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


SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico regulators have denied a request by the state's largest electric provider to unload its shares in one of the Southwest's few remaining coal-fired power plants by transferring them to a Navajo energy company. The New Mexico Public Regulation Commission voted unanimously Wednesday to reject the plan. Commissioners said Public Service Co. of New Mexico didn't specify how the lost power would be replaced. They also had concerns about investments that the utility sought to recover through bonds that would be paid back by customers over a 25-year period. The utility could appeal the decision.


NEW YORK (AP) — A former office for financier Jeffrey Epstein has testified at Maxwell's sex abuse trial she didn't witness misconduct by Maxwell during the six years she worked with her. The testimony by the first defense witness 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 is projected to last just a few 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 at least five people died when a powerful storm system swept across the Great Plains and Midwest, spawning hurricane-force winds and likely tornadoes in Nebraska, Iowa and Minnesota. Officials say a 65-year-old man was killed Wednesday night when a 40-foot tree fell on him outside his home in southeastern Minnesota. The Iowa State Patrol says a semitrailer was struck by high winds and rolled onto its side in eastern Iowa, killing the driver. The Kansas Highway Patrol says three people died in traffic accidents due to blowing dust. More than 20 unconfirmed tornadoes were reported Wednesday, mostly in eastern Nebraska and Iowa. Hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses remain without power Thursday.