Local News

  • State Briefs 11-3-17

    Grant supports research on brain injury therapy

    ALBUQUERQUE (AP) — The University of New Mexico and the New Mexico VA Health Care System will use a $3.1 million federal grant to study a new approach to use electrical stimulation as therapy for mild traumatic brain injuries.
    The university’s announcement Thursday of the Defense Department’s grant says clinical trials with veterans and military service members will begin this winter.
    The collaboration between the VA system and the UNM Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences is aimed at investigating whether electrical stimulation teamed with rehabilitation training can reduce symptoms from concussions and improve quality of life.
    The study will involve 120 participants from the Raymond G. Murphy VA Medical Center in Albuquerque – some with brain injuries and various symptoms and others without.

    Española School District settles teacher sex abuse suits

    SANTA FE  (AP) — A New Mexico school district has agreed to settlements of nearly $8 million from two out of three lawsuits filed against the district over sexual assault complaints involving a former teacher.

  • Big GOP tax bill would cut rates – but also popular breaks

    Associated Press

    WASHINGTON — With fanfare and a White House kickoff, House Republicans unfurled a broad tax-overhaul plan Thursday that would touch virtually all Americans and the economy’s every corner, mingling sharply lower rates for corporations and reduced personal taxes for many with fewer deductions for home-buyers and families with steep medical bills.

    The measure, which would be the most extensive rewrite of the nation’s tax code in three decades, is the product of a party that faces increasing pressure to produce a marquee legislative victory of some sort before next year’s elections. GOP leaders touted the plan as a sparkplug for the economy and a boon to the middle class and christened it the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

    “We are working to give the American people a giant tax cut for Christmas,” President Donald Trump said in the Oval Office. The measure, he said, “will also be tax reform, and it will create jobs.”

  • Code enforcement discussion Tuesday

    During a presentation by Los Alamos County Manager Harry Burgess and the Los Alamos Community Development Department at a county council meeting Oct. 24, a few revelations came up about the county’s approach to code enforcement.

    The presentation was made for council in preparation for an upcoming community discussion about code enforcement set for 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Municipal Building.

    That presentation will be made by a community action group looking to reform the CDD’s policies regarding code enforcement, especially when it comes to residential properties. Many people in the group say the county is too heavy handed when it comes to enforcing rules concerning residential yard and building aesthetics.

    Los Alamos County Council Vice President Susan O’Leary asked CDD officials why there was a sharp rise in notices this year in comparison to years previous.

    CDD Manager Paul Andrus noted there were a lot of factors accounting for the rise, starting with the county’s adoption of the International Property Maintenance Code in 2014. He also attributed the rise in violation notices from his office to “better oversight, better practices, and accountability at a staff level,” Andrus said. “We started doing our jobs.” 

  • Plea bargain discussed for former LA County jail officer

    Attorneys discussed a plea bargain Wednesday for a former Los Alamos County detention officer facing allegations of criminal sexual contact of a minor and other acts related to the sexual exploitation of children.

    Dustin Bingham, 37, wearing the black and white stripes of a prisoner from the Rio Arriba County Jail, along with his attorney studied the proposal in front of state district court judge Mary Marlowe Sommer on Wednesday in Los Alamos.

    Some details are still pending, but less jail time for the former officer who worked for the Los Alamos Detention Center from 2012 until April 2015, is under consideration.

    The proposal doesn’t include an agreement on whether attorneys would propose that shorter jail sentences would be served concurrently or consecutively, attorneys at the hearing said.

    He would be on probation and would be required to have no contact with two of the victims. He would also register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.

    The charges came in August following reports by relatives to the Los Alamos Police Department that Bingham had inappropriately touched children both he and the relatives knew.

  • Rael gets 9 years for child porn

    A state district court judge sentenced Los Alamos resident David Rael to nine years in prison on charges of manufacturing, distributing and possessing material that sexually exploited children and a lifetime as a registered sex offender.

    In handing down the sentence, District Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer said Rael, 40, has continued to deny the charges, even after he was found guilty by the judge in June following a two-day bench trial in Santa Fe.

