Missing "art" cactus discovered in landfill

From KOB-TV.com - By: Jeff Maher, KOB Eyewitness News 4; Taryn Bianchin, KOB.com - It turns out a $50,000 cactus sculpture that disappeared from a Northeast Heights park Monday night wasn’t stolen--city crews took it to the landfill. KOB Eyewitness News 4’s Jeff Maher broke the original story about the missing statue Tuesday night at 10 p.m. After our story aired, a couple of parks and recreation employees realized they had made a big mistake. Vandals had smashed and unbolted the fiberglass cactus when city workers came across it a couple days ago at Tramway Linear Park near Tramway and Lomas Boulevards. The workers thought it was junk, so they took it to the landfill. According to the city, the workers were responding to a 311 call made by a resident to dispose of a real cactus that had been knocked over. Officials are calling the accidental disposal an honest mistake. “They didn’t know what they were looking at, they didn’t realize that it was a piece of art,” said Chris Ramirez for the City of Albuquerque. “By the time they saw it, it was just something large and green that was [on the ground].” Read full story here News New Mexico

Build a Wall: The Year of the Rabbit starts badly

From the Economist - THE Chinese Communist Party’s Publicity Department (or Propaganda Department, a closer rendering of the Chinese) is adept at controlling news from abroad that might inflame sentiment at home. As communism collapsed in Eastern Europe 20 years ago, it kept all but the barest news out of the domestic media, jammed foreign broadcasts and ordered vigilance over fax machines. In response to the unrest in Egypt, the department has apparently instructed the Chinese media to use only dispatches sent by the official news agency, Xinhua, and either to bury news of events there or play up aspects that show the costs of turmoil. Reporting the travails of stranded Chinese tourists, or the government’s noble attempts to rescue them, is fine, but sympathy with the protesters is taboo. The department’s instructions to the media are, as usual, a secret, but their effect is clear. The party has also been busy trying to control the internet. Twitter has been blocked in China since 2009. Read more

Obama’s Latest Joke

From Liberty Digest.com by Bob Livingston - For President Barack Obama, the traveling public’s concerns over the Transportation Security Administration’s 4th Amendment-violating policies are a big joke. At his Jan. 25 State of the Union Address, Obama chuckled after his pronouncement that he wanted to “invest” (code for print more money and throw it at another boondoggle) billions of dollars in high speed rail. “For some trips, it will be faster than flying… without the pat downs,” Obama joked. Of course, Obama’s cute joke falls flat in the face of Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano’s statements that radiation scanners and pat downs are being implemented at bus and train stations and sporting events. Read more

Decline in Real Estate Sales Higher Than Stated?

From inman.com -Statistics published by the National Association of Realtors appear to overstate sales of existing homes by 15 to 20 percent, mortgage and property data aggregator CoreLogic says in a new report that concludes home sales fell more sharply last year than previously thought. A NAR spokesman said the CoreLogic claim "is premature at best," and NAR will be making some benchmark revisions to its historic sales data later this year. NAR's figures -- based on data collected from multiple listing services and large brokerages -- show sales of existing homes fell 5 percent in 2010, to 4.9 million. But CoreLogic, which collects public sales records from county recorders and courts, estimates that home sales actually fell 12 percent, to 3.6 million.  More News New Mexico

Florida Governor Latest to Refuse Federal Funds for High-Speed Rail

From National Journal.com - By Cameron Joseph - Florida's Rick Scott is the latest Republican governor to reject federal money for high-speed rail, more evidence that President Obama's push for infrastructure investment, once seen as an area of bipartisan compromise, may be turning increasingly politicized and polarizing. The $2.4 billion slated for Florida will be rerouted to states willing to put up the matching funds, which in Florida amounted to $280 million. The state had already spent $66 million in preparation for the project, which was to run from Orlando to Tampa. In a press conference today, as reported by the Orlando Sentinel, Scott criticized Obama's spending priorities. "You don't have to be an economic expert to know when you spend more money than you take in, you will fail," he said. Scott argued that rail ridership estimates are often too optimistic and that the money would be better spent on roads and other infrastructure needs, points echoed by other Republicans. Scott, who had opposed the plan during his campaign last year, is not the first new Republican governor to renege on plans to build high-speed rail in his state. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Ohio Gov. John Kasich have also said thanks but no thanks to a combined $1.2 billion in federal grants. Read more

Healthcare Reform Law Requires New IRS Army

(Pulaski Note) Meanwhile President Obama is giving the IRS a 9.4% increase and 5,100 additional agents in 2012 via the Wall Street Journal
From usnews.com -The Internal Revenue Service says it will need an battalion of 1,054 new auditors and staffers and new facilities at a cost to taxpayers of more than $359 million in fiscal 2012 just to watch over the initial implementation of President Obama's healthcare reforms. Among the new corps will be 81 workers assigned to make sure tanning salons pay a new 10 percent excise tax Their cost: $11.5 million.  "The ACA [Affordable Care Act] will require additional resources to build new IT systems; modify existing tax processing systems; provide taxpayer outreach and assistance services; make enhancements to notices, collections, and case management systems to address and resolve taxpayer issues timely and accurately; and conduct focused examinations to encourage compliance," said the newly released IRS budget.  More News New Mexico

