Spaceport America southern road gets $6.4M boost

From the Las Cruces Sun-News - By Diana Alba Soular - With the addition of $6.4 million approved by the New Mexico Legislature this year, the New Mexico Spaceport Authority now has about $14.5 million total for a paved southern road to the remote spaceport.
     That is just $500,000 less than what it was before the spaceport authority dipped into the road budget because of a delayed start to operations by the spaceport's main tenant, Virgin Galactic, and the fact it doesn't have a visitors center built and running, spaceport officials said. Both are expected to be key revenue streams for the $212 million taxpayer-owned facility.
     Spaceport officials said they were pleased lawmakers granted the additional funding. The roughly 24-mile road branches off from Interstate 25 north of a U.S. Border Patrol checkpoint. It heads north from the Upham exit through northern Doña Ana County and crosses into Sierra County before reaching Spaceport America. The route now is a dirt road, but spaceport and county officials are proposing to pave it.
     Some Doña Ana County residents have questioned why a road has not yet been built, given that the spaceport project has been underway for years. The county is the second-largest financial contributor to the project, thanks to a county-wide spaceport sales tax. The only existing paved route is through Truth or Consequences.
      The southern road project is seen by many people as important for Las Cruces and Doña Ana County to benefit from the tourism and business activity tied to the spaceport. Spaceport officials have said they don't expect Virgin Galactic flights to start from the facility before August of this year. More
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APD protest continues into the night

From KOB-TV.com - The protest against the Albuquerque Police Department continues. Several hundred people have marched throughout the day between downtown Albuquerque and Nob Hill.
     Central is now shutdown eastbound at University. KOB Eyewitness News 4 has learned Albuquerque police officers outfitted in riot gear are on the scene at Central and Girard.
     They are protesting what they call APD’s excessive use of force. The protest began peacefully around 12 p.m. on Sunday and escalated throughout the day. Protestors say officers murdered a man in the foothills two weeks ago. James Boyd was killed after a confrontation with police in the foothills on March 16.
     This is the second protest in the wake of Boyd’s death. “There has been excessive force lately—in the last couple of years and I think something has to be done,” Protestor Justin Wagner said. “The new police chief is not doing his job. He spoke wrongly two weeks ago by justifying it, before everything was out there.”
     Protesters did reach I-25 and Central and briefly shut down the area, but it has been re-opened. More
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NM Former Legislator Max Coll 1932-2014

Max Coll
SANTA FE – Max Coll, who began his bifurcated political career as a Republican in one of the most conservative areas of New Mexico and ended it as a Democrat in the most liberal, died Thursday night. He was 82 years old.

According to close friend Sen. Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe, Coll died after suffering a major stroke last Friday night and was in Christus St.Vincent Regional Medical Center. A statement from family members is expected Friday morning

Born and raised in Roswell, Coll worked in the oil and gas industry and in the 1960s successfully ran for the state House of Representatives on a platform of slashing taxes. According to a 2013 House Memorial bill honoring him, a crew-cutted Coll handed out matchbooks during the campaign emblazoned with the slogan, “All for Coll.”
In a hint to his eventual political right-to-left transition, Coll in 1972 co-sponsored the New Mexico Equal Rights Amendment. He left the Roundhouse in 1974 to complete a law degree from the University of New Mexico and moved to northern New Mexico upon graduation.

By 1980, Coll had the itch to return to the Legislature and was elected that fall as the state rep in Santa Fe’s District 47 as a Republican. Gone was the buzz-cut, as Coll let his curly hair grow out and, in time, he even sported a stud in each ear lobe.
In 1983, Coll approached then Speaker of the House Raymond Sanchez and switched parties, becoming a Democrat.

While long priding himself as a fiscal hawk, Coll became a liberal mainstay and a strong voice for environmental concerns. Coll may have had investments in oil and gas but he had this to say to a reporter in 2010 of the relationship between the Legislature and the energy industry: “They’ve been partners with ‘em, they’ve been kissin’ them on the lips for a number of years.”

Possessing a sharp mind for state finances, Coll eventually served as chairman of the House Taxation and Revenue Committee and House Appropriations and Finance Committee and also was a longtime member of the influential Legislative Finance Committee. He worked with five governors in the course of 24 years.

Coll clashed with Democratic Gov. Bill Richardson – over what Coll felt was the executive’s attempts at consolidating Roundhouse power, among other things – and in 2004 Coll retired from politics at the age of 72.

“Max knew the rules better than anybody,” Speaker of the House W. Ken Martinez said in February of 2013 when Coll, along with his wife, Catherine Joyce-Coll, was honored on the floor of the House.

Coll and Joyce-Coll met at the Roundhouse after Joyce-Coll took a job working for Roundhouse Democrats during a legislative session.

Lovers of animals and owners of a collection of dogs and tropical birds in their home in the Santa Fe foothills, the couple helped state Sen. Wirth pass a bill in 2011 that allowed restaurants across the state to permit dogs to sit with their owners in outdoor patio areas.
The bill was signed by Republican Gov. Susana Martinez, herself a dog lover, and the Colls appeared at the signing ceremony.

