Wednesday News Roundup: Protesters Vow More Pressure Over Police Shootings

May 7, 2014

Protesters Vow More Pressure Over Police Shootings  The Associated Press, Russell Contreras

Critics of the Police Department are promising to crowd another Albuquerque City Council meeting to protest recent police shootings just days after rowdy demonstrators forced city leaders to call off their discussions.

Nora Tachias-Anaya says protesters are planning to attend a rescheduled council meeting Thursday and will continue to criticize the Albuquerque Police Department.

On Monday, angry demonstrators took over the regularly scheduled City Council meeting, chanting for the ouster of the police chief, shouting at council members and causing so much disruption that the council president adjourned the meeting.

It was to discuss whether the police chief's position should be one selected by the council or by voters.

Albuquerque police are under tough scrutiny following a harsh report from the U.S. Justice Department over use of force.

BLM To Tackle Emissions From Energy Exploration - The Associated Press

The Bureau of Land Management is looking at updating decades-old regulations that govern venting and flaring across oil and gas country.

The agency is hosting a public forum in Albuquerque on Wednesday to gather public comment on what the new rules should look like. Two more meetings are planned in North Dakota and Washington, D.C.

The changes are aimed at limiting methane emissions from energy exploration.

Environmentalists say venting and flaring at well sites on public lands throughout the West have wasted resources and have resulted in the loss of potential tax revenues.

They point to a 2010 report by the Government Accountability Office that found the public loses up to $23 million annually in royalties from the venting and flaring of natural gas.

New Mexico Reports Drop In Painkillers Dispensed The Associated Press

New Mexico health officials report a decrease in the amount of prescription pain relievers dispensed by pharmacies while the number of patients remained the same.

The Department of Health and the state Board of Pharmacy say the board's monitoring program shows there was a 10 percent decrease from 2012 to 2013 in the amount of prescription opioids such as morphine or oxycodone dispensed by pharmacies.

Health Secretary Retta Ward says the decrease in prescribed pain medications being dispensed is a step in the right direction because it reduces chances the drugs will be abused.

New Program In Santa Fe Provides Prenatal Care The Sante Fe New Mexican and The Associated Press

A Santa Fe hospital is among several organizations launching a new program to provide prenatal care to pregnant women in Santa Fe County regardless of their ability to pay.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports that the Healthy Babies campaign was prompted by a recent assessment that found that 24 percent of pregnant women in the county did not receive any prenatal care during their first trimester.

Hospital officials say women will be enrolled in any programs for which they're eligible and that Christus St. Vincent will absorb any necessary costs under its existing program for uninsured and underinsured patients.

Other participation organizations include Familia Medical Center. It offers walk-in pregnancy testing and counseling about options.

Woman, Hospital Settle Body Cavity Search Lawsuit The Associated Press

A West Texas hospital is settling a lawsuit with a woman who says she was subjected to invasive cavity searches by medical staff at the behest of U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Court records show CBP is not part of the settlement. The woman's lawsuit continues against two CBP agents and their supervisors.

The lawsuit says the 54-year-old Lovington, New Mexico, resident was randomly selected for an inspection in December 2012 at the Cordova border bridge in El Paso. Searches produced no evidence that she was carrying illicit drugs. She was taken to University Medical Center where doctors probed her even after X-rays showed no foreign objects inside her.

She was billed $5,000 for the medical inspection.

She was not identified in court papers and terms of the settlement were not released.


No Fraud Charges Against Provider By New Mexico - The Associated Press, Barry Massey

Attorney General Gary King's office says investigators found about $34,000 in overbillings by a Santa Fe-based mental health provider but nothing to justify bringing fraud charges.

King said in a statement Tuesday there was "no actionable evidence of fraud" by Easter Seals El Mirador.

CEO Mark Johnson said he was not surprised, but he was "absolutely delighted that we've been exonerated."

The organization was among 15 nonprofit providers of mental health services that had Medicaid payments suspended last year by the Human Services Department because of allegations of fraud and mismanagement.

Department spokesman Matt Kennicott said the agency will seek to recover overpayments, which could amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The state contracted with Arizona companies to take over services previously offered by most of the New Mexico nonprofits.

Absentee Voting Starts In New Mexico Election - The Associated Press 

Voting is under way in New Mexico's primary election.

Absentee voting began Tuesday.

Registered voters must fill out an application to obtain an absentee ballot and can cast their ballots in person at their county clerk's office.

It's also possible to request a ballot application by mail or by calling the clerk's office, and later return the ballot by mail or deliver it in person.

Early voting will start at more locations later this month. There will be 19 alternate voting sites in Bernalillo County from May 17 through May 31, and Santa Fe County will have four satellite voting sites.

Election Day is June 3. Only registered Democrats and Republicans can cast ballots to determine their party nominees for the November general election.

Latest Albuquerque Police Shooting Highlights Distrust Between Department, Community - The Associated Press

Albuquerque police have released video footage of a man shot dead by an officer during a lengthy standoff.

A short video clip released Tuesday shows 50-year-old Armand Martin brandishing a handgun as his family rushes out of the house. In two other helmet camera clips, Martin lies lifeless in his driveway next to two handguns.

Deputy Chief Eric Garcia says more than a dozen bullet casings were found near Martin.

Police say he came out of the home firing two handguns and an officer opened fire.

The shooting generated outrage and another angry protest of a police agency recently faulted by the U.S. Justice Department for it use of force.

A SWAT unit had been called to Martin's house after his wife said he threatened her and their two children with a gun.

Court Allows Investment Settlements To Proceed - The Associated Press

New Mexico's highest court is allowing the State Investment Council to move ahead with efforts to recover money for what the agency considers politically influenced investment deals.

The Supreme Court has denied, without comment, a request by former pension fund investment officer Frank Foy to force the council to change how it handles settlements with brokers and others sued by the agency in 2011.

Council spokesman Charles Wollmann said Tuesday the court's ruling last week allows the agency to continue with its legal strategy.

Foy contends the council's settlements undermine his efforts on behalf of the state through whistleblower lawsuits to potentially recover large amounts for state investment losses.

The council's lawsuit alleges that state investment decisions were influenced by political considerations during former Gov. Bill Richardson's administration.

Santa Fe Opera Announces 2015 Season - The Associated Press

The Santa Fe Opera's 2015 season will feature a world premiere, five new productions and three firsts.

The opera's general director, Charles MacKay, announced the lineup during a news conference Tuesday.

The season will start July 3 with "The Daughter of the Regiment."

The season will also feature the world premiere of "Cold Mountain," the first opera by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Jennifer Higdon. The story started as a best-selling novel by Charles Frazier and was later turned into an Academy Award-winning film.

MacKay called it a magnificent story, saying the Santa Fe Opera is honored to play a role in its transformation into an opera.

"Cold Mountain" has been three years in the making. After its premiere in Santa Fe, the opera will be performed in Philadelphia in 2016.