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Columns

  • Policy changes to watch for in Republican controlled Congress

    Energy is going to be front and center when the Republicans take control of both houses.
    The past six years have seen taxpayer dollars poured into green-energy projects that have raised electricity rates. Meanwhile, Republicans have touted the job creation and economic impact available through America’s abundant fossil-fuel resources.
    Big changes in energy policy are in the works because a wealthy country is better able to do things right. A growing economy needs energy that is efficient, effective and economical — which is why countries like China and India will not limit energy availability and why Republicans want to expand access in the United States.
    What energy policies should we watch?
    Keystone pipeline
    • Post-election, the Keystone pipeline has suddenly leapt to the front of the lame-duck-legislation line.
    • The question remains whether the White House will approve the bill, though spokesman Josh Earnest hinted at an Obama veto. A veto would further anger his union supporters. With many Democrats already on board and a push for more support from union leadership, the new Congress may be able to pass it again — this time with a veto-proof majority.
    Federal lands

  • Pet Talk: Choosing a dog trainer

    Choosing a good dog trainer is much like finding the right teacher for your child. Assertive but caring, attentive and knowledgeable — there are many important qualities to keep an eye out for when making this crucial decision. In order to choose one wisely, it is advised that dog owners call, interview and observe a trainer prior to hiring them.
    “There are numerous ways to train dogs. In addition, each animal has his/her own learning style and preferred motivators,” said Dr. Bonnie Beaver, professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. “The American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior, or AVSAB, endorses training methods that allow animals to work for things (such as food, play, affection) that motivate them, rather than techniques that focus on using fear or pain to punish them for undesirable behaviors.”
    A good rule of thumb is to avoid any trainer who displays methods of physical force that may harm your dog, including ones who routinely use choke collars, shock collars, or any other physical punishment as a primary training method. Look for a trainer who uses reward-based training with treats, toys and play instead.

  • Pet Talk: Cold weather tips for pets

    As the temperatures begin to drop, many pet owners worry about their pets spending time outdoors. Here are some tips for keeping the four-legged members of your family warm and safe during the winter months.
    For smaller pets, keeping them inside as much as possible during the colder weather can be the most beneficial. If your pet is primarily an indoor pet, this shouldn’t be much of a change. Nonetheless, short exposure to the outside cold can be fine and is usually not detrimental to the pet’s health.
    “Dogs and cats shiver a lot like people. This action is used to help generate body heat in cold climates,” said Dr. Alison Diesel, clinical assistant professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. “If your pet shivers while outside, shorten the length of your trips together to help reduce this trembling. Providing extra bedding like blankets and towels will also keep your pets warm and cozy.”
    Signs that your pet is uncomfortably cold may include excessive whining, shivering, appearing anxious, slowing down or stopping and looking for a warm place to burrow. If they begin to exhibit any of these behaviors, you should bring them inside (if outside), or wrap them in a blanket in a warm room.

  • Statewide Biz Calendar promotes business-building connections

    New Mexicans never have to wonder where they can go to widen their professional networks or learn the skills that will grow their businesses or advance their careers.
    The online business calendar — or Biz Calendar for short — offers the most comprehensive cache of information about the business events, workshops, meetings, certification classes and professional gatherings that are happening anywhere in the state today, tomorrow, next week and later in the year.
    Public and private service providers use the collaborative web-based calendar to inform the business community about what they’re offering, and economic development organizations use it to connect their local businesses to resources designed to help create jobs and raise the quality of life in New Mexico communities.
    The Biz Calendar began as a project of the nonprofit arm of New Mexico Community Capital in 2007, with support from New Mexico’s Economic Development Department, the Finance Authority and the Small Business Development Network. Organizers aimed to distribute information about events hosted by nonprofits and government agencies.

  • Black-Eye Friday

    Yesterday was Thanksgiving. Families and friends spent the day together to commemorate a day of thanks, a time to reflect on the good times past and the good times to come.
    When I was younger, Thanksgiving meant a family dinner at my parents’ house, gaining 10 pounds by the evening’s end. As I grew older, it meant going out with friends and being very sophisticated as we sampled four-dozen different wines (usually cleaning our palettes with shots of whiskey). And as the years went on, the dinners became more sedated, the conversation more civilized and the party animal put to bed before midnight.
    I’ve learned over time that what makes Thanksgiving a time to be thankful is not the past nor the future, but simply the moment itself.
    Ah, but Thanksgiving is over, and the moment is gone. It’s Friday and no one is fighting over who gets the last drumstick. The fight is now focused on who gets the last computer tablet, who gets the last set of discounted bathroom towels, who gets the last Barbie Fantasy Castle.
    It’s a contest to find out who has the most stupid stuffed in their head.

