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NEW YORK (AP) — A former employee for financier Jeffrey Epstein testified at the sex abuse trial of Ghislaine Maxwell has testified she worked on a daily basis with Maxwell for six years and only admiration for her. The testimony on Thursday came after a New York City jury heard four women detail accusations that they were teens when they became victims of a sex-abuse scheme devised by Maxwell and Epstein. Maxwell's attorneys are expected to make their case that Maxwell isn't the one to blame. The British socialite's trial is moving along more quickly than originally expected. The defense case could last just two days. 


SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Most of New Mexico's congressional delegation has asked Capitol Hill for permission to invest more money into early childhood programs from its resource wealth endowment. Sen. Martin Heinrich and Rep. Melanie Stansbury are sponsoring legislation requesting permission that the change be allowed. The state needs permission from the federal government due to a colonial-era law. There's another hurdle, too. Voters have to approve the measure, which will be on the ballot next fall. If approved by voters and Congress, it would increase withdrawals from the $25 billion fund by 1.25% and beneficiaries including young children. Supporters say it would reduce child poverty.


SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Health officials in New Mexico on Wednesday reported 1,357 new confirmed COVID-19 cases and 25 deaths as the numbers continue to rise. The latest figures pushed the state's totals to 334,332 cases since the pandemic began and 5,516 known deaths. On Tuesday, New Mexico had reported 788 new cases and seven deaths. Health officials said the state usually has around 50 coronavirus-related deaths per week, so the latest numbers are troubling. According to the state's latest weekly report, New Mexico added 7,953 new cases between Dec. 17-13. On top of that, New Mexico on Monday reported its first identified case of the COVID-19 omicron variant in a Bernalillo County woman. 


SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Leading Democratic legislators have introduced a revised state Senate redistricting plan that would preserve recommendations from Native American communities, amid an extended stalemate. Bill sponsor Linda Lopez said Wednesday the new redistricting proposal adopts essential recommendations from Native American leaders intended to shore up Indigenous voting blocs within five districts in the northwest of the state. Republican lawmakers immediately rebuffed the plan. The proposed political map would leave Republican state Sen. Joshua Sanchez of Bosque outside the boundaries of his current district to possibly compete with the top-ranked Senate Republican. Lawmakers are in a special session to redraw congressional and legislative districts.


WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. (AP) — A storm packing powerful winds has knocked out electricity to thousands of homes on the Navajo and Hopi reservations and snarled traffic on major roadways. Navajo Tribal Utility spokeswoman Deenise Becenti said Wednesday's outage affected at least 10,000 homes on the Navajo Nation. Power was restored to most areas by mid-afternoon. Wind knocked over power lines in Shiprock in the New Mexico portion of the reservation. A piece of metal flew off a building and hit a power line in Kayenta. Crews were dispatched as the storm hit overnight to repair power poles and other equipment. Arizona Public Service Co. also experienced outages that affected about 3,000 customers.


ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Albuquerque police officers went to a familiar location, the police department's own headquarters, to respond to a vandalism call early Wednesday. A police spokesperson said officers found "extensive graffiti" covering the southern steps of the building, which also is home to the Bernalillo County Sheriff's Department.  Officer Chase Jewell said the graffiti that included racial slurs and "inappropriate verbiage" was written in red spray paint along the stairs, walls, benches and planters. Jewell said officers arrested one person who was jailed on felony criminal damage charges Jewell said crews were being dispatched to clean up he graffiti.


OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Authorities say one person has died as a powerful storm system swept across the Great Plains and Midwest amid unseasonably warm temperatures, bringing hurricane-force wind gusts and spawning reported tornadoes in Nebraska, Iowa and Minnesota. It's a weather outbreak that experts described as extremely unusual for December. The Iowa State Patrol says a semitrailer was struck by high winds and rolled onto its side in eastern Iowa on Wednesday evening, killing the driver. There were more than 20 tornado reports Wednesday in the Plains states, scattered through eastern Nebraska and Iowa. More than 400,000 homes and businesses were without electricity Thursday morning in Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa and Kansas.


WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. (AP) — The Navajo Nation on Wednesday reported 38 new confirmed COVID-19 cases and seven additional deaths. The latest numbers pushed the tribe's total to 40,615 cases since the pandemic began with 1,569 known deaths. Based on cases from Nov. 26-Dec. 9, the Navajo Department of Health issued an advisory for 58 communities due to uncontrolled spread of COVID-19. Tribal President Jonathan Nez has issued a reminder to get the vaccine or the booster as the Christmas holiday approaches. The reservation covers 27,000 square miles (70,000 square kilometers) and extends into parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah.