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Columns

  • Public's right to know is evergreen

    Well, we’ve come full circle. Five years ago, Bill Richardson’s administration was asked for state e-mails about an audit of the driver’s license program.
    It refused, claiming executive privilege, and the Republican Party of New Mexico filed suit.
     This year, Secretary of State Dianna Duran was asked for state e-mails about a similar audit – a cross-check between drivers’ licenses and voter rolls. Duran’s office refused, citing executive privilege, and the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico has now filed suit.

  • Perils of New Mexico's GOP Senate Primary

    By this time next year, New Mexico Democratic and Republican voters will have chosen their nominees for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Jeff Bingaman, the Democrat who was first elected to that seat in 1982.
    Chances are Dems will have settled on either 1st Dist. Congressman Martin Heinrich or state Auditor Hector Balderas.
    Republicans, in turn, will likely have opted for Heather Wilson, a former 1st Dist. Congresswoman, or Lt. Gov. John Sanchez, although two lesser-known GOP hopefuls, Greg Sowards and Bill English, are also running.

  • Getting virtual learning right

    Expanding virtual learning opportunities  is a critically important step for New Mexico.
    Virtual schooling was a critical component of the “Florida Model” for education reform, which helped transform achievement across student sub-groups there from nearly worst to first within a decade.
    The Florida Reform model has since been adopted by Gov. Susana Martinez — with good reason.
    Academic outcomes indicate the state’s traditional schooling system is not up to the task.
    New Mexico ranks 49 in fourth-grade reading proficiency; 48 in eighth-grade math proficiency; and 50 in graduation rates. Poor funding does not explain such poor performance.

  • Our daily bread in 2050

    These are the good times.
    I was driving through the country last Saturday, looking at deer happily chowing down in wheat fields.
    Everyplace is a drive-through if you’re a herbivore at this time of year.
    It’s a simple historical fact that wheat farming has been central to American agriculture since the country was young.
    And today wheat grown in the U.S. supplies American consumers and millions of other people around the world with large quantities of economical nutrition.
    Even a geologist like myself knows that much about the king of grains.
    But I was recently startled to learn that the temperatures experienced by American wheat farms back in 1839 were 6.6 degrees warmer than they are today.

  • Child Health Watch: Communicating is key to infant development

    The 100 billion brain cells we are born with have a lot to get right in the first few months of life.
    Imagine each individual in a population 15 times that of the planet earth all migrating to a specific location to make proper connections and communicate with others in a way that makes sense for the population as a whole.
    About once a day a baby is born in Los Alamos and although his brain has these amazing 100 billion neurons formed and in place, the way they connect and develop is influenced by their experience with adults and their environment.
    Most babies learn language from hearing it, so talking to your newborn is the key. Even before birth, a baby hears and knows the rhythms and tones of his mother’s voice.

  • Will teach pupils for pulp

    Being a teacher can be frustrating.  
    Meetings with parents after school, tutoring sessions, late nights and weekends spent preparing lessons, constructing tests, grading tests, getting really depressed over test grades – it’s all part of the job and as masochistic as it sounds, I love it.
    But there are things that do get you down. For instance, paper.  Yeah, those 8 1/2 by 11 inch flexible flash drives we use for kinesthetic education.  
    Maybe you remember these from before the computer age?
    You hold a stylus (called a pencil) in your hand and enter data (called writing) onto the information pad (called a piece of paper).

  • New Mexicans less educated, work less

    The interim Economic and Rural Development Committee held its July meeting in Santa Rosa.
    My concern here is the presentation by two esteemed observer-analysts of New Mexico, Adelamar Alcantara, who directs Geospatial and Population Studies at the University of New Mexico, and Jim Peach, economics professor at New Mexico State University.
    We couldn’t find the meeting. Alcantara and Peach provided their presentation materials.
    New Mexico’s population, as reported in the 2010 census, was Alcantara’s topic. Peach followed with a discussion of demographic trends and labor markets. Trust me, this stuff really is more interesting than watching paint dry.

  • Fix fireworks issue

    Were you outraged, around July 4, that there was no statewide ban on the sale of fireworks?
    You’re not alone.  
    So was almost everybody else, including several newspaper editorial writers.  
    Some legislators have tried to change the New Mexico law; while several bills in favor of public safety died in committee, the law has been amended more than once in favor of the fireworks industry.
    The dangerous conditions are not the fault of the fireworks industry, and nobody is alleging otherwise.
    In matters of this nature, special interests tend to turn the argument upside down, implying that they are being scapegoated for conditions they did not cause.
    So let’s be clear that the public is not confused about this.

  • Secure our borders now

    I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that we’ve got a problem with our borders, and it isn’t going away anytime soon — it’s only going to get worse unless we do something about it.
    Fortunately, some of the politicians from non-border states are beginning to get it.
    Sen. Mary Landrieu, a Democrat from Louisiana, recently had a tour of the border and concluded that we must provide more resources to secure our border.
    As someone who lives in a border state, has immersed myself in this issue, and has had a first-hand tour of the border in the El Paso sector, I couldn’t agree more with Sen. Landrieu.
    The federal government is clearly not doing enough to secure our borders, and, yes, we do need more resources.

  • Hope where there is none

    For us in the County of Los Alamos, the view of smoke on the horizon gives us the sense of “not again.”  
    As a resident, I have experienced the La Mesa Fire, the Dome Fire, the Oso Fire, the Cerro Grande Fire and now the Las Conchas Fire.  
    But in addition, as an ecologist for 33 years, I have studied and measured the recovery of several of these fires, especially the La Mesa Fire.
    Out of the sense of hopelessness and grief of losing trees, I have found that watching the area recover from each of these fires has given me a sense of hope and awe at nature’s intricate balance and healing.  
    We sometimes see only the loss and not the miracle of rebirth.