Local News

  • Judge: Lawsuit over federal nuke lab cleanup can go forward

    SANTA FE (AP) — A federal judge is allowing part of a watchdog group's lawsuit over cleanup efforts by Los Alamos National Laboratory to move ahead.

    The court has denied a motion by Los Alamos National Security LLC and U.S. Energy Department, a co-defendant, to dismiss Nuclear Watch New Mexico's claims for civil penalties.

    In court documents filed Thursday, U.S. District Court Judge Judith Herrera said both agencies failed to prove violations won't happen again.

    Herrera did, however, drop part of the complaint asking for injunctive relief.

    A spokesman for the laboratory declined to comment Friday.

    NukeWatch first filed a complaint in May 2016.

    The group says the defendants committed 13 violations when fulfilling a 2005 cleanup agreement with state officials.

    The New Mexico Environment Department had argued a new agreement made in 2016 invalidated the 2005 one, making the lawsuit moot.

  • County responds to civil rights suit

    Los Alamos County attorneys filed a motion in federal court June 29 to dismiss a civil rights suit filed by a former resident and political candidate in May.

    Attorneys for the county claimed the plaintiffs in the suit do not have enough evidence to back up their claims against the county that the county violated their civil and First Amendment rights.

    Plaintiff Patrick Brenner, a candidate for county council in 2016, claims in the lawsuit that he was harassed by some members of county council for not supporting a county-wide bond election. His mother, Lisa Brenner is also a plaintiff in the suit.

    In the suit, Brenners’ lawyer, A. Blair Dunn,  said  former Councilor James Chrobocinski pressured Patrick Brenner, allegedly saying he would undermine his candidacy for council if he didn’t support the bond, which Chrobocinski and another council member, Susan O’Leary, were promoting through their political action committee, Los Alamos Futures.

    Patrick Brenner said things came to a head when he learned from the media that an email he sent to council expressing his dissent to council over the recreation bond issue was going to be made public.

  • Schneider celebrated as dynamic leader at LARSO dinner

    Special to the Monitor

    Pauline Powell Schneider celebrated almost 18 years with the Los Alamos Retired and Senior Organization July 6.

    The dynamic leader shared her time, her craft, her wisdom and her kindness throughout that time and her next phase is bittersweet, as she heads to Canada to spend time with her parents and family.

    Mihaela Popa-Simil, a former LARSO employee and current employee of the Los Alamos National Laboratory Foundation, looked back on her time with Schneider, with whom she had created a lifetime bond.

    “Pauline breathes and lives the mission of the organization she works for,” said Popa-Simil. “You don’t need to work there to see this is true, but I was lucky enough to have worked for Pauline and there are many things why I loved working for her.”

    “She cared about me as a person, and I know she cared as much about each and everyone who worked for her and always had everyone’s back,” she said. She knew it was in Pauline’s nature, “a natural responsibility,” and one she knew you can depend on her and that she would not let you down.” 

  • Engelking gets probation for assault charge

    Trenton Engelking, 20, accused of pointing a knife at his mother’s boyfriend during an argument and stealing $3,000 from a man, accepted a plea agreement Wednesday in Los Alamos First Judicial Court.

    Engelking, of Cave Creek, Arizona, pleaded guilty to both counts and was released into a drug treatment program and four-and-a-half years of probation.

    The two charges were the result of two cases against Engelking. The larceny charge stemmed from a June 2016 incident and the aggravated battery charge stemmed from an incident that happened in April.

    In the April incident, the boyfriend called police and when they arrived, told the responding officers Engelking pulled a knife on him. Engelking had already run away into a nearby canyon by the time officers arrived. When officers went looking for the knife, they also found a shotgun with a five-inch barrel in his bedroom. The boyfriend was trying to stop Engelking from arguing with his mother about problems he was having at work, according to the police report.

    In court Wednesday, Engelking’s lawyer, Tyr Loranger, told First District Court Judge Jason Lidyard that the aggravated battery charge was something that happened because Engelking wasn’t on his medication.

  • DisrupTech brings dreams to light

    Scientists from Los Alamos National Laboratory brought their ideas out into the light – some for the first time – at the laboratory’s fourth DisrupTech conference Thursday.

    “DisrupTech is about staff members being able to translate their technology to investors, entrepreneurs and industry,” Mariann Johnston, the communications director for the Richard P. Feynman Center said. 

    The Feynman Center, New Mexico Startup Factor, and New Mexico Angels hosted the event.

    In a small conference room at the Cottonwood on the Green, 11 scientists presented ideas on how to get rid of antimicrobial agents, how to grow living muscle and neurons on chip, a way to accurately and quickly test food for pathogens, and other interesting ideas.

    In the audience were the entrepreneurs, corporate sponsors, leaders and investors who might be able to help them get their ideas off the ground.

