THURS: Cowboys For Trump Lawsuit Seeking Cover For Financial Backers Dismissed, + More

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Cowboys For Trump Leaders Seeks Cover For Financial Backers - By Morgan Lee Associated Press

A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit from the jailed founder of New Mexico political group Cowboys for Trump. 

The lawsuit dismissed Wednesday was filed in June 2020 to block or avoid possible financial disclosure requirements for the group. 


Couy Griffin and Cowboys for Trump had sued in response to mounting pressure on the group to register as a political committee in New Mexico. 

Griffin, an elected county commissioner in southern New Mexico, remains jailed following his arrest Sunday in Washington on charges of illegally entering the U.S. Capitol grounds during the Jan. 6 siege by an angry mob of then-President Donald Trump's supporters.

Griffin had returned to Washington after vowing to dispute President Joe Biden's election victory on Inauguration Day and exercise his gun rights. Federal prosecutors argue Griffin should be held without bond until trial, and local and state officials are calling for him to resign from public office.

Attorneys for Griffin in the political finance case could not immediately be reached. 

In the lawsuit on financial disclosures, Griffin and Cowboys for Trump argued that they don't engage in the type of independent political spending that triggers registration in New Mexico as a political committee.

Griffin told The Associated Press last week before his arrest that he had registered Cowboys for Trump as a for-profit business to avoid disclosing information about contributors, claiming they might be harassed or threatened as he has been. The group is not registered with federal or state election regulators.

The New Mexico secretary of state says that Cowboys for Trump qualifies as a political committee, amid its parades on horseback and merchandise sales in support of Trump.

The secretary of state's office prevailed in a June arbitration decision that ordered Cowboys for Trump to register, file expenditure and contribution reports and pay a fine of $7,800. 

Official Says New Mexico Doesn't Expect To Run Out Of Vaccine - By Susan Montoya Bryan, Associated Press

New Mexico health officials say they don't expect to run out of coronavirus vaccine.

Health Department spokesman Matt Bieber said Wednesday that the state orders the maximum number of doses it can and its orders are typically filled.

Nearly 200,000 doses already have been delivered to the state, and more than three-quarters of those have been administered. That puts New Mexico among the top states when it comes to distribution rates.

The state continues to have one of the fastest distribution times in the U.S. It has administered nearly 153,000 shots so far. More than 471,000 New Mexicans have registered for the vaccine.

While health care workers were given first priority, officials with some of the largest hospitals in New Mexico say between 20% and 30% of their medical staff have declined a shot. They couldn't pinpoint exact reasons since taking the vaccine is optional, but noted that some may be waiting to see how it affects people.

State health officials said they expect that hesitancy to decline over time.

Some governors complained last week about the federal government's allocation of doses, and it's unclear how soon President Joe Biden's administration is expected to make changes to the nation's approach when it comes to distribution.

About 70% to 75% of health workers at Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center in Santa Fe have been vaccinated. Chief Medical Officer Dr. David Gonzales said during a briefing Tuesday that side effects were minimal for the first group so more staffers started signing up.

About 80% of health care workers within the University of New Mexico Hospital system in Albuquerque have been vaccinated, officials said.

Under New Mexico's distribution plan, the vaccine is now going to those who are 75 or older as well as people with medical conditions that put them at risk. Those who work in certain front-line essential businesses also are part of the current phase.

The state's death toll surpassed 3,000 on Wednesday as an additional 34 fatalities related to complications stemming from the virus were reported.

Confirmed COVID-19 cases in New Mexico have topped 165,800. More than 880 additional cases were reported Wednesday.

The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested and some people can be infected without showing symptoms.

Navajo Nation Reports 94 New COVID-19 Cases, 11 More Deaths - Associated Press

Navajo Nation health officials on Wednesday reported 94 new COVID-19 cases and 11 more deaths. 

The latest figures bring the total reported coronavirus cases on the reservation to 26,612 with 933 known deaths. Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez says residents still need to remain vigilant and practice health safety measures like staying home. 

Tribal officials say more than 225,000 people on the vast reservation have been tested for COVID-19 and nearly 14,000 have recovered. 

The Navajo Nation extends into New Mexico, Arizona and Utah.

APS Announces Six Semifinalists For Top Post By Nash Jones, KUNM

The largest school district in New Mexico has announced the semifinalists for its top post.  

