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Today's Opinions

  • Planning a home remodel that actually pays off

    There was a time when contractors building McMansion-style home additions or Michelin-worthy kitchens were a regular sight in many neighborhoods — until around 2006, when the Great Recession began to take hold.
    Here’s the good news: home improvements are starting to add value in a rising housing market. Here’s the bad news: you have to be very careful about the renovation or remodeling projects you select to avoid over-stretching your budget.
    In 2014, completing successful home improvements comes down to two critical questions, will you get most of your money back when you sell your property (the days of 100 percent-plus returns on renovations are over, at least for now) and how will project costs affect your overall financial plan?
    Here are questions to fuel your planning:
    • How long you plan to live in the home after the renovation. The Great Recession proved many homeowners didn’t recoup elaborate — or sometimes modest — improvement costs when selling their homes. Even in a recovering market, it’s good to be wary. For now, renovate for the long haul and your personal enjoyment, not overnight sale.

  • Guidelines on holiday visits for long-term care residents

    Holidays can be a challenging time for residents of long-term care facilities and their families. Two questions are often asked: Can I bring my loved one home, or to a holiday celebration, and what can I do to ensure a successful visit that doesn’t feel awkward?   
    Regarding visits away from a nursing home, residents receiving skilled nursing care may participate in short visits away from a facility without danger of losing their Medicare coverage. The Medicare Benefit Policy manual outlines rights of residents granted a short leave of absence to attend a family or religious occasion without jeopardizing their Medicare status. As long as a resident returns to the nursing home by midnight on the day of the leave, the facility may still bill Medicare for their stay. For families wishing to have a loved one home for an overnight visit, residents can leave a skilled nursing facility for short periods without losing their coverage, however, facilities may bill residents to hold their beds. For more information, visit medicareadvocacy.org/you-can-leave-the-nursing-home/. Residents who utilize Medicaid for long-term care services may also be allowed to leave a nursing home for brief periods. The state Medicaid plan covers three reserve bed days for brief home visits without prior approval. A physician’s order is required for this arrangement.

  • A white noise Christmas

    So, another Christmas is nearly upon us. The streets will soon be littered with drying Yuletide trees, the shipping industry busy with items being returned and neighbors taking bets on how long it will take that jerk across the street to take down his 54,000 watt solar-flare holiday display.
    Perhaps we should take a step back and remember what the true spirit of the holiday season is fear of losing sunlight! Winter Solstice is Sunday, the “shortest day of the year.”
    This is very confusing though. I own a rather nice stopwatch and I’ve carefully measured Solstice for several years running, and I’ve discovered that it is not the shortest day. In fact, it’s the same length, 24 hours. I’m going to have to do more research on this.
    Pagans, Druids, Wiccans and other Sun worshipers will gather at Stonehenge “hoping in earnest” that the Sun will rise again. As daylight hours continue to wane, the ancients would worry that the Sun had finally given up on human civilization and might decide to call it quits. Hence the celebrations upon the “return of sunlight” as the days would again begin to increase after Solstice.

  • A big LALT thank you

    The Los Alamos Little Theatre is very pleased to announce that one day and one very generous patron was all it took to raise the final money for the purchase and installation of an assisted listening system for the Performing Arts Center at 1670 Nectar St.
    All contributions received will go toward improving the listening experience for LALT productions and special performances.
    We want to give a special thanks to the Los Alamos National Bank for jump-starting our fundraising effort through its community reinvestment program.
    We have to have the system installed and operating in time for the opening performance of “Murdered to Death” on Jan. 16.

    John Gustafson
    Vice president
    Los Alamos Little Theatre
    Board of directors

  • Unsustainable subsidies and an unstable system

    On Dec. 3, while 190 governments were meeting for two weeks of climate change talks in Lima, Peru (which, after 30 hours of overtime, produced a compromise deal that environmental groups said “went from weak to weaker to weakest”), Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cabinet agreed to a package that continues Germany’s optimistic ‘ though unrealistic — goal and increases subsidies for measures designed to cut emissions.
    Regarding Germany’s “climate protection package,” Barbara Hendricks, Environment Minister, admitted: “if no additional steps were taken, Germany … would miss its targets by between five to eight percentage points.”
    The results of the German agreement will require operators of coal-fueled power plants to reduce emissions by at least 22 million tons — the equivalent of closing eight of them. The Financial Times (FT) believes the plan will “lead to brownouts in German homes.”
    With the goal of generating 80 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2050, Germany has aggressively pursued a green dream with unsustainable subsidies that have produced an unstable system described by FT, on Nov. 25, as: “a lesson in doing too much too quickly on energy policy.”

  • Money management could ease personal spending woes

    A recent story from the Washington Post described Black Friday, and all the news coverage of that shopping extravaganza, as a spectacle of the poor performing for the entertainment of the rest of us.
    The writer likened Black Friday to “The Hunger Games,” the science fiction movie series. In that story line, the provinces that lost a war are forced to send their best young people to a competition where they are televised as they hunt and kill each other, for the amusement of the pampered dilettantes of the winning country.
    The story suggested people of higher income don’t have to bother with the frantic bargain hunting of Black Friday. Only poor people will fight each other for cheap television sets and video games.
    None of the news coverage I saw reported how much of that Black Friday shopping was done to purchase necessities, how much was spent for things not really needed, or how much was spent with borrowed money that the borrowers couldn’t afford to pay back.
    A few days earlier, the financial website Wallethub reported that New Mexico ranks third highest nationally in the amount of money individuals spend compared to their earnings.

  • Open spaces gives Los Alamos an advantage

    I’m one of those kids who came back. I had many choices, but my family and I chose Los Alamos. Why? What makes Los Alamos special?
    My friends who live elsewhere are not impressed by my lab job. Nor are they impressed by the slower small-town pace of life, the great schools, the friendly people, or the opportunity to really make a difference in public service. These types of things are big pluses, but they are available in lots of places.
    However, they are impressed by the fact that I can walk out my back gate into a forested canyon system on public land. If that’s iced over, I count at least half a dozen official and unofficial trailheads within a couple of blocks. And this from a house in the middle of town!
    What makes Los Alamos special is our extraordinary natural setting. Los Alamos County itself has 10,000-foot peaks, large and small tuff canyons, large and small basalt canyons, caves, ponderosa forests, spruce-fir forests, piñon-juniper forests, meadows, mountain and canyon streams, springs, mesas, the Rio Grande, hundreds of cultural sites, 1,000 species of plants, a national monument, tremendous views and more.
    Within a day’s drive, we can reach world-class mountains, rivers and canyon country. I don’t think there’s anywhere in the world that really has what we have.

  • Thank you, public servants

    A big thank you to the Secretary of State’s staff and the Los Alamos County Clerk and her staff for all the many hours and hard work that went on behind the scenes in accomplishing the first ever in New Mexico statewide recount. I’m sure much the same thing went on in clerks offices across the State. Those of us who did the recount in Los Alamos saw how hard Sharon, Adrianna , Gloria, Ona and Jocelyn had worked in preparing for the recount to go smoothly. Thank you for making a tedious and time-consuming job as painless as possible. It was a pleasure to work with the entire recount team.
    Mary Wilhoit
    Los Alamos