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

  • SPACEPORT-WHISTLEBLOWER LAWSUIT

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — The former chief financial officer for the New Mexico Spaceport Authority has filed a whistleblower lawsuit, alleging that he was forced to resign after raising concerns about financial malfeasance. Among the numerous allegations, Zach DeGregorio said top officials committed securities fraud by refinancing spaceport gross receipts tax bonds under false pretenses. He also said secret meetings were held between state officials and Spaceport America's most notable tenant — Virgin Galactic. The civil complaint lists numerous officials, including Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, Economic Development Secretary Alicia Keyes and members of the spaceport authority board. The officials have not responded to questions about the allegations.

  • NAVAJO-HARDSHIP ASSISTANCE

WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. (AP) — Navajo President Jonathan Nez has approved $557 million in virus relief funds for individual tribal members. Nez signed the legislation late Tuesday to send $2,000 checks to Navajo adults and $600 to children under 18. Tribal lawmakers voted last week to tap some of the $2.1 billion the tribe received in federal coronavirus relief funding for hardship assistance. The money is expected to benefit about 350,000 tribal members. The payments will be sent automatically to those who applied for relief funds under a previous round of hardship assistance. The tribe plans to use the remaining funds for infrastructure.

  • RANSOMWARE ATTACK-BERNALILLO COUNTY

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Bernalillo County says it has discovered a suspected ransomware attack directed at its computer systems, prompting the county government to take affected systems offline and to close most county buildings to the public on Wednesday. According to a county statement, public safety agencies such as the sheriff's office and the fire and rescue department were operating normally by using unspecified ""backup contingencies" but the county jail canceled inmate visits Wednesday. County spokesman Tom Thorpe said the suspected attack meant that county officials couldn't access the affected systems. Thorpe said he was unaware of any demand being received in connection with the suspected attack.

  • AP-US-JEFFREY-EPSTEIN-MAXWELL-TRIAL-SKETCH-ARTIST

NEW YORK (AP) — Elizabeth Williams was the eyes of the public throughout Ghislaine Maxwell's monthlong sex-trafficking trial. With the general prohibition of cameras in federal court, the courtroom artist estimates she drew around 100 sketches for distribution by the wire service. Williams has been rendering courtroom scenes in pen and pastel since 1980 and has drawn for The Associated Press since 2004. At one point, Maxwell drew the courtroom artists themselves, but that didn't faze Williams who says she prefers to keep a wall between herself and the subject. Williams calls herself the "substitute camera," forgoing any artistic license.

  • VIRUS OUTBREAK-NAVAJO NATION

WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. (AP) — The Navajo Nation reported 35 new confirmed COVID-19 cases Tuesday, but no additional deaths for at least the second consecutive day. The latest numbers pushed the number of cases on the Navajo Nation since the pandemic began to 41,779 including 87 delayed reported cases. The death roll remains at 1,590. Tribal President Jonathan Nez says the omicron variant was detected in the Utah portion of the Navajo Nation this week. Based on cases from Dec. 17-30, the Navajo Department of Health has issued an advisory for 42 communities due to uncontrolled spread of the coronavirus. The vast reservation covers 27,000 square miles (70,000 square kilometers) and extends into parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah.

  • EDUCATION LAWSUIT-NEW MEXICO

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico's plan to address the needs of underserved Indigenous students hasn't been shared with tribal leaders or the public despite promises by state officials that they would do so last year. Indigenous education advocates had expected to provide feedback on the plan last October. The New Mexico Public Education Department promised to release the draft to the public on Dec. 1 to provide time for public comment before the legislative session that begins in mid-January. But that never happened and Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has not set a date for the release of the plan. The state is under a court order to address public education system deficiencies.

  • NEW MEXICO UTILITY MERGER

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — The state's largest electric utility is appealing a recent decision by regulators to reject a proposed merger with a U.S. subsidiary of global energy giant Iberdrola. PNM Resources announced that it filed its notice of appeal with the New Mexico Supreme Court on Monday. Company officials reiterated in a statement that they believe the multibillion-dollar merger with Avangrid would be in the best interest of the state. The Public Regulation Commission in its recent decision pointed to concerns about Avangrid's track record elsewhere when it came to reliability and customer service.

  • ELECTION 2022-NEW MEXICO-CONGRESS

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Republican Alexis Martinez Johnson says she's making another run for New Mexico's 3rd Congressional District. The northern New Mexico district has been a Democratic stronghold since it was created in the 1980s, but Martinez Johnson said during her announcement Monday that she was optimistic about the new boundaries that resulted from the redistricting process. Parts of Chaves, Eddy, Lea counties will now be part of the district, and said she would reach out to boost voting in McKinley County and on the Navajo and Jicarilla Apache nations. An environmental engineer, Martinez Johnson ran unsuccessfully for the congressional seat in 2020.