    Vi Schweiker was at the conference to see if there was an idea she would like to invest in.

    “One thing I like about living in Los Alamos is all the interesting scientific presentations we get to go to, and I also thought I might be interested in getting to venture capital, and this seemed like a good starting point,” Schweiker said.

  • PARCC results list LAPS in top 4 in 2 categories

    Los Alamos Public Schools ranked among the top four school districts in the state for both math and English language arts proficiency based on results released Thursday by the New Mexico Public Education Department.

    The results were part of the state’s Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career (PARCC) initiative.

    Los Alamos was third overall in math proficiency with a 50.1 percent rating behind Roy Municipal Schools (63.3 percent) and Des Moines Municipal Schools (57.8).

    Among the 89 school districts (not including state charters), these were the only three to have PARCC math proficiency rates of at least 50 percent.

    The district finished fourth overall in English language arts proficiency with a 57.4 percent ranking behind Des Moines Municipal Schools (64.6); Cloudcroft Municipal Schools (62.0); and Melrose Public Schools (58.4).

    “We are pleased that LAPS students are showing progress in math and reading and can see there is still room for improvement,” said Los Alamos Superintendent Dr. Kurt Steinhaus. “Our next step is to analyze the data, set student achievement goals for the year and develop plans for continuous improvement.”

  • Forecasters: Slow-moving storms may result in flash floods

    ALBUQUERQUE (AP) — Forecasters warn that slow-moving storms will cause the potential for flash flooding across western and central New Mexico during afternoons and evenings through this weekend.

    The National Weather Service says the danger is highest downstream of wildfire burn scars such as along U.S. 64 between Ute Park and Cimarron and in urban locations such as the Albuquerque and Santa Fe areas.

    According to forecasters, the most common period for heavy rainfall will likely occur between 1-8 p.m. and expected thunderstorms' slow movement will be capable of producing rainfall rates of up to 2 inches per hour.

  • New Mexico students score higher on reading, math tests

    ALBUQUERQUE (AP) — Less than a third of all New Mexico students are proficient when it comes to reading and math. But state education officials said Thursday that the latest test scores show efforts to raise the bar and support teachers are paying off as thousands more students performed better on their annual assessments.

    The new numbers released by the Public Education Department show more than 31 percent of students tested this spring are proficient or better in reading and more than 21 percent are proficient or better in math.

    That marked jumps of around 2 percentage points from the previous year, and the gains are even more notable than in 2015, when students first began taking the standardized assessments developed by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC.

    Public Education Secretary Christopher Ruszkowski said the improvements shown by New Mexico students are a decade in the making as the state first adopted higher reading and math standards under the previous administration. The bar was raised again when Gov. Susana Martinez's administration began administering the annual assessments.

  • Panel to discuss Oppenheimer

    As part of an ongoing focus on the history of the atomic age, Recursos de Santa Fe will present a program exploring the long and tangled history of the role of J. Robert Oppenheimer as scientific head of the Manhattan Project and the subsequent loss of his security clearance, barring him from the Los Alamos National Laboratory he founded and led.

    The discussion will be at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 8, the anniversary of the atomic bomb drop on Nagasaki. It will be in the La Terrazza Ballroom at La Fonda Hotel.

    Speakers will include Dr. Gregg Herken, who has written extensively on Oppenheimer and has uncovered new information about Oppenheimer’s life in the 1930s; John E. Haynes, expert on the Venona project, which decrypted messages of KGB agents to their operatives in the United States; and legal expert Jim Fitzpatrick, who has worked on getting Oppenheimer’s clearance restored, with no success to date. 

    Valerie Plame, former CIA agent and author on espionage, will moderate the discussion.

  • LA Cares prepares for monthly food distribution at market

    LA Cares will be at the Los Alamos Farmers’ Market Thursday in preparation for this month’s distribution of items from its food pantry to residents of Los Alamos County.

    The organization, which is an independent entity subsisting solely on volunteer help and donations, distributes food once a month for clients. This month’s distribution days are Thursday night and Friday.

    While food boxes are prepared for clients of LA Cares to pick up at Bethlehem Evangelical Lutheran Church (BELC), arrangements can be made for deliveries to homebound clients.

    The organization has plenty of volunteer opportunities during this week’s distribution. Beginning Thursday morning, from 10-11:30 a.m., representatives said they need a strong person, preferably one with access to a pickup truck, to move flats of canned goods and other large items from the LA Cares storage sites in Los Alamos to BELC on North Road.

    Volunteers are needed Thursday between 1:30 p.m. and 4 p.m. to help pack food boxes with canned goods and other items at BELC; from 3:45-5 p.m. to help inventory and move heavy flats and boxes to the storage closet; and from 6-8 p.m. to help facilitate distribution of the food boxes at BELC.