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


ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — National Park Service officials say dozens of ancient alligator juniper trees have been illegally cut down from El Malpais National Monument in western New Mexico. They're asking for the public's help to stop the cutting of what is a rare type of tree found in the Southwest. Alligator junipers grow very slowly and are known for unique furrowed bark that resembles alligator skin. The initial discovery of the illegal tree cutting was reported in 2020. But park law enforcement have been monitoring the area and over the past year have reported additional illegal cutting of the trees. The latest incident happened in October.


SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — The U.S. Navy is sending a 20-member medical team to New Mexico to help the San Juan Regional Medical Center cope with a staff shortage for treating COVID-19 patients. The military team is being deployed at the request of the Federal Emergency Management Agency and is scheduled to arrive at the Farmington hospital on Sunday. Officials say New Mexico is one of seven states where military teams are deployed or soon will. According to a U.S. Army North spokeswoman, Dr. Nicole Wieman, the teams "are there to decompress the burden of treating COVID patients."


LAS CRUCES, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico State University is offering anyone with a campus parking citation the chance to get out of their jam with some peanut butter. University officials said they will accept at least 80 ounces of peanut butter _ the equivalent of five-six small jars _ as payment for a citation for parking without a permit. Donations will be accepted through Friday at the parking and ID card services office on the Las Cruces campus. But donated peanut butter will only cover one citation per person. It does not apply to other parking citations and violations. All the peanut butter will go to campus food pantry Aggie Cupboard.


SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico insurance regulators are reducing a key component in rates for workers' compensation coverage that should help employers spend less, starting next year. The Superintendent of Insurance Office on Monday announced a 5.5% reduction in "loss costs" for insurance policies that are renewed or issued on or after Jan. 1, 2022. Workers' compensation is a no-fault system of insurance aimed at protecting workers and employers financially from on-the-job accidents as well as job-related illness. Insurance regulators said that compensation claims are being filed less frequently than in the past, reflecting a commitment to safety.


NEW YORK (AP) — A longtime pilot for Jeffrey Epstein says he never saw evidence of sexual activity on planes as he shuttled his boss and others including ex-Presidents Bill Clinton and Donald Trump to destinations for nearly three decades. Lawrence Paul Visoski Jr. testified Tuesday at the sex trafficking trial of British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell. She's charged with helping the financier find teenage girls to sexually abuse. The 59-year-old Maxwell has pleaded not guilty to sex trafficking charges. Her lawyer says she's being made a scapegoat for Epstein's bad behavior. Visoski, the trial's first witness, began his testimony on Monday. Epstein killed himself at a federal jail in Manhattan in August 2019.


ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico oil regulators are watching closely as increased seismic activity is being reported in the Permian Basin along the Texas state line. State officials are now requiring additional review of pending permits for wastewater injection in certain areas. More reporting and monitoring also could be required and, if things worsen, the state could limit how much wastewater is injected. State officials say the protocols were developed in partnership with New Mexico Tech and after getting feedback from the oil and gas industry. There are some areas in Texas where regulators already have imposed limits on injection rates at disposal wells.


TAOS, N.M. (AP) — A Rio Rancho man has died while snowboarding at a popular northern New Mexico ski resort. Taos County Sheriff Jerry Hogrefe confirmed Monday that 28-year-old Jario Hernandez died over the weekend at Sipapu Ski and Summer Resort. Hogrefe says his office is still completing an investigation of the Saturday incident. But so far, there is nothing to indicate the resort was at fault. Initially, Hogrefe reported that Hernandez had hit a tree. Resort officials say the ski patrol arrived within minutes of receiving reports of a snowboarder in distress and administered CPR. Paramedics then took over and transported Hernandez to a hospital but he was pronounced dead.


WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. (AP) — The Navajo Nation on Monday reported 27 more COVID-19 cases, but no additional deaths. The latest daily virus figures brought the tribe's totals to 39,403 cases and 1,542 know deaths since the pandemic began. Tribal health officials had reported 38 new cases and two deaths on Sunday. Based on cases from Nov. 12-25, the Navajo Department of Health on Monday issued an advisory for 65 communities due to uncontrolled spread of COVID-19. Tribal President Jonathan Nez says some public health experts believe the newly discovered omicron variant is already in the U.S. Nez has again called for everyone in Indian Country to get fully vaccinated or get a booster shot and wear masks.