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Local and State News

Latest New Mexico news, sports, business and entertainment at 11:20 a.m. MDT


RIO RANCHO, N.M. (AP) — Sarah La Morena, an African American woman raised by a Mexican immigrant family, has generated excitement with her interpretation of regional Mexican music. Born in Southern California but raised in the Mexican state of Zacatecas, 23-year-old Sarah Palafox has sparked many emotions following a series of viral videos on social media. One clip of Palafox singing with mariachis spawned a half of million views on Instagram. But Palafox also has been to the target of a racist backlash online over her love of Mexican music. Palafox told The Associated Press she is set to release an album and is focusing on the positive reaction to her music.


NEW YORK (AP) — Two former U.S. health officials tell AP that Vice President Mike Pence in March directed the nation's top disease control agency to use its emergency powers to effectively seal the borders against immigrants and asylum seekers over the objections of its scientists. Three people with direct knowledge of the situation say a top Centers for Disease Control and Prevention doctor had refused to comply with the Trump administration directive. Then Pence ordered CDC Director Robert Redfield to approve the order. So far it has caused nearly 150,000 children and adults to be expelled from the country.


RIO RANCHO, N.M. (AP) — A Republican candidate in a closely watched U.S. House race in Southern New Mexico has amended a campaign finance report after receiving a donation credited to a woman who had died. Yvette Herrell's campaign says the $2,800 donation from Joanne Harvard in June was due to a software glitch after her son and widowed husband also donated. Harvard died in April 2017. Her son, Jeff Harvard of the Harvard Petroleum Company, said it was his fault and not done on purpose. The campaign later attributed to the correct family member. Herrell is locked in a tight race with Democratic U.S. Rep. Xochitl Torres Small.


SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — A federal judge has rejected an initial request to ease pandemic-related occupancy limits for in-person instruction at private schools in New Mexico, in a setback for a complaint supported by the U.S. Justice Department. In a Friday order, U.S. District Court Judge William Johnson rebuffed the complaint from the father of a seventh grade prep school student in Albuquerque who claimed restrictions aimed at social distancing are more severe at private schools than public ones. Johnson noted that some private schools have managed to reboot in-person teaching despite a 25% room occupancy limit, and that 7-12 grade public school students are still cut off from in-person learning.


LAS VEGAS (AP) — A new PBS film on the Latino voting bloc examines the rise of potentially the largest electorate of color in the U.S. The VOCES/PBS documentary "Latino Vote: Dispatches from the Battleground" is scheduled to begin airing on most PBS stations Tuesday and seeks to investigate how Latino voters see the 2020 Election. The film is told using a series of immersive dispatches from the battleground states of Nevada, Texas, Florida, and Pennsylvania. It follows left-leaning progressives and Latino evangelicals. Director Bernardo Ruiz says she wanted to focus directly on the Hispanic organizers and voters who may determine the nation's political future.


SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Economic analysts say that New Mexico is risking a public backlash and possibly overlooking recovery opportunities by not conducting an economic analysis of its pandemic-related health restrictions. State and independent analysists told a panel of legislators Friday that consumer confidence is key to the state's recovery as time goes on. Staff at the budget and accountability office of the Legislature said the state should consider incorporating more economic indicators into its pandemic policy decisions and build an economic dashboard to better track progress of economic recovery. The administration of Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham is taking a cautious approach to lifting health restrictions and reopening the economy.


LAS CRUCES, N.M. (AP) — A New Mexico magistrate court judge has ruled there is probable cause to charge a former Las Cruces police officer in the choking death of a Mexican American man. The Las Cruces Sun-News reports Third Judicial District Court Judge Casey Fitch ruled this week there was enough evidence to order former Las Cruces Police officer Christopher Smelser to stand trial for second-degree murder. Smelser is accused of the Feb. 29 chokehold death of Antonio Valenzuela after he fled from a traffic stop. Smelser's attorney, Amy L. Orlando, said Smelser had been trained to use the hold and the murder charge was a political move.


FARMINGTON, N.M. (AP) — Body camera footage released by officials has shown that a New Mexico man who was shot and killed by a sheriff's deputy did not have a firearm as he claimed to after committing a crime spree. The San Juan County Sheriff's Office on Thursday released the video showing the fatal shooting of suspect Marco Benito. He was killed by police on Aug. 31 after he reached his right hand into a bag during a confrontation. An investigation by the San Juan County Regional Officer Involved Shooting Taskforce determined that the deputy used his weapon in accordance with sheriff's office's policy.