Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Roundhouse Roundup: The Chimp Champ

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican 
November 18 , 2010

Gov. Bill Richardson is in Washington, D.C. today for some monkey business.

Or to be zoologically correct, some “chimp business.”

He  also attended the 2010 VIDA National Hispanic Health Leadership Awards in Washington on Wednesday, a spokeswoman said.

I didn’t find out Richardson was even out of state until Wednesday when I got a press release saying he was having a “news availability.” That caught my eye because his availability to the local media has dwindled to almost nothing in recent months. Then I noticed the District of Columbia address. I should have known this wasn’t for us local press chimps.

According to the release, Richardson will discuss “his latest efforts to stop the transfer of 186 chimpanzees from the Alamogordo Primate Facility to a facility in Texas where they will be subjected to invasive medical research.”

If this was a few years ago, he might have been able to create exempt positions for the critters. Now is he afraid that “Susana la Tejana” wants to give New Mexico’s chimps to her big donors in Texas?

But seriously, folks, Richardson has been working on this issue for several months now. In August, he met with officials of the National Institutes of Health, which wants to use the animals for further medical tests.

In a 10-page letter to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, which was posted on the U.S. News & World Report website, Richardson said some of the chimps in question were used in space flight and military flight experiments in the early ’70s. These are some patriotic primates.

They have not been used in medical experiments since 2001. All have been exposed to diseases including HIV and hepatitis C, the letter said. At least two of the chimps are more than 50 years old, the letter said.

All the animals have serious health problems, including widespread cardiac disease, the governor told Vilsack. The transfer to Texas could injure or kill them, Richardson argues. He’s asking Vilsack for a cease-and-desist order. Apparently, the USDA has jurisdiction over the transfer of animals. Richardson said the move would violate department regulations.

Hello, 2012: OK, you’ve had two weeks to recover from the 2010 election. It’s time to get real about 2012.

At least that’s the feeling of one local Republican. Victor Marquez, who works for the Army National Guard as well as running his own “investigations and intelligence” company, announced Wednesday that he’s running for the Congressional seat to which Democrat Ben Ray Luján was re-elected this month.

Marquez, who turns 37 next week, told me that he’s a 1991 graduate of St. Michael’s High School and, according to his résumé, he got a degree in business administration from New Mexico State University in 1998. After college, he said, he moved to Austin, Texas. Then his work with a security company took him to various locations in Asia, as well as to London. Marquez said in he moved back to New Mexico in 2001, where, he joked, “I got a Ph.D. in corruption.”

Why does he think he’d make a good congressman? “My global experience as well as overall dedication and commitment,” he said. Though he said he’s been successful in business, “I’ve been laid off. I know what it’s like to lose everything.”

Marquez’s résumé states he has “proven experience in creating and leading international business and operational development strategies” and “Involvement with developing and leading intelligence and counterintelligence operations with private and government entities.”

Marquez said that in the last GOP primary for the 3rd Congressional District seat, he backed Tom Mullins of Farmington over Adam Kokesh of Santa Fe. But he said he had problems with Mullins’ statement about putting landmines along the border to keep illegal immigrants out. He said some of his investigations have involved human trafficking, which makes him knowledgeable of border issues.

The 2012 primary is less than 18 months away.