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Federal officials are warning that expanding drought conditions coupled with hot and dry weather, extreme wind and unstable atmospheric conditions have led to explosive fire behavior in the Southwest. U.S. Forest Service Chief Randy Moore cited the extreme conditions Friday in announcing a pause on prescribed fire operations on all national forest lands while his agency conducts a 90-day review of protocols and practices. Large wildfires burning in New Mexico were fanned Friday by gusty winds, and crews battled blazes in Texas and Colorado. Weather forecasters had issued red-flag warnings due high fire danger for a large swath that stretched from Arizona through New Mexico to Texas.

More than half a billion dollars in federal and state funds will go to nearly 30 water systems in New Jersey, serving about 6 million residents, or about two-thirds of the state’s population. New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, New Jersey Investment Bank and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency officials unveiled the low-interest loan investment Friday at a water treatment plant in Moorestown, New Jersey. The combined federal and state funding of $588 million in low-interest loans will cover an array of projects, including lead service line replacement, new filters and water main replacement.

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Many migrants crossing the border from Mexico are oblivious to a pending momentous court ruling on an emergency legal provision that denies them a chance to seek asylum on the grounds of preventing the spread of COVID-19. The Justice Department hopes to avoid last-minute scrambling over the weekend. It has asked a federal judge to rule by Friday on whether to keep the provision in place. A judge in Lafayette, Louisiana, has said he would decide by Monday, when the public health authority known as Title 42 is scheduled to expire.

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The stock market’s slump this year briefly pulled the S&P 500 into what’s known as a bear market Friday, before a late rally put the index in the green. Rising interest rates, high inflation, the war in Ukraine and a slowdown in China’s economy have caused investors to reconsider the prices they’re willing to pay for a wide range of stocks. A bear market is a Wall Street term for an index that's fallen 20% or more from a recent high. At Friday's close, the S&P 500 was down 18.7% from the record high set on Jan. 3.

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