Tuesday, December 29, 2009

2010 Pre-Primary convention details emerge

New Mexico's Republican and Democratic Parties have set a date and picked locations for their 2010 pre-primary nominating conventions.

Both parties will host their conventions on Saturday, March 13th.

Republicans have decided to meet at the Albuquerque Hilton Hotel, while Democrats will head north to the Hilton Santa Fe Golf Resort and Spa at Buffalo Thunder.

Democrat Party Chairman Javier Gonzales told party members -- in an email sent last week -- that he had toured sites from Las Cruces to Santa Fe, but indicated he, and his staff, who are anticipating a "significant increase in turnout" chose a venue with a "greater capacity than was necessary in year's past."

"Having the Pre-Primary Convention at the Buffalo Thunder Resort means that the DPNM will save precious resources which can be utilized in the 2010 election season, keep costs to delegates at a minimum and allows the DPNM to host events for delegates on both Friday and Saturday evening at an amazing resort and conference space," Gonzales wrote.

State GOP Executive Director Ryan Cangiolosi sent an email to Republican candidates telling them the party would allow them to rent tables and sponsor coffee breaks for between $200 and $250, and is inviting campaigns to host receptions on the Friday evening before the convention.

Democrats will host 2160 delegates, including 446 State Central Committee delegates. Delegates, and alternate delegates, will be elected at state County conventions. State Central Committee members are automatic delegates. A similar process is used to pick delegates in the Republican Party.

Candidates, in each party, will have to file nominating petitions, but if candidates who get 20 percent of the pre-primary delegate votes they are automatically qualified for a position on the June 2 primary ballot. Candidates who fail to receive a preprimary convention designation, or collect 20 percent of the delegate votes, can still be placed on the ballot by the Secretary of State, but must submit signatures from four percent of the total vote of the candidate’s party within ten days following their respective parties convention.

Updated to correct Republican Party dates.

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Thursday, December 24, 2009

Have a wonderful Christmas time

Merry Christmas everyone!

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Udall says works still need to be done...bill not 'perfect'

U.S. Senator Tom Udall, D-NM, today voted in favor of historic health care reform legislation despite the fact he says this "bill is not perfect."

Udalls says the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will expand health care coverage to 31 million Americans, including an additional 305,000 New Mexicans.

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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Udall proposes national ignition interlock requirements for drunk drivers

U.S. Sen. Tom Udall wants the rest of the nation to follow New Mexico's lead when it comes to ignition interlocks.

"New Mexico was the first state to attack the epidemic of drunk driving by implementing an aggressive ignition interlock penalty program for all offenders," Udall said. "The strategy has helped take drunk drivers off the roads and save lives. I believe enacting it nationwide would have the same positive and resounding effect."

The New Mexico Democrat has introduced a bill requiring that all 50 states implement a program mandating that first-time convicted drunk drivers have an ignition interlock on their car.

New Mexico was the first state to have such a requirement.

Under Udall's bill, state that don't comply could lose Federal Transportation funding.

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Gary Johnson traveling to New Hampshire.

Former N.M. Gov. Gary Johnson is heading to New Hampshire — the nation’s first presidential primary state — next month.

Johnson, the honorary chairman of his political action committee Our America Initiative, will be the keynote speaker at the Republican Liberty Caucus of New Hampshire On Jan. 23 at the Grappone Center in Concord, N.H.

While Johnson, a libertarian-leaning Republican, has not declared his candidacy for president — or really even said he’s seriously considering running — he has been mentioned as a possible candidate in 2012 and has been a favorite of many of the same people who supported Ron Paul in 2008.

Last week, Politico reported that Johnson is “doing little to knock down the idea that he may be looking toward a 2012 presidential run.” Heading to New Hampshire two years before the nation’s first primary could add fuel to speculation that he’s preparing a national campaign.

Johnson, a two-term governor who preceded Gov. Bill Richardson, endorsed Ron Paul for president last year and spoke at Paul’s Rally for the Republic in Minnesota in 2008.

A grassroots group has been running JohnsonForAmerica.com and another group has set up a Gary Johnson For President in 2012 group on Facebook. Earlier this year, the American Conservative reported that Johnson said he was keeping his options open in regards to a 2012 presidential run.

Johnson has been quite active lately. He recently talked with NMPolitics.net’s about the budget crisis in Santa Fe, and in this audio and video Johnson speaks about his continued push for decriminalizing and legalizing drugs in the United States.

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Monday, December 21, 2009

NM Veterans' Integration Center will expand

From a news release

The New Mexico Veterans’ Integration Center (VIC) has received the first annual installment of a three -year, $1.6 million per-diem grant from the U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA).

The money will allow the center to expand to its planned 50-room capacity leased through an agreement with the Value Place Hotel on Central Avenue in Albuquerque. There are currently 31 rooms being leased.

“This grant is a tremendous Christmas gift for veterans in need,” New Mexico Department of Veterans’ Services Cabinet Secretary John M. Garcia said.

Garcia's department provides funding for the center and also helped apply for the grant.

“With the move to the new hotel, we are now taking the level of care for these veterans to another level,” Garcia said.

The NMDVS along with the New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions assist with operating the VIC and to help the estimated 7,000 homeless veterans in New Mexico.

In addition to providing shelter, the VIC also provides counseling, employment assistance, and “life-skills” assistance to help residents re-integrate into society. Residents must sign up for a two-year residency and must adhere to a strict “zero-tolerance” policy concerning the use of drugs & alcohol.

'The Check's already in the bank'

The grant had been approved in August of 2008, but was withheld by the VA after an inspection of the original center by VA officials turned up numerous safety and health hazards. Improvements to fix these violations would have cost at least $500,000—money that the center or the state simply didn’t have, said VIC Board President Larry Campos of the NM Department of Workforce Solutions’ Veterans’ Employment and Training Center.

“We had raised these concerns before with our landlord--but he never acted on them,” Campos said. “So when we were successful in getting that grant, we had no choice but to move—which unfortunately meant a delay in receiving that Grant money.”

The VIC moved to the new location in August after its lease expired at the original location—the former Sundowner Lounge and Economy Motel five miles west of the new location on Central Avenue. And while the new modern location easily met all safety requirements according to the City code, it still needed a few adjustments to satisfy the strict VA requirements. Work on these minor additions is currently underway, which was enough to allow the release of the first installments of the grant. (amount of payments will be gradually released by VA).

“The check’s already in the bank,” Campos said. “We are going to do some great things here at the new VIC.”

The NMDVS also provides funding to assist homeless veterans in southern New Mexico, through the Mesilla Valley Community of Hope in Las Cruces.

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City may defer building swap with Eclipse Aerospace

In September 2008, weeds and an empty parking eclipsed the former
pilot training center adjacent to Double Eagle Airport.

The City of Albuquerque and Eclipse Aerospace still haven't worked out a deal on a proposed barter agreement to keep the company operating.

That deal involves swapping an empty pilot-training building the company owns on the west side, in exchange for two rent-free hangar buildings at the Sunport.

While that swap is on tonight's City Council agenda, it is now expected to be deferred.

And, that's partially because Council President Ken Sanchez says it may be a while before Eclipse Aerospace starts making jets again.

"They say they're willing to start right now," Sanchez said, "but looking at the economic climate across America, I just don't foresee that happening. I think that we're still going through tough and difficult times."

Eclipse Aerospace reopened September 4 -- after a Federal Bankruptcy judge accepted their bid to buy the original company's assets.

Sanchez says he still questions the worth of the west side training facility.

The land it sits on what was part of a three-way land exchange between with the New Mexico State Land Office, city and a private rancher -- who has the right to have the land returned to him if manufacturing fails to start on the land, which sits adjacent to Double Eagle Airport II.

Sanchez says he believes Eclipse Aerospace's goal of bringing 435 jobs to the area is a "little optimistic."

"We, now with our own budget crisis, don't have the money to cover those folks even though there's a very handsome three to one federal match we just don't have the $85 million dollars that we would need to continue that program," Sanchez said.

Currently, the group has 60 employees, and group President Mason Holland is telling customers, "We continue to add engineering and mechanic talent needed to support the fleet. Mechanics are being hired to ramp upgrade completions as quickly as possible. Engineering talent is being added to support the upgrades, complete the final design changes, and for continued aircraft improvements."

In a customer communique -- posted on the company's website today -- Holland wrote, "Our ABQ Service Center is now operational and 8 planes are undergoing upgrades including our first to incorporate the EASA configuration changes."

