State Reports Record Graduation Rate, Autopsy Says Dead Guatemalan Boy Had Influenza

Dec 28, 2018

New Mexico Reports Highest Graduation Rate In 2018Associated Press

New Mexico education officials say the rate of high school students who are earning diplomas is the highest it has ever been.

Gov. Susana Martinez, who is wrapping up her second and final term, announced Friday that the 2018 class marked the highest graduation rate in the state's history at 73 percent.

While that's still below the national average, state officials say this year's numbers mark a 10 percent increase since 2011.

Martinez said New Mexico students have made improvements even as the state has raised academic standards and graduation requirements. The Republican says they're better prepared to enter the workforce and college.

Gov.-elect Michelle Lujan Grisham and fellow Democratic lawmakers have vowed to reform the state's education system in 2019.

Officials say final and complete graduation rate data will be published in February.

24-Mile Stretch Of I-40 Closed In New MexicoAssociated Press

A 24-mile stretch of Interstate 40 in central New Mexico is closed to traffic in both directions because of blizzard conditions.

According to the New Mexico Department of Transportation's road-conditions website , the closure Friday is between Moriarity and Clines Corners.

Most of New Mexico is under a winter storm warning issued by the National Weather Service due to heavy snow expected to continue through Saturday morning.

Winner Of "The Voice" To Perform At New Mexico InaugurationAssociated Press

Chevel Shepherd, the winner of NBC's "The Voice," is scheduled to perform next week at the inauguration of New Mexico Gov.-elect Michelle Lujan Grisham.

Lujan Grisham's office says Shepherd will perform "God Bless America" at the inaugural ceremony along with other songs at the two inaugural balls on Jan. 1.

The Democratic politician says Shepherd, a 16-year-old from Farmington, has made New Mexicans proud with her remarkable talent.

Shepherd was declared the winner of "The Voice" earlier this month after weeks of competition. Singer Kelly Clarkson was her coach.

Shepherd has said she also plans to schedule a concert in January in her hometown.

Legal Stalemate Clouds Fate Of New Mexico Racino License - By Susan Montoya Bryan, Associated Press

New Mexico horse racing regulators have reluctantly decided for a third time to put off a vote on issuing the state's sixth and final license for a new racetrack and casino operation.

Racing Commission Chairman Ray Willis said the state attorney general's office warned that if the commission moved ahead with issuing the license, the office would not be obligated to defend the commissioners if a legal fight ensued.

At issue is a petition filed in district court by one of the companies vying for the license. The company is seeking a temporary injunction, saying the commission hasn't done enough to study the issue.

There had been some pressure to make a decision before the end of the year as the makeup of the commission could change in 2019 with a new governor in place.

Wells Fargo To Pay $7M To New Mexico Under SettlementAssociated Press

Wells Fargo will pay $7 million to New Mexico to resolve claims that the bank violated state consumer protection laws.

The state Attorney General's Office says New Mexico is part of a $575 million multistate settlement announced Friday by Wells Fargo in addition to the state settling its own case against the banking giant.

The office says New Mexico will use the settlement money "to further consumer protection and education efforts across the state" and that Wells Fargo will also create a consumer redress review program.

Allegations against Wells Fargo included that it opened thousands of unauthorized accounts and enrolled customers into online banking services without their knowledge or consent.

New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas said it was "deeply troubling" that Wells Fargo misled consumers and allowed "unlawful profiteering."

Incoming New Mexico Governor Looks To Appoint RegentsAssociated Press

New Mexico Gov.-elect Michelle Lujan Grisham has more than a dozen university regent positions to fill and now she has a process for how she plans to get it done.

The Democrat on Friday announced that three advisory committees are interviewing prospective candidates and vetting the background of each. The committees then will offer recommendations to the incoming governor, who takes office Jan. 1.

The University of New Mexico, Northern New Mexico College, New Mexico Highlands University, New Mexico State University and Western New Mexico University all have spots that will need to be filled.

Critics say the state's system for appointing regents enables the governor to pack the universities' governing boards with donors and friends.

The confirmation process in the Senate, which is controlled by Democrats, also has been politicized over the years.

Autopsy Finds Dead Guatemalan Boy Had Influenza - Associated Press

New Mexico authorities say an autopsy performed on the 8-year-old Guatemalan boy who died in U.S. custody shows he had the flu.

The New Mexico Office of the Medical Investigator said in a statement late Thursday that more tests need to be done before a cause of death can be determined for Felipe Gomez Alonzo.

Authorities say the boy died at a New Mexico hospital after suffering coughing, vomiting and a fever. Another Guatemalan child, 7-year-old Jakelin Caal, died in U.S. custody on Dec. 8. Both deaths are under investigation.

Retired New Mexico Brigadier General To Lead Veterans Agency - Associated Press

Gov.-elect Michelle Lujan Grisham has named the first woman to ever be promoted to the rank of brigadier general in the New Mexico National Guard to serve as the secretary of the state Department of Veteran Services.

The incoming governor announced the appointment of Judy Griego during a news conference Thursday. She also appointed William Scott Carreathers to lead the Office of African American Affairs and Jen Schroer as the state tourism secretary.

Lujan Grisham will take the helm Jan. 1. Still pending are decisions on key agencies that oversee public safety, public education, health and the environment.

Lujan Grisham and Griego said they want to create a model agency that can bridge the gap between the state and the services for veterans that are provided by the federal government.

