- ALBUQUERQUE-AEROSPACE CENTER
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Albuquerque officials are cutting ties and moving on from plans for for what they had hoped would be a flagship addition to New Mexico’s burgeoning aerospace industry. The city announced Friday that the aerospace company behind the planned Orion Center never signed a lease agreement that was prepared months ago. Albuquerque chief operating officer Lawrence Rael says the company hasn’t followed through on its commitments. Plans at one point called for building a large campus that could have employed as many as 2,500 people. The parent company of Group Orion is TGI and faced financial and legal trouble. Company officials did not immediately return a message seeking comment.
NEW YORK (AP) — An aspiring musician, a young British model, a struggling middle school dropout and an impressionable high school student were the four key witnesses to testify against British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell in her sex-abuse trial. The four women’s testimony in Manhattan federal court offered sordid details about allegations Maxwell groomed them to participate in sexual massages with Epstein. Three of the four women testified using pseudonyms or only their first names to protect their privacy. The defense says Maxwell is taking the fall for Epstein, who died by suicide in 2019. The government’s case finished Friday. Defense attorneys are expected to put on their case next week.
- REDISTRICTING-NEW MEXICO
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico’s Legislature has pushed forward with Democratic-sponsored redistricting plans to draw new political boundaries for three congressional seats and the state House. The state Senate voted 25-15 Friday in support of a congressional redistricting plan from Democratic state Sen. Joseph Cervantes that bolsters the Hispanic majority to 56% in New Mexico’s southern 2nd District. It divides a conservative, oil-producing region into multiple districts. The proposal now moves to the Democrat-led House for consideration. Cervantes says his plan brings together rural and urban communities in all districts to better reflect the overall composition of the state. Republican are unified in their opposition.
- PANDEMIC RELIEF-NEW MEXICO
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — The New Mexico House has passed a $500 million bill that would direct federal pandemic relief funding to broadband internet improvement projects and road infrastructure. The largest spending categories in the bill passed Friday include $123 million for internet infrastructure and $142 million for roads. Additional spending items were added to the bill, including $50 million for a rural hospital. While a location for the hospital has not been determined, some legislators lean toward building it in Valencia County. The legislation also includes $2 million for teaching scholarships. The state is trying to fill about 1,000 teacher vacancies. Legislators say the teacher shortage is acute.
- EDUCATION-STUDENT ENROLLMENT
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Classrooms are open and children are back in school, but New Mexico’s enrollment woes are far from over. The Public Education Department said Friday that fall enrollment is flat. With schools primarily in remote learning last year, thousands of families pulled their kids out of school or delayed enrolling them. Data indicates that fewer students are homeschooling than last year but that more are homeschooling than before the pandemic. K-12 public school enrollment dropped 4% during the pandemic. That prompted a decrease in public school funding. In Albuquerque, the drop led to a $35 million deficit this year.
- VIRUS OUTBREAK-NAVAJO NATION
WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. (AP) — Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez says the tribe’s health care system is already being tested. He warned fellow Navajos on Friday that the tribe cannot afford to have another large surge in new COVID-19 cases. Tribal health officials reported an additional 61 cases Friday and one more death related to COVID-19. Nez said people should not let their guard down during the holiday season given that the virus can spread quickly during family gatherings. He urged people to take precautions, such as wearing a mask in public, practicing social distancing, limiting travel and washing hands often.
- SHOOTING-TODDLER KILLED
RIO RANCHO, N.M. (AP) — Authorities are investigating the shooting death of a toddler at the home of a Santa Fe police officer. The officer’s 2-year-old son was fatally shot Wednesday morning in Rio Rancho. Investigators collected evidence, including a firearm, and conducted interviews. Rio Rancho Police Capt. Joel Holt said in a statement Friday that there was no indication that the officer’s duty weapon was involved. Holt called the shooting tragic. He did not say what led to the shooting, only that the investigation was ongoing and that no determination about charges had been made.
- VIRUS OUTBREAK-NEW MEXICO
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — The University of New Mexico is requiring all employees and students to get a COVID-19 booster shot by Jan. 17. The university said Wednesday the new requirement applies to all individuals eligible for booster shots but that some religious and medical-based exemptions may be granted. The university said individuals who are eligible for booster shots are those who received their second vaccine dose of Pfizer or Moderna on or before June 15, or their single dose of Johnson & Johnson on or before Oct. 15. UNM President Garnett Stokes said the university’s vaccination rates for students, faculty, and staff are well over 90 percent.