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Latest New Mexico news, sports, business and entertainment at 5:20 p.m. MDT


SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico labor officials says they have started paying out supplemental federal unemployment benefits of $300 a week. The Workforce Solutions Department announced Friday that it has begun processing supplemental benefits for the five-week period starting on July 26. That is when a larger $600 weekly federal supplement expired. Recipients for the new payments must already qualify for state unemployment benefits of at least $100 a week. They could receive up to $1,500 in a separate payment from their standard benefits.


SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Journalists have captured searing, intimate images of active and dangerous wildfires burning California, due in large part to a state law that guarantees press virtually unfettered access to disaster sites. That's not the case everywhere as rules about media access vary by state, and even by government agency. Some states only allow journalists behind fire lines with escorts, while others rarely grant permission due to safety concerns. Wildfires are raging in several states in the western U.S. Deadly fires have forced tens of thousands of people from their homes in Oregon, Washington and California.


CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) — Advisories issued by health and air quality agencies in southern and northern Nevada warn of elevated and unhealthy levels of smoke from wildfires in the West. Health officials suggested staying indoors, limiting outdoor activity and keeping windows closed. Clark Count officials issued a smoke advisory for Friday through Sunday and said the small dust particles and other pollutants in the smoke can aggravate respiratory conditions such as bronchitis and asthma or heart disease. Clark County includes metro Las Vegas. In northern Nevada, the Washoe County Health District issued an air pollution alert due to multiple wildfires in northern California. Washoe County includes Reno.


GALLUP, N.M. (AP) — A proposal to require mandatory sentences for people caught breaking the Navajo Nation coronavirus curfew is awaiting consideration by the Navajo Nation Council. Currently, judges have the option of sentencing offenders to 30 days in jail or with a fine worth up to $1,000. One judge in Chinle, Arizona issued a warning to a curfew offender. Under the new guidelines, first-time rule-breakers of the 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew will pay $500 fines. Second-time culprits will pay $1,000 fines. Third-time wrongdoers will be subject to $1,000 fines and prison sentences of up to 30 days.


ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico officials say the key to boosting the economics of outdoor recreation will require educational initiatives for school children as well as improved access and a new workforce. State Forester Laura McCarthy, Outdoor Recreation Division Director Axie Navas and others touted the state's potential for growing its outdoor industry during a panel discussion Thursday. They said efforts are underway to develop what they called a cradle-to-career outdoor education plan that will begin with pre-kindergarten programs. Federal data shows the outdoor recreation industry supports more than 33,000 jobs in New Mexico and nearly $1.2 billion in income.


RIO RANCHO, N.M. (AP) — The former director of Africana Studies says the University of New Mexico retaliated against him for demanding that his program be elevated to a department. An attorney for Charles Becknell Jr. filed a whistleblower lawsuit in state district court last month, alleging the school removed him from his position after he complained about the program's status. The school says Becknell remains head of the program. The lawsuit says after Africana Studies got state funding to become a department, Becknell was told the university would look for a director for the new department. The school declined to comment on the lawsuit.


ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A portable toilet in Albuquerque fell victim to another kind of whiff after strong winds blew it along Route 66. A virtual video this week shows the porta-potty rolling down a busy intersection of the Mother Road as curious motorists looked on. Severe gusts appeared to have dislodged the mobile toilet and forced it down a journey through a road that once connected Chicago to Los Angeles. The traveling portable toilet was seen by a number of motorists and passengers. No injuries were reported and it was unclear if anyone was inside. Route 66 was decommissioned as a U.S. highway in 1985.


SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — A prominent lobbying group to the firearms industry has endorsed Republican candidate Mark Ronchetti for U.S. Senate in New Mexico. Ronchetti announced the National Rifle Association's endorsement on Thursday in a tweet. The former television meteorologist is running against Democratic U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján to succeed Sen. Tom Udall, who is retiring. Ronchetti campaign spokesman Jeff Glassburner said the first-time political candidate is a strong supporter of 2nd Amendment rights and also supports instant background checks. Luján says he favors comprehensive gun safety laws that get "weapons of war off the street" and voted in 2019 to broaden federal background checks to more private and online sales.