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Today's News

  • Ex-New Mexico state senator is convicted in corruption trial

    SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — A former New Mexico state senator was convicted Thursday on five counts in a corruption trial over accusations he used his position as a lawmaker to profit from the sale of a state-owned building.
    Prosecutors accused Phil Griego of using his elected position and acumen as a real estate broker to guide the sale of the building in downtown Santa Fe through approvals by a state agency, the Legislature and a public buildings commission without properly disclosing his financial interest.
    Griego, 69, resigned from the Legislature in 2015 at the close of a Senate ethics investigation.
    He said he did nothing wrong in earning a $50,000 commission from buyers of the property.
    Defense attorneys emphasized that many high-ranking state government officials backed the transaction — some with knowledge of Griego's involvement.
    Several lawmakers testified that they were left in the dark or mislead by Griego on the matter.
    Prosecutors with the office of Democratic Attorney General Hector Balderas pursued Griego on six felony counts and two misdemeanors.
    Jurors found Griego, a Democrat, guilty of violating ethical principles of public service, bribery and fraud against the state and unlawful interest in a public contract.
    He was acquitted of three charges — defrauding business partner, perjury and violating financial disclosure act.

  • UC Board of Regents approves LANL bid submission

    The University of California regents Thursday approved a plan for the 10-campus system to bid on the Los Alamos National Laboratory’s management and operations contract.
    Board of Regents member and former U.S. Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security Ellen Tauscher and UC Vice President for National Laboratories Kimberly Budil, submitted a joint statement on the board’s vote shortly after it was taken.
    “Today’s action by the UC Board of Regents authorizing the University to submit a bid for the management and operating contract of Los Alamos National Laboratory is further evidence of UC’s ongoing commitment to the stewardship of this great scientific and technological enterprise,” they said.
    UC has been involved in the managing the lab for 75 years. Since 2005, it’s latest role is being a partner with Bechtel, BWXT Government Group Inc., and URS.
    The partnership is known as Los Alamos National Security LLC. In 2015, the Department of Energy decided not to extend LANS’ contract, citing several lapses in safety. UC has until Dec. 11 to submit a bid. LANS’ contract expires Sept. 30 of next year.
    According to the National Nuclear Security Administration’s website, 39 other potential contractors may be interested in submitting a bid.
    UC officials made sure to include UC’s management experience with the lab as a selling point in its bid.

  • Nuclear oversight included in defense spending bill

    ALBUQUERQUE (AP) — A measure aimed to bolstering oversight of the nation's nuclear weapons complex has been passed by Congress as part of a $700 billion defense spending plan.
    U.S. Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich of New Mexico say their amendment to the massive military budget bill addresses the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board. The independent panel oversees two national laboratories in the state and the federal government's only underground nuclear waste repository.
    The measure requires board members to report to Congress each year about whether the White House's budget request for the board is enough to fund reviews deemed necessary to ensure safe operations at the U.S. Energy Department sites.
    Supporters say the board's role is critical given a series of safety lapses at Los Alamos National Laboratory and a planned uptick in nuclear weapons work.

  • National lab scientists complete critical plutonium experiment at test site

    The first of 10 critical experiments using plutonium was successfully completed at the Nevada Test Site this year by researchers from Las Alamos and Lawrence Livermore national laboratories, LLNL announced this week.

    This was the first successful criticality experiment in 40 years. Another nine total configurations are planned at the site before March 2018, according to Nolan O’Brien, a public information officer at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

    “The series is ongoing,” O’Brien said Thursday. “We will continue to test new configurations and bring them to critical.”

    For the test, researchers layered stacks of plutonium and brought them to "critical," the point at which fissile material can sustain a nuclear chain reaction.

    “We were right at critical, and we kept it together for an hour,” Catherine Percher, a nuclear engineer at LLNL who is leading the experimental series, said. “It was amazing to see the constant, slow increase in the neutron population. If we had too much mass, we would have to correct for that in our models. But we achieved a near-perfect benchmark.”

    The experiment was one in a series that aims to help ensure plutonium operations continue to be conducted safely, according to O’Brien.

  • Rivera remains in jail following hearing

    SANTA FE – A Los Alamos woman accused of slashing her sister’s boyfriend and leaving him for dead will remain in jail, according to a ruling by a state district judge on Tuesday.

    Andrea Rivera, 30, was arrested Nov. 4 after police found Cory Kershner, 28, severely injured from a wound to his abdomen at the apartment Kershner shared with Rivera’s sister, Sara Cooper. Cooper suffered a laceration on her hand.