Holland also stated the group's Chicago Service Center "is now delivering the first group of upgraded aircraft."

Updated 8pm

As expected, on an unanimous vote, the city council deferred discussion on a city rental deal to a meeting in January.

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Sunday, December 20, 2009

Lujan-Grisham plans new campaign

On Monday, former New Mexico Secretary of Health Michelle Lujan Grisham is expected to formally announce her candidacy for the Democratic nomination for Bernalillo County Commissioner-District 1, a seat currently held by Alan Armijo.

Lujan Grisham — a 12th generation New Mexican — campaigned in 2008 for congress, but lost in the Democratic primary to Martin Heinrich.

She has served in the administrations of three governors after being first appointed Director of the state’s Agency on Aging by former Governor Bruce King 1991. Governor Gary Johnson retained her in that position, before Richardson elevated her her to Secretary of the Department of Health.

Lujan Grisham, a nationally recognized authority on aging and health care issues, has continued to work on access to health care and social services in New Mexico.

Originally from Los Alamos and Santa Fe, she is the widow of the late Greg Grisham and the granddaughter of former New Mexico Supreme Court Chief Justice Eugene Lujan, and received both her Bachelors and law degree from UNM.

Lujan plans to make her announcement at at the Rio Grande Nature Center in Albuquerque at 3:30pm.

Armijo is term-limited, and lost his own bid to return to the Albuquerque City council in October.

Our friends at Democracy for New Mexico report Loretta Naranjo-Lopez is also running in the Democratic primary for District 1 County Comissioner. She retired from her post as city planner at the City of Albuquerque in 2003 after 25 years of service. She ran also ran for County Commission in District 1 in 2006, and served as President of AFSCME, Local 3022, in 2001.

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Saturday, December 19, 2009

Richardson opposes new charter school moratorium

Gov. Bill Richardson accepts the NEA's
Governor of the Year award in July, 2009

Governor Bill Richardson announced -- on Saturday --that he will oppose any efforts to slow down the growth of charter schools in New Mexico.

Additionally the governor is preparing a legislative proposal, for the 2010 Session, which convenes in January, aimed at strengthening the state’s charter schools.

“Improving education is the number one priority of my administration and that includes a strong commitment to allow parents choices about where they send their children to school,” Richardson said. “Charter schools are filling the needs of New Mexican families and are a great source of competition and innovation. I will not stand for any moratorium or other efforts to thwart this progress.”

In fact, Governor Richardson announced he will seek legislation to remove caps on the number of charter schools in New Mexico.

In a news release the Governor indicated he'll be proposing legislation that clarifies the process for both state and local charter schools to access both state and local capital outlay dollars to ensure equitable funding for charter school facilities. He announced he will not support any legislation that seeks to prohibit charter school employees from serving on elected school boards.

New Mexico is currently in the final stages of a preparing a grant for the federal Race to the Top grant. The strength of a state’s charter school program is an important component in the awarding of the grants. Any backtracking in the state’s commitment to charter schools, such as a moratorium, could hurt New Mexico’s chances for Race to the Top and the $75 million dollars of funding that would come with it.

New Mexico has a strong authorizing process for charter schools. Last year half of the charters that applied were approved. Currently, 73 charter schools are in operation or are in the planning phase around the state and the number is like to rise to 81 charter schools for the 2010-2011 school year. Forty-eight will be authorized by local school districts and 33 will be PEC/state authorized.

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Obama talks health care in weekly address

The President used his weekly address to talk about the consumer protections that will be passed as part of health insurance reform, and calls on the Senate to allow an up-or-down vote.

Now we're learning a deal has been struck with Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson and that it appears the Senate will adopt a health care reform bill soon.

The Albuquerque Journal's Michael Coleman has details on the Friday night handshake deal that will likely lead to a vote before Christmas.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Arnold-Jones criticizes governor's timing

Photo: MG Bralley
Republican candidate for Governor, State Representative Janice Arnold-Jones said today that Governor Bill Richardson’s calls for ethics reform are too little too late.

“I find it interesting that Governor Richardson has chosen this legislative session to finally make the claim that he wants ethics reform within our government,” Arnold-Jones said. “Given the fact that in this legislative session we, as legislators, are tasked with plugging the budget holes that were created in large part because of what appears to be an ethically challenged administration, this announcement appears to be designed to deflect attention from an estimated budget shortfall of $650 million.”

