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Local News

  • Microsoft launches $25M program to use AI for disabilities

    By MATT O'BRIEN, AP Technology Writer

    Microsoft is launching a $25 million initiative to use artificial intelligence to build better technology for people with disabilities.

    CEO Satya Nadella announced the new "AI for Accessibility" effort as he kicked off Microsoft's annual conference for software developers. The Build conference in Seattle features sessions on cloud computing, artificial intelligence, internet-connected devices and virtual reality. It comes as Microsoft faces off with Amazon and Google to offer internet-connected services to businesses and organizations.

    The conference and the new initiative offer Microsoft an opportunity to emphasize its philosophy of building AI for social good. The focus could help counter some of the ethical concerns that have risen over AI and other fast-developing technology, including the potential that software formulas can perpetuate or even amplify gender and racial biases.

    The five-year accessibility initiative will include seed grants for startups, nonprofit organizations and academic researchers, as well as deeper investments and expertise from Microsoft researchers.

  • US oil prices top $70 a barrel for the first time since 2014

    DALLAS (AP) — U.S. oil prices crashed through the $70-a-barrel mark for the first time since late 2014, foreshadowing costlier gasoline and consumer goods.

    It's not clear that pricey crude will slow down the economy, however. The stock market moved higher in midday trading Monday, as investors bet that companies and consumers can cope with the increase.

    Benchmark U.S. crude is up 74 cents, more than 1 percent, to $70.46 a barrel on the futures market in New York. The international standard, Brent crude, is up again, to nearly $76.

    Analysts are citing concern that Iranian oil exports will fall if the U.S. withdraws from a 2015 deal that eased sanctions on Iran in exchange for limits on its nuclear program. And U.S. stockpiles of crude are down.
     

  • In the Lab: Constructing a unique laser application for research

    From his wallet, Paul Dowden produces a photo of his daughter, then about four years old. She is perched in the driver’s seat of a 1,400 horsepower, alcohol-fueled dragster he built from scratch.

    Dowden has applied his skillful hands to cars for decades. He has worked as an auto and diesel mechanic and as a hot rod enthusiast, doing his own fabrication, electronics and engine and transmission building.

    That same tinkering streak serves him well today as he oversees all pulsed laser deposition (PLD) operations for the

    Center for Integrated Nanotechnologies (CINT) at Los Alamos. Innovation drives his contributions to a range of projects, from chemical lasers to the R&D 100 award-winning flexible superconducting tape.

    The inspiration to apply his talent for building hot rods to building lasers happened during freshman orientation at Indiana’s Vincennes University.

    Dowden walked out of the school’s mechanical engineering department mid-orientation and happened upon the laser and electro-optics department. One professor had worked at Los Alamos National Laboratory, which led to Dowden’s discovery of the Department of Energy-funded Antares Laser Research program, a large laser system built to achieve fusion.

  • NEA-NM’s nod confuses Dist. 43 candidates

    Democratic candidates running for House District 43 had to clear up confusion last week over which candidate received the endorsement by the National Education Association of New Mexico.

    On May 1, Christine Chandler sent out an email touting the endorsement of the NEA of New Mexico in her race against Pete Sheehey for the seat being vacated by Rep. Stephanie Garcia.

    Even though the NEA-NM has endorsed Chandler, a subsequent email showed the largest educational lobbyist group in the state had actually endorsed both candidates.

    The group in the endorsement letter did not mention Republican candidate Lisa Shin.

    The confusion may have come from the fact the original letter didn’t divulge that the other candidate was also being endorsed.

    According to an email sent by Charles Goodmacher, dated May 2, the NEA said the group believed either candidate would be a good selection to advance the priorities of the NEA-NM.

    Goodmacher, the government and media relations director for the NEA, wrote: “ … in the case of your district we were delighted that both answered your questionnaires very well, and NEA-NM EdPAC recommends either one of you for the general election.”

  • Drones a growing issue for fire fighters

    Drones are becoming more of a problem for firefighters with the U.S. Forest Service as the remotely manned vehicles have become more affordable and popular.

    The service reported that a drone grounded air tankers trying to fight the Chicoma Peak Fire this week near Española, forcing crews to use other strategies to extinguish the fire, which grew to 42 acres over a two-day period before being contained and extinguished.

    “Drones over fires risk firefighter safety, interrupt our air operations and compromise our ability to suppress wildfires,” Forest Supervisor James Melonas said. “Through great efforts, firefighters were able to make good progress to contain the Chicoma fire the last two days, but as we get hotter and drier, the impacts of stopping air operations during a fire will increase significantly.”

    Though they’re small in size in comparison to aircraft the Forest Service uses to fight fires, they are still capable of taking down an aircraft.

  • League forum hosts local candidates

    Five Democratic candidates for Los Alamos County Council and two Republican candidates for county sheriff squared off in the first League of Women Voters Primary Candidate Forum Thursday night at the University of New Mexico-Los Alamos.