Ron Paul: TP Activists Similar to Egyptian Protesters

Ron Paul
(Pulaski Note) This was said after Egyptian protesters had raped and beaten CBS correspondent Lara Logan.  From thehill.com -Tea Party activists are similar to pro-democracy protesters in Egypt, Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) said Tuesday.  The libertarian congressman, who is a favorite of some Tea Party groups, said that like the protesters in Egypt, the small government movement does not have a defined leader and has many different factions.  Asked by CNN if he would prod the Tea Party movement to "do more" to push for spending cuts, Paul said that would do no good.  "Nobody controls the Tea Party people. They're restless," he said. "It's sort of like looking at those people who finally rebelled in Egypt and saying, OK, what is the consensus on what you want?" More News New Mexico

Sanchez Serious About Second Hand Smoke

Bernadette Sanchez
Santa Fe, NM- A bill aimed at protecting children from secondhand smoke while riding in cars will be heard in Senate Judiciary committee on Friday (2/18/11). Senate Bill 212 (SB212) sponsored by Senator Bernadette Sanchez (D-Albuquerque), adds smoking in a motor vehicle with a minor restrained in a child passenger restraint device to the list of prohibited smoking areas as defined in the Dee Johnson Clean Indoor Air Act. "It's just a matter for safety for kids," said Sen. Sanchez, "Secondhand smoke causes asthma in children, and cars are really a condensed space." The Harvard School of Public Health estimated up to 45 percent of children are regularly exposed to secondhand smoke from adults using tobacco in homes and cars.
Researchers reported that in just five minutes, smoking in cars can produce unsafe levels of secondhand smoke for children. "You can't smoke in restaurants, office buildings and public buildings because of the dangers of secondhand smoke, the only area we haven't done is smoking in cars," commented Sen. Sanchez, who also said this will protect children who are small, eight and under. Senate Bill 212 still permits smoking in a limousine under private hire when a minor not required to be restrained in a child safety or booster seat is present. SB212 received a "Do Pass" recommendation from Senate Public affairs.


Forget the Constitution, Its an Emergency!

Townhall - by Robert Knight - Did you know that the nation will soon undergo a test that will determine how effectively the President of the United States can seize control of the media in the event of an “emergency?” Well, that’s not the way they’re putting it.  The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued a press release on Feb. 3 outlining the plan for the “first-ever Presidential alert.” On a date yet to be set, the Presidential alert will go “to television and radio broadcasters, cable systems and satellite service providers who will then deliver the alert to the American public,” according to the FCC. 
This is not an opt-in plan. “The national test will require EAS [Emergency Alert System] participants to be part of the exercise and to receive and transmit a live code that includes a Presidential alert message to their respective viewers and listeners.”  Maybe it’s harmless. Maybe it’s somehow needed. The current EAS replaced the old Emergency Broadcast System back in 1997, and both list a presidential message as the first priority. But it has never been used for that. It’s partly because we have so much instant media that it’s not needed. Also, having the President seize the media even for a short time sounds more like something out of Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela, Castro’s Cuba or Dear Leader’s North Korea. Perhaps Mr. Obama remembers that some TV networks here occasionally declined to carry George W. Bush’s messages. Read full column here:


Bill Would Extend Lottery Enrollment Deadline

Bill O'Neill
Santa Fe, NM – A bill sponsored by Rep. Bill O’Neill (D-Albuquerque) that would allow New Mexico high school graduates a 16-month period to enroll in college and take advantage of New Mexico lottery scholarships moved closer to becoming law today. HB 62 passed the House with a vote of 63 to 0. “The fact that this bill passed unanimously highlights the support that this logical and important legislation has on both sides of the aisle,” Rep. O’Neill said. Currently, students must enroll in a New Mexico public college or university within 120 days after graduation from high school or having received a GED to receive funds from the New Mexico Legislative Lottery Scholarship. This bill would extend that enrollment time to a full 16 months. According to the Higher Education Department, lengthening the time from high school graduation to college matriculation may help students not prepared for college (either academically or emotionally) to remove potential obstacles to success. The bill would also give students who graduated from high school early and people who earned their GED near the end of the academic year access to legislative lottery scholarships.
Under the current rules, these people generally cannot take advantage of lottery scholarships because of time constraints. The New Mexico Lottery states that over 68,000 New Mexicans have taken advantage of the legislative lottery scholarships since the program began in 1996. Rep. O’Neill said, “This bill encourages continuing education.
Often times, our graduates aren’t prepared to enter college for myriads of reasons. Given some time, they are able to consider college as a realistic and viable opportunity.” HB 62 would maintain other existing qualifications for students to receive the legislative lottery scholarship which include: proof of New Mexico residency based on tuition requirements; a student must have graduated from a New Mexico public or accredited private school or obtained a New Mexico GED; full-time enrollment at an eligible New Mexico public college or university; and the student must maintain a cumulative GPA of at least 2.5 to retain the scholarship for the following semester. HB 62 will be submitted to the Senate for consideration.