In his later years, Coll met regularly with friends and political pals for luncheon dates on the Santa Fe Plaza and hosted friendly games of poker along with his wife. Coll battled diabetes and intestinal ailments but always managed to maintain a calm, almost courtly, demeanor.
“I’d complain about getting old,” he said, smiling to a friend in 2012, ”but, you know, it doesn’t do any good.”

Contact Rob Nikolewski at rnikolewski@watchdog.org and follow him on Twitter @robnikolewski

- See more at: http://newmexico.watchdog.org/

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Swickard: Be ready to help when called upon

© 2014 Michael Swickard, Ph.D. It is something we hope to avoid but at times we are thrust into emergencies. Suddenly we must act correctly and quickly. Automobile collisions come to mind since the clock is ticking because the delicate human protoplasm inside each vehicle is often injured.
     We see a plume of dust signaling one or more vehicles have left the roadway. There are just seconds to do the right things for these unfortunates. Little is written about what to do if you drive up upon an accident other than call the authorities. Many Americans just stand and watch like they are watching a television show. While they are just standing some people die who could have been saved.
     My uncle, Ralph Smith, was a Safety Engineer for the New Mexico State Highway Department as I was growing up so I was steeped in this question. My response to collisions is somewhat automatic though every crash is different.
      The first thing to do is to keep oncoming vehicles from running through the crash site. People must go quite a ways in both directions to stop oncoming traffic. Wave, shout and stop oncoming cars. It is a tragedy to be in a crash and even worse to be killed because an oncoming vehicle runs through the crash site.
      Then try to help the injured. How much? My rule is that if it seems to me I can help, I do. The first thing is to get the walking wounded to lie down out of harm’s way. Obviously get people out of vehicles that might catch on fire if you can. Naturally stop the blood flow of injuries. Further, it is vital that when emergency workers arrive that you point them to the injured needing assistance immediately.
      Finally, when the dust settles and the injured are on their way to a hospital it is helpful to give a verbal report along with your name and phone number on a piece of paper to the police. This way they can more easily reconstruct what happened both at the start of the collision and before they got there. Read full column

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Foundation for Open Government questioning Martinez policy

The New Mexico Foundation for Open Government is asking Gov. Susana Martinez about the administration's policy for handling information requests from the Legislature's watchdog committees. 

The questions were raised in response to a story by The Associated Press that Martinez agencies have told the Legislative Finance Committee and the Legislative Education Study Committee to send their information requests to the governor's chief of staff for approval before an agency will respond. 

Foundation Executive Director Susan Boe sent a letter Wednesday to the governor asking if her chief of staff now serves as the "chief records custodian" for agency requests under the Inspection of Public Records Act. The foundation also made a public records request for any correspondence or memorandum sent to agencies about the governor's new policy.



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Lawmakers have major concerns about new school curriculum

Top lawmakers are complaining that sweeping new high school curriculum and standardized testing rules are too complicated even for those who approved them to understand. 
And they note that, if that's the case, just imagine how tough they will be to follow for students, parents and school administrators.
 The House Public Education Committee discussed implementation on Wednesday of a much-watched new law scrapping the rule that most students take algebra II. It's designed to create more flexibility for vocational training. 
The law also cut the number of high school standardized tests from a nation-high 15 to five. But some committee members complained that the new curriculum is heavy. 


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AG's office launching APD shooting investigation

The New Mexico Attorney General's Office is launching an investigation of the latest fatal shootings by Albuquerque police. 
State Attorney General Gary King said Wednesday that his office's investigation will provide what he called "an objective unbiased external assessment."
 Albuquerque Police Chief Gordon Eden said officers opened fire on a man outside an apartment complex late Tuesday after he shot at police. Officers were responding to a 911 call about a man holding a child at gunpoint.
 That shooting occurred just hours after hundreds of people participated in a protest over a recent confrontation in which police fatally shot a homeless camper. The Attorney General's office will also investigate that shooting.


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Kindergarten teacher: My job is now about tests and data — not children. I quit.

From the Washington Post - by Valerie Strauss - Susan Sluyter is a veteran teacher of young children in the Cambridge Public Schools who has been connected to the district for nearly 20 years and teaching for more than 25 years. Last month she sent a resignation letter ( “with deep love and a broken heart”) explaining that she could no longer align her understanding of how young children learn best in safe, developmentally appropriate environments with the testing and data collection mandates imposed on teachers today. She wrote in part:
     I have watched as my job requirements swung away from a focus on the children, their individual learning styles, emotional needs, and their individual families, interests and strengths to a focus on testing, assessing, and scoring young children, thereby ramping up the academic demands and pressures on them.
     Each year, I have been required to spend more time attending classes and workshops to learn about new academic demands that smack of 1st and 2nd grade, instead of kindergarten and PreK. I have needed to schedule and attend more and more meetings about increasingly extreme behaviors and emotional needs of children in my classroom; I recognize many of these behaviors as children shouting out to the adults in their world, “I can’t do this! Look at me! Know me! Help me! See me!” I have changed my practice over the years to allow the necessary time and focus for all the demands coming down from above. Each year there are more. Each year I have had less and less time to teach the children I love in the way I know best—and in the way child development experts recommend. I reached the place last year where I began to feel I was part of a broken system that was causing damage to those very children I was there to serve. Read full story
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Hundreds gathering to protest foothills shooting

