New Mexico, Arizona and Utah.

Council Speaker Seth Damon says BeGaye's leadership has been soft, sturdy and compassionate.

A special election will be held to fill BeGaye's seat. Damon can name someone from one of the five communities BeGaye represented to fill in temporarily.

2 Accusers Speak At Epstein Bail HearingAssociated Press

Two of Jeffrey Epstein's accusers have spoken at his bail hearing.

Courtney Wild said Monday in Manhattan federal court that she was abused by the wealthy financier in Palm Beach, Florida, starting at age 14.

She calls him a "scary person" and urges detention "for the safety of any other girls" out there.

Annie Farmer says she was 16 when she "had the misfortune" of meeting Epstein and later went to spend time with him in New Mexico.

She says he behaved inappropriately. She declined to give details.

Attorney General Hector Balderas' office has confirmed that it has interviewed possible victims of Epstein who visited the sprawling Zorro Ranch south of Santa Fe, where Epstein built a home in the 1990s.

Balderas says his office planned to forward findings to federal authorities.

The judge says he'll announce his decision on bail Thursday.

Epstein's lawyers want him released on house arrest.