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Pandemic leaves tribes without US recognition at higher riskAs COVID-19 disproportionately affects Native American communities, many tribal leaders say the pandemic poses particular risks to tribes without federal recognition. Lacking a political relationship with the United States means those tribes are denied federal coronavirus relief funding for state, local and tribal governments. Without federal funding, tribal leaders say they are less-equipped to prevent infections and curb the significant economic toll the pandemic has had on their communities. Tribes seeking federal recognition also face a long, expensive process that makes the designation often feel out of reach.


Outside investigators approved to help Albuquerque policeALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A federal judge has approved an order proposing the creation of an outside team to assist the Albuquerque Police Department with investigations into officer-related use of force cases. The Albuquerque Journal reported that U.S. District Judge James Browning signed off on the order after a federal court hearing on Friday. The U.S. Department of Justice and the city of Albuquerque proposed hiring an administrator and an undetermined number of investigators to assist the police department’s internal affairs force division in cases where police officers use force causing injury, hospitalization or death. The city hopes to have an administrator in place in May to start hiring the team. 


Navajo Nation reports 23 new coronavirus cases, four deathsWINDOW ROCK, Ariz. (AP) — The Navajo Nation has continued on a downward trend in the number of daily coronavirus cases. Tribal health officials on Friday reported 23 new cases of COVID-19 and four additional deaths. The latest numbers bring the total to 29,710 cases since the pandemic began. The death toll is 1,165. A curfew remains in effect for residents on the vast reservation that covers parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah to prevent the spread of the virus. Health facilities on the reservation and in border towns are conducting drive-thru vaccine events or administering doses by appointment.

New Mexico coach Paul Weir stepping down at end of seasonALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Paul Weir is stepping down as New Mexico’s basketball coach at the end of the season. In a statement posted Friday on the program’s website, athletic director Eddie Nunez said the school and Weir mutually agreed to part ways after the season. The Lobos — 6-14 overall and 2-14 in the Mountain West — will play their regular-season finale at Colorado on Wednesday and take part in the Mountain West Tournament in Las Vegas, starting March 10. Weir is in his fourth season as coach of New Mexico. He has a 58-61 overall record with the Lobos, including a pair of 19-win seasons.


Southern New Mexico man gets prison term in kidnapping caseALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A 28-year-old southern New Mexico man has been sentenced to over 12 years in prison for a kidnapping conviction stemming from a 2019 armed abduction involving an attempted robbery. The U.S. Attorney’s office said Joshua Neil Bowen of Alto was among five people who pleaded guilty to kidnapping in the case. The office said the kidnapping victim was abducted from a travel center in Mescalero and first taken to Chaparral, New Mexico, near the U.S.-Mexico border and then to El Paso, Texas and finally to Las Cruces. According to police, that’s where the victim was rescued by police after being held at a motel before managing to call his son for help. 


No artwork damaged in flooding at Hispanic cultural centerALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Officials at the National Hispanic Cultural Center say no artwork was damaged after two waterlines froze and broke in mid-February. The building sustained some minor flooding during a cold snap that hit Albuquerque. Crews were able to clean up water near the center’s front entrance and inside the Visual Arts building within hours. The director of the Art Museum and Visual Arts program says staff moved artwork to other areas within the center. None of it was damaged. The artwork now is being returned to its original location. 


Infections among inmates boost New Mexico’s COVID case totalSANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico health officials on Friday confirmed an additional 659 COVID-19 infections. The figure marks the highest daily case count in more than three weeks. Nearly 30% of the new cases involved state inmates. Officials earlier this week expressed optimism about downward trends in the overall spread of the virus, with all of the state’s counties reporting positivity rates below 10%. However, they acknowledged that the seven-day rolling average of daily cases remained above targets. In all, New Mexico has reported nearly 185,000 cases since the pandemic began. The death toll stands at 3,685, with more than a dozen deaths reported Friday.

New Mexico governor signs bill to preserve abortion rightsSANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has signed a bill to shore up abortion rights in New Mexico. The legislation was signed Friday after previously winning final approval from the Democratic-led Legislature. It overturns a dormant 1969 ban on most abortion procedures and marks a defiant counterpoint to efforts in some conservative states. Had the old statute been left in place, New Mexico’s ban on most abortion procedures would have gone into effect if the U.S. Supreme Court eventually overturns the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling. In signing the bill, the governor said a woman has the right to make decisions about her own body.