From KOB-TV.com - By: Erica Zucco, KOB Eyewitness News 4 - Tuesday, hundreds of protestors marched to Albuquerque Police Department headquarters saying they wanted “justice for James Boyd.”
     The mentally ill homeless man was shot and killed by APD officers more than a week beforehand after a standoff in the foothills. Police say he threatened officers with knives, but many of the protestors said that was no reason to kill him.
     “We are all James Boyd,” protestors chanted. They accused APD of using excessive force against James Boyd and lamented what they call a lack of mental health services in family.
     Shannon Haley was one of the protestors. She anonymously posted a sign reading “sorry our system failed you” at the site where Boyd was killed last week.
     “We wanna show that we care, that we want to change things, that they're not working the way they are, that the humanity is not about killing,” Haley said. For others, it was a time to reflect on past shootings.
     “People do care, and the people of Albuquerque should start caring too, it could happen to their loved ones. It happened to mine,” Mike Gomez, whose son Alan was shot by police, said.
     Protestors finished their march at APD headquarters. There, they packed the block, still waving signs. They called for APD leaders to step down and Albuquerque leaders to step up to prevent another death like James Boyd’s.
     APD says they support protestors’ first amendment rights to say whatever they choose as long as they do so peacefully. There were only a couple officers present during the protest, mostly for traffic control. More
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NCAA apologizes to the Aggies

New Mexico State athletic director McKinley Boston says the NCAA has apologized for making the Aggies fly home immediately after their second-round tournament loss and inadequate bus transportation from the airport. 
NMSU and San Diego State were told before Thursday's game in Spokane that the loser would have to fly home that night. 
After the game, SDSU coach Steve Fisher called the policy "disgraceful" and added: "For the billions of dollars that we have here, for them not to find a way to accommodate these kids, the student-athletes - you can't tell me they couldn't find charter planes." 
When the Aggies arrived in El Paso, Texas, only one bus was at the airport to meet them. The bus had to make two trips to get everyone to the campus in Las Cruces.
Information from The AP. 

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Jeb Bush campaigning in NM

Jeb Bush
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is to visit New Mexico this week to raise campaign money for Republican Gov. Susana Martinez. 

Martinez political spokesman Danny Diaz said Bush will attend a fundraiser Tuesday in Farmington and another in Santa Fe on Wednesday. 

Central Consolidated School District announced that Bush, Martinez and Public Education Secretary Hanna Skandera will speak at an elementary school in Shiprock Wednesday morning. 

Martinez has advocated some of the educational policies that Bush implemented in Florida, including holding back third-graders who can't read proficiently and giving schools A-to-F grades and performance-based pay bonuses for teachers. 

Martinez's education secretary, Hanna Skandera, worked for the Bush administration in Florida as a deputy commissioner of education.

Information from The AP. 

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Portales peanut plant in bidding war

A troubled peanut plant in Portales that closed following a nationwide salmonella outbreak is now at the center of a bidding war. 

The plant filed for bankruptcy after the outbreak sickened 40 people in 20 states. The plant closed in October, leaving more than 100 workers without a job. 

In an auction last week, Hampton Farms of North Carolina had the winning bid of $20 million dollars. But just before the sale was complete, a last minute cash offer of $25 million came in from Canada’s Golden Boy Foods. 

It’s up to a federal bankruptcy judge in Albuquerque to decide who gets the plant. Hampton Farms has said it does plan to re-open the plant. Canada’s Golden Boy Foods has not said what it has planned for the plant if it gets the deal.



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Marita Noon: Job Creators Sue Federal Government

Commentary by Marita Noon - For years environmentalists have usurped individual private property rights and thwarted economic development. Now, thanks to Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, it appears that the job creators may have finally learned something from the extreme tactics of groups, like the Wild Earth Guardians and the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), which have been using the courts to their advantage by filing lawsuits against the federal government.
     On Monday, March 17, on behalf of the state of Oklahoma and the Domestic Energy Producers Alliance (DEPA), Pruitt filed a lawsuit against the federal government, specifically the U.S. Department of the Interior and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS). The lawsuit alleges the “FWS engaged in ‘sue and settle’ tactics when the agency agreed to settle a lawsuit with a national environmental group over the [Endangered Species Act] listing status of several animal species, including the Lesser Prairie Chicken.”
     The Lesser Prairie Chicken (LPC) is especially important, as the FWS is required—based on the conditions set forth in the settlement of a 2010 lawsuit—to make a determination, explicitly, on the LPC by March 31, 2014. A “threatened” listing would restrict the land use in the bird’s 40-million-acre, five-state habitat: Oklahoma, Colorado, Texas, New Mexico, and Kansas. The affected area includes private, state, and federal lands—lands rich in energy resources, ranch and farm land—plus, municipal infrastructure, such as water pipelines and electric transmission. Read full column
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Mysterious plume still baffling people