“I’ve served in the legislature every day of Richardson’s tenure. Ethics reform was far from the top of his administration’s list,” Arnold-Jones added.

'Ethical behavior is a mindset '

"Principled leadership is imperative and trumps any commission” Arnold-Jones stated. “ Crime, corruption and ethical lapses can only be overcome by learning the proper values, morals and ethical behaviors. As Governor, I will bring a model for governance with clear expectations that will transform government into a public trust from the top down. I will begin that process the day after my election!”

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Albuquerque Mayor: State of the city's budget

Sunrise in downtown Albuquerque on the last Friday of Fall.

On the job for 18 days, Albuquerque's new mayor is taking a hard look at the city's $475 million annual budget.

Today, Mayor Richard Berry is planning to discuss the state of the city's budget with reporter's at a mid-morning news conference -- and 770KKOB will be there to cover it.

Revenue from gross receipts are expected to be off 9% (from the same time last year), and that could lead to budget cuts, adjustments, and even worker furloughs.

It appears Berry's new administration is starting out with a $24 million to $40 million deficit.

Albuquerque is not the only city struggling in the metro area. Rio Rancho city officials are also facing a $3 million deficit -- they'll decide if employee furloughs are needed sometime next month.

Morning news brief from 770KKOB

Obama addresses COP15 conference
President Barack Obama says the world's will to address climate change ``hangs in the balance.'' Speaking at the U.N. climate conference in Copenhagen this morning, Obama said it's time to take a "substantial step forward'' and the U.S. is setting an example of bold action that other nations must follow. But delegates to the conference have blamed the U.S. and China for the lack of an agreement.

Drone strike
Intelligence officials say a suspected U.S. drone missile strike has killed three militants in Pakistan's lawless tribal area near the Afghan border. It was the third such attack in the past 24 hours in an area of North Waziristan controlled by a militant commander.

Joint Chiefs chairman Adm. Mike Mullen says he's very concerned about cybersecurity. But he says the recent computer hacking of information from U.S. drones has caused no significant military damage. Insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan have intercepted live video feeds from Predator drones. The Pentagon says the vulnerability has been fixed.

Making a plea to Iran
The mother of one of three American hikers detained in Iran has recorded a video message to Iran's supreme leader appealing for their release. The three hikers have been held for nearly five months and are facing trial. Tehran says they were captured after crossing the country's border and has accused them of spying.

Still perfect
The Indianapolis Colts have joined the 1972 Miami Dolphins and 2007 New England Patriots as the only NFL teams to start a season 14-and-0 following their 35-31 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars last night. Peyton Manning threw for 308 yards and four touchdowns.

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Thursday, December 17, 2009

Morning news brief from 770KKOB

Climate aid pledge
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is pledging that the U.S. will join other rich countries in raising $100 billion in yearly climate financing for poor countries by 2020. At the U.N. talks in Copenhagen, Clinton says the financing is contingent on world leaders reaching a climate deal. Talks have been deadlocked over disputes between rich and poor countries over emissions cuts and financing.

Suspending foreclosures
Citigroup says it's suspending foreclosures and evictions for 30 days. The holiday reprieve should help some 2,000 homeowners with scheduled foreclosure sales and another 2,000 due to receive foreclosure notices.

Yemen vs. al-Qaida
Authorities in Yemen are claiming a pair of victories against al-Qaida operatives. A security official says airstrikes followed by a ground operation targeting a training camp killed 30 suspected militants. Separately, the Interior Ministry says four would-be suicide bombers were killed in an operation northeast of the capital and 17 suspected militants were arrested.

Suicide attack in Russia
A suicide attacker has struck in Russia's North Caucasus. An Interior Ministry official says the attacker drove a car into a group of police officers at a busy intersection and detonated his explosives. At least 11 officers were injured and some are reported in grave condition. Some civilians were also hurt.

Going home
Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi has finally left the hospital in Milan. He's been there since being attacked by a mentally ill man at a political rally four days ago. Berlusconi left with his face bandaged. His nose and two teeth were broken and his face and lips cut in the attack.

