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Today's News

  • Government shutdown begins and so does the finger-pointing

    By ZEKE MILLER, ANDREW TAYLOR and ALAN FRAM, Associated Press

    WASHINGTON (AP) — Americans awoke Saturday to learn that quarreling politicians in Washington had failed to keep their government in business, halting all but the most essential operations and marring the anniversary of President Donald Trump's inauguration.

    It was a striking display of Washington dysfunction, and the finger-pointing came quickly. Trump tweeted that Democrats "wanted to give me a nice present" to mark the start of his second year in office.

    The Republican-controlled Congress scheduled an unusual weekend session to begin considering a three-week version of a short-term spending measure and to broadcast to the people they serve that they were at work as the closure commenced. It seemed likely that each side would push for votes aimed at making the other party look culpable for shuttering federal agencies.

    Trump spoke with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell early Saturday to discuss next steps, while chief of staff John Kelly also worked the phones. Top White House negotiators, legislative affairs director Marc Short and budget director Mick Mulvaney, went to Capitol Hill to meet with House Republicans.

  • LANL on regular schedule

    Los Alamos National Laboratory will operate without restrictions or closures Monday, regardless of what happens with the federal government shutdown, officials said Friday.

    “All DOE federal employees are expected to report to work on your next scheduled work day and subsequent work days unless you have previously approved leave or are given formal notice by your management not to report to work,” said DOE Press Secretary Shaylyn Hynes. “Similarly, contractors should continue to execute on contracts unless and until otherwise notified.”

    According to the Department of Energy’s Lapse of Appropriations Plan, in the event of a shutdown, the Los Alamos National Laboratory would continue its operations using fund balances from prior years, if they are available.

    If there are no available balances, only programs related to the safety of human life and the protection of property would continue.

  • Most of Bandelier shut down Saturday

    As of Saturday, January 20, most of Bandelier National Monument will be closed to visitor use due to the current situation with the budget of the federal government.  The closure is necessary for visitor safety and preservation of the fragile archeological and natural resources. The closure will last until the budget situation allows for park staff to return to duty.  Visitors are encouraged to respect signs and gates indicating areas that are closed, and use caution and care in areas that remain open.  There will be law enforcement rangers patrolling the park.

    The Frijoles Canyon area will be closed, including the Visitor Center, all trails below the canyon rim, and anything accessed from the Entrance Road.  The closure will also include Juniper Family Campground and Ponderosa Group Campground, as well as any use in the Tsankawi section of the park.  

    With the exception of Tsankawi, visitors will be permitted to use trails outside of Frijoles Canyon and the entrance road, including Burnt Mesa, Cerro Grande, the Upper Frijoles Canyon Overlook Trail, and the Sawyer Mesa Trail. The US Forest Service has gated Forest Roads 289 and 142 west of the park closed for the winter, so trails beginning along those roads are not available.

  • LANS docked $3.1M for plutonium shipment blunder

    A few months later, in November 2017, the NNSA docked the operators, the Los Alamos National Security, or LANS, $2.7 million from its $8.8 million leadership performance evaluation fee. This is a separate fee, according to the report. 

    In the report, NNSA explains the reason for the fee reduction, citing the shipping event June 16, when the lab shipped three Type B container plutonium shipments by commercial air cargo. This reduced the lab operator’s total management fee from $47.6 million to $44.5 million.  

    Federal safety regulations called for shipping the material by ground transportation.

    The NNSA also cited LANL’s initial reaction to the event as a reason for the reduction. 

    “(The) NNSA is concerned that LANS (Los Alamos National Security) originally viewed the plutonium shipments as isolated events and only identified one root cause which focused on the failure to conduct the required quality review,” as statement in the NNSA report said.

  • Lobbyist shares insight into GRT bill

    Scott Scanland, a lobbyist for Los Alamos County and the Los Alamos Public Schools, explained to members of the Regional Coalition of LANL Communities Jan. 12 how state legislators may react to Senate Bill 17, a bill to keep gross receipts taxes flowing into the county from the Los Alamos National Laboratory.

    State Sen. Carlos Cisneros (D-6) and State Rep. Stephanie Garcia Richard (D-43) are sponsoring the bill.

    Scanland said he talked to legislators over the summer, when the state budget picture looked bleak.

    “The budget situation was a little gloomy, and we were able to put forth a pretty persuasive argument that you don’t want to shoot a hole in your foot, and blow a hole in the budget and not pass the legislation,” Scanland said. “The Senate Finance Committee members really got it.”

    He said that viewpoint continues to hold true, even though the state is projecting it will have more dollars to spend for the next budget.

    Scanland expects the bill to make a smooth transition from the Senate Appropriations Committee into the Senate Finance Committee.

  • Weather service: Hazardous conditions expected from storm

    ALBUQUERQUE (AP) — Forecasters say a storm this weekend may cause difficult to severe driving conditions in northern and western New Mexico and severe to damaging winds in other parts of the state.

