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Columns

  • How about saving the endangered hunter?

    The state Game Commission meets Aug. 27 to consider trapping cougars, hunting bears and saving wolves.
    Not on the agenda is another endangered species: the New Mexico Hunter.
    According to U.S. Fish and Wildlife, the number of hunters nationwide declined slightly over the 20 years from1991-2011, even as total population rose by nearly a quarter.
    Here in New Mexico, the number of hunting licenses issued fell about 9 percent between 2004 and 2013.
    That may be a reflection of changing demographics. As the Baby Boom enters our creaky and overweight “Golden Years,” more and more of us are reluctant to trade the comforts of the man-cave and a warm bed for the pleasure of tramping the mountains on a frosty fall morning.
    Another factor may be increasing urbanization, with more of us living in the city rather than in the small town farm-and-ranch country where hunting is traditional.
    Whatever the cause, a decline in hunting participation is bad news both for the state’s economy and the wildlife we share the land with.
    New Mexico’s 87,000 hunters spent more than $265 million on their sport in 2013 and contributed another $61 million to the state’s economy in labor, income and taxes, according to Game and Fish.

  • For critics of the Iran nuclear deal…

    For critics of the Iranian nuclear deal: I worked for years (1980-1988) at the IAEA in Vienna and a total of 15-plus years overseas in, guess what? Uranium resources, exploration, development and mining, as well as other focus areas in the nuclear fuel cycle, including nuclear waste management and decommissioning.
    To place this in context, it has been 35 years since I first sat down at a table with an Iranian counterpart. I cannot dismiss the safeguards challenges, but I believe that they are manageable.
    I’m quite familiar with the nuclear capabilities of most countries in that area, including Iran.
    Every president except Barack Obama since the Iranian hostage crisis in 1979 has been a badly misguided because you do not cut off communications with an enemy or potential enemy because it drives them deeper into a certain desperation that results in the worst outcome. Are you not familiar with the street riots against the mullahs in Teheran during the last election?
    The Iranians are ready to negotiate; their people want to reintegrate into the world society. So why tell ’em “Stuff it!?”
    Had we done that with the former Soviet Union, I think most of the world would be a cinder by now.

  • You can trust scientific research reports … we hope

    A recent story in the Chronicle of Higher Education suggests that Michael LaCour, a UCLA graduate student, has fabricated data for another journal article.
    Science magazine has retracted the article, due to “the misrepresentation of survey incentives, the false sponsorship statement, and LaCour’s inability to produce original data.” Unfortunately, this is only the latest in a long string of integrity issues in research publications.
    The scary reality, though, is not the articles that have been found to be questionable, but the possibility of many other fabricated articles that have not been discovered and retracted.
    Meanwhile, John Bohannon intentionally published some weak and questionable findings related to chocolate just to demonstrate how quickly non-refereed journals will snatch up research. He claims, “I fooled millions into thinking chocolate helps weight loss.” Sign me up!
    The Office of Research Integrity oversees integrity on behalf of the Secretary of Health and Human Services. They are currently investigating 50 cases of research misconduct.
    Granted, the vast majority of published research is carefully reviewed and published with full integrity (we think). Nevertheless, one should be properly skeptical of the scientific claims. How can we be more informed consumers of research claims?

  • Pesticides are destroying some of Earth's creatures

    “What’s past is prologue,” Shakespeare said. How many times do we have to combat the use of pesticides?
    Rachel Carson’s lessons in “Silent Spring” must be revisited today. The chemical industry has become stronger in protecting and increasing its use of pesticides and poisons.
    Now, two of the agro giants, Dow and Monsanto, are battling each other’s products to kill super weeds, which were created by the use of pesticides in the first place.
    Hummingbirds, as well as other pollinators, are vital to our ecosystem. Bees, butterflies, bats, wasps, beetles, the air and some mammals help pollinate our flowers and plant foods.
    Their disappearance from the Earth is monstrous and is due in large part to the use of pesticides.
    Because some Los Alamos residents are reporting the absence or dwindling numbers of hummingbirds, it is important to do what we can to reduce pesticide use.
    Mary Deinilein, an education specialist at the Smithsonian National Zoo Migratory Bird Center explains how these chemicals affect non-targeted pests.
    These are some possible direct effects on survival and/or reproduction:

  • Is Obama to blame for weak economic growth?