    A crowd of 110 attended the forum, which featured council candidates David Izraelevitz, Sara Scott, James Robinson, Randall Ryti and Tim Morrison, and sheriff candidates James Whitehead and Hugh Rich.

    Council candidate Quentin Dimick was invited to be a part of the forum but was unable to attend.

    Each candidate was given three minutes for opening remarks before the forum was opened up to questions from the audience.

    Starting in order of placement on the ballot, Izraelevitz, who has been on the council for seven years, said he’s “essentially running on my record” after mentioning improvements such as Smith’s Marketplace, the Nature Center and Teen Center and old Ashley Pond.

    “So a lot of things have happened that I’m very proud of and very happy with during my tenure,” he said.
    Scott, who came to Los Alamos from Kansas about 30 years ago, said upon her arrival she “fell in love with the community.”

    She and her husband were married at Lookout Park in White Rock.

  • Scientists successfully test new nuclear reactor in Nevada

    LAS VEGAS (AP) — Scientists successfully tested a new nuclear reactor in Nevada that could power future trips to outer space.

    NASA and the Department of Energy on Wednesday announced the Kilopower fission reactor performed better than expected during a 28-hour, full-power test completed last month inside a vacuum chamber at the Nevada National Security Site, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported .

    "Really everything ran perfectly during the test," said Kilopower lead engineer Marc Gibson.

    The test marked the end of five months of work on the "space-qualified nuclear reactor" at the site, about 85 miles (137 kilometers) northwest of Las Vegas.

    The goal of the project is to develop a safe, compact and reliable source of electricity for future manned and unmanned missions to the moon, Mars and other places beyond the Earth's orbit.

    "As we are looking to explore the moon and eventually Mars, we are going to need a large power source not dependent on the sun, especially if we're going to live off the land," said James Reuter, NASA's acting associate administrator for the Space Technology Mission Directorate in Washington, D.C.

  • Dem Congress hopeful facing questions amid misconduct case

    ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A former New Mexico Democratic official is calling for a Democratic congressional candidate to withdraw from the race for allegedly failing to address sexual misconduct claims during her tenure as head of the state party.

    Former New Mexico Democratic National Committee Platform committeewoman Nicole Bagg plans to detail her accusations during a news conference Thursday and demand that Deb Haaland quit her quest for an open congressional seat in central New Mexico.

    The claim is yet another sexual misconduct case rocking the Democratic Party of New Mexico. Other accusations have already forced another chairman to resign.

    Haaland served as chairwoman of the Democratic Party of New Mexico from 2015 to 2017. She's seeking to become the nation's first Native American woman elected to Congress. Her campaign plans to issue a statement later Thursday.
     

  • N3B completes important contract phase

    The company hired by the Energy Department to clean up legacy waste at the Los Alamos National Laboratory said it is now ready to begin what it was hired to do.

    Tuesday, the contractor, N3B, announced that it had finished with the contract’s transition phase.

    Since December, N3B was busy coordinating with the Department of Energy, inspecting cleanup areas, establishing security and safety protocols and hiring workers as part of the transition phase.

    The Department of Energy hired contractor N3B to clean up waste generated by the laboratory through 1999 in December 2017. N3B has hired 310 people for the $1.39 billion cleanup contract.

    Over 230 of those workers have already been working on legacy cleanup at the Los Alamos National Laboratory or have had prior work experience at LANL.

    “We put together a great team, with a vast amount of experience in cleanup from around the DOE complex,” said Nick Lombardo, N3B president and program manager. “We bring that nationwide knowledge to bear at LANL. I am proud of my management team for the work they have done to get us to this point and ready to start the important work of EM-LA (Environmental Management field office).”

  • Clark: Assault prevention is responsibility of all

    Jess Clark believes that when it comes to preventing sexual assaults we all should be involved.

    That was the message Clark, the education and prevention manager at Solace Crisis Treatment Center in Santa Fe, gave Friday morning to a crowd of approximately 40 people at the Bystander Intervention Workshop held at the University of New Mexico-Los Alamos.

    The workshop was a collaborative effort between Solace Crisis Treatment Center and the UNM-LA grant from the Office on Violence Against Women (OVW).

    UNM-LA’s Dr. Kristy Nadler was awarded the grant from the OVW at the U.S. Department of Justice. The OVW grant provides $300,000 over three years to organize effective sexual misconduct prevention, education and response for the UNM-LA community.

    The message Clark brought to the group was that “we all have a part to play in sexual assault prevention,” and that it starts by “intervening in small moments, like jokes or off-hand comments.”

    Clark said putting a stop to those jokes and off-hand comments is the best starting point, and that when people help stop those actions they can actually “help change the picture of would-be perpetrators and to show them that what they’re doing isn’t OK.”