• Make sure your family has a disaster plan

    June 1 marked the beginning of hurricane season. Meanwhile, across much of the Western United States major droughts have greatly increased the danger for summer wildfires. And don’t forget last winter’s record-breaking winter storms — or the ongoing potential for earthquakes, tornados, floods and other natural disasters.
    Such catastrophic events are inevitable, largely unpreventable and often strike without warning. Even though we can’t always predict natural disasters, we can anticipate their likely aftermaths, including property loss, power or water service disruption and scarcity of food and supplies.
    Sit down with your family and develop a disaster plan. By planning ahead and knowing what you might need under dire circumstances, you can save yourselves a lot of time, money and grief.
    FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (fema.gov), offers great suggestions for developing a family emergency plan, building an emergency supply kit, and learning what to do before, during and after emergencies, everything from home fires to terrorist attacks. They even provide an emergency plan for family pets.
    Here are some emergency-planning ideas you may not have considered:
    • Pick meeting spots both in and outside your neighborhood where your family can gather after an emergency.

  • New insurance requirements lead to more questions

    It’s four months into the new health insurance plan year, and if provider experiences are any indication, that hasn’t been enough time for people to figure out exactly what “high deductible” — especially as it relates to Los Alamos National Laboratory’s new insurance offerings — means.
    As defined by the healthcare.gov glossary, “deductible” is “The amount you owe for health care services your health insurance or plan covers before your health insurance or plan begins to pay.
    For example, if your deductible is $1,000, your plan won’t pay anything until you’ve met your $1,000 deductible for covered health care services subject to the deductible. The deductible may not apply to all services.”
    The glossary further defines “High Deductible Health Plan” as “a plan that features higher deductibles than traditional insurance plans. High deductible health plans (HDHPs) can be combined with a health savings account, or a health reimbursement arrangement to allow you to pay for qualified out-of-pocket medical expenses on a pre-tax basis.”

  • Lieutenant governor could be a factor in the race

    About a week before the primary election, all five Democratic contenders for governor co-hosted a fundraising event in honor of lieutenant governor nominee Debra Haaland, who was unopposed in the primary. Three of the candidates, including winner Gary King, were there in person; the others sent delegates. The theme was unity — agreeing before the primary that the losing candidates will unite behind the winner, and whoever wins will be happy to have Haaland as a running mate.
    I have been looking for signs that the race for governor could be a fair fight. This is one.
    Haaland will be a positive addition to the ticket. First, she’s Native American. She’s a member of Laguna Pueblo, and she works as tribal administrator of San Felipe Pueblo. Her ethnicity brings an element that’s new in a statewide race. Her presence can be expected to bring the Native American vote to the Democratic ticket. Perhaps she will attract Native American money. Maybe. At the unity event, speakers claimed she’s the first Native American nationally to run on a gubernatorial ticket.
    Second, she’s an attractive candidate — graceful, personable, articulate and well spoken. She has a law degree from the University of New Mexico and a résumé that mixes private sector, tribal administration and political advocacy.

  • Education, health, hospitals and human services get 84 percent of state spending

    “Follow the money,” is the advice. Wander around the top levels of the state’s general appropriations act and you find people are the focus of state government. What the Legislative Finance Committee calls “recurring general fund appropriations,” the product of this year’s legislative session, is $6.16 billion for the budget year starting July 1, which is called Fiscal Year 15 or FY 15.
    Our state government does people: kids through high school in the public schools, young adults (mostly) in colleges, and everyone with an emphasis on children in the broad array covered by health, hospitals and human services.
    The numbers from the LFC’s “2014 Post-Session Review” show education (public schools, higher and other) with a $3.5 billion appropriation, or 58 percent of the general appropriation. The health function will get $1.6 billion. The combined percentage is 84 percent. The leftover 16 percent includes important functions, such as public safety ($393.9 million) and judicial ($218.6 million).
    Transportation,­ as with the Department of Transportation, is the biggest function outside the general fund.

  • What do we need to do to win Tesla?

    New Mexico lost 4,400 jobs from April 2013 through April 2014. We’re last in job growth.
    So along comes Tesla Motors, dangling 6,000 jobs at its battery gigafactory like a canteen before a traveler lost in the desert. And New Mexico made the final cut!
    We’re in the final four, with Arizona, Texas and Nevada. The governor attributes this to the bipartisan tax package passed last year. That’s not the whole story, but it’s a factor. Should Tesla smile on us, whiners on the right and the left will have to eat their words.
    California is also fighting to be considered by moving legislation that would streamline regulation and permitting and offer incentives.
    Looking at California’s hustle, two Democratic state senators last week blasted the governor for a perceived lack of action and for excluding the Legislature from discussions. The governor responded that a special session now would be a “political stunt.”
    It’s an election year, so everything’s debatable, but our elected leaders have danced to and fro about what we ought to be doing for Tesla.

