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Latest New Mexico news, sports, business and entertainment at 3:20 a.m. MDT

  • Santa Fe Community College sees big enrollment drop

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Santa Fe Community College has seen the bottom fall out of its enrollment thanks to the novel coronavirus. The Albuquerque Journal reports enrollment at the college declined 28% in one year. Officials say the number of students fell from 5,337 students last year to 3,841 this semester. College President Becky Rowley says most of the reduction was due to the cancellation of fitness classes and a large reduction in art courses. In addition, many of the school's part-time students decided not to return. Part-time students make up about 80% of the college's total enrollment. College administrators had expected enrollment to plummet since the early days of COVID-19.

  • States face pressure to ban race-based hairstyle prejudice

RIO RANCHO, N.M. (AP) — A growing number of U.S. states are facing pressure to ban race-based discrimination against hair texture and styles. Activists recently presented a proposal to New Mexico state lawmakers that would outlaw employers and schools from discriminating against Black and Native American women's hairstyles. Earlier this year, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee signed a measure that made Washington the sixth state to pass a version of the CROWN Act. The act's name stands for Create a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair. According to the Crown Act campaign, California, Colorado, Maryland, New York, New Jersey, and Virginia have already passed similar laws.

  • Audit probes New Mexico hospital that was overrun by virus

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — A special audit of management contracts is raising concerns about weak financial controls, executive compensation excesses and potential profiteering at a county-owned hospital on the edge of the Navajo Reservation. The hospital became overwhelmed by the COVID-19 pandemic. The state auditor's office on Tuesday released results regarding Rehoboth McKinley Christian hospital in Gallup and its management and service contracts dating to 2016. State officials say the review shows that a contract with hospital management company Healthcare Integrity circumvented the hospital's code of conduct and conflicts of interest policy. The audit report was referred to state prosecutors and the IRS.

  • New Mexico education officials report 5 coronavirus cases

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — A week after in-person learning began in a small number of public schools, New Mexico officials are reporting five confirmed cases of COVID-19 in schools, including two students. The cases were confirmed among students and staff on Monday. Around 50 New Mexico school districts and charters have begun allowing students in kindergarten through fifth grade to attend school in person, two days per week. Some of the state's largest districts plan to keep school online only for the rest of the semester. At least one of the teachers who tested positive for COVID-19 Monday works in a county where no in-person learning is taking place.

  • Ex-Los Alamos employee sentenced to probation in China case

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Federal officials say a former Los Alamos National Laboratory worker has been sentenced to five years of probation and fined $75,000 for making false statements about involvement with China. The U.S. Attorney's Office for New Mexico said 68-year-old Turab Lookman of Santa Fe was sentenced Friday by a federal judge after pleading guilty in January. The office said Lookman in 2018 denied to a counterintelligence officer that he had been recruited or applied for a job with a Chinese recruitment program involving foreign technology and intellectual property. Lookman cannot leave New Mexico while on probation.

  • Water shortages in US West likelier than previously thought

CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) — Models released by the U.S. government suggest a future with less water may arrive sooner than previously projected for the seven states that rely on the Colorado River. After a relatively dry summer, government scientists project Lake Powell and Lake Mead are 12% more likely to fall to critically low levels by 2025 than they projected in the spring. Climate change and prolonged drought have compelled some cities and farms to conserve water to secure the river long term, but it remains overtapped. The projections could complicate already-fraught negotiations between Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah, Wyoming and Mexico over the river's future.

  • New Mexico residents asked to aid research on bird die-off

LAS CRUCES, N.M. (AP) — Researchers at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces have invited residents to share photos or written descriptions via their cellphones on a recent mass die-off of migratory birds in the state. The Las Cruces Sun-News reported that Professor Martha Desmond said Monday that reports from around the state indicate migratory species are dying at unprecedented numbers. Residents have reported birds dying in groups and living birds exhibiting lethargic and unusual behavior such as not eating, flying low or gathering on the ground. A mobile app through the Southwest Avian Mortality Project allows the public to contribute to the research.

  • Wildfires put Republican meteorologist candidate in hot seat

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Political clashes about the role of climate change in catastrophic West Coast infernos are spilling into a U.S. Senate race in New Mexico, where a Republican meteorologist is campaigning for an open seat. U.S. Congressman and Democratic Senate nominee Ben Ray Luján accused rival Mark Ronchetti on Monday of engaging in dangerous climate denialism. Ronchetti responded Monday with an acknowledgement that climate change needs to be addressed and that both "human activity" and drought are responsible for the vicious wildfires. In a visit to California, Trump ignored the scientific consensus that climate change is playing a central role in historic West Coast wildfires.