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Today's News

  • Pentagon to take over security clearance checks

    WASHINGTON (AP) — The Defense Department is poised to take over background investigations for the federal government, using increased automation and high-tech analysis to tighten controls and tackle an enormous backlog of workers waiting for security clearances, according to U.S. officials.

    The change aims to fix a system whose weaknesses were exposed by the case of a Navy contractor who gunned down a dozen people at Washington's Navy Yard in 2013. He was able to maintain a security clearance despite concerns about his mental health and an arrest that investigators never reviewed.

    Problems had earlier surfaced with former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, who now lives in Russia to avoid charges for disclosing classified material, and Army Pvt. Chelsea Manning, who went to prison for leaking classified documents, triggering calls to update the antiquated system to include more frequent criminal and financial checks of workers who have security clearances.

  • The Latest: Boy Scouts ranch: Fire destroys 12 structures

    EAGLE NEST, N.M. (AP) — Authorities say a wildfire burning in a forested area of northeastern New Mexico is threatening nearly 300 homes.

    The blaze on Friday had charred more than 25 square miles (66 square kilometers) since igniting a day earlier. The flames were spreading quickly through grasslands and ponderosa pine thanks to hot, dry and windy conditions.

    The communities of Ute Park and Cimarron have been evacuated. Roads are closed throughout the area. Officials have reported that 12 empty buildings at the Boy Scouts' Philmont Ranch have been burned.

    Forecasters say there's little relief expected and that the massive smoke plume generated by the Ute Park Fire has risen thousands of feet into the air.

    12:10 p.m.

    Gusty winds are fanning a wildfire that has burned 38 square miles of forest in western New Mexico, blowing embers past containment lines and starting spot fires.

    Officials report there are containment lines around 34 percent of the fire as of Friday but say firefighters are being challenged by having to both stop growth of the main fire while patrolling for spot fires.

    The human-caused fire started May 22 and is east of Reserve on the Gila National Forest.

    Gusty winds are expected to continue through Friday evening as relative humidity remains at low levels.

  • Atencio, Rees named LAHS Athletes of the Year

    To be a great athlete requires more than just having skill on the playing field. It also requires a person to be a great teammate and to come to every practice and game ready to help their teammates at every opportunity. 

    Those are the attributes that make Ashley Atencio and Ben Rees stand out at Los Alamos High School and are a big reason they were named the Los Alamos Sports Association’s Athletes of the Year at Tuesday night’s Honors Convocation. 

    Atencio was the starting goalkeeper for the girls’ soccer team, which advanced all the way to the state championship game, finishing as the second-place team in Class 5A. She made 148 saves last season and played in 23 games for the Hilltoppers, recording one shutout. 

    What makes her season even more impressive is that she wasn’t originally scheduled to be the starting goalkeeper for the team, but stepped into the starter’s net when incumbent starter Anna Lemke was unable to play while she recovered from a knee injury suffered during the previous basketball season. 

    It was Atencio’s first action in goal since her sophomore season, when she played a total of 70 minutes without allowing a goal. 

  • Los Alamos basketball plays in NM Games

    In a Memorial Day weekend tradition, the Los Alamos High School boys’ basketball team participated in the New Mexico Games in Albuquerque Saturday and Sunday. It is the beginning of a summer schedule that will prepare the players for the next high school season, and offers a chance to play games against some of the best teams in the state. 

    On Saturday, the team began the 4A/5A/6A boys’ tournament against Belen at Del Norte High School. Last high school season, the Eagles were the state champions in Class 5A, defeating LAHS’ district rival Española Valley in the state championship game. 

    Though Belen High School coach Andrew Dunnell does not coach the team during the summer, he was in attendance at Saturday morning’s contest. 

    When he walked into the gym, LAHS head coach Mike Kluk greeted him and gave him a handshake, saying, “I have to shake the hand of the champ.” He congratulated Dunnell on the fantastic season, and especially on the performance against the Sundevils, before allowing Dunnell to head to the stands to enjoy the game. 

  • Fee increases planned for Bandelier National Monument

    LOS ALAMOS (AP) — Bandelier National Monument is raising its vehicle and entrance fees.

    The National Park Service says starting June 1 that entrance fees will be $15 per person. The new vehicle fee is $25, while the Bandelier annual park pass will be $45.

    Each fee change represents a $5 increase in cost.

    Bandelier is among more than 100 National Park Service sites that charge an entrance fee. Three hundred have no entrance fee.

    Bandelier National Monument features canyon trails, wooded hikes and ancient dwellings that are embedded into rocky cliffs.

    The fee changes at Bandelier is set to go into effect the same day that access to backcountry at the monument and two other National Park Service sites in the state will be suspended amid severe drought and heightened concerns over potential fire dangers.
     

  • Bandelier National Park, Valles Caldera to close for fire restrictions

    Fire danger in the region has prompted park officials to close all backcountry areas of Bandelier National Monument and Valles Caldera National Preserve starting after midnight Thursday.

    The area is now under stage 3 fire restrictions.

    The main public areas of each national park will remain open, officials said Thursday.

