FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — Native American tribes across the country are pressing the federal government for more resources to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus. In the meantime, tribal leaders are suspending travel off reservations, closing casinos and hotels, instituting curfews in some places and strongly urging their citizens to protect the elderly. Tribes recently were included in a federal funding package for epidemiology, infection control, education and other things. But tribes say the $40 million is not enough. The federal Indian Health Service says it's talking with tribes to determine how best to dole out the money.
- RAISING RANSOMWARE ATTACKS
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico school districts, universities and government agencies have spent millions of dollars to regain control of their computer systems amid rising ransomware attacks. The Albuquerque Journal reports the attacks came after employees unknowingly opened emails containing an encrypted code that effectively shut them out of their systems. The ransomware attacks occurred between January 2018 and February 2020, and have put school districts and agencies on edge amid warnings of more technology terror. The most recent attack victimized the Gadsden Independent School District in February. Computer servers, internet, phones and email service across all 24 schools were locked out.
- SPENT NUCLEAR FUEL
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Members of New Mexico's congressional delegation are calling out federal nuclear regulators. They want the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to extend the public comment period for an environmental review related to a multibillion-dollar complex that would store spent nuclear fuel from commercial power plants around the U.S. In a recent preliminary recommendation, the commission favored approval of a license for Holtec International to build the facility in southeastern New Mexico. The comment period is set at 60 days, but the New Mexico officials say that should be extended and any public meetings delayed given the health emergency that has resulted from the new coronavirus.
- ELECTION 2020-NEW MEXICO-MAIL-IN VOTING
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico election regulators are encouraging registered voters to request mail-in ballots ahead of the state's June 2 primary election in light of a public health emergency concerning the coronavirus. Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver on Friday announced that absentee ballots can be requested through an online portal. New Mexico has "no fault" absentee balloting in which mail-in ballots can be requested for any reason. Primary election absentee ballots are sent out to voters starting on May 5. The final day to request an absentee ballot is May 28. In the 2016 presidential primary, New Mexico voters sided with Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders.
- VIRUS OUTBREAK-NEW MEXICO
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — More than 10,000 residents of New Mexico have filed for unemployment benefits in less than a week, potentially doubling the number of recipients amid economic upheaval linked to the coronavirus pandemic. The number of infections statewide increased Friday to at least 43 with positive tests in the Gallup and Las Cruces areas. New Mexicans will have extra time to file and pay their taxes as the state looks to ease the economic hardships brought on by the coronavirus. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has put limits on public gatherings as restaurants have moved to pick-up or delivery service only and casinos have closed.
- JAGUARS-HABITAT FIGHT
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A federal appeals court is ordering a New Mexico judge to reconsider a case involving a fight over critical habitat in the U.S. Southwest for the endangered jaguar. Ranchers had sued, arguing that a decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to set aside thousands of acres for the cats violated the statute that guides wildlife managers in determining whether certain areas are essential for the conservation of a species. The appellate court this week overturned an earlier ruling that had sided with federal officials. At issue is more than 170 square miles that span two desert mountain ranges along the Arizona-New Mexico border.
SAN DIEGO (AP) — U.S. officials are expected to announce new restrictions on the southern border Friday as they try to halt the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. The U.S. and Mexico have been working on plans to halt much of the cross-border travel without disrupting trade. Officials on both sides of the border say the plan is expected to look much like restrictions already announced on all-but-essential travel and trade between the U.S. and Canada. Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf says, "We want to make sure that cargo continues, trade continues, heath care workers continue to be able to traverse that border. But tourism, some recreational activities and other things" need to stop during this crisis.
- VIRUS OUTBREAK-COAL
BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — The lobbying arm of the U.S. coal industry is asking for hundreds of millions of dollars in royalty relief, tax cuts and other breaks to help companies ride out the financial crisis brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. National Mining Association President Rich Nolan made the request in a letter sent this week to the White House and the leaders of the House and Senate. Even before the current economic upheaval, the coal mining industry was in sharp decline as utilities across the nation switch to cleaner-burning natural gas and renewable energy sources.