From KOB-TV.com - A mysterious plume that showed up on National Weather Service radars is still puzzling people.
     The radars first picked up the plume in Socorro County Monday evening, then went east into Texas and Oklahoma.
     The weather service offices in El Paso and Albuquerque didn't know what caused it, so KOB Eyewitness News 4 called White Sands Missile Range. Officials there didn't know what it was.
     KOB also called Holloman and Cannon Air Force bases. They were both just as baffled as everyone else. For now, the mystery remains More
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Swickard: What it takes to get my vote

© 2014 Michael Swickard, Ph.D. “This is a frightening statistic. More people vote in ‘American Idol’ than in any US election? Rush Limbaugh
     It is frightening when more Americans vote in television shows than in real elections. Something must prompt them to do so; to make American Idol more important to them than Congress. There must be some reward to be so taken in by television and not real life. Trouble is I cannot for the life of me guess what that is.
     We have 545 politicians (Congress, Supreme Court and President) who are running rough-shod over the American public while most Americans do not notice. One reason they do not notice is that the media operates as part of the ruling class and not as a watchdog to freedom. Politicians love it. Why our citizens allow the media to enable politicians to lie and cheat the American public, I cannot understand it.
     In the coming mid-term elections our nation teeters on the brink of disaster far more than at any time after the Civil War. We are a nation so disconnected to the news that Man-made Global Warming is believed more than that Americans landed on the Moon and returned safely. I cannot for the life of me guess why.
     As to the elections, we have people professing to have the best wishes for the teens who cannot get jobs. These same people want to raise the minimum wage even higher. The minimum wage does not let employers pay for what someone can trade productively.
     That is exactly why low-skilled young people cannot find work and yet it is the very thing some political leaders are pushing. These politicians are running on raising the minimum wage which will keep more of our young people unemployed. And, go figure, most of the young people vote for them because a higher minimum wage sounds like they will be making more money. No, they will still be unemployed and unemployable.
     What unemployed workers need more than anything is to get a job, any job for any wage because any wage will be more than they are making now. But their elected leaders seem to want to keep them jobless and in poverty. Worse, the media conspired to obscure the result of minimum wages: joblessness. Read full column

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Documentary about WWII prisoners of war to be screened, with guest stars, in Las Cruces

From the Las Cruces Sun-News and El Paso Times - By S. Derrickson Moore - LAS CRUCES >> Two Emmy Award winners — filmmaker Jan Thompson and actress Loretta Swit (of "M*A*S*H" fame) — will be in Las Cruces this week to present screenings of Thompson's documentary "Never The Same: The Prisoner of War Experience" at the Rio Grande Theatre.
     The film is narrated by Swit and features the voices of Alec Baldwin, Ed Asner, Jamie Farr, Mike Farrell, Robert Loggia, Kathleen Turner, Robert Wagner, Christopher Franciosa, Christopher Murray and Sam Waterston.
     Thompson was inspired by the experiences, journals and artifacts of U.S. servicemen held as POWs by the Japanese during World War II. She said she worked to convey their use of "ingenuity, creativity and humor to survive one of the most notorious times in history."
      It's particularly appropriate to show the film at the same time as an annual event that honors soldiers who were involved in the Bataan Death March, said Thompson, whose late father, Robert Thompson, was a prisoner of war after his capture on Corregidor.
      "The film tells a story we all should know," said Jerry Schurtz of Las Cruces, whose father and uncle, Deming natives, were both on the Bataan Death March. His father, Paul W. Schurtz, died. His uncle, Gerald B. Freeman, survived and became a surrogate father to Jerry and his siblings.
     "It's a really outstanding documentary, based on the experiences of Jan's dad and other guys who were prisoners of war and slave laborers in Japan, and it also talks about their travel in what they called the Hell Ships, two of which were sunk en route to Japan," said Jerry Schurtz, who thinks the film is especially significant "for those of us who are POW kids. Almost everybody knows something about Bataan, but they don't know about the other 3½ years when these men were starving and brutalized at the whims of the Japanese. They don't realize a lot of these men watched the Nagasaki (atomic) bomb from a distance in unmarked hospital ships and prison ships."
     Swit, Thompson and Schurtz all expressed concerns that the returning World War II POWs have never really had a chance to come to terms with their experiences. More
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Study ranks NM among highest sales tax rates

