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Today's Opinions

  • Letters to the editor 04-13-14

     

    Regarding WIPP

    This letter is in response to the article “Watchdog Asks for WIPP Inquiry” on April 6. The print and electronic media and “watchdog groups” have made, as is often the case, a radiation/nuclear molehill into a mountain. 

    The only reasoned article that I have read or heard on WIPP appeared a few weeks ago in the Albuquerque Journal. It was entitled “Radiation Levels after WIPP Leak Negligible.” Robert Hayes, a Certified Health Physicist according to the byline, wrote it. I wish to quote one sentence from that article: “Using data posted on the website wipp.energy.gov, Mr. Hayes writes, “The largest potential dose was at the site boundary, where a maximum dose of around 3 mrem was possible if you stood by the air sampler for the full 15 hours.” 

  • Happy Passover and happy shopping

     

    Monday night begins the Jewish holiday of Passover, which commemorates the Exodus of the ancient Israelites from Egyptian slavery. Accompanied by friends, my family will be holding a celebratory dinner along with the ceremonial retelling of this story according to Jewish ritual, the Passover Seder. There are many themes in this ceremony, the precious value of personal freedom, religion as a source of strength during adversity, many others. And if you will bear with me, the value of shopping locally here in Los Alamos.

  • Pet Talk: Alternatives to debarking surgery

    Debarking surgery is quite the controversy in pet news today. Is it inhumane? Do the possible risks outweigh the perceived benefits? These are viable questions to ask when considering debarking surgery to control your dog’s chronic barking. However, with April being the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Month, it is also important to recognize the numerous available non-surgical alternatives that are said to be safer and even more effective by veterinarians and trainers alike.
    As decipherable from the name, debarking surgery is the act of surgically disabling your dog from producing a loud, barking sound. “Although the procedure is called ‘debarking,’ it does not result in the inability for the dog to produce any sound at all,” said Dr. Kelley Thieman, a clinical associate professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. “Instead, the dog has a muffled quality to its bark, and in time could even regain the ability to bark.”  

  • The sky is the limit

    At the end of World War II, our nation was broke. The money owed by our government exceeded the nation’s GDP (Gross Domestic Product) by 20 percent. We literally owed more than we produced in an entire year.
     And yet times were good. The nation found itself in an era of prosperity, and the National Debt was a topic of rare discussion.
     You would think that enduring a debt of $259 billion would paralyze a rational thinker. But society is oddly capable of burying concerns like this along with the tens of millions killed, and moving forward with its focus on commerce and industry.
     If people had in fact been more conscious of the debt, they may not have actually minded. For you see, the nation was growing (both in population and in power) and the National Debt was shrinking.
     Well, for a few years anyway. From 1945-1948, the National Debt declined to $252 billion. Back then, people laughed when politicians boasted of the debt’s decline, noting that a 7 percent decrease was nothing to brag about. But today having the debt shrink by 7 percent would be earth shattering news.

  • Priorities regarding energy independence

    If the goal is “energy independence,” what issues should be a priority in America?
    Recently, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) sent out a “2014 Priority Issues Survey” which contained a section on energy.
    Section VII, asks: “Which of the following will help America achieve energy independence?” It offers five options that do little to move America toward energy independence — which isn’t even a realistic goal given the fungible nature of liquid fuels. Additionally, most of the choices given on the DCCC survey actually increase energy costs for all Americans — serving as a hidden tax — but hurt those on the lower end of the socio-economic scale the most. The proposals hurt the very people the party purports to champion.
    The survey asks respondents to “check all that apply.”
    • Raising gas mileage standards for all new cars and trucks
    If it were technologically possible to build a cost-effective truck, or SUV that had the size and safety Americans want and that got 54.5 mpg, that manufacturer would have the car-buying public beating a path to its door. Every car company would love to be the one to corner that market — but it is not easy, it probably won’t be possible, and it surely won’t be cheap.

  • Spend your tax refund wisely

    Last year the IRS doled out over 110 million income tax refunds averaging $2,803. Another way to look at it is that collectively, Americans overpaid their taxes by nearly $310 billion in 2012.
    Part of that is understandable: If you don’t have enough tax withheld throughout the year through payroll deductions or quarterly estimated tax payments, you’ll be hit with an underpayment penalty come April 15. But the flip side is that by over-withholding, you’re essentially giving the government an interest-free loan throughout the year.
    If you ordinarily receive large tax refunds, consider withholding less and instead putting the money to work for you, by either saving or investing a comparable amount throughout the year, or using it to pay down debt. Your goal should be to receive little or no refund.
    Ask your employer for a new W-4 form and recalculate your withholding allowance using the IRS’ Withholding Calculator (irs.gov).
    This is also a good idea whenever your pay or family situation changes significantly (e.g., pay increase, marriage, divorce, new child, etc.) IRS Publication 919 can guide you through the decision-making process.
    Meanwhile, if you do get a hefty refund this year, before blowing it all on something you really don’t need, consider these options:

  • Supreme Court case has lessons for mortgage lenders

     

    Lenders that resell or buy mortgage loans might feel the impact of a February decision by the New Mexico State Supreme Court that affects their ability to foreclose if the borrower defaults.

    The case, Bank of New York v. Joseph A. Romero, involved a Chimayó man who refinanced a mortgage he had taken on a home he inherited from his father decades earlier. Romero secured the original loan to open a business in Española; the 2006 Equity One refinance was done to pay off that older mortgage and other debts.

    Romero claimed his business made approximately $5,600 per month, but Equity One didn’t confirm that information or require an appraisal. To satisfy provisions of the state Home Loan Protection Act, or HLPA, Equity One had Romero and his wife sign a document stating that their $30,000 cash payout from the transaction was “a reasonable tangible net benefit” to them. 

  • Us ‘n’ them: Reflections on West Texas

     

    Texans fascinate me. It’s not an uncritical admiration, but I can’t help looking across the border and wondering why they zoom out of the recession while we in New Mexico spin our wheels.

    From a recent annual meeting of the West Texas Historical Society, held in Odessa, I returned with some ideas to share with you.

    “Texas exceptionalism.” 

    This phrase, tossed out during one talk, is a fancy way to capture the confidence, the bravado, that permeates the atmosphere the way the smell of money from bobbing pumpjacks fills the air for miles around Odessa. What other state could name a major Austin museum exhibit “It ain’t braggin’ if it’s true?”