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

Aug 15, 2020

OKMULGEE, Okla. (AP) — The oldest continuously held Black rodeo in the U.S. rode on in eastern Oklahoma despite months of uncertainty because of the coronavirus pandemic, though this year some cowboys wore face masks along with boots. The Roy LeBlanc Invitational Rodeo, first held in 1956, took place Aug. 7-8 in Okmulgee with a crowd of about 1,000 and some 200 Black cowboys with most wearing masks and socially distancing according to co-owner Kenneth LeBlanc. Steer wrestler Rodney Demery said the crowd in the approximately 2,500 seat arena seemed smaller, but was enthusiastic and the cowboys were just happy to be able to compete.


CARLSBAD, N.M. (AP) — Managers of the federal government's underground nuclear waste repository in southern New Mexico say operations are ongoing despite a recent increase in COVID-19 cases among workers. The Carlsbad Current-Argus reports that the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant has seen cases among employees and contract workers more than double in the last week. The plant this week announced four new cases among employees of Nuclear Waste Partnership, the contractor hired to oversee daily operations at the facility. The plant is in the second phase of resuming normal operations after having slowed the emplacement of waste this spring when the pandemic began.


ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico's largest city — Albuquerque — is among 31 potential locations for the federal government's new space command center. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller announced Friday that they will lead a community effort to land what is expected to be a major federal facility that would add more than 1,000 jobs. The officials had submitted in June a letter of interest proposing the city as an ideal location. They cited New Mexico's existing defense and science installations and the state's growing aerospace sector. Members of the state's congressional delegation also have voiced support for the effort.


SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico health officials are reporting an additional 175 COVID-19 cases, bringing the total to 23,160 since the pandemic began. Friday's tally marks another day of lower daily case counts as state health officials look to keep the numbers from spiking again. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said during a briefing earlier this week that as long as the state can sustain lower case counts, the potential for reopening parts of the economy become greater. Case counts are just one metric that health officials are tracking. Others include the rate of spread, hospitalizations and the capacity for contact tracing.


ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Policies that guide pension investments for New Mexico teachers and other educational retirees would have to change if the Educational Retirement Board wants to divest in private prison companies or other individual stocks it disapproves of for social reasons. Questions about socially responsible investments dominated Friday's meeting as teachers' unions and immigrant activists have called on the board to stop investing in Florida-based GEO Group and Tennessee-based CoreCivic. Currently, investments are handled by managers as part of index funds that consist of numerous companies. Legal and fiscal experts stressed to board members that they have a responsibility to be prudent and ensure the greatest return for retirees.


FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — Popular tourist destinations on the Navajo Nation, including Canyon de Chelly, can start welcoming back tourists Monday under the tribe's reopening plan. Much of the reservation has been closed since March as coronavirus swept through. The tribe released a plan this week that allows parks and marinas to reopen with safeguards. Businesses can operate at limited capacity. Tribal President Jonathan Nez says the Navajo Nation won't rush to fully reopen, recognizing that cases could spike if residents become complacent. Employees at tribal and national parks on the reservation say they will be busy this weekend preparing for tourists.


FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — A member of the Navajo Nation is suing the tribal government to try to force a primary election that was canceled because of the coronavirus. Eloise Brown alleges in the complaint that tribal officials don't have the authority to alter election dates. She says that power is reserved for the Navajo people. The lawsuit filed in tribal court seeks to postpone the November general election until a primary election can be held. Navajo Nation Council Speaker Seth Damon's office didn't respond directly to the lawsuit but said the council established a record of its discussion on a bill to cancel the primary.


WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. (AP) — Hundreds of Navajo Code Talkers who helped the Allied forces covertly communicate during World War II were honored in a ceremony Friday. Code Talkers Day is celebrated annually on Aug. 14, the date of the Japanese surrender marking the end of the War. The ceremony is typically held in person but was taken online this year because of the coronavirus pandemic. Hundreds of Navajos serving in the U.S. Marine Corps transmitted messages using a code based on the Navajo language. The code developed by an original group of 29 Navajos was used to confound Japanese forces. It was never broken. Only a handful of Code Talkers are still alive.