From KOB-TV.com - By: Elizabeth Reed, KOB.com - New data released by the Tax Foundation reveals that New Mexico's combined state and local sales tax rate is among the highest in the country.
     According to the Albuquerque Business First, New Mexico's combined average totals 7.26 percent, which is the 16th highest in the nation. Tennessee had the highest combined rate at nearly 9.5 percent. Alaska had the lowest at less than 2 percent.
     The Tax Foundation's report also found that differences in sales tax rates caused some consumers to shop across borders or buy products online.More
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New Mexico special session for Tesla eyed

Tesla Roadster
NewsNM: Swickard - So far none of the "Green" energy projects anywhere in our nation has made any money. Be careful New Mexico with the enthusiasm for Tesla since battery cars are still just an expensive fad. It would be better to get proven manufacturers to move to New Mexico. 
     From KOAT-TV.com - ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. —New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez says a legislative special session to help the state win a Tesla Motors facility is a possibility.New Mexico is one of four states that Tesla's Fremont, Calif., assembly plant has identified as finalists for a battery factory. Others are Arizona, Nevada and Texas.
     According to the Albuquerque Journal, Martinez says her office is evaluating whether a special session is necessary to complete a package of economic incentives being crafted to help make New Mexico more appealing to Tesla.
     Martinez wouldn't discuss details of the negotiations with Tesla, but she said New Mexico is in the running for the project in part because of taxation changes that the state has made. She made her comments Monday after she made a speech in Albuquerque. More
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State to study Amtrak future

New Mexico plans to study whether to help pay part of the cost of keeping Amtrak's Southwest Chief on its current route. 

A state budget signed by Republican Gov. Susana Martinez allocates $50,000 to the Legislative Council Service to study a proposal by Amtrak for New Mexico, Colorado and Kansas to share the costs of maintaining and improving more than 600 miles of track through their states. 

John Yaeger of the Legislative Council Service said legal issues will be considered as well as the costs and economic benefits of the proposal. Details of the study are still being worked out. 

Amtrak has suggested the three states share maintenance costs with it and Burlington Northern Santa Fe, which owns the track. Each would provide about $4 million annually for a decade.

Information from The AP. 



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Fire in Lea County

A fire broke out in Lea County along Highway 508 Monday. 
The fire is estimated to be between 8,000 and 10,000 acres in size and has moved into Roosevelt County
Though it is actively burning, the burn has slowed because of cooler evening temperatures and lighter winds.  It is burning in the open prairie, and no structures are threatened at this time.
Today is expected to be windy. In the area of the Lea County fire, winds will reach at least 20 mph by the afternoon. 
Again, with winds slowing down during the overnight hours, the blaze isn't expected to grow very much.



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NM unemployment rate remains unchanged

New Mexico's unemployment rate remained virtually unchanged in January at 6.6 percent.  
The state Workforce Solutions Department said Monday that the unemployment rate in January was down from 6.9 percent a year ago. The state agency says jobs have shrunk by 0.5 percent, a loss of 3,700 over the year. State officials say seven industries lost jobs, four added employment and two remain unchanged. 
The largest employment gains were reported in the mining industry, which added 1,700 jobs since January 2013. Retail trade added 1,200 jobs while the financial activities industry added 1,100 jobs and construction added 500 jobs. 
Government employment reported the largest jobs decrease at 3,200 jobs while manufacturing declined by 1,500 jobs. 
Information from The AP. 


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Three Hours of Waterboarding with Jon Stewart

Commentary by Marita Noon - Energy makes America great - On Thursday, February 27, I received an email that said: “I'm a producer at theDaily Show with Jon Stewart. We're working on a segment about fracking & I wanted to reach out to see if you'd be interested in participating. I read your column in Town Hall a few months ago & it's just what we're looking for—we'd like to have someone dispel a lot of the myths & untruths about fracking.” I responded that, yes, I was interested. After doing my research, I agreed to participate.
     On March 6, I flew to New York City for a taping on March 7. I knew that the Daily Show is a comedy show masquerading as a news program. My peers told mehorror stories of how the show had treated others whose views didn't mesh with those of Jon Stewart—not that the guests were personally abused, but that the final product didn't represent what was really said during the taping. 
     I weighed the pro and cons and decided to take the risk. I figured that no matter how good I might be, I was unlikely to change the opinions of the young audience that watches the Daily Show and thinks it is real news. Additionally, my audience doesn’t generally watch it—and if they do, they’ll know my comments were heavily edited, as my views are well known. 
     What really pushed me to accept the invitation was the fact that the following week, March 10-13, I was scheduled to be in Southern California speaking on college campuses and my Daily Show taping would enhance my “street-cred” with the potential audiences. Read full column

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New report looks at oil and gas in NM

A new report detailing New Mexico's reliance on oil and gas shows diversifying the state's economy could prove challenging. 

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports that the New Mexico Tax Research Institute found even counties where there is little oil and gas development have benefited from those industries. 