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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Former state treasurer once again a free man

Released from federal custody last Friday, Robert Vigil still faces three years of probation and has to finish paying off $97,000 in fines.

The former state treasurer was convicted on one count of attempted extortion in 2006. The 56-year old Vigil served just over two years in prison -- first in Texas and later in Colorado -- before being moved to a halfway house in Albuquerque this past June.

In this morning's Albuquerque Journal Thomas Cole reports -- in his Up Front -- column today that Vigil has been confined to his home for the last three months.

Vigil, who also served two terms as state auditor, originally faced 28 counts stemming from a kickback scheme at the state treasurers office. Four counts were dropped before his first trial. It ended in a hung jury.

Last April, we were the first to report that Vigil's appeal in the 10th Circuit Court was denied. Later the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the case.

Under terms of his probation, Vigil must remain employed or attend school fulltime. He also must meet with his probation officer once a month, can not possess a firearm, and ask for persmission to travel out of the state.

He's also not allowed to associate with other known felons -- including his own sister-in-law, Roberta Vigil, who was convicted in May of fraud and conspiracy to commit fraud, after she diverted taxpayer money from the West Las Vegas School District.

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Morning news brief from 770KKOB

It's TIME for Bernanke
Time magazine has announced its ``Person of the Year'' for 2009. It's Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke. Last year's winner was then-President-elect Barack Obama. Previous winners include George W. Bush and Bono.

Health bill compromises
The public insurance option that most senate Democrats wanted to include in health care reform legislation appears dead, as does a Medicare buy-in plan. But Democrats are nearing a compromise on the bill as they come to terms with the idea that they're not going to get everything they want in the nearly $1 trillion bill.

Raising the federal debt ceiling
The House plans to vote today on a $200 billion increase in the federal debt ceiling, extending the limit for two months. President Barack Obama says deficit spending is still needed to create jobs and stimulate the economy. But most Republicans and some moderate Democrats say the deficit is growing too large.

Trouble in Copenhagen
Police are using tear gas and batons to disperse crowds of protesters trying to disrupt the U.N. climate talks in Copenhagen. A police spokesman says 230 protesters have been detained. The demonstrators say they want to take over the global conference and turn it into a ``people's assembly.''

Teens need health screenings after sex
A new study suggests that half of all urban teenage girls may get one or more sexually transmitted infections within two years of becoming sexually active. Researchers at Indiana University say their findings point to the need to screen sexually active teenage girls sooner for infections.

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Monday, December 14, 2009

Denish releases new campaign video

"Our New Mexico," Diane Denish's latest 2010 gubernatorial campaign video was released on Sunday night -- after being previewed at an Albuquerque North Valley ward meeting on Saturday afternoon.

In the 3.5 minute video, she talks about her rural roots, the state's cultural diversity and natural resources, the need to "get out of Santa Fe" and be more accessible to all New Mexicans, and her record generating small business loans for over 1600 local companies.

Denish pledges, "to be bold in our thinking, wise in our spending, courageous in our action -- that's how we'll build our economy, grow new businesses, create jobs, and deliver the better schools and safer communities our kids and families deserve."

She also talks about her record of releasing campaign finance reports, which include list of political contributors, more often than state law requires and her plan to give taxpayers the opportunity to review state contracts online.

Denish hopes to win next year so she can preside over the state's 100th anniversary of statehood and in the video she says she hopes, "our second century can be as great as our first."

Denish, who does not have a Democrat primary challenger, does have $2 million dollars in her campaign treasury, which makes it a whole lot easier to generate high quality and well produced videos to brand Denish's campaign and establish themed messages early in the election season.

Four Republicans, businessmen Allen Weh and Doug Turner, Doña Ana County District Attorney Susana Martinez, and State Representative Janice Arnold-Jones, are campaigning for the GOP nomination.

Obama and the banks

A top adviser to President Barack Obama says the White House is telling the banking industry it helped create last year's near economic meltdown and it has to be ``part of the solution.''

Small business and mortgage lending, financial reform and the economic recovery are all on the agenda for President Barak Obama's meeting with bank executives this morning.

Previewing a meeting Obama will have later Monday with industry leaders, David Axelrod said there simply has to be easier credit for businesses to reinvest and do the hiring needed to bring down double-digit unemployment.

