Morning Word

Nuclear Compensation Bill Expires Today Without Vote by US House

NM Gov’s office previews bills for special session

Morning Word

Nuclear compensation bill expires today without vote

While the film Oppenheimer made no mention of the impact the Trinity test and US nuclear complex had on New Mexico, the movement to compensate so-called downwinders and uranium miners—excluded from the federal Radiation Exposure Compensation Act—has only grown in the last year. Activists groups here such as the Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium, backed by the state’s congressional delegation, have joined forces with nuclear victims and officials from other states to push Congress to expand and extend compensation to include the people—in many cases entire families—who have suffered decades of cancers and other illnesses. The US Senate passed an extended version of the bill—twice. President Joe Biden said he would sign it. The bill expires today, with US House Speaker Mike Johnson never bringing it for a vote. “I am disappointed that Speaker Johnson sent the House home without taking action on RECA before the sunset date, putting the coverage and compensation of American families at risk,” US Sen. Ben Ray Luján says in a statement. “Advocates from communities nationwide traveled to Washington to make their voices heard, share their painful stories, and fight for this program. I was proud to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with them.” The “fight is not over,” Luján adds. In a statement, activist Tina Cordova, whose quest for downwinders like herself is featured in the documentary First We Bombed New Mexico, issued a statement through the Union of Concerned Scientists noting RECA, for more than 30 years, “has been held on high above political parties, political games, brinkmanship and cost. Congress has always been able to come together and do what is right and necessary to take care of the people who were made sick by our country’s nuclear weapons program. Today, improving RECA should not be about politics, parties, or cost. It should be about taking care of the American Citizens—including children—that our government put at tremendous risk in service of our national security. We will continue to fight for everyone who has been harmed by nuclear tests, mining and waste, and we will leave no one behind.”

NM Gov wants focus on mental health bill during session

At the forthcoming special session on public safety scheduled by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham to begin July 18, the governor wants lawmakers to consider a bill that would extend a law allowing for involuntary treatment of people with mental illnesses. The governor’s chief general counsel, Holly Agajanian discussed the bill with legislators on the House Courts, Corrections and Justice Committee yesterday, the Albuquerque Journal reports. Agajanian reportedly said the bill needs to be expanded. “The question then becomes, ‘How do we do this?’” Agajanian said. “How do we have [Assisted Outpatient Treatment] everywhere? Because that’s what we need. And that’s what this bill has.” Lawmakers in turn questioned why a special session is needed to expand a bill already on the books—former Gov. Susana Martinez signed it into law in 2016. The proposed bill requires legislative action, Agajanian said, and would expand eligibility for AOT in all 13 of the state’s judicial districts by July 1, 2026. Moreover, it would expand whom the bill covers to include. The governor’s staff also previewed bills to ban people from standing on medians and to increase penalties for firearm possession by felons.

NM AG issues arrests, warrants for Santa Fe retail theft

New Mexico Attorney General Raúl Torrez yesterday announced the arrests of two women associated with what a New Mexico Department of Justice news release characterizes as an “organized retail crime ring” in Santa Fe. Molly Maestas and Sandra Salazar each face two felony counts of organized retail crime and conspiracy. The charges stem from an investigation that began last month when several national retailers’ investigators—including from TJ Maxx, Home Depot and JCPenney—teamed up to surveil frequent shoplifters in their stores. The AG’s office began an additional investigation, which led to a raid yesterday at a home that uncovered $5,000 worth of stolen merchandise, including clothing, tools and electronics. Weapons and drugs also were found in the home, which the news release says may lead to additional charges (Maestas’ arrest warrant says Maestas told police her niece and girlfriend sold fentanyl from the home’s garage where they live). The state also has arrest warrants for two more people suspected of having involvement with the ring. “Organized retail crime has changed our everyday shopping experience—from higher prices to products being locked behind cages to dangerous encounters in store parking lots—and it is time for us to fight back,” Torrez says in a statement. “Today, our Organized Retail Crime Unit took down perpetrators from a serious crime ring. Fencers of stolen retail goods should be on notice that we won’t stop using sophisticated operations like today’s to put them away.”