    State District Judge T. Glenn Ellington, during the hearing, noted past cases involving Rivera where charges against her alleging violence – in one case stabbing her mother with a pair of scissors – had been dismissed or lowered to less serious offenses.

    “I count 12 different cases… She continued with a pattern of behavior. I’m also concerned about the failure to prosecute. Hindsight is perfect 20/20,” Ellington said.

    She is charged with two counts of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon, two third-degree felonies, stemming from the alleged attack on Kershner and her sister. She is also charged with a fourth-degree felony of tampering with evidence. Each third-degree felony carries a jail sentence of three years in jail and $5,000 fine; a fourth-degree felony carries an 18-month jail sentence and $3,000 fine.

  • Jury deliberates in New Mexico corruption trial

    SANTA FE (AP) — A jury in New Mexico is weighing whether to convict a former state senator on corruption charges for his role in the sale of a state-owned building.
    Jury deliberations began Thursday at a state district court in Santa Fe in the trial against ex-Sen. Phil Griego.
    State prosecutors say Griego used his position as a Senator to help authorize the 2014 sale of a State Parks building in downtown Santa Fe without properly disclosing his business relationship with the buyer. Griego earned a $50,000 commission on the sale as a real estate agent for the owners of a luxury inn.
    Griego says he broke no laws. Testifying in court, he expressed regret for not announcing his personal financial involvement in the sale. Prosecutors say he pressured witnesses during the trial.

  • Homebuyer Assistance Program launches today

    Income-qualified homebuyers needing assistance to make a down payment on a home are invited to apply for Los Alamos County’s new Homebuyer Assistance Program starting today.

    The county has contracted with Los Alamos Housing Partnership to oversee the program, which is funded by the County Council for $150,000 for the first year.

    The housing program is designed to help income-qualified homebuyers purchase a home by providing a loan for a down payment using county funds, without adding to monthly mortgage costs.

    The homebuyer makes no payments until the home is sold or vacated. Homebuyer education and counseling will also be provided. The minimum down payment loan amount has been established at $8,000 with a maximum loan amount of $25,000. The average down payment loan amount is anticipated to be approximately $15,000.

    The Housing Partnership lists its Board of Directors as Karl Hjelvik, president; Denise Terrazas, vice president; Carol Clark, treasurer; Craig Wehner, secretary; and members Charles Rennick, Lesley Harleson and Katherine Korkos.

  • Honor, Duty and Sacrifice
  • Powell ends bid for New Mexico State Land Office; Garcia Richard to run

    Staff and Wire Report

    ALBUQUERQUE (AP) — Democrat Ray Powell is ending his bid for New Mexico land commissioner after finding out he has a rare auto-immune condition that affects the communication between nerves and muscles.

    Powell made the announcement Wednesday on social media, saying there's a good probability he can live an active life with treatment but that if he were elected, he wouldn't be able to sustain the intense effort required by the office.

    Powell has endorsed Democrat Stephanie Garcia Richard, a state lawmaker from Los Alamos. Garcia Richard confirmed with the Los Alamos Monitor she will run for the state land commissioner, forgoing running for her third term as state reporeseatative for Dist. 43.

    Democratic Sen. George Munoz of Gallup and Garrett VeneKlasen with the New Mexico Wildlife Federation are also running.

    Powell served as land commissioner from 1993-2002 and again from 2011-2014. He narrowly lost the 2014 general election to Republican Aubrey Dunn.

    The land commissioner oversees management of millions of mineral and surface acres.
     

  • Missing cat, best friend

    She was so much a part of Imogene Dison’s house and heart, there was no need to take a photograph of the medium-sized white cat with the bluish-green eyes.

    But the cat, a 14-year-old “gift” from a grandson’s former girlfriend, may have slipped out of the house on Nov. 5.
    After a visitor came into the house and then left, the cat disappeared from the home on Pueblo Street across from Los Alamos High School a week ago Sunday, she said.

    “I’m afraid she’s gone. I can’t sleep at night. I get up three or four times a night to call her, but she hasn’t found her way home,” said Dison.

    Dison said she would be grateful if her cat was found. And returned.

    She is hoping other people will look out for the cat and report back to her.

    “She is my very best friend and companion, and I’m her’s,” Dison said.

    The cat’s name is Zenn, but the cat may not respond to her name.

    The cat is extremely friendly, Dison said, and has lived her entire time with Dison without leaving the house.

    “She’s never wanted to leave it. I’m afraid she’s gone down the canyon,” next to Dison’s house, she said.