According to the institute, $1.7 billion of $5.5 billion of the state's general fund last year was from oil and gas revenues. Much of the funding helps support schools and colleges. The tax report was partially funded by the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association. Officials say it includes data from the state Taxation and Revenue Department, the State Land Office, the Board of Finance and other agencies.



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New Mexican named National Science Foundation Director

France Cordova
An internationally recognized astrophysicist with ties to New Mexico has been tapped to serve as the next director of the National Science Foundation. 
The nomination of France Cordova was approved by the U.S. Senate this week. 
Cordova, a Santa Fe resident, is a former president of Purdue University. She's also on the governing board of the Smithsonian Institution and she worked at Los Alamos National Laboratory between 1979 and 1989. 
With an annual budget of more than $7 billion, the foundation provides funding for more than one-fifth of all federally supported basic research conducted by America's colleges and universities.


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Sunland Inc. plant to be auctioned off

A New Mexico peanut-butter processing plant that went bankrupt after a salmonella outbreak shuttered its operations and prompted a nationwide recall last year is headed to the auction block. 
The reserve price for all bidders in Thursday's auction is $18.5 million. That's the amount California-based Ready Roast Nut Co. already has offered to buy the defunct Sunland Inc. plant. The sale seemed imminent when a bankruptcy trustee backed Ready Roast's offer. 
But the Clovis News Journal reports another potential buyer has emerged. A U.S. Bankruptcy Court judge has scheduled a hearing Friday to accept or reject the best bid in the auction. 
Sunland attorneys had valued the company's total assets at $50 million when it sought bankruptcy protection last fall. It owes its three major secured creditors about $14 million.
Information from The AP.

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Former Bernalillo County employee accused of stealing fuel

From KOB-TV.com - By: Jeffery Gordon, KOB.com - A former Bernalillo County Parks and Recreation worker is accused of using county gas cards to ring up thousands of dollars’ worth of fuel.
     Nicholas Jones appeared in court on Sunday.
     According to a police document, Jones used gas cards meant for county vehicles to purchase more than $6,500 worth of fuel.
     Many of the purchases happened at Murphy’s Station on Sunshine West Plaza Drive SW in Albuquerque. More
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Swickard: Freedom from losing our freedoms

© 2014 Michael Swickard, Ph.D. In President Franklin Roosevelt’s 1941 State of the Union speech he spoke of four freedoms: these were the freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want and freedom from fear. Two of those: speech and worship are in the Bill of Rights and two: the freedom from want and fear, were not realistic.
     There is no way government can inure citizens from want and fear. FDR said in his first inauguration in 1933, “The only things we have to fear is fear itself.” What about the notion government can guarantee citizens freedom from want?
     FDR’s Four Freedoms have been in the public eye for several generations. The freedom from want has shaped public expectations such as Minimum Wage and the War on Poverty. Government cannot give each citizen all that they want.
     In the year 2014 there could be a new Four Freedoms: Freedom from losing all of our Bill of Rights. Freedom to not have unusual concerns about food supplies, energy and the ability of our military to protect us. Next we need the freedom to have public education that is focused on the students and not the adults and which is not used for propaganda. Finally I would want the freedom from tyranny by our police and bureaucrats. 
     The intention of the founders of our country by passing the Bill of Rights was for government to be limited in how it could handle citizens. Inch by inch courts have interpreted the Constitution to mean exactly opposite of what it originally meant. When a section says… Congress shall make no laws… it is now interpreted to mean …Congress shall make laws… go figure.
      More so, little by little each right in the Bill of Rights has been repealed without a vote of Congress or the people. Do not let anyone kid you, when the police come you are considered in our society guilty until proven innocent even if we mouth the words the other way. Read full column

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Pearce: MIT study validates concerns over SunZia

From KOAT-TV.com - ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. —Congressman Steve Pearce says a Massachusetts Institute of Technology study on the potential impacts of the SunZia transmission line on White Sands Missile Range validates concerns over the project.
     The Hobbs Republican told reporters Tuesday on a conference call the study proves key U.S. Department of Defense concerns that the proposed 500-mile transmission project could interfere with missile tests. He says a proposed transmission line would be harmful to White Sands Missile Range and Holloman Air Force Base.
      That assessment counters the study's interpretation from SunZia project manager Tom Wray. He pointed to the study that said, although electromagnetic interference could affect certain missile guidance systems, no problems would occur if missiles remain at least 200 feet from lines.
     Pearce recommended the line be moved farther north or buried underground. More

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Pardoned felons now eligible to obtain concealed gun licenses