City Employees In Albuquerque Granted Paid Parental Leave - Associated Press

City employees in Albuquerque are being granted paid parental leave under a measure signed by the mayor.

City Councilor Pat Davis, who sponsored the bill, said it would help boost recruitment and make working for City Hall more attractive to working families.

According to Mayor Tim Keller's office, city employees will become eligible for parental leave after working for the city for 12 months.

They must work 1,250 hours total within those 12 months. That works out to an average of about 24 hours a week.

Under the benefit, the parents can take 12 weeks of paid leave when they or their spouse or domestic partner have a baby, adopt a child, or become foster parents of one.

Minimum Wage For Workers In Las Cruces Is Going Up - Associated Press

The minimum wage is going up in Las Cruces.

Workers in the city will make $10.10 an hour starting January 1st, up from an hourly rate of $9.20.

Tipped workers will get $4,04, equivalent to 40 percent of the minimum wage.

The Las Cruces City Council approved a higher minimum wage in 20-14 and phased it in over the years.

Business owners recently called on city councilors to reconsider, saying they would lose customers or be forced to shut their doors.

The city is moving forward with the final increase.

The minimum wage around most of New Mexico is $7.50 an hour, though some cities and counties have higher rates.

Mayor Says Figures Show Decline In Crime In Albuquerque - Associated Press

Officials say the overall crime rate in New Mexico's largest city has dropped for the first time in nearly a decade.

At a news conference Thursday, Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller said he and his administration were sharing the statistics showing the decrease in crime from 2017 with "sober optimism."

In 2019, Keller's administration plans to target gun violence in the same way it did auto theft and robbery in 2018. He says gun violence "remains unacceptably high."

The figures released Thursday show a roughly 30 percent decrease in auto burglary and auto theft from 2017 to 2018.

Homicides and robbery also were among crime categories with decreases, while non-fatal shootings increased by 4 percent.

University Of New Mexico Offers Cannabis Course - KOB-TV, Associated Press

The University of New Mexico is offering a new course that is generating a lot of buzz on campus.

It's a course on cannabis and communication. Associate professor Tamar Ginossar tells Albuquerque television station KOB-TV that it's a topic that brings up a lot of enthusiasm.

Ginossar says there has been global change in terms of the legalization of marijuana so it's an exciting time to learn about it from the communication perspective.

UNM is one of several schools in the U.S. with a cannabis course.

In the class, the students will learn about marijuana and the role it plays in the media. They will also hear from a biology professor about efforts to work on regulations for marijuana and how he has been prevented from doing research.

Centurylink Says Internet Will Be Restored Soon - Associated Press

CenturyLink says engineers have identified a problem that left customers across the country without internet service and expected to restore it within hours. Though in a tweet this morning the company said they had “discovered some additional technical problems” while working to restore service.

The company said Thursday night the problem involved a "network element" that was affecting services but didn't provide details.

The outages reported Thursday afternoon stretched from New York to California and even temporarily shut down phone services at the Idaho Department of Correction and knocked out 911 emergency call services in parts of western Washington state.

Most of the trouble appeared to be in the West.

Verizon says it had service interruptions in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and parts of Montana because of issues with CenturyLink, which Verizon said helps handle wireless network data traffic for several providers.

Neither company indicated how many customers were affected.

Health Scholarships Open To Navajos At Fort Lewis College - Associated Press

Navajo students pursuing degrees in health science at Fort Lewis College are eligible for new scholarships.

Outgoing tribal President Russell Begaye and college President Tom Stritikus signed the scholarship agreement Thursday.

Navajo students in health or exercise science can apply to receive $2,500 per semester in the 2019 calendar year. Students must be enrolled full time.

About 20 percent of students in the college's Health Sciences Department are Navajo.

The school in Durango, Colorado, waives tuition for Native American students. The scholarships funded by the Navajo Nation will help cover living expenses, textbooks and student fees.

Students who receive the scholarships must agree to serve the Navajo Nation for at least two years after graduation.

Begaye says the scholarships will help address gaps in the tribe's workforce.

Gray Wolf Arrives At New Mexico  Zoo For Recovery Program - Associated Press

Albuquerque's zoo has received another Mexican gray wolf as part of an international recovery effort that includes breeding the endangered animals in captivity to ensure their genetic viability.

The ABQ BioPark said Thursday it received the wolf earlier this month from the Binder Zoo in Michigan. The animal will be a mate for a 4-year-old female wolf already at the Albuquerque zoo.

The transfer stemmed from a coordinated effort by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Mexican Wolf Recovery Program, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums' Mexican Wolf Species Survival Plan, and the zoos holding Mexican wolves.

The wild population in Arizona and New Mexico has struggled to gain significant ground since the first release in 1998. About 114 wolves are believed to be roaming the two states.

Isabella, Noah Are Top Names In 2018 For New Mexico Newborns - Associated Press

The top names for New Mexico babies born in 2018 are Isabella for girls and Noah for boys.

Isabella was fourth last year but this year pushed Mia down to second, while Noah supplants Elijah, which is ranked third among boys.

After Isabella and Mia, the other top names for girls are Sophia, Olivia, Emma, Sofia, Ava, Amelia, Camila and Mila.

After Noah, the top names on the boys list are Liam, Elijah, Logan, Mateo, Daniel, Mason, Sebastian, Benjamin and Julian.

The state Department of Health says Mia has been among the top two names for newborn girls in New Mexico since the department began releasing its annual list in 2014.

The department says Noah has been in the top two among boys for four of the last five years.