    A political science colleague sent me an article documenting President Barack Obama’s dismal economic record, and he asked me for added details and perspective. Here it goes:
    True, economic growth under Obama has been sluggish, fitful, faltering, historically weak, etc.
    However, if you look at the charts in the article — especially the second and third — you can see that United States economic growth has been trending downward for several decades. Conclusion: Our economic woes did not begin with Barack Obama.
    However, he has done nothing to reverse the trend. On the contrary, he has doubled down on the very policies that have hampered economic growth.
    The headwinds opposing economic growth are generated by what Ronald Reagan referred to as “the government disease.” No president has advocated, championed, and imposed more harmful government intervention than Barack Obama.
    Here’s a short list of those interventions:

  • Federal programs can help beekeepers build habitats, create products

    The U.S. Department of Agriculture has lots of resources for New Mexicans who keep bees for profit, as well as those who have lost hives to colony collapse.
    The federal programs aren’t designed for hobbyists who want to help a critical species, but even small-scale beekeeping operations can qualify for assistance building and protecting their businesses. Terry Brunner, state director of USDA Rural Development, urged beekeepers to research the following programs:
    Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP): Because bees play an essential role in crop production, the Natural Resources Conservation Service is helping large- and small-scale farmers restore and maintain croplands to support native bee populations. Landowners who plant crops that provide diverse food sources for native pollinators might be eligible for financial and technical assistance through EQIP, including site visits by NRCS technicians to ensure a proper mix of plants for optimal bee forage and habitat.

  • Agriculture's role in state economy, culture and water cycle

    National Farmers Market Week got me thinking about the economic and cultural importance of not just the state’s 75 farmers markets, but of New Mexico agriculture more broadly.
    On the economics side, New Mexico agriculture is a $4 billion per year sector. But the true financial impact of agriculture in the state is much bigger.
    That number is a measure of the value of agricultural commodities at the farm or ranch: things like live cattle, raw milk and unprocessed wheat. Turning those commodities into the products that most people no longer make for themselves — such as when milk gets turned into cheese, and when wheat gets turned into flour — adds several billion dollars more to the system.
    In fact, researchers at New Mexico State University recently estimated that agriculture and food processing, combined “accounted for $10.6 billion (roughly 12.3 percent) of New Mexico’s $86.5 billion gross state product (GSP) in 2012. In addition, the two industries directly created 32,578 jobs and 18,308 jobs in related support activities for a total of 50,886 jobs statewide.”
    Interested readers can learn more by reading NMSU Cooperative Extension Service Circular 675, entitled “Agriculture’s Contribution to New Mexico’s Economy.”

  • To tell you the truth, I’m lying

    The saying goes that ignorance is bliss. Looking at the world today, there must be a lot of happy people out there.
    I must admit though that I’ve been very bliss at times. It’s far more comfortable being bliss than spending all those calories trying to know what’s what.
    But what’s what is what I’d like to discuss today. Not what is what per se, but more of why anyone wants to know what it is.
    What what is, that is.
    What I’m asking is, what is truth? How do we know what’s true and what’s not true?
    When studying mathematics, I found myself enjoying an atmosphere devoid of any desire to debate the meaning of truth. Math sets the rules very crisply and truth is simply validity of logic.
    Math is not constrained by the limits of reality, which bestows an enormous advantage in mathematics when making truthful claims. For example, I can assert that one plus one equals two on the surface of Neptune.
    This is true, mathematically speaking, because we say so! (You have to love axiomatic logic).
    But a scientist is constrained to observable and reproducible results and hence cannot prove the same statement without actually going to Neptune and checking it out. Maybe rocks don’t know how to add on Neptune and one rock added to another would result in seven rocks.

  • Government expands with autocycle regulations

    Part 2 of 2

  • Helping disadvantaged children catch up

    While New Mexico’s children were out of school for summer vacation, some of them were forgetting what they learned last year.
    When they return to school, they will be further behind their peers.
    Children who lose ground, the studies say, are those who can least afford to slip behind.
    They are the children who are already disadvantaged — identified by poverty and affected by the social ills poverty so often creates.
    They may lose as much as three months’ worth of learning over the summer.
    Think of it this way: middle class children with educated parents get twice as much education as disadvantaged children. They are exposed to learning at home, from their families and their environment. They see books, magazines and computers. Their parents talk to them, expanding their vocabulary.
    One in-depth study recorded thousands of hours of conversation between parents and their children and counted words.
    The study found upper income families used 2,153 words every hour; middle-income families used 1,251 words; and welfare-recipient families used just 616.
    An upper income child at age 4 has been exposed to 30 million more words than a disadvantaged child.