Latest New Mexico news, sports, business and entertainment at 3:20 a.m. MDT
- US agency denies petition to strip protections from songbird
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has denied a petition that sought to end federal protections for the western yellow-billed cuckoo. The agency issued its finding this week, saying taking the songbird off the threatened and endangered species list isn't an option at this time. American Stewards of Liberty, a nonprofit group that advocates for private property rights, had argued that the bird's status needed to be reviewed because it had sufficient habitat. Biologists said new data shows habitat loss and fragmentation continue to be an issue for the cuckoo. Recent mining projects in central and southern Arizona are also affecting the species.
- Ambassador: Time is right for new arms control agreement
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — The Trump administration has sketched out a framework that it hopes will avoid a three-way arms race. Ambassador Marshall Billingslea, the special presidential envoy for arms control, spoke with The Associated Press about negotiations with Russia and efforts to bring China to the table while touring nuclear research labs and production sites in the United States. Last week's visit comes as the facilities ramp up modernization of the country's multibillion-dollar nuclear enterprise. He acknowledged that the proposed treaty would be ambitious but that the time is right for a new agreement to curb the buildup of nuclear warheads.
- New Mexico winds down Trump's $300 unemployment supplement
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — The state Public Education Department is reporting three new COVID-19 cases, including one student who was in a school building in McKinley County. Education officials on Wednesday continued to release information about school-related infections as some elementary schools resume in-person learning. State health officials announced 119 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 statewide and two related deaths. There have been more than 27,000 cases statewide and 832 deaths since the start of pandemic. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has announced a cooperative effort to guard against fraud and abuse at nursing homes in cooperation with the attorney general and state auditor.
- New Mexico GOP wants ethics complaint tossed
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico GOP leaders are asking the State Ethics Commission to publicly dismiss an ethics complaint filed against one of its members. Democratic House candidate Karen Whitlock says she filed the complaint Monday against rival Rebecca Dow. The complaint says Dow has failed to disclose conflicts of interest in contracts between an educational nonprofit she founded and state child welfare agencies. House GOP leader Jim Townsend calls the complaint "absurd" and says it threatens public trust in the newly-formed ethics commission. Republicans say the commission can dismiss the complaint outright. A commission spokesperson said Monday that it cannot acknowledge receiving complaints, and won't rule on any complaints against legislators between now and Nov. 3.
- Ex-CEO pushes back on audit of hospital near Navajo Nation
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — The former CEO of Rehoboth McKinley Christian hospital in Gallup is challenging the findings of a special audit of finances and contracts at the taxpayer-supported hospital in Gallup. In a statement Wednesday, former hospital executive David Conejo and his attorney called the audit report "shoddy" and said it "misrepresents the true financial picture" at Rebohoth under Conejo's tenure. The independent audit was commissioned initially by McKinley County and released by the state auditor's office. It alleges that Conejo's hospital management company Healthcare Integrity circumvented proper oversight. Conejo condemned the audit as "grossly inaccurate" and denied its assertion that his salary was not approved by the hospital board.
- 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.
- Family of Army soldier alleges foul play involved in death
GALLUP, N.M. (AP) — The family of an Army tank crewman from New Mexico who died at Fort Hood, Texas, says he messaged his fiance that he was concerned about three men who didn't like him and that something was wrong shortly before his death. The Army said Pvt. Corlton L. Chee collapsed during fitness training on Aug. 28. He died two days later. Carma Johnson, Chee's cousin and his family's spokesperson, told the Gallup Independent Monday that Chee was being targeted and did not want to go to the training that morning because he felt that something was going to happen. They are alleging foul play, which Fort Hood officials deny.
- 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.