NM Reformats Ballot Ahead Of Midterm Elections, US Offers Split Families Second Shot At Asylum

Sep 13, 2018

New Mexico Reformats Ballots Ahead Of Midterm Elections- Associated Press

New Mexico's top elections administrator is going back to the drawing board to draft ballots for the upcoming midterm elections.

The Secretary of State's Office had already started work on the ballots to include the option for straight-ticket voting before the New Mexico Supreme Court blocked the effort yesterday.

The court found that Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver did not have the authority allowed for the option, which would enable voters to select candidates from a particular party in all races by marking a single box.

Toulouse Oliver's office is working with the vendor to reformat the ballots.

UNM Regents Vote To Ask State For $1.5M More For AthleticsAlbuquerque Journal, Associated Press

University of New Mexico regents approved a proposal asking the state for an additional $1.5 million to help fund its athletics department.

The Albuquerque Journal reports none of the requested funding would be used to try and reverse the recent decision to cut men's soccer, men's and women's skiing, and women's beach volleyball.

Athletics Director Eddie Nuñez says the money would be used to improve student welfare, pay for more full-time trainers and to catch up to travel cost increases.

The Board of Regents voted Tuesday to approve the proposal. Nuñez says additional sports could be on the chopping block without the new money.

The proposal to ask for additional money would bring the athletics department's total request for state appropriation to $4.1 million.

Lawsuit Renews Focus On Privacy Policies For Mobile Apps- Associated Press

Researchers have warned that many popular free mobile apps aimed at children are potentially violating a U.S. law designed to protect the privacy of young users.

Some brushed off the findings, but a federal lawsuit filed this week by New Mexico's top prosecutor is renewing focus on the public's growing concerns about whether information on online interests, browsing and buying habits are slipping into the hands of data brokers without their consent.

Serge Egelman, a member of the research team based at the International Computer Science Institute at the University of California, Berkeley says there's no easy way even for a fairly savvy user to figure out whether an app is collecting location data and other personal information.

The institute has been awarded a grant by the National Science Foundation to continue analyzing apps and expanding a database that parents can search for more information.

NMSU Gets $3.9M Grant For Computer Science StudentsAssociated Press

The National Science Foundation has awarded New Mexico State University a grant worth nearly $4 million to prepare students for careers in computing.

The university announced Wednesday that the funding also will go toward scholarships for academically talented community college students in the computer science field who need financial help.

College of Arts and Sciences Dean Enrico Pontelli says one of the goals is to help students develop professional skills, particularly in the area of cyber security. He says that's one of the most competitive and fastest growing fields in the area of computer science.

The grant is for five years and success will be based on how many scholarship recipients have completed their computer-science degrees and are entering the workforce in a related field.

New Mexico Sues Mobile App Makers Over Privacy ConcernsAssociated Press

New Mexico is suing Google, Twitter and several companies that develop and market mobile gaming apps for children, saying the apps violate state law by collecting personal information that could compromise privacy.

The lawsuit filed in federal court late Tuesday comes as data-sharing concerns persist among users and as social media giant Facebook just weeks ago pulled one of its own apps over possible privacy intrusions.

Google recently acknowledged that it tracks users who disable location history after an Associated Press investigation revealed that several Google apps and websites store user location even if users have turned off location history.

New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas says he's concerned about the risk of a data breach and exploitation given that the apps can track with such precision where children live, play and go to school.

New Mexico Court Blocks Straight-Ticket OptionAssociated Press

The New Mexico Supreme Court is blocking a ballot option that would have allowed voters to select candidates from one particular party in all races by marking a single box.

The court made its decision Wednesday after listening to oral arguments about a plan from the state's top elections regulator to reinstate straight-ticket voting in the November general election.

The court found that Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver did not have authority to impose such a change.

Critics of the practice say it primarily harms independent, minor-party and Republican candidates in a state dominated by registered Democrats.

They argued in court that state law doesn't clearly say whether authority to design ballot forms extends to substantive decisions about straight-party voting, and that Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver should have consulted the public through the rulemaking process.