Hutchins’ family sues Alec Baldwin

Rust actor and producer Alec Baldwin faces a new lawsuit, filed yesterday in the First Judicial District in Santa Fe by family members of Halyna Hutchins, killed on-set Oct. 21, 2021 by a bullet that fired from a gun Baldwin was handling. He faces an involuntary manslaughter charge and is scheduled to go to trial next month. The suit, brought by Hutchins’ parents, sister and the film’s script supervisor, names several defendants, including the film’s production company and former Rust armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, whom a jury convicted in March of involuntary manslaughter. The lawsuit alleges Baldwin “cocked and fired” the loaded gun despite the scene not calling for him to do so, and accuses the production company of negligence on set in a variety of ways. In a statement to The Wrap, plaintiffs’ attorney Gloria Allred said her clients, with the new lawsuit, “seek to hold lead actor and producer Alec Baldwin, along with other producers and individuals, liable for Halyna’s untimely and tragic death. Our New Mexico filing…coincides with the dismissal of our clients’ cases that were filed in the Superior Court for the County of Los Angeles. While we had successfully litigated this case in California against many of the same defendants being named in our New Mexico lawsuit, there were key defendants over whom the court ruled there was no personal jurisdiction in California.”

Listen up

As noted above, the Radiation Exposure and Compensation Act expires today without the US House taking action to extend and expand it to include New Mexico downwinders and uranium miners. After winning several awards on the film festival circuit, director Lois Lipman’s documentary, First We Bombed New Mexico, comes to Santa Fe starting tonight for a week of community screenings at Violet Crown Cinema, with Q&As tonight and tomorrow with Lipman, activist Tina Cordova and others—one of SFR’s picks of the week. A recent panel discussion that includes members of the state’s congressional delegation can also be viewed online.

Blankets, baskets and Beethoven: Classical festival season starts now

The Washington Post includes the Santa Fe Opera’s forthcoming season in its recommendations for this summer’s best classical music concerts. The Post describes Santa Fe Opera as the “nation’s most spectacular (and surprisingly temperate) outdoor opera festival,” and notes all five productions can be viewed consecutively Aug. 5-9 were one inclined (sounds like a fun week). While marking one’s calendar for this season’s musical offerings, take note that the free Santa Fe Railyard Concert series kicks off at 7 pm tonight with Mexican Institute of Sound and Frontera Bugalú. SFR’s newly published Summer Guide includes the lineup for this summer’s concert series, which grows more robust with each passing year.

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Life’s a trip

White Sands National Park makes The Travel’s list of top 10 national parks trending this year that travelers may want to visit this summer (we think that sounds hot). The Travel also includes Chaco Culture National Historical Park on its list of “spooky” national parksThrillist, meanwhile, includes all of Roswell in its roundup of the weirdest roadside attractions in every state. “If there are actual aliens tucked away in Roswell, they pulled the ingenious move of hiding in plain sight, surrounded by every kind of gaudy, over-the-top kitsch possible. Well played, Martians,” the story jokes (we assume it’s a joke). Last on the assemblage of travel advice from the national travel advice industrial complex, Pure Wow includes Santa Fe on its compendium of the 10 best places to travel solo in the US as a woman. The story’s recommendations include a vacation patronizing several of the city’s institutions that were either founded by women, run by them or in some way focused upon them, including The Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, the Santa Fe Salt Cave and Sweetwater Harvest Kitchen.

Waiting on rain

The National Weather Service forecasts mostly sunny skies today, with high temperatures in the low 90s and a 20% chance of precipitation via isolated thunderstorms after 3 pm. Southeast wind 5 to 15 mph will become west in the afternoon. Saturday looks about the same, but temps will drop into the 80s on Sunday and chances for precipitation will rise to 60% heading into a cooler Monday.

Thanks for reading! The Word had somehow missed this horrifying Apple ad prior to reading this analysis regarding the animosity it generated.

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