- New Mexico House leader resigns in face of corruption probe
SANTE FE, N.M. (AP) — The majority leader of the New Mexico House has resigned while investigators continue to probe evidence of possible racketeering, money laundering, kickbacks and violations of a law governing the conduct of state lawmakers. Democratic Rep. Sheryl Williams Stapleton of Albuquerque said in a resignation letter Friday that she "unequivocally" denies the allegations against her but decided she must devote her time and energy to fully defend herself. House Speaker Brian Egolf released the letter Friday along with a joint statement with other Democratic leaders who said that "given the weight of the allegations" her resignation "is appropriate and in the best interest of the Legislature and the state."
To get shots in arms, governments turn to money in pocketsMillions of people in the U.S. who haven't gotten the COVID-19 vaccine could soon have a new reason to roll up their sleeves: money in their pockets. President Joe Biden is calling on states and local governments to join those that already are handing out dollars for shots. New York, the nation's biggest city, started doling out $100 awards on Friday. The president and health officials are betting that the financial incentive will spur hesitant people to get the shot just as the contagious and potentially more powerful delta variant sweeps through parts of the country and as the number of daily inoculations falls sharply from its April high.
- EVICTION MORATORIUM-NEW MEXICO
EXPLAINER: How New Mexico limits evictions, provides reliefSANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Tenant protections in New Mexico don't end with the expiration of a federal freeze on evictions July 31. It is unclear when the state Supreme Court will end the New Mexico moratorium on evictions. The state has $284 million in federal funds available for rental and related assistance. At the same time, the flow of money to those in need has been slow, with about $17 million in emergency rental and utility assistance distributed so far. The high cost of rental housing is less of a problem in New Mexico than nationwide.
- PEOPLE-BOB ODENKIRK
Bob Odenkirk says he had a small heart attack, will be backALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — "Better Call Saul" star Bob Odenkirk says he "had a small heart attack" but will "be back soon." The 58-year-old actor took to Twitter Friday to make his first public statement since collapsing on the show's New Mexico set three days earlier. Odenkirk says he's going to be OK thanks to the doctors and nurses who knew how to fix his blockage. He says he's going to "take a beat to recover, but will "be back soon." Odenkirk has been nominated for four Emmys for playing the title role on the show that was shooting its sixth and final season.
- RACIAL INJUSTICE-NEW MEXICO
Indigenous leaders urge top New Mexico official to resignALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A broad coalition of Indigenous leaders in New Mexico made new demands for a top state educational official to resign based on undisclosed comments that they view as disparaging toward Native Americans. At a rally and news conference convened by the All Pueblo Council of Governors on Friday, Native American leaders and allied civil rights advocates condemned comments made at least two years ago by Rachel Gudgel. Gudgel is the director of the Legislative Education Study Committee. The committee provides education research and guidance to state legislators. Gudgel apologized this week and acknowledged that the past comments were insensitive, insulting and harmful.
- LEGISLATOR-CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION
Governor says lawmaker must go if charged in kickback probeSANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham says Democratic state Rep. Sheryl Williams Stapleton should be prepared to resign if she is indicted in a probe into allegations of racketeering. The leading state legislator has connections to a company that had contracts with the school district where she worked. Lujan Grisham spoke Thursday as authorities also investigate possible money laundering, kickbacks and violations of a law governing the conduct of state lawmakers. Williams Stapleton could not be reached for immediate comment. She has been suspended without pay along with 11 other school district employees. Lujan Grisham says she is "horrified."
Advocates end work with US to pick asylum-seekers in MexicoSAN DIEGO (AP) — Two organizations say they are ending cooperation with the Biden administration to identify the most vulnerable migrants waiting in Mexico to be admitted to the United States to seek asylum. The withdrawals of the International Rescue Committee and HIAS from a consortium of groups helping the government is a blow to an effort that was always intended to be temporary. Advocacy groups were choosing a limited number of migrants for U.S. authorities to exempt from a coronavirus-related ban on migrants seeking asylum at the border. Former President Donald Trump imposed the public health order and Biden has largely kept it in place.
- INDIAN HEALTH SERVICES-NAVAJO MEMBER
Navajo member new Indian Health Service top medical officerPHOENIX (AP) — The chief medical officer for the Navajo Area Health Indian Service based in Arizona has been named to the same position for the national service. Dr. Loretta Christensen is an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation. She began her career with the Indian Health Service as a general surgeon and has been chief medical of the Navajo Area service since 2014. She previously served as chief medical officer at the Gallup Service Unit in New Mexico and has been the acting IHS chief medical officer since May. IHS Acting Director Elizabeth Fowler announced Christensen's appointment Friday to the service serving 2.6 million American Indians and Alaska Natives.
- VIRUS OUTBREAK-NAVAJO NATION
Navajo Nation reports 13 new COVID-19 cases and 1 more deathWINDOW ROCK, Ariz. (AP) — The Navajo Nation on Thursday reported 13 new COVID-19 cases and one additional death. The latest numbers brought the total number of COVID-19 cases on the vast reservation to 31,351 since the pandemic began more than a year ago. The number of known deaths now is 1,374. The Navajo Nation recently relaxed restrictions to allow visitors to travel on the reservation and visit popular attractions like Canyon de Chelly and Monument Valley. The reservation is the country's largest at 27,000 square miles and it covers parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. While cases are down, Navajo leaders are urging residents to continue wearing masks and get vaccinated.