Interviewed on ABC's ``Good Morning America,'' Axelrod said the message to bankers is, ``You have to accelerate lending to credible small businesses.''

Meeting could be tense

In a ``60 Minutes'' interview aired last night, Obama said Wall Street's huge bonuses anger people and he didn't run for president to help ``fat cat bankers.''

Meanwhile, Citigroup is the latest big bank to announce it's paying back bailout money. It will return $20 billion to the Treasury.

One of the hardest hit by the credit crisis and loan defaults, Citigroup received $45 in government support.

Many banks have moved quickly to repay the bailout money because it came with restrictions like caps on executive pay and dividends.

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COP15 in dissarray

U.N. climate talks have been thrown into disarray as developing countries blocked negotiations, demanding that rich countries raise their pledges for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Representatives from developing countries said they refused to participate in any working groups Monday at the 192-nation summit until the issue was resolved.

The move was a setback for the Copenhagen talks, which were already faltering over long-running disputes between rich and poor nations over emissions cuts and financing for developing countries to deal with climate change.

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Saturday, December 12, 2009

Feeling energized, Campos opens campaign headquarters

He's been Mayor of Santa Rosa for 12 years and was elected a state representative for the eastern part of the state in 2003, now Joe Campos wants to be lieutenant governor.

Campos says his campaign isn't about politics, "it's about our children and their future, and creating jobs for New Mexicans."

On Saturday, he opened his 2010 state campaign headquarters in downtown Albuquerque.

Without a doubt, Campos said the biggest issue in the campaign will be the economy.

He believes renewable energy jobs are a good place to start.

"The state can do much more in a the way of tax and other incentives to both support existing businesses and recruit new companies," Campos said. "Agricultural jobs also remain a vital part of our future and clearly, making progress on our water issues is a priority."

He says he wants to develop the state's energy resources, and focus on renewable energy and natural gas, because it will "create economic opportunities, like high paying jobs" while reducing the country's dependence on foreign oil.

If elected, Campos says he'll also work to improve the state education with an emphasis on math and science, "so our children can fill the jobs of tomorrow."

He'd also like to use the office, to support Diane Denish, and promote a high quality health care system "that is affordable and accessible to all New Mexicans."

Campos told about 60 people, eating posole, tamales, and munching on biscochitos that he believes the state is facing a number of challenges.

"We have to have more ways to diversify our economy and build a large base of good-paying jobs for the long term," Campos said. "To do this, we'll have to harness the tremendous potential of our people and our state."

Campos and his family own and operate a restaurant in Santa Rosa.

Compos is just one of six people vying for the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor. He faces Santa Fe County Sheriff Greg Solano, state Sens. Linda Lopez and Gerald Ortiz y Pino of Albuquerque, retiring Mid-Region Council of Governments Executive Director Lawrence Rael and former Democrat Party of NM Chairman Brian Colón.

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Friday, December 11, 2009

NM considers new conditions for medical marijuana

A medical advisory board will hold a public hearing Friday in Santa Fe to consider petitions for adding new health conditions to the New Mexico Department of Health's medical marijuana program.

The board will review five petitions and make recommendations to the department secretary, who will then make a final decision.

If a condition is approved, anyone with that medical condition can apply to the program.

The conditions under consideration are Hepatitis C undergoing non-antiviral treatment; cluster headaches; bipolar disorder and obsessive compulsive disorder; Ankylosing Spondylitis, a chronic, inflammatory arthritis and auto-immune disease; and Blepharospasm, a neurological movement disorder that causes a twitch of the eyelid.

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American Indian Vets reach settlement with Tax and Rev

American Indian veterans should begin receiving long-overdue reimbursements of tax dollars unlawfully withheld from their military paychecks.

An estimated 9,000 American Indian veterans live in New Mexico, and those who can prove state income tax was unjustly withheld from their military paychecks can collect a piece of a settlement fund.

New Mexico Taxation and Revenue Department Secretary Rick Homans told veterans in Shiprock Thursday that checks should begin showing up in mail boxes early next year.

State legislators dropped $1 million into a fund created last year to reimburse veterans whose primary addresses were on tribal land during their military service and whose military income was unjustly taxed by the state.