    The National Weather Service says hazardous travel conditions will develop Saturday evening and continue into Sunday, particularly in higher terrain of mountains in northern and western New Mexico.

    Strong winds are expected Sunday for areas between the Texas border on the east and the Sandia, Manzano and Sacramento/Capitan mountains on the west.

    The weather service says the crosswinds may cause dangerous travel conditions along Interstate 40 and U.S. 285 and that icy road conditions are possible in the Albuquerque and Santa Fe areas.
     

  • New Mexico lawmakers move to form Hispanic Caucus

    SANTA FE (AP) — State senators in New Mexico are moving to create a bipartisan Legislative Hispanic Caucus amid declining Latino leadership numbers.

    Their action comes as the Democratic-led New Mexico Senate is facing criticism from a national group representing Hispanic elected officials over the lack of diversity in its leadership.

    Sen. Jacob Candelaria submitted a letter Thursday to the New Mexico Senate seeking formal recognition of the caucus in a state with the highest percentage of Hispanic residents in the nation. "Hispanics continue to be underrepresented in positions of power in government, including the Legislature, and in the private sector," the letter said.

    Sen. John Sapien, a Corrales Democrat, said that he and other Hispanic lawmakers previously opted not to form a caucus since there were Hispanics in legislative leadership positions. But, he says, that changed in recent days after

    Senate Democrats selected an all-white leadership team for the first time since 1986.

    Arturo Vargas, executive director of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, said he was shocked to learn that the New Mexico Senate Democrats elected a leadership team without any Hispanics.

  • US flu season gets worse, has 'lot more steam' than expected

    NEW YORK (AP) — The flu season in the U.S. is getting worse.

    Health officials last week said flu was blanketing the country but they thought there was a good chance the season was already peaking. But the newest numbers out Friday show it grew even more intense.

    "This is a season that has a lot more steam than we thought," said Dr. Dan Jernigan of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

    One measure of the season is how many doctor or hospital visits are because of a high fever, cough and other flu symptoms. Thirty-two states reported high patient traffic last week, up from 26 the previous week. Overall, it was the busiest week for flu symptoms in nine years.

    Hawaii is the only state that doesn't have widespread illnesses.

    This year's flu season got off to an early start, and it's been driven by a nasty type of flu that tends to put more people

    in the hospital and cause more deaths than other common flu bugs. In New York, state officials say a drastic rise in flu cases hospitalized more than 1,600 this past week.

    The flu became intense last month in the U.S. The last two weekly report show flu widespread over the entire continental United States, which is unusual.

  • US stocks close higher as market sets latest record high

    By ALEX VEIGA, AP Business Writer

    Investors shrugged off the potential for a federal government shutdown Friday, driving U.S. stocks higher and setting new milestones for several of the indexes.

    The Standard & Poor's 500 index, Nasdaq composite and Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks finished at record highs as the market bounced back from modest losses a day earlier. The S&P 500 has now posted a weekly gain in nine of the last 10 weeks.

    Retailers, banks and consumer goods companies accounted for much of the latest gains. Energy stocks fell along with crude oil prices. Utilities also declined as bond yields edged up to their highest level in more than three years.

    The market rally suggested that the possibility of a federal government shutdown this weekend wasn't worrying traders.

    "Looking back to some of the previous shutdowns, they weren't terribly extended in nature and didn't cause a lot of disruption by the time everything was done," said Tim Dreiling, regional investment director at U.S. Bank Private Wealth Management. "I don't think it's going to disrupt growth or make much of an impact on GDP, for example."

  • Clues sought in crash that killed Zimbabwe opposition leader

    By P. SOLOMON BANDA and MARY HUDETZ, Associated Press

    RATON, N.M. (AP) — Andra Cobb was frantic when she called for help, telling an emergency operator that a helicopter she was riding in with her father, longtime partner and others had crashed in a remote part of New Mexico and that she was watching her "family burn."

    Police released 911 recordings Friday from the crash near the Colorado-New Mexico line that killed five people, including Zimbabwean opposition leader Roy Bennett, and his wife, Heather. Cobb, 39, was the sole survivor, escaping with broken bones before the helicopter burst into flames.

    Her father, Paul Cobb, the co-pilot, and her longtime partner, Charles Burnett III, a Texas-based investor who owned the ranch where the group of friends was headed, also were killed in the crash Wednesday, along with pilot Jamie Coleman Dodd.

    "I'm watching my family burn in a fire," Andra Cobb screamed on the call. "I don't know what to do. There's a big fire. I'm covered in gasoline."

    Dodd also called 911 before he later died. He told authorities immediately after the crash that there were three victims and three survivors — him, Andra Cobb and Roy Bennett, who was suffering from a head wound as authorities tried to determine their location.