The Albuquerque Public Schools Board of Education confirmed Wednesday a slate of six candidates in its search for the district’s next superintendent.

APS says that the candidates include three people selected during the first round of the search, which was halted in March due to the pandemic. Two others were identified when the search process relaunched in November. Interim Superintendent Scott Elder is also included in the group.

The list includes an Albuquerque principal, an assistant superintendent from Illinois, an assistant professor from the University of Tennessee and a former superintendent and consultant from New York.

The applications of each of the six candidates are posted for review on the APS website.

According to a district statement, finalists from the group will be announced Feb. 5 following interviews scheduled earlier in the week. Another round of interviews with the finalists, along with a public forum, are planned for mid-March.

The district says community members will be able to submit questions ahead of the forum, which will likely take place online.

APS says its board hopes the new superintendent will be announced by the end of March and start the job July 1.

New Mexico Airman Facing Military Trial In Fatal Car Crash - Associated Press

An Air Force airman in New Mexico is facing a military trial next week in connection with a fatal car crash nearly two years ago. 

Airman 1st Class Calvin Cooper is facing charges of involuntary manslaughter, negligent homicide and reckless driving. Prosecutors say Cooper could get a court martial and prison time if convicted. 

Cooper was the only one charged out of four Kirtland Air Force Base airmen involved in the March 21, 2019, crash that resulted in the death of 39-year-old Angelica Baca of Albuquerque. 

Authorities say Baca was fatally struck by a car as she crossed a street in southeast Albuquerque. 

Cooper was allegedly driving above the speed limit and lost control of his vehicle.

The trial will be held in Kirtland's courtroom and is scheduled to begin Monday.

Jurisdiction was ceded by the Bernalillo County District Attorney's office to the Air Force to conduct a further investigation and prosecute the case.

New Mexico College Teams Finally Returning Home - By John Marshall AP Sports Writer

Teams from the two largest New Mexico universities have finally gotten clearance to return home after starting their seasons on the road.

An amendment to COVID-19 guidelines will allow teams from the University of New Mexico and New Mexico State to start practicing in their home state again, though they still can't play home games.

The basketball teams from the two universities started their seasons on the road due to strict coronavirus measures at home.

The tight restrictions in New Mexico forced the biggest athletic moneymakers at the state's two largest universities to take drastic steps.

New Mexico's football team moved to Henderson, Nevada, and completed a seven-game season this fall. The men's and women's basketball teams relocated to the Texas Panhandle.

New Mexico State's two basketball programs moved to Arizona. The men have had eight games canceled or postponed due to COVID-19 issues and paused all team activities on Jan. 4 due to multiple positive tests within their program. The women's team also had to pause all activity due to a positive test last weekend.

New Mexico Zoo Sends Endangered Wolf Pack To Mexico - By Susan Montoya Bryan, Associated Press

A New Mexico zoo has sent a pair of endangered Mexican gray wolves and their seven pups to Mexico as part of conservation efforts in that country.

Officials at the zoo in Albuquerque said Tuesday that the pack of predators was sent south last week and will eventually be released into the wild after they learn to hunt and survive on their own.

The zoo has partnered with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for decades on Mexican gray wolf recovery efforts. Several wolves born at the zoo have been released into the wild over the years, but officials say this marks its first international pack release.

Officials said the pack was selected for release in part because it has shown to be a strong family.

More Mexican wolves are in the wild now than at any time since they were nearly exterminated decades ago. At least 163 wolves were counted during last year's survey in southeastern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico, marking a nearly 25% jump in the population from the previous year. There are an estimated 30 wolves in the wild in Mexico's Sierra Madre Occidental.

Work is underway on this year's survey, with results expected in the coming weeks.

A subspecies of the Western gray wolf, Mexican wolves have faced a difficult road to recovery that has been complicated by politics and conflicts with livestock. The challenges have been mounting: Ranchers and rural residents say the situation has become untenable as 2019 marked a record year for livestock kills. In the first nine months of 2020, 140 kills were confirmed.

Federal and state wildlife managers have established several food caches in Arizona and New Mexico as a way to keep the wolves from preying on cattle. They also have logged several dozen efforts to scare away wolves to try to prevent more conflicts.

The Fish and Wildlife Service also is in the process of rewriting rules that govern management of the wolves due to a legal challenge by environmentalists. A federal judge has ordered the new rules to be finalized by May 21.

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