    Fire officials said the restrictions are being put in place to help the National Park Service provide for public safety and reduce fire risk.

    Bandelier National Monument will close all wilderness and backcountry areas. Areas that will remain open include the Bandelier Visitor Center in Frijoles Canyon, Ponderosa and Juniper Campgrounds, Frijoles Canyon from Alcove House to the Upper Falls, Tsankawi, Frey Trail, Tyuonyi Overlook Trail and Burnt Mesa Trail.

    Valles Caldera National Preserve will close access to its backcountry and suspend all fishing, equestrian, hiking and biking activities. The Valle Grande entrance station and bookstore will remain open to the public, and ranger-led tours and hikes will be offered in the park’s cabin district.

    Several criteria are used to determine when to implement fire restrictions, including fire activity levels, current and predicted weather, fuel moisture, and the availability of firefighting resources.

  • DOE Under Secretary Dabbar tours LA legacy waste cleanup

    Department of Energy Under Secretary for Science Paul Dabbar toured legacy waste cleanup sites in Los Alamos last week and met with the employees at Los Alamos National Laboratory last week, according to lab officials Tuesday.

    Accompanied by Environmental Management Los Alamos Field Office Manager Doug Hintze, Dabbar stopped at Technical Area 54, where legacy waste is stored and remediated prior to shipment offsite, and Mortandad Canyon, where a temporary measure is underway to stop the migration of a chromium plume until a permanent remediation strategy is found.

    Representatives from EM-LA’s cleanup contractor N3B explained waste storage configurations at Technical Area 54’s Area G and plans to recover domes where waste containers are stored.

    At Mortandad Canyon, Dabbar was briefed on the origin of the chromium plume and progress toward implementing the interim measure, which is in place along the plume’s southern boundary.

    At the EM-LA field office, Dabbar participated in talks about the recent contract transition for the Los Alamos Legacy Cleanup Contract and spoke to employees at an all-hands meeting.

  • Dems outnumber Republicans in early voting

    Early and absentee voting counts released by the Secretary of State’s office Tuesday show Democrat voters facing several competitive primary choices on their ballots outnumbered Republicans in Los Alamos County and the state.

    In Los Alamos, 710 Democratic voters had cast ballots, compared to 304 Republicans and 6 Libertarians.

    Of those 710 Democrats, 25 were absentee voters and 685 were early voters.

    Of the Republicans, nine were absentee voters and 295 were early voters.

    All six Libertarians were early voters.

    Statewide, Democratic voters were outpacing Republicans by a fair margin. As of Tuesday, 33,856 Democrats had cast a ballot, compared to 18,299 Republicans and 118 Libertarians.

    In Los Alamos County, Democrats have several races to decide, including governor, lieutenant governor, state auditor, commissioner of public lands, state representative for District 43, district court judge for the First Judicial divisions 2 and 5, and county council.

    Local candidate Stephanie Garcia Richard is running against candidates Garrett O. VeneKlasen and George K. Muñoz for commissioner of public lands. County councilors Christine Chandler and Pete Sheehey are in a contentious race for the Democratic ticket for District 43.

  • Community honors fallen on ‘sacred, special day’

    Los Alamos’ Memorial Day celebration began Monday with the Los Alamos High School’s Navy Junior RTOC rifle salute, and ended with John Fox, from the Son’s of the American Legion Squadron 90 playing taps under a shade tree at Guaje Pines Cemetery.

    Between the two events much reflection and remembrance was given to veterans of present and past wars by Los Alamos County’s community service organizations, including the Veterans of Foreign Wards Post 8874, American Legion Post 90, The Daughters of the American Revolution, Elks Lodge 2083, the Knights of Columbus 0688 and the Military Order of the World Wars.

    Father Glenn Jones, of Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church gave the benediction this year.

    “We honor, remember and pray for those courageous and brave souls who placed themselves in harm’s way for those ideals in which they believed, for those freedoms which we so often take for granted,” Jones said to the audience.

    State Rep. Stephanie Garcia Richard (D-43) thanked the Los Alamos County audience for letting her be their representative for six years and presenting them with the Memorial Day state proclamation. Richard announced in 2017 she would be running for state land commissioner in 2018.

  • Pronghorn hunting rule set in motion

    The New Mexico Department of Game and Fish’s Game Commission recently voted to change the pronghorn hunting rules, rules that some say, for good or bad, will have long lasting consequences on New Mexico’s pronghorn antelope population.

    On June 22, the Game Commission unanimously voted to increase the number of public hunt codes from 60 to 160 public hunt codes.

    That, and other new options the commission approved, will allow for more effective hunts of the pronghorn sheep.

    The commission also voted for the establishment of a pronghorn conservation program.

    NMDGF Wildlife Division Chief Stewart Liley said the changes were made to increase opportunities for pronghorn hunters and came about mainly through suggestions made by the public over many months of public hearings held throughout the state.

    One of the main factors driving the changes was the maturity rates of the pronghorn.

    Liley noted that pronghorns reach trophy weight and size much faster than other game in New Mexico, and then grow out of that trophy size and weight window quicker also.