US 'Likely' Has Taken Over As The World's Top Oil ProducerAssociated Press

The United States may have reclaimed the title of the world's biggest oil producer sooner than expected.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration said Wednesday that America "likely surpassed" Russia in June and August after jumping over Saudi Arabia earlier this year.

The agency says, however, that's based on preliminary estimates.

If those estimates are right, it would mark the first time in more than two decades that the U.S. has led in output.

U.S. production has soared in recent years because of techniques including hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," the use of chemicals, sand, water and high pressure to crack rock formations deep below ground, releasing more oil and natural gas.

Fracking is driving a drilling boom in the Permian Basin under Texas and New Mexico.

New Mexico High Court Tosses Complaint Against PRC ChairmanSanta Fe New Mexican, Associated Press

The New Mexico Supreme Court has thrown out a conflict of interest complaint against the chairman of the Public Regulation Commission.

A Santa Fe-based clean energy advocacy group sought to prevent PRC Chairman Sandy Jones from ruling on Public Service Company of New Mexico's proposed power plan over an alleged conflict of interest.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reported Wednesday that New Energy Economy initially had alleged Jones and Commissioner Lynda Lovejoy couldn't be partial in hearing PNM's "integrated resource plan" — a mix of coal, solar and other power sources to meet customer demand.

The advocacy group says the utility's parent company had donated $440,000 to a political action committee that campaigned for their re-election.

The state's high court didn't give a reason for their rejection of the complaint.

Government Offers Split Families A Second Shot At Asylum- Associated Press

The Trump administration has agreed to reconsider asylum claims of many parents and children who were separated at the U.S.-Mexico border.

The move came under an agreement to settle lawsuits over Trump's zero-tolerance policy on illegal crossings.

Two groups involved in the litigation — Muslim Advocates and Legal Aid Justice Center — say the settlement could give more than 1,000 parents a second chance at asylum.

The agreement was reached late yesterday and subject to the approval of a U.S. District Judge in San Diego.

It follows weeks of negotiations over claims by lawyers for separated parents and children that their clients didn't have a fair shake when seeking asylum.

The judge is expected to consider the deal at a hearing on Friday.

Navajo VP faces challenge in bid for presidency- Associated Press

The Navajo Nation's vice president is facing a challenge in his bid for the tribe's top elected post.

One of Jonathan Nez's primary election opponents alleges Nez failed to disclose a misdemeanor conviction for drunken driving in 2002.

Nez's campaign acknowledges the conviction but says Vincent Yazzie is wrong in arguing it should disqualify Nez from the race.

Tribal law prohibits Navajo people from seeking the presidency if they've been convicted of a felony or certain misdemeanors within the past five years.

The tribe's Office of Hearings and Appeals has set a Sept. 26th hearing in the case.

Nez's campaign manager, Clara Pratte, says the campaign will file a motion to dismiss Yazzie's complaint.

Another grievance challenging presidential contender Joe Shirley Jr. on term limits was

New Mexico Senators Seek Briefing On Nuclear Safety PolicyAssociated Press

Two U.S. senators from New Mexico are trying to thwart efforts to downsize and reorganize an independent safety panel that provides oversight of some of the nation's highest risk nuclear facilities.

Democrats Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich say they secured language in a spending bill to prohibit the use of any appropriated funds to carry out the proposed reorganization of the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board, unless changes are vetted and authorized by Congress.

The other provision calls for the U.S. Energy Department to brief Congress on new policies that critics say would limit inspections and curtail the board's access to key information at the nuclear sites.

Department officials during a recent hearing denied they were changing their approach to safety and rebuffed calls by board members and watchdog groups to put the policies on hold.

Residents Of New Mexico Compound Ordered HeldAssociated Press

A federal judge has ordered five former residents of a ramshackle compound in northern New Mexico held without bail.

The judge's ruling on Wednesday comes a day after a federal grand jury indicted the group on firearms and conspiracy charges. The indictment accused them of establishing a training camp and firing range and engaging in tactical training at the Taos County compound as part of a plan to prepare for violent attacks on government, military, educational and financial institutions.

A month ago, 11 children living at the squalid compound were taken into custody after local authorities raided the site in search of a missing 3-year-old boy who suffered from medical disabilities. His remains were discovered days later.