  • Black Friday blues

    Shoppers will be lining up at the crack of dawn on “Black Friday” for spectacular deals. What they don’t know is that the best bargains have already been taken — not by other shoppers, but by some of America’s largest corporations.
    Walmart, the biggest corporation in America, with revenues of almost half a trillion dollars, gets a $1 billion tax break each year on average by exploiting federal tax loopholes, according to a new report from Americans for Tax Fairness. Taxpayers, even those lined up in the early morning darkness at giant retailers like Walmart, pay the price.
    How? First, the more big corporations dodge paying their fair share of taxes, the more American families and small businesses have to make up, or else there is less money available for critical investments, such as rebuilding our crumbling roads and bridges, improving education and making college more affordable, or finding new medical cures.
    When Black Friday shoppers check the prices, they’ll never see these hidden costs of tax avoidance. But when Americans figure out what’s going on they’ll have a bad case of the Black Friday Blues.

  • New Mexico needs a thoughtful plan for the future now

    The political punditry in the aftermath of the recent elections has focused on the inevitable political maneuvering while missing an essential point: citizens are tired of the bickering and rhetoric and are desperate for real solutions to real problems.
    Much of the talk in the weeks since the election has focused on which legislators and members of Congress will gain or lose power or whether the governor will be able to more easily advance her agenda through the legislature. How will the president work with Congress? Has the country undergone a dramatic philosophical shift? Or is this change more of a footnote in the history books?
    Of course, for close observers and pundits, those questions are interesting, and sometimes even fun, to kick around. But the truth is, the answers to those questions mean nothing to the young woman in her 20s who can’t find a job that pays enough for her to live on her own, or to the 7-year-old boy starting his day hungry because he’s one of 144,000 New Mexico children living in poverty, or to the hundreds upon thousands of New Mexicans struggling to find jobs, grappling with substance abuse, or facing a bleak future because of an inadequate education.

  • How is solar energy working in freezing northeast?

    A couple of months ago, National Grid, one of Massachusetts’ two dominant utilities, announced rate increases of a “whopping” 37 percent over last year. Other regional utilities are expected to follow suit.
    Why, when natural gas prices are at historic lows that have been predicted to lower electricity rates, is the northeast facing double-digit increases? Changes have been mandated, but the replacements aren’t ready yet.
    Remember last winter’s polar vortex, when freezing weather crippled the northeast for days and put a tremendous strain on the electric supply?
    Following the near crisis, utility executives were brought into Congress to explain the situation. They revealed that the northeast was one power plant away from a blackout.
    Heading into this winter, New England has seen one big power plant close within the past year: Salem Harbor Power Station in Salem, Massachusetts — which went “dark” on June 1. Another major closure is scheduled within weeks: Vermont Yankee nuclear plant.

  • Winter weather information for area schools

    As fall turns to winter, we can anticipate some days when the weather will be a challenge because of ice or snow. There will be days that we either cancel school for the entire day or delay the start of the school day by two hours. The decision about the status of the school day must be made by 5:30 a.m., so everyone who needs to be notified can get information in a timely manner.
    When a decision to cancel, delay or dismiss school early is made, all of the major network television stations and local media will be contacted. Information about the decision will be posted in a trailer that runs along the bottom of the TV screen. This information will also be available on the district website at laschools.net and through E-Alerts. Schools will also place the information on their information line and the district information line at 663-2223.
    Parents and staff wishing to receive E-Alerts are encouraged to register on the District’s website using the E-Alert button in the upper right corner of the district homepage. School status information will be sent as E-Alert notifications by email and text messages to those who have subscribed to E-Alerts. For instructions on how to subscribe to E-Alerts visit laschools.net/e-alerts.

  • Metros have the money, Portales Bank has the coolest name

    A bit more than half of New Mexicans make their home in the north-central urban area —Santa Fe and metro Albuquerque. More than half of New Mexicans’ money calls the City Different and the four-county metro home.
    Numbers follow. That’s because the topic is banking, which is about money, which is expressed using numbers.
    Specifically, the 216 branch banks in Santa Fe and metro Albuquerque accounted for 57 percent of the $28.3 billion deposited in the state’s 510 branch banks on June 30, reports the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.
    The 63 banks operating in the state have 510 offices, or “banking centers,” or whatever today is the term for “branches.” The 216 urban branches are 42 percent of the branches. The other 28 counties make do with 294 branches.
    Having fewer branches and a larger deposit total translates to more deposits per branch. In urban areas, branches average $74 million in deposits. For the rest of the state, it is $42 million per branch. The 40 branches in Lea and Eddy counties average $54 million each, an unsurprising reflection of that booming economy.
    As one gets more and more rural, branch deposit totals drop, again no surprise. The three branches in Guadalupe County share just under $39 million in deposits, about $13 million each.