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


BERNALILLO, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico's state climatologist says the fingerprints of climate change are evident in the persistent drought that's plaguing the American Southwest. Dave DuBois says dry areas are becoming drier due to a semi-permanent high-pressure system over the West that has become stronger in recent years. He also warned during an online briefing Thursday that the region should be prepared for more warm temperatures and less precipitation this fall and winter. In Nevada, forecasters continue to track a record-setting dry streak for Las Vegas as their colleagues in Arizona hold out hope for a break from record heat next week.


ZUNI PUEBLO, N.M. (AP) — A hand-carved figure held sacred by a Native American community in New Mexico has been returned to the tribe by an Ohio auction house. Cowan's Auctions announced Thursday that the 15-inch carving of a Zuni Pueblo war god was returned in late August after being discovered in an estate collection that had been consigned to the auction house. The wooden war god carvings are ceremonially brought to shrines on tribal lands where they are left to return to the elements. Over the years, many have been illegally removed and have made their way to museums and private collections. Zuni Pueblo has recovered more than 100.


SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico's Democratic senators have placed the judicial confirmation process for two U.S. District Court vacancies on hold until after the Nov. 3 election. They say the president has politicized the process, so they'll wait until the voters have spoken. Using their home-state consultation authority, Sens. Martin Heinrich and Tom Udall confirmed Thursday that they have interrupted the vetting of the two lifetime appointments. They say they took the action even before the death of liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, in response to a White House news conference where President Donald Trump rallied his base with talk of his judicial appointments.


SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Facing opposition from six states that rely on the Colorado River for water for their cities and farms, Utah asked the federal government to delay a fast-track approval process for building an underground pipeline that would transport billions of gallons of water to the southwest part of the state. Utah cited the need to consider roughly 14,000 public comments on the proposed Lake Powell pipeline project. The project would deliver water 140 miles from Lake Powell in northern Arizona to the growing area surrounding St. George, Utah. In a recent letter, officials in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Wyoming warned of litigation if the project proceeds.


SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Voters across New Mexico have submitted nearly 250,000 absentee ballot requests with especially strong demand among Democrats for alternatives to in-person voting amid the pandemic. State election regulators on Thursday also said initial vote tallies could extend beyond Election Day if voters wait until late in the cycle to mail or hand deliver ballots. Fewer than 8,000 absentee ballots were cast statewide in the 2016 presidential election. In other pandemic developments, the governor cited a slight increase in the rate of spread for COVID-19 statewide and more substantially signs of spread in areas including Albuquerque and Sandoval County.


CARLSBAD, N.M. (AP) — A former oil and gas well pad has been converted into a campground for visitors to Carlsbad Caverns National Park and Guadalupe Mountains National Park in New Mexico. The new campground will comprise 174,240 square feet of land, with five RV spots and six spaces for tents. Access to the campsite is free and available first-come, first-served. Doug Neighbor, superintendent at the Carlsbad Caverns National Park, says the camping facilities will provide an essential service to the hundreds of thousands of annual visitors to the area.


SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Child care providers say a government agency formed in July has helped them stay afloat despite the coronavirus pandemic. The Early Childhood Education and Care Department recently expanded child care subsidies to groups left behind under previous rules, such as remote workers and students. This week, eligibility for child care assistance was extended to graduate students. Co-payments also have been waived for months now. Providers and parents say elevating the new agency to a cabinet-level department has led to better communication and more efficiency, resulting in improved services for children.


ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Federal prosecutors say an Arizona man has pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter in connection with a car crash in New Mexico and is facing a federal prison sentence. They say 28-year-old Maroquez Clah of Red Valley entered his plea Monday in U.S. District Court in Albuquerque. Clah remains on release pending a sentencing hearing that hasn't been scheduled yet. Prosecutors say Clah is facing a prison term of up to eight years followed by a term of supervised release to be determined by the court. Clah was arrested on Feb. 14 on an indictment charging him with involuntary manslaughter. Prosecutors say Clah was driving under the influence of alcohol and was involved in a crash that killed another man.