KUNM

High Anxiety Adds Fuel To Zozobra Fire, Health System To Pay $12.2M To Settle Whistleblower Suit

Sep 1, 2017

Political Anxiety, Disaster Add Fuel To Zozobra FireAssociated Press

High anxiety about White House politics, hurricane flooding and even the threat of nuclear war with North Korea is adding an extra spark to the annual burning of a giant, ghostly marionette that serves as an effigy to gloom and doom.

The ritual burning of Zozobra is expected to attract tens of thousands of revelers Friday to a Santa Fe city park for a mixture of wholesome and ghoulish fun.

Inside the six-story puppet are reams of crumpled, handwritten notes about recent troubles and travails that people hope to leave behind in the past.

Worries this year are combustible mix of disenchantment with politics and preoccupation over natural and manmade disaster. Organizers of the event say the elaborate show is a chance to reflect and unburden the soul.

Health System To Pay $12.2M To Settle Whistleblower Suit – Associated Press

An Irving, Texas-based health care system and its hospital in Santa Fe, New Mexico, will pay $12.2 million to settle a whistleblower lawsuit over Medicaid payments.

Federal officials say the settlement resolves allegations that Christus Health and Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center made illegal payments in 2001-2009 to county governments for the state's share of Medicaid payments to the hospital.

A statement released Friday by the U.S. Attorney's Office says states and counties generally must use their own money for Medicaid expenses to obtain federal matching funds.

The office says the settlement includes no finding of liability.

The federal government joined a 2011 whistleblower lawsuit filed by Diana Stepan, a former Los Alamos County official who died last year. Her estate will receive $2.4 million of the settlement.

New Mexico Prosecutors Revive 2013 Sex Assault Case – Associated Press

The New Mexico Attorney General's Office has refiled charges stemming from a 2013 rape case that had been dropped by local prosecutors after it was discovered evidence had been destroyed.

Court records show 34-year-old Eli Kronenanker of Albuquerque was arrested late Thursday on charges of criminal sexual penetration, kidnapping, aggravated assault and witness intimidation.

Defense attorney Molly Schmidt-Nowara said Friday she needs to see what evidence prosecutors plan to present before commenting on the case.

Kronenanker was accused of raping a 17-year-old girl he met after exchanging text messages. The victim told police the suspect held a gun to her head and later threatened her not to tell anyone.

According to court documents, investigators say there was enough of a DNA sample taken from the victim's clothing in 2013 to allow for more testing.

Man Gets Life Terms In Killings Of Arizona, New Mexico Women Associated Press

One of two men charged in the killings of two women in one victim's home in a Phoenix suburb has been sentenced to life prison terms after pleading guilty to murder and burglary.

Andrew Lauro of Goodyear was sentenced Friday in Phoenix in convictions stemming from the February 2016 killings of 70-year-old Barbara Leslie of Surprise and her visiting friend 75-year-old Ruth Schwed of Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Judge Erin Otis of Maricopa County Superior Court sentenced Lauro to two concurrent life sentences, with the possibility of release after serving 25 years in prison, for two counts of first-degree murder.

Lauro was also sentenced to 10.5 years in prison for burglary. That term will run consecutive to the life sentences.

Co-defendant Montez Lavell Wright III, of Southfield, Michigan, awaits trial.

Spaceflights Launch Facility Asks New Mexico For More Money - Associated Press

Officials at Spaceport America are asking state lawmakers double their funding for the spaceflights launch facility in southern New Mexico.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports Spaceport America officials are seeking the additional money to prepare for the regular flights Virgin Galactic spaceflight company is looking to start up in the near future. They say they recognize their request comes as the state has made several painful budget cuts and after years of failing to send people to space.

Officials point out that NASA has ended its shuttle program, creating an opportunity for New Mexico to become a competitor in the growing spaceflight industry. Spaceport America CEO Dan Hicks said Thursday that the money will cover maintenance costs and new hires.

New Mexico Candidate Seeks Court Injunction To Access Cash Associated Press

Republican U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce is seeking a federal court injunction to tap into $1 million in political contributions that he collected while in Congress to use in his run for governor of New Mexico.

The motion, filed late Thursday in federal court, seeks to block enforcement of limitations on campaign transfers from Pearce's federal campaign account to a state one. Approval could give Pearce access to campaign cash while underlying issues are litigated.

The Secretary of State's Office says that only $11,000 can be transferred by Pearce based on state campaign contribution limits.

Attorney General Hector Balderas was named in Pearce's lawsuit. A spokesman for his office said Pearce is wasting taxpayer dollars to further his own political career and is attempting to disrupt Balderas from other work.

Boeing 747 Supertanker Fights California Fire For 1st Time Associated Press

Global SuperTanker Service's Boeing 747-400 has been activated to fight a California wildfire, marking its first use in the United States.

The company says the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection exercised a call-when-needed contract Wednesday to fight a fire in Butte County about 10 miles east of Lake Oroville. At the time, the SuperTanker was at McClellan Air Force Base near Sacramento.

The company says it made two individual drops of 8,500 gallons of fire retardant that evening.

The aircraft can carry 19,000 gallons of water or retardant and is based in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Another big air tanker long a familiar sight over wildfires is a three-engine DC-10 flown by 10 Tanker Air Carrier of Albuquerque, New Mexico. It can carry up to 11,600 gallons.

2nd New Mexico Christian Sect Leader Accused Of Child Abuse Associated Press

Another leader of a New Mexico paramilitary religious sect rocked by child sexual abuse allegations has been arrested.

Court records say James Green of the Aggressive Christianity Missions Training Corps was arrested Wednesday on kidnapping, child abuse and tampering with evidence charges.

He is the ninth person arrested since authorities raided the secluded western New Mexico compound in connection with a widespread child abuse and child sexual abuse investigation.

His wife Deborah Green also faces kidnapping and child sexual abuse charges.

James Green previously denied his wife was involved in child abuse.

The sect on Friday did not immediately respond to an email message seeking comment on the latest arrest.

The Cibola County Sheriff's Office says 11 children who lived at the compound are being cared for by the state.

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