In December, Reuters published a map on childhood lead poisoning across the nation. The story and accompanying map, “Off the Charts: The thousands of U.S. locales where lead poisoning is worse than Flint,” looked at where children were tested for lead and how many had high levels of the metal in their blood. Severe lead poisoning can lead to seizures, coma and death, according to the Centers for Disease Control. For children, there is no such thing as a safe exposure to lead, which causes permanent neurological damage and behavioral disorders. Even though lead paint and lead additive in gasoline were banned decades ago, the ongoing Flint, Michigan emergency highlighted that lead poisoning is still a problem in the United States.
Just weeks after President Barack Obama’s historic trip to Cuba, a local lawmaker made a trip of his own for a much different reason. State Rep. Javier Martinez, D-Albuquerque, traveled to the country earlier this month to take a look at the country’s state-run universal health care system and look to apply some of those lessons at home. The freshman lawmaker, who by day is a community organizer and executive director for the Partnership for Community Action, says New Mexico can learn plenty from a country with a health care and education system that he contends is “the envy of most industrialized nations” in the world, including the United States. But he also doesn’t shy away from the problems that tend to come with one-party Communist countries. “I don’t want to be this crazy liberal politician saying, ‘Oh, Cuba’s got it figured out!
—HSD Secretary talks behavioral health shakeup. Here at NM Political Report, we’ve been following the behavioral health shakeup that came after the state Human Services Department decided to cut off Medicaid funding for 15 providers, citing “credible allegations of fraud.”
Since then, several went out of business and the Attorney General exonerated 13 of the groups. While he wasn’t at the helm at the time, legislators on the Legislative Finance Committee still wanted an update on the process from the department’s secretary. HSD Secretary Brent Earnest explained that there was “still some overbilling” with those providers who were cleared and there was an ongoing administrative process to deal with the overbilling. He was less willing to say what that process was, beyond saying it would be “months more than years” before the situations were resolved and that currently OptumHealth is holding the funds.
A congressman wants the extradition of all United States fugitives, including one man wanted for the killing of a New Mexico State Police officer, and he has a very personal reason. Charlie Hill and two others fled after the killing of Officer Robert Rosenbloom during a traffic stop in 1971. The three eventually hijacked a plane and fled to Cuba, where they were welcomed by then-President Fidel Castro. A college student named Jerry McNerney, now a Democratic congressman from California, was on that plane and took an unexpected trip to Florida. He was born in Albuquerque and graduated from the University of New Mexico.
With relations between Cuba and the United States reaching a level not seen for decades, the calls for Cuba to return a fugitive who fled after the killing of a New Mexico State Police officer in the 1970s are growing louder. The latest call came from current New Mexico State Police chief Pete Kassetas. Kassetas told the Associated Press that he is cautiously optimistic that the extradition will happen. Kassetas also joked that he would pay for the ticket himself. Chief Pete Kassetas said his agency is working with the FBI on the possible return of Charlie Hill to face charges after the U.S. and Cuba restored formal diplomatic relations.
U.S. Sen. Tom Udall is headed to Cuba to discuss trade and tourism issues. “Opening up relations with Cuba will present new opportunities for trade and tourism for New Mexicans, and I’m proud to continue working to build business and cultural ties between our countries,” Udall said in a statement sent to media on Thursday. “I look forward to engaging in a collaborative dialogue this weekend with Cuban and U.S. officials, Cuban business owners and citizens to explore how we can best develop a 21st century relationship with Cuba that boosts economic growth and brings freedom and openness to Cubans.” It is the latest example of relations between the two nations thawing in recent years. Also taking place during the trip is the Havana Biennial where artists from both countries will participate, including an artist from Taos.
With a thawing of U.S.-Cuba relations, more attention is being paid to a man who hasn’t lived in the United States for more than four decades. That is Charlie Hill, a man who is wanted for the killing of a state police officer and the hijacking of a plane that was flown to Cuba. Hill and two others were granted asylum by the Cuban government. Of the three, Hill is the only remaining survivor. Hill and two others were part of a black separatist group called the Republic of New Afrika that sought to break off a portion of the United States as its own country.