Latest New Mexico news, sports, business and entertainment at 11:20 a.m. MDT

Mar 22, 2020

Ranchers, potash company in fight over Pecos River rightsCARLSBAD, N.M. (AP) — Ranchers in a southeastern New Mexico community and a potash company are locking in fight over water rights connected to the Pecos River. The Carlsbad Current-Argus reports the Denver-based Intrepid Potash recently claimed ownership of about 35,000 acre feet of water rights along the Pecos, with 19,000 identified for consumption. Ranchers in a rural area south of Carlsbad said that move could completely drain the Pecos. The Carlsbad Irrigation District filed litigation intended to block Intrepid's ownership of the water and seven "preliminary authorizations" granted by the Office of the State Engineer to change the point of diversion and manner of use of the water. Intrepid's attorney declined to comment.


Asylum-seekers waiting in Mexico rarely find lawyersSAN DIEGO (AP) — Asylum-seekers who are sent back to Mexico to wait for hearings in U.S. immigration court rarely find attorneys. The Associated Press contacted all 21 attorney's offices on a government list of free and low-cost providers in courts that handle such cases and found that only two have taken on a large load. Some legal aid groups have taken a small number of cases, and a few offer free "know your rights" talks. The scarcity of attorneys helps explain why only 4% asylum-seekers subject to the "Remain in Mexico" policy won their decisions, while the nationwide rate is 29%.


New Mexico has 14 more cases; 2 schools' students cautionedALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — The number of coronavirus cases in New Mexico has grown to 57, and two Albuquerque high schools' students and staff are being advised to self-isolate because a student at one has tested positive for the disease. The 14 new cases include nine people in Bernalillo County. Others are in Dona Ana, Lea, Sandoval, Santa Fe and Taos counties. Albuquerque Public Schools officials said the state Department of Health notified them Friday that it was investigating a case involving a Del Norte High School student. Students and staff at Del Norte and co-located Nex+Gen Academy Magnet School were advised to self-isolate "in an abundance of caution" and to contact the state if symptoms surfaced and required medical attention.


New Mexico encourages mail-in balloting amid virus concernsSANTA 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. The state coronavirus website reported that New Mexico had 57 positive cases of the virus as of Saturday afternoon, up 43 on Friday.


Man pleads guilty in fatal child abuse case in New MexicoSANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — A 21-year-old has pleaded guilty in a case involving the fatal beating and torture of a 13-year-old boy. Jordan Nunez pleaded guilty in Santa Fe on Friday to child abuse resulting in death and tampering with evidence. He faces up to 24 years in prison. Prosecutors say Jeremiah Valencia's body was found in a roadside grave in January 2018. Investigators say the boy was beaten with brass knuckles, choked and confined to a dog kennel. They say he died after months of abuse inflicted upon him by Nunez and Nunez's father Thomas Ferguson and the boy's mother who was dating Ferguson. A sentencing hearing has not yet been scheduled.


Tribes take measures to slow spread of new coronavirusFLAGSTAFF, 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.


More time sought for public input on nuclear fuel proposalALBUQUERQUE, 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. 


New Mexico agencies on edge amid rising ransomware attacksALBUQUERQUE, 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.