    The sentencing hearing was held Wednesday in Los Alamos.

    “You’re in a pickle with your family. You’re in denial, so they’re in denial,” Marlowe Sommer told Rael.

    The judge heard testimony from his family and friends during the hearing that Rael would not have child pornography or try to pass it along.

    Members of his family gasped at the sentence.

    Rael was arrested in 2014 for allegedly downloading child porn on his computer in 2014 and showing up in a computer data sweep conducted by the Attorney General’s Office.

    Rael faced a total of more than 31 years in prison on three counts of manufacturing material, one count of distribution and one count of possession of material that sexually exploited children, the judge said.

  • University of New Mexico names 1st woman president

    ALBUQUERQUE (AP) — The University of New Mexico Board of Regents made history Thursday as it named Garnett Stokes the first woman president to lead the state's flagship school.

    Stokes, the provost and executive vice chancellor for academic affairs at the University of Missouri, was among five finalists chosen as part of a national search. She is scheduled to begin her new job in March.

    The announcement was made during a special regents' meeting that marked the culmination of a 10-month process that included surveys, public forums, listening sessions and other meetings between the finalists and members of the university community and administration.

    Stokes, 61, accepted a five-year contract with a salary of $400,000.

    She takes over as the University of New Mexico and other New Mexico colleges grapple with funding shortages and enrollments that have generally trended downward. The University of New Mexico also faces accusations of financial mismanagement in its athletics department.

    "This is a transformational time at UNM, and Dr. Stokes brings the experience, skills and vision that UNM needs in a president to drive UNM beyond just its potential," Regents' President Rob Doughty said in a statement.

  • Study: N.M. not prepared for recession

    SANTA FE (AP) — New Mexico is not prepared to withstand another recession — should it come — given its depleted financial reserves, according to the findings in a new study.
    A “stress test” by Moody’s Analytics that looked at New Mexico’s current state of finances was published earlier this month, the Santa Fe New Mexican reported .
    The state needs to have 10 percent of its budget in reserve in order to make it through a moderate recession without resorting to many significant tax hikes or cutting back services, according to the analysis.
    The study also determined the state would need 17.1 percent in reserves to stay afloat in a severe recession.
    With budget shortfalls pushing lawmakers to move money from the reserves to cover various areas of need, New Mexico currently doesn’t come close to the bar set by the analysis.

  • Report: LANL comes up short on emergency drills

    LOS ALAMOS (AP) — A federal nuclear safety panel says Los Alamos National Laboratory has come up short during drills intended to show how the New Mexico lab would respond to potential emergencies such as radioactive leaks or earthquakes.

    A letter and lengthy report sent this month by the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board to U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry says the board found numerous weaknesses dating back to 2014.

    While the board did not issue any final recommendations regarding the weaknesses, it detailed its findings in the report in hopes of helping the Energy Department and the National Nuclear Security Administration as the federal agencies address the lab’s issues.

    The Albuquerque Journal reports that among a long list of criticisms and findings in the report, lab crews regularly failed at establishing adequate incident command capabilities during the simulated emergencies. There was a lack of understanding of roles and responsibilities, ineffective coordination and inadequate communication, among other things.

  • County Costume Contest
  • Immigrant plan: Public ed regardless of status

    Los Alamos Public Schools board members continued to explain a proposal intended to protect the privacy of students’ immigration status.

    Members of the public continued to comment.

    At a work session last week at the Middle School, Board President Jenny McCumber explained that as a public school district, LAPS must admit all school-age students who live within the boundaries of the school district, as well as those out-of-district students who meet acceptance criteria.

    McCumber cited a 1982 U.S. Supreme Court case called Plyler v. Doe, which found that “no public school district has a basis to deny children access to education based on their immigration status, citing the harm it would inflect on the child and society itself, as well as the equal protection rights of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution.”

    The statement is also part of the board’s proposed policy.

    McCumber noted, as does the proposed policy, that there “is no state or federal law that mandates that local school districts must assist ICE (Immigration and Customers Enforcement officers) in the enforcement of immigration laws.”