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Today's Opinions

  • Allowing innovation at FDA means healthier living, better choices

    BY PAUL J. GESSING
    Rio Grande Foundation

    The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is hardly a flashy agency. News releases about drug approvals and genetic testing don’t get quite as much fanfare as NASA’s latest mission or the Pentagon’s latest maneuver. But the FDA’s role as a gatekeeper of innovation has increased significantly over the past few decades, with billions of lives sitting on the sidelines. Now, with a rash of decisions awaiting the guidance of agency officials, New Mexicans have a lot to gain with prudent FDA decision-making that prioritizes customer choice over bureaucratic meddling.

    The Land of Enchantment enjoys some of the highest sun exposure levels in the continental United States, but this pleasant weather presents a double-edged sword. Melanoma incidence in the state is higher than the United States average, and the genetic component of the disease makes it all-too-easy for many to develop a malignancy. Personal genetic testing services like 23andMe have been able to point to some of the genetic variants that increase melanoma risk, pointing last year to the suppression of a gene known as BASP1.

  • New ways scientists can help put science back into popular culture

    BY CLIFFORD JOHNSON
    University of Southern California, Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences

    How often do you, outside the requirements of an assignment, ponder things like the workings of a distant star, the innards of your phone camera, or the number and layout of petals on a flower? Maybe a little bit, maybe never. Too often, people regard science as sitting outside the general culture: A specialized, difficult topic carried out by somewhat strange people with arcane talents. It’s somehow not for them.

    But really science is part of the wonderful tapestry of human culture, intertwined with things like art, music, theater, film and even religion. These elements of our culture help us understand and celebrate our place in the universe, navigate it and be in dialogue with it and each other.

    Everyone should be able to engage freely in whichever parts of the general culture they choose, from going to a show or humming a tune to talking about a new movie over dinner.

    Science, though, gets portrayed as opposite to art, intuition and mystery, as though knowing in detail how that flower works somehow undermines its beauty. As a practicing physicist, I disagree.

  • Senior services may be in jeopardy

    Seniors, take note: A state agency is about to terminate the contract of the organization that provides senior services to most of New Mexico.

    The termination demand has already been delivered, but a transition is in place, through Feb. 1. The organization that got axed is complying with the transition process while also fighting the decision.

    This potentially affects roughly 70,000 seniors who receive services such as meals at senior centers, home delivered meals, transportation, and caregiver respite care through government-authorized programs delivered by local providers.

    The state assures us services to seniors will not be disrupted. But a number of officials, including a few state legislators and Congressman Ben Ray Lujan, are crying foul and demanding that the state rescind its decision. They do not believe the state’s assurance of uninterrupted services to seniors. Lujan’s office said he will ask the relevant federal agency to investigate.

  • The legislative life: Part-time, unpaid, fixed-length sessions? Not quite.

     Legislators go to meetings. That’s what they do.

    Legislators also get a lot of mail, both paper delivered by the postal service and email. Some of the mail, maybe much of it, is read. The proportion of read mail might be a measure of legislator diligence or engagement. 

    Our legislators are described as unpaid, part-time, citizen legislators who meet in fixed-length sessions or 30 and 60 days in alternate years. 

    None of this is quite true. 

    Though legislators get no salary, there is a $164 per diem to allegedly cover expenses during the session in Santa Fe or for other legislative business, such as interim committee meetings. The amount is laughable. Few decent hotel rooms in Santa Fe cost less than $164.

  • VAF information sessions prepare companies to apply for funding

     Early-stage businesses, or even those that are more established, often find it hard to land the right cash infusion, especially when traditional bank financing can be elusive. Under this common scenario, funding through the Venture Acceleration Fund (VAF) could be the needed boost.

    Information sessions to help businesses apply for VAF are taking place in Northern New Mexico until Feb. 9, when the application process officially opens. Applications for funding will be accepted until March 12. 

    According to Carla Rachkowski, associate director of the Regional Development Corp. (RDC), which administers the program, VAF has been key as seed financing for early-stage businesses for more than a decade. The point, she said, is to assist entrepreneurs with taking innovations to market more quickly. VAF helps them through marketing and technology development, proof-of-concept, prototyping, developing market share and product launch. Sometimes it’s used to leverage more funding.

  • Laundry pods are a reminder to talk to our kids

     This week, I would like to focus on how often we talk to our children and maybe provide some ideas of what we need to talk about.

    I confess, I was unaware of the laundry detergent pod challenge. I thought about putting the word challenge in quotes, but the selection of words should probably have the word stupidity in front of challenge.

    I knew of the fact that toddlers and perhaps small children may see these pods as colorful pieces of candy. Due to that, parents might need an extra reminder to store them safely and away from tiny hands. 

    I also heard and understood that patients experiencing dementia symptoms may also be confused by their colorful nature. There is an illness connection to that confusion, so again clearly a logical conclusion.

  • Letters to the Editor

     

    Dear Editor,

    Response to Monitor letter re NYT editorial on Iran nuclear deal

    On Sunday, Jan. 14, the Los Alamos Monitor published an editorial entitled “Iran deal did not pan out;” the actual title of this New York Times Editorial Board item is, “Unrest Shows the Iran Deal’s Value, Not its Danger.” The changed title affects the nature of the actual editorial. I wish to counter the implication of the Monitor’s title by advocating that the Iran Nuclear Deal, is incredibly good.

    The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the Iran Nuclear Deal, is far better than I ever expected. Indeed, if followed by all parties, 

     It effectively blocks all possible avenues for Iran to produce a nuclear weapon.

  • Coalition uses data to analyze criminal justice

    By Finance New Mexico 

    For years I have wondered whether our criminal justice system makes sense. 

    I think first about my own safety. Does our system make me safer? Does it prevent crime? Does it make prudent use of my tax dollars? Is it pragmatic?

    Then I think about fairness and justice. Does our system teach criminals the lesson that will prevent them from committing crimes again? Does it prevent others from committing crimes? Do tougher penalties deter criminals from offending again? What is the system doing to prepare them for when they get out?

    I want data. Rather than being driven by emotions, either of compassion or retribution, I’d like to know what actually works.

    A group called NMSAFE (nmsafe.org) has done some of this homework.