From KOB-TV.com - By: Stuart Dyson, KOB Eyewitness News 4 - The door is open for any New Mexico convicted felon who gets a pardon to get a concealed-carry handgun license.
     The state’s Attorney General has issued an official legal opinion saying a pardon from the governor erases the felony conviction. That means the former criminal can apply for a concealed-carry permit just like anybody with a clean record.
     “The case law here in New Mexico really indicates that a pardon really does make it like the felony essentially didn’t occur,” said Gary King. “People who’ve been convicted of a felony and who receive a pardon from the governor would be eligible to get a concealed carry permit.”
     Albuquerque’s new Police Chief Gorden Eden requested an opinion from the Attorney General on the issue about a year ago, when he the state’s Secretary of Public safety. King said it’s a good thing for New Mexico governors to keep in mind when they’re considering pardons.
     “I would think that there might be some concern that certain felons might cause the state to want to not allow that person to ever carry a firearm again, whether they got a pardon or not,” King said.
     Gov. Martinez has issued only a couple of pardons at this point, a spokesman said, and they were for elderly and ill people. Gov. Bill Richardson only issued a handful in his two terms. More
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Wealthy environmentalists push Democrat Harry Reid to lean-in to green energy

Commentary by Marita Noon - Democrats have decided to lean-in, not back-away, from so-called clean energy. Despite the embarrassing history of government-funded green-energy failures, “wealthy environmentalists are pushing Democrats to take bolder positions on climate change”—and global warming, as an issue, provides the impetus for more green-energy spending.
     The Boston Globe reported on a recent “summit between Washington’s liberal elite and San Francisco’s climate intelligensia” that included “Senate majority leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, six other senators, and … Al Gore.” The Globe points to new efforts by Democrats to “make global warming a central issue during the midterms.”
     Reid has, according to the Globe, “pledged to allot time to anyone who wants to discuss climate change at party lunches or on the Senate floor.” He needs to keep the ruse alive because he is connected to more than $3 billion in Energy Department green-energy deals that helped him get reelected in 2010—behavior that has earned him the moniker: “one of America’s most corrupt politicians.”
     Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), along with Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), has planned an all-night talkathon on the subject that will take place on Monday, March 10—about which Boxer said: “So many Senators coming together for an all-night session shows our commitment to wake up Congress to the dangers of climate change.” According to a press release from the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, 28 Senators will be participating—slightly more than one quarter of the Senate.
     Apparently they don’t want to miss out on the $100 million in campaign cash the “wealthy environmentalists” have committed to cooperative candidates—while also “threatening to withhold money from candidates in swing states who support the Keystone oil pipeline.” Read full column
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Sen. Howie Morales earns top spot on primary ballot

Howie Morales
Sen. Howie Morales of Silver City has earned the top spot on the Democratic primary ballot in the race for governor. 
Morales received 29 percent of delegate votes at Saturday's pre-primary nominating convention at Laguna Pueblo. Santa Fe businessman Alan Webber finished with 21 percent, according to unofficial results. Longtime government administrator Lawrence Rael got 20 percent. Attorney General Gary King and Sen. Linda Lopez of Albuquerque didn't get the necessary 20 percent support to earn an automatic spot on the June primary election ballot. 
However, King and Lopez can still get on the ballot by submitting extra signatures on nominating petitions to the secretary of state. 
Candidates will appear on the primary ballot based on their performance, with Morales listed first.
Information from The AP. 


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Gov. approves emergency medication in schools

New Mexico schools will now be able to stock emergency medication to treat students who suffer asthma attacks or allergic reactions. 

Gov. Susana Martinez is expected to sign Senate Bill 75 into law Sunday at the American Lung Association's Albuquerque office. 

The legislation will allow school nurses to administer the medication even to students who don't have a prescription. Supporters say this will help quickly treat children who haven't been diagnosed with a respiratory problem but suffer an asthma attack at school. 

However, those who have asthma often carry their medications.

Information from The AP. 



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Background checks required for first responders

Paramedics and other emergency medical service providers in New Mexico will now be required to go through criminal background checks. 
Gov. Susana Martinez signed into law Saturday a Senate bill that mandates the background checks be done before the state licenses an applicant or renews a license for paramedics or emergency medical technicians. 
Supporters of the measure say large cities already do background screenings for fire departments and ambulance companies. They say, however, it's not enforced in smaller communities and rural areas.
 The background checks take effect July 1.

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Woman says she found more than $70K at Walmart

From KOAT-TV.com - ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. —An Albuquerque woman claims she found a bag with more than $70,000 dollars in cash in it at a local Walmart and returned it to its rightful owner. Michelle Fazio and her 4-year-old son Anthony were shopping at the Walmart on Eubank Boulevard Thursday afternoon.
     As Fazio was about to put her son in a shopping cart, she claims she saw a bag of money. Fazio said she went through the bag trying to find information to identify its owner. “I think God let me find it because he knew I would do the right thing,” said Fazio.
     She claims she found a card with an attorney’s name on it. She was then able to find a number and call him. Fazio said she learned an elderly woman had gone to the Walmart earlier with her caregiver and left the money behind. Fazio said through the help of the attorney, who is the woman’s sole proprietor, she was able to return the money to a caregiver.More
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Swickard: Using Carrots on Students

