• NM rate increase OK'd for Blue Cross Blue Shield

    SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico's insurance regulator has approved a rate increase of at least 9 percent for about 26,000 customers of Blue Cross Blue Shield.

    The Office of Superintendent of Insurance said Monday there will be increases of 9.2 percent or 10.4 percent starting in December for the company's policyholders.

    The regulatory agency attributed about 5 percent to 6 percent of the increase to rising medical costs and the remainder to fees imposed on insurers by a federal health care overhaul law.

    Insurance Superintendent John Franchini said 80 percent of the premiums collected by Blue Cross must be spent on medical expenses.

    Franchini encouraged New Mexicans who don't obtain health insurance through their employer to explore buying coverage through the state's health insurance exchange, will is to start accepting applications next month.

  • Doomsday Preppers Go Upscale With Luxury Bunkers

    A Southern California company is building luxury survivalist bunkers complete with wide-screen TVs, plumbing, and bunk-beds. They start at about $65,000 dollars and that doesn't include the cost of digging a big enough hole.

  • Zia Realty Group sees bright future at one-year anniversary

    James Chrobocinski, owner and broker at Zia Realty, says he is confident in the housing markets in Los Alamos and surrounding areas.

    He and his fellow brokers and agents will be celebrating a full year of doing business on Sept. 12 with food, drinks and live entertainment. The anniversary bash begins at 4:30 p.m. at the Zia Realty Group office, 1460 Trinity Drive, Suite 1.

    There will be a drawing for a $1,000 gift certificate good toward a home makeover, provided by Finishing Touch. The public is welcome to come sign up and stay to enjoy the festivities.

    Due to continued demand the deadline for the drawing has been exten`ed to Sept. 12. Anyone can sign up for the drawing at the anniversary celebration or by calling Zia Realty Group at 662-8899.

    The drawing will take place and the winner will be announced during the anniversary celebration.

    “It’s been an outstanding summer,” he said. “Projections were way higher than expected.”

    Chrobocinski grew up in Los Alamos and moved to Corpus Christi, Texas, where he became a real estate broker for 27 years. Family obligations brought him back to Los Alamos last summer.

  • Americans working or looking for work hits 35-year low

    WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. economy is producing jobs at a still-subpar pace — a trend the Federal Reserve will weigh before deciding this month whether to slow its bond buying and, if so, by how much.

    Employers added 169,000 jobs in August but many fewer in June and July than previously thought, the Labor Department said Friday. Combined, June, July and August amounted to the weakest three-month stretch of job growth in a year.

    The unemployment rate dropped to 7.3 percent, the lowest in nearly five years. But it fell because more Americans stopped looking for work and were no longer counted as unemployed. The proportion of Americans working or looking for work reached its lowest point in 35 years.

    The jobs picture is sure to weigh heavily when the Fed meets Sept. 17-18 to discuss whether to scale back its $85 billion a month in Treasury and mortgage bond purchases. Those purchases have helped keep home-loan and other borrowing rates ultra-low to try to encourage consumers and businesses to borrow and spend more.

    Friday's report "is a mixed bag that can be used to support an immediate tapering of the Fed's monthly asset purchases or delaying that move until later this year," said Paul Ashworth, an economist at Capital Economics, said.

  • Studies take early look at health law's premiums

    WASHINGTON (AP) — Coverage under President Barack Obama's health care law won't be cheap, but cost-conscious consumers hunting for lower premiums will have plenty of options, according to two independent private studies.

    A study released Thursday by the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation found that government tax credits would lower the sticker price on a benchmark "silver" policy to a little over $190 a month for single people making about $29,000, regardless of their age.

    By pairing their tax credit with a stripped-down "bronze" policy, some younger consumers can bring their premiums down to the range of $100 to $140 a month, while older people can drive their monthly cost even lower — well below $100 — if they are willing to take a chance with higher deductibles and copays.

    A separate study released Wednesday from Avalere Health, a private data analysis firm, took a wide-angle view, averaging the sticker prices of policies at different coverage levels.

  • Nokia stock surges on Microsoft takeover

    HELSINKI (AP) — Microsoft Corp. is buying Nokia Corp.'s line-up of smartphones and a portfolio of patents and services in an attempt to strengthen its fight with Apple Inc. and Google Inc. to capture a slice of the lucrative mobile computing market.

    The 5.44 billion euros ($7.2 billion) deal announced late Monday marks a major step in the company's push to transform itself from a software maker focused on making operating systems and applications for desktop and laptop computers into a more versatile and nimble company that delivers services on any kind of Internet-connected gadget.

    "It's a bold step into the future — a win-win for employees, shareholders and consumers of both companies," Microsoft CEO Steven Ballmer told reporters at Nokia's headquarters in Finland Tuesday. "It's a signature event."

    Microsoft hopes to complete the deal early next year. If that timetable pans out, about 32,000 Nokia employees will transfer to Microsoft, which currently has about 99,000 workers.

  • Business Spotlight: Arborist grows in her field

    Trees are a crucial to the Earth’s balance. Arborist Laural Hardin is a private consultant for people that have issues with the trees on their property. It can be issues with pests or dead trees and Hardin will find a solution to the problem.

    Hardin has been certified through the International Society of Arboriculture since 2011, and she’s been consulting since 2008. Her subspecialty has her carrying the title “Integrated Pest Management Specialist.” The Los Alamos resident finds a holistic approach to managing pests and disease in trees.

    When Hardin is needed she travels all around Northern New Mexico to consult with clients and assess the problems they are having with trees. She assesses the tree’s health and risk factors.

    She is a private consultant for owners of private property and has no ties with the Forestry Service.

    “I have traveled as far as Questa and have clients in Santa Fe,” Hardin said. “I am a consultant throughout the year, even in winter.”

    Hardin said her assessments may vary due to certain factors, because foliage is different in all parts of the state.

    “There is no shortage of problems that plague trees,” she said.

  • Goin' Hog Wild: Harley-Davidson Turns 110
  • Santa Fe approves ban on plastic carry-out bags

    SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Starting in six months, a new city law in Santa Fe will ban the distribution of plastic carry-out bags intended for one use.

    The ordinance approved by the City Council on a 7-1 vote Tuesday evening also establishes a 10-cent fee for paper carry-out grocery bags.

    The city plans to give away 10,000 reusable cloth bags to prepare people for the change.

    Supporters of the ban cited environmental benefits, including reduced waste going into landfills.

    Councilor Ron Trujillo cast the only dissenting vote, saying that the plastic bag ban should include the thicker ones used by upscale shops.

    Other councilors said they agreed but wanted to start with the ban approved Monday night.

  • Miss. nuclear waste plan sparks early opposition

    JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — The Mississippi Energy Institute is pushing for more exploration of storing and reprocessing used nuclear fuel in the state at the same time that one of the its congressmen is coming out against it.

    Leaders of the institute, which promotes energy development, pitched ideas Monday to the state Senate Economic Development Committee. Jason Dean, who works for a unit of the Butler Snow law firm, said Mississippi should explore interim storage and reprocessing of fuel rods. He said receiving used fuel rods and reprocessing them could create 4,000 permanent jobs and $30 million a year in taxes.

    "We see fuel rods no longer as a waste product, but as a commodity," Dean said.

    He said the proposal doesn't include permanent underground storage, saying that's the role for the stalled Yucca Mountain repository in Nevada. Instead, Mississippi would accept the waste in giant concrete casks, reuse most of it and ship the remainder to Nevada.