  • Heartworm disease in cats is often overlooked

    Heartworm disease is transmitted to an animal through the bite of a mosquito carrying heartworm larvae, which eventually settle into the blood vessels of the lungs or within the heart itself.
    Although cats are less susceptible than dogs to heartworm infection, our feline friends are still very much at risk of heartworm disease.
    “Cats have some innate resistance to infection, and the worms seem to prefer living in dogs rather than in cats,” said Dr. Audrey Cook, an associate professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. “In addition, the tests we traditionally use in dogs, such as the Knotts test and heartworm antigen tests, are not very sensitive in cats as the number of worms is much lower.”
    Cook explains that though more sensitive tests are now available, cats are still not routinely screened for infection. It is highly likely that many cats are infected, but are simply not identified.

  • Interpreting reliable energy data

    The news media is being overwhelmed with accusations of “bad science” and “misinterpreted data” when dealing with the production and consumption of fossil-fuel/renewable/nuclear energy.
    Since 1974, the autonomous International Energy Association (IEA), organization has worked diligently to generate unbiased reliable/affordable/conventional/renewable energy-related data for its member/cooperating-non-member countries. Between them the 30-plus member IEA countries account for just under half of the world’s energy generation/consumption and include United States, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Korean Republic, Spain and United Kingdom. Cooperating/nonmembers include Brazil, China, India, Mexico and Russia; just under the remaining half of global generation/consumption.
    Its reports are utilized globally by all the major energy companies, academia and environmentalists.
    At the IEA’s 2011/2013 Ministerial Meetings bilateral-work/data exchange programs were agreed with both IEA’s key and cooperating-nonmember countries.
    The IEA’s mandates are to:
    • Promote energy security amongst its member countries through collective response to physical disruptions in oil supply,

  • Trivializing the danger, shifting the blame

    WIPP was never going to solve America’s nuclear waste problem. We have too much waste and too many kinds of waste to put into this one facility, New Mexico’s long-controversial Waste Isolation Pilot Plant. And even if you somehow believe geologic disposal is a great idea, there just aren’t enough locations with a prayer of sequestering the nasty stuff from the biosphere (or future human intrusion) to build dozens more WIPPs. Not to mention the trillions it would cost.
    But if WIPP’s real purpose was to create the illusion that we’d found a solution — so we could keep on making more nuclear weapons and waste — then it has done a pretty good job of that, at least until this year’s accidents and on-going release.
    Public relations has always been a big part of the WIPP story. Now it’s driving official Department of Energy responses to the recent events. Yup, they’re at it again.

  • Proudly praising pop

    Backyards are smoking with the embers of charcoals, the air filled with fumes of lighter fluid. Guys are outside wearing aprons saying, “#1 Dad” and “King of the Grill.”
    Burnt toast and uncooked eggs served in bed. An avalanche of ugly ties. Toilet shaped beer mugs. Canned bacon spray. Caveman-feet slippers. SpongeBob golf club head covers.
    Yeah, it’s Father’s Day again. Children all over the world enjoy dedicating a day to their favorite lounge chair burper.
    Papa. Babbo. Tata. Vader. Otac. Banketi. Patri. Buwa. Daa. Patro. Otosan. Pabbi.
    Wherever you are or however you say it, it’s the same in all languages across the world. Hey Dad, can I borrow the keys to the car?
    Here in America, Father’s Day is a time for men do what they do best — set things on fire and tell bad jokes while knocking down a few cold ones. Norman Rockwell images capture the spirit of our country’s dads; fathers carving the Thanksgiving turkeys, guys chewing the fat in a barber’s shop, teaching their son how to catch a baseball.

  • USDA helps millions of rural homebuyers own their future

    Owning your own home is part of the American dream. For 65 years, USDA has helped millions of rural residents achieve the dream of homeownership through our affordable home loan programs. This year, USDA Rural Development has helped nearly 3.4 million rural families and individuals become homebuyers through 65 years of delivering housing assistance.
    Affordable home financing creates ladders of opportunity to help families grow and thrive. Every year, USDA Rural Development’s direct and guaranteed home loans help tens of thousands of rural residents become homeowners.
    Here in New Mexico since the start of the Obama Administration, USDA Rural Development has made direct or guaranteed loans for more than 10,000 rural residents.
    For example, 21-year old Marianna Wheeler of Deming, and her 3-year-old son, Gilbert Ray became two of those 10,000 homeowners after they moved into a new home which was made possible through USDA’s Rural Development Direct Home loan program.
    We also provide a home repair loan program, and grants for very-low-income seniors, to help homeowners protect and preserve their most precious asset.