© 2014 Michael Swickard, Ph.D. There is a lot of talk about getting students to attend school out of a sense of duty and to avoid the truant officer. We can get students into schools using a stick. And, there is a slim chance that some students will thank us in their prayers for teaching them discipline. Don’t hold your breath. Student outcomes usually worsen rather than improve.
     It has been years since I was smacked for being a slacker in high school. I remember the time well. Also I was an English teacher at Albuquerque High School a long time ago. Carrot or stick: I understand both sides of the issue and it is my opinion that carrots work so much better than sticks. 
     Even though there is mandatory attendance, there is not mandatory buy-in. Schools may have their body, but not their mind. Students have free will and many are incredibly shortsighted. They should eat right, do homework, drive responsibly and not hang with the “wrong” kids.
     Each day they should rush to school and sit all twitterpated to hear what words of wisdom the teacher has to say. My father said, “The military cannot make someone do something, but it can make that person sorry they did not.” That is the philosophy of the stick. And it works some of the time. 
However, it does not work with those students who, when told that if they do not graduate they will end up living under a bridge. They usually roll their eyes and say, “Oh, well.” For those students that stick is just a waste of time. At least a third of high school students do not graduate from a free public school education.
     What do we want? We want the students to enthusiastically embrace education and apply themselves to it, and graduate. So why not cut to the chase and use a carrot? Charlie Munger in Poor Charlie’s Almanac wrote, “When you do not get what you want, check the incentives that you are using.”
     These students who do not come to school can learn all of the words to a hundred rap songs with ease. They learn elaborate skateboard tricks. Many are multi-talented in art and music. Why? Because the reward **THEY** want is within their control.
     The secret to getting what we want them to do is to use a carrot they want. What do they want that we can ethically provide? Cars rate high on the student “cool” meter. What if at graduation a new car is given away by a drawing? The keys are given right then to a graduate. That would get their attention. Read full column

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Republican primary candidates at odds over email hacking claims

Allen Weh, left, and David Clements
From KOB-TV.com - By: Caleb James and Elizabeth Reed, KOB Eyewitness News 4 A serious legal battle is brewing in the Republican primary race for one of New Mexico's U.S. senate seats, and it's pitting members of the same party against each other.
     David Clements and Allen Weh are both Republicans fighting for their party's nomination to challenge Democrat Tom Udall for his seat in the senate. But on a website called BernalilloCoverup.com, Clements accuses Weh's campaign manager of hacking Clements' campaign email account.
     A lawyer for Weh's campaign manager, Diego Espinoza, confirmed he will file a defamation lawsuit against Clements before the end of the week. He sent us a statement that reads:
     "David Clement's accusations are absurd. His intentions were clearly to disparage Diego Espinoza to benefit his struggling campaign. Diego denies every accusation leveled at him and Mr. Clements will be held accountable for his publicity stunt in court."
     On Thursday morning, Clements' campaign released a statement in response to the possible defamation lawsuit: "It is astounding to watch Allen Weh sacrifice his own campaign manager in hopes of driving the story away from the fact that he underperformed and underwhelmed Republican delegates at Saturday's pre-primary convention. Announcing a lawsuit, via press release, before the case has even been filed is a clear indication that Allen Weh and Diego Espinoza's case is nothing but a publicity stunt. Nonetheless, we look forward to setting a trial date immediately, as truth is an absolute defense to the claim of defamation." More
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Tests show 'no health risk' for WIPP workers exposed to radiation

From KOB-TV.com - By: Elizabeth Reed, KOB.com - Officials at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant have released more information about the amount of radiation released after a leak at the site near Carlsbad.
     According to the Carlsbad Environmental Monitoring Research Center, the plant released about a month's worth of radiation in a period of four and a half days. Thirteen WIPP workers were exposed to radiation at the low-level nuclear waste site.
     Officials note that follow-up testing of the employees showed exposure levels were extremely low and that the employees were unlikely to experience any health effects as result. The testing came back negative for plutonium and americium.
     The amount of airborne radiation detected at WIPP was also below the EPA's acceptable level, according to the research center. "We have sent samples to the Center for Disease Control for validation," said Farok Sharif, president and project manager of Nuclear Waste Partnership. "Biological testing continues on other workers who were at the site following the initial exposure event, and there is always the possibility of positive exposure results from that testing. The ability to detect extremely small amounts of radioactive material also means there may be false positives that occur throughout the testing process."
     The radiation leak was detected last month. The plant is allotted a certain amount of airborne radiation per year. There is no word yet on what caused the leak. More
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Feds set aside NM land to protect the jaguar

From KRQE-TV.com - ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – Federal wildlife officials are setting aside almost 900,000 acres of land in New Mexico and Arizona as critical habitat land for jaguars. The protected area includes Hidalgo County in New Mexico’s Boot heel.
     The last time there was a jaguar sighting in New Mexico was eight years ago and federal biologists are aware of only one male jaguar that frequents southern Arizona. The hope is that setting aside land will contribute to the cat’s recovery across its entire range, which stretches into South America.
     Jaguars were placed on the federal endangered species list in 1997. More
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