New! Considering Impact of Tax Expenditures First

Eleanor Chavez
Santa Fe, NM – A bill sponsored by Rep. Eleanor Chávez (D-Albuquerque) that would create greater transparency on tax expenditures and their impact on the state passed the House of Representatives today. House Bill 161 would require the Secretary of Taxation and Revenue to provide the governor and the legislature with a tax expenditure budget with revenue impacts over $5 million. The bill passed with a vote of 63-0. Rep. Chávez said, “This transparency measure will provide legislators with a thorough analysis of tax expenditures so that we can get a clearer picture of what’s working for New Mexico and what’s not. Tax exemptions and credits that provide no significant gain for the state can then be put on the chopping block instead of continuing ineffective policy.” Tax expenditures are provisions of tax law that provide benefits to particular activities or groups through reduced tax liabilities. Tax expenditures are not limited to economic development incentives. Numerous provisions are designed to provide relief from poverty, sickness or other disadvantages, to encourage the use of renewable energy, or to provide other public benefits (e.g. food tax deductions).
Under HB 161, the tax expenditure budget analysis would include jobs created, significant general fund revenue sources, and tax expenditures. The information provided to the governor and the legislature would allow them to annually evaluate the effectiveness of tax credits. It will provide information on all foregone revenue; the statutory basis for individual tax expenditures; quantify the state revenue invested; identify the beneficiaries of each tax expenditure; identify significant unintended effects of the tax expenditures; and provide a total of all of the costs in each fiscal year for all tax expenditures. Currently that information is not readily available from the Taxation and Revenue Department or any other agency. According to the Legislative Finance Committee, the total general fund revenue foregone in FY12 is estimated at $941.1 million. Currently New Mexico is one of only seven states that don’t have a tax expenditure budget.


Listener Feedback on Justice System

Ladies and Gentlemen of the NewsNM Team, I have noticed on several occasions that the phrase "Innocent until proven Guilty" has been used on air. Though it often stated as such in discussion and debate, I believe this statement to be in error. Under US law the accused is "Presumed Innocent until proven Guilty" in the eyes of the Court (or Law). The distinction between "Innocent" and "Presumed Innocent" is significant. So much so, that the court does not deliver a verdict on the Innocence of the accused. Verdicts are delivered as Guilty, Not Guilty or Acquitted; and reflects solely on what the available evidence can show. An accused person can not actually be 'innocent until proven guilty'. Their innocence (or lack thereof) is determined by their actions, not the court. The verdict of the court will not change the status of a persons innocence. Thank you for your time. Kyle Buller

Wind Farm Planned in Southern New Mexico

From newswest9.com -Lea County Electric Cooperative has signed a 20-year contract with Dallas-based Kairos Energy LLC to buy electricity from a 28.8-megawatt wind farm. Kairos Energy's website says the project to be built near Lovington in southeastern New Mexico is to break ground in July and be in operation by May 2012. The wind farm will consist of a dozen 260-foot tall wind turbines and will be partnered with the cooperative's gas-fired generation engines now under construction. The gas-fired engines coupled with the wind farm will allow the cooperative to move 40 megawatts of electricity off the Xcel Energy system. The cooperative currently buys most of the 194 megawatts of electricity to meet customer needs from Xcel. The cooperative's executive director, Gary Hurse, says the project is a hedge against price increases.  More from News New Mexico

Pearce: Budget Amendments - Lujan, Heinrich: Punt

Steve Pearce
Washington, DC (February 15, 2011) Today, Congressman Steve Pearce introduced a set of spending-reducing amendments aimed at reigning in 2011 federal spending. In all, Congressman Pearce’s amendments to the FY 2011 continuing resolution are expected to save tens of billions of taxpayer dollars. Pearce has consistently argued that jobs in New Mexico are being lost because of excessive government taxation and spending. While median household income has dropped by 4.2% over the last four years, total federal government spending has grown by 35.9%. The proposed amendments seek to tighten the belt of federal spending and put New Mexicans back on the road to economic recovery and substantial job growth.
“New Mexicans cannot afford to pay the bills accrued by past expenditure. I am working hard in Washington to cut spending. Every dollar saved here is one fewer that a taxpayer in New Mexico has to pay,” said Pearce. As Americans, we must ask ourselves: is this program really worth a family’s livelihood? Is it worth mortgaging our children’s futures, and our grandchildren’s? Is it worth telling a single mother that her employer can no longer afford her paycheck? People across the country have had to make difficult decisions, and they have realized that they cannot afford everything they want. Our government must do exactly the same.” The other members of the New Mexico House delegation offered no spending cut ideas.