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Monday, December 7, 2009

Virgin Galactic unveils SpaceShip II

SpaceShip II will be lifted into a launch altitude by Virgin's White Knight

Virgin Founder, Sir Richard Branson and SpaceshipOne (SS1) designer, Burt Rutan, just unveiled SpaceShip II (SS2). This is the space craft that will haul thousands of private tourists into space, from Spaceport America in Southern New Mexico, after testing and licensing is completed.

The unveiling represents another major milestone in Virgin Galactic’s quest to develop the World’s first commercial space line providing private sector access to space using an environmentally benign launch system for people, payload and science.

Here's an animation by Virgin Galactic showing what flying into space on board SS2 will be like.

The spaceship draws on the experience developed during the successful flights of SS1 in 2004, which won the Ansari X-Prize for completing the world’s first manned private space flights. The SS2 design will be refined and completed during an extensive test flying program to commence shortly, and it will be an entirely new vehicle capable of carrying up to 6 passenger astronauts and up to 2 pilot astronauts into space on a sub-orbital flight.

It is likely that commercial flights will begin 2010 from the Spaceport America in New Mexico. Current ticket price is around $200,000.

In the near future White Knight will carry SS2 to above 50,000 feet (16 kilometres) before the spaceship is dropped and fires her rocket motor to launch into space from that altitude. In honour of a long tradition of using the word Enterprise in the naming of Royal Navy, US Navy, NASA vehicles and even science fiction spacecraft, Governor Schwarzenegger of California and Governor Richardson of New Mexico will today christen SS2 with the name Virgin Space Ship (VSS) ENTERPRISE. This represents not only an acknowledgment to that name’s honorable past but also looks to the future of the role of private enterprise in the development of the exploration, industrialization and human habitation of space.

The emergence of new commercial space companies like Virgin Galactic will be an engine for employment, growth and the creation of a new technology and science base in the United States. Recent research has indicated that 12,500 jobs have already been created by the new space companies; the Virgin Galactic project alone is creating significant opportunities for employment in both the company itself and with suppliers in both California and New Mexico. Approximately 600 people are now working on activities relating to the project and it is estimated that this figure will rise to over 1,100 jobs during the peak of the construction phase at the space port and through the introduction of the commercial space vehicles into regular astronaut service.

Both WK2 and SS2 represent state of the art environmentally sensitive industrial development in their use of carbon composite materials technology, which has now been identified as a key future contributor to the increasingly urgent requirement by the commercial aviation sector for dramatically more fuel efficient aircraft. WK2 is powered by four Pratt and Whitney PW308A engines, which are amongst the most powerful. economic and efficient commercial jet engines available making it a mould breaker in carbon efficiency. SS2 will be powered by a unique hybrid rocket motor, which is currently under development.

The twin fuselage and central payload area configuration allow for easy access to WK2 and to the spaceship for passengers and crew; the design also aids operational efficiencies and turnaround times. The mothership has now also completed a year of rigorous and successful first phase flight testing prior to today’s attachment of SS2.

“This is truly a momentous day. The team has created not only a world first but also a work of art," Branson said. "The unveil of SS2 takes the Virgin Galactic vision to the next level and continues to provide tangible evidence that this ambitious project is not only moving rapidly, but also making tremendous progress towards our goal of safe commercial operation."

“All of us at Scaled are tremendously excited by the capabilities of both the mothership and SS2," Rutan said. "Today is the culmination of a dream that began many decades ago, was stimulated by Paul Allen’s funding of our X-Prize winning SS1 and then moved forward to commercial reality by Sir Richard and Virgin’s visionary investment in a new future for space transportation."

SpaceShipTwo will be unveiled after darkness has fallen over the Mojave Desert to the sound of a space-themed anthem from Britain’s biggest DJs, Above & Beyond. Fittingly titled “Buzz” the track will sample Buzz Aldrin’s original moon landing dialogue. Following the naming by Governors Richardson and Schwarzenegger, the DJs will also perform an exclusive set at the celebration cocktail party which will follow and feature the first ever IceBar in the desert hosted by Absolut and the world famous Swedish IceHotel. All the guests will be protected from the desert cold by designer space jackets supplied by PUMA. Finally, to close off the celebrations, all the guests will have the opportunity to view the stunning night skies using specialist telescopes supplied by Ron Dantowitz of the Clay Observatory whose unique tracking cameras followed SS1 into space during the epic flights of 2004.

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