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Today's Opinions

  • What to do if someone files a false tax return in your name

    Identity theft is one of the fastest-growing fraud issues at the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
    Online thieves have been capturing Social Security numbers and other tax filing data to file fraudulent returns, principally for the purpose of stealing refunds.
    Just this past tax season, TurboTax, the leading tax preparation software company, had to stop transmitting state tax returns and introduce new safeguards after a run of suspicious returns. In March, the U.S. Treasury Department reported slightly over 2.9 million incidents of tax-related identity theft in 2013, up from 1.8 million in 2012.
    As to dollar loss, in January, the General Accounting Office (GAO) said the IRS had prevented an estimated $24.2 billion in fraudulent identity theft tax refunds in 2013, but actually paid $5.8 billion in refunds later determined to be fraudulent.
    In terms of damage, tax identity theft is really no different than any other form of identity theft.
    Thieves illegally obtain your Social Security number through online or other resources and then go to work on your finances and reputation.

  • Heating up ice cubes

    Why does soda get cold when you put ice cubes in it?
    When I pose this simple question to my students, I get many different and interesting answers (like “cold is easier to share”).
    It’s not easy to teach and it’s even more difficult to learn.
    All too often, we blur the definitions between “knowledge” and “understanding.” There’s a huge difference between elemental knowledge (learn to count up to 100) and conceptual understanding (perceive the relationship between a number and its prime factors).
    But whereas conceptual understanding is unarguably important, we shouldn’t discount the value of “simply knowing something.”
    For example, I know that it’s not a good idea to drink bleach. No one ever taught me that. I just “know” it.
    As a teacher, I’m constantly looking for some magic formula to transfer knowledge from my head into someone else’s head. Quite frankly, I’m more than willing to let others take ownership of the neural noise between my ears.
    But back to the question, how do students learn? How do students cross the didactic valleys between the mental mesas of “I can do it” and “I actually understand what I’m doing?”

  • Removal of Confederate flag shouldn’t have taken this long

    I’ve spent my whole life in the Northeast, but I have Southern roots.
    My late grandfather came from a long line of sharecroppers who toiled in the fields of Decatur, Georgia, for generations. Their history of hardship was common in the South.
    Where my grandfather grew up, poor whites often blamed their misfortune on the only group of people less fortunate than they: black people. For these marginalized whites, the Confederate battle flag came to symbolize what might have been.
    To me, the Confederate battle flag represents the dehumanization of black people. Renewed calls to banish it from public spaces across the South pit a national drive to stamp out prejudice against the region’s pride in its history — even if that particular history is nothing to be proud of.
    Many Southerners insist that the emblem merely salutes Southern heritage. But lynch mobs have never rallied behind sweet tea and collard greens.
    Separatist flags signified white defiance during the Civil War. A century later, they were embraced by the millions of whites who refused to acknowledge black people’s rights amid the racist backlash against the civil rights movement.

  • Lawsuits piling up against HSD reveal doctored audit report

    What a difference one sentence can make!
    The decision by the state Human Services Department to strike one crucial sentence in an auditor’s report gave it carte blanche to yank the funding of 15 behavioral health providers.
    This is just one revelation in the 10 inevitable lawsuits, three of them filed last week, against the state for a move that was questionable from the outset.
    To recap, in February 2013 HSD hired Public Consulting Group to audit 15 providers and look for evidence of fraud.
    This was not a page-by-page forensic audit, intended to shake out the spiders, but a sampling of invoices. So, from $42,500 in overbilling found in the samples, the consultant conjured up $36 million in suspected overbilling.
    That alone was spongy evidence, but here’s the real kicker: the consultant reported that all 15 failed the audit, but also said there was no evidence of widespread fraud nor was there “credible allegations of fraud,” or significant concern about consumer safety, according to documents filed in the lawsuits.

  • Supreme Court same-sex ruling threatens religious liberty of all New Mexicans

    On Friday, in the 5-4 decision of Obergefell v. Hodges, the United States Supreme Court ruled that the U.S. Constitution requires all 50 states to license marriages between same-sex couples.
    The court’s action places the religious liberty of all New Mexicans at risk. As Justice Clarence Thomas noted, “the majority’s decision threatens the religious liberty our nation has long sought to protect.”
    Churches are at greater risk. Justice Thomas noted, “marriage is not simply a governmental institution: it is a religious institution as well. It appears all but inevitable that the two will come into conflict, particularly as individuals and churches are confronted with demands to participate in and endorse civil marriages between same-sex couples.”
    Regarding the tax exempt status of religious institutions opposed to same-sex marriage, Chief Justice John Roberts noted, “There is little doubt that these and similar questions will soon be before this court.”
    Businesses are at greater risk. Already in New Mexico, a business has been found to violate state law for refusing to photograph a same-sex “commitment ceremony.” New Mexico’s Christian businesses should be very concerned.

  • Literacy is more than reading

    Almost half of the adults in New Mexico can’t read.
    According to the New Mexico Coalition for Literacy, 46 percent of New Mexico adults are functionally illiterate. Of those, 20 percent have literacy skills at the lowest level, meaning, for example, they would have difficulty extracting simple information from a news article. Another 26 percent are at the second level, where their skills are a little higher, but not enough to get a job that requires reading.
    That’s simply awful.
    It may be some consolation that New Mexico is not alone in having a massive illiteracy problem. According to the Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies, the entire country is falling behind the rest of the industrialized world and now ranks about 17th in literacy.
    But none of this is good news, and, as usual, New Mexico is a little worse than most other states.
    A unique perspective on the issue comes from New Mexico’s most famous literacy activist, poet Jimmy Santiago Baca, who spoke recently to the literacy coalition’s annual meeting. Literacy isn’t just about reading, he said. “Literacy is about human beings being able to express their emotions to the people they love.”

  • Office of Business Advocacy helps entrepreneurs launch and grow

    Governor Susana Martinez and Economic Development Secretary Jon Barela established the Office of Business Advocacy (OBA) in January 2011 and have been extremely pleased with its success.
    Since then, the OBA has saved or created more than 2,000 jobs by helping businesses navigate the sometimes complicated processes of permitting and licensing that can slow job creation and business growth. Now the OBA is expanding its mission.
    “The Office of Business Advocacy has done remarkably well helping small businesses that may not have the time or resources to sift through the regulatory, licensing and permitting process or address policy issues affecting their operations,” Barela said. “As a result of regulatory reforms, leading to less bureaucratic red tape than when the governor first took office four and half years ago, we’re expanding the OBA’s role to include proactively helping entrepreneurs start businesses and grow.”

  • Letter to the Editor 6-30-15

    Rotary club to host many July events

    On Wednesday, the Rotary Club of Los Alamos begins its new year, 2015-16, and will kick off the month with two events over the Fourth of July weekend.
    On Independence Day, we cordially invite the community to attend the naturalization ceremony at Bandelier National Monument. The program, which bestows American citizenship on qualified applicants, begins at 11 a.m. behind the main building. As one of its sustaining principles, Rotary promotes international peace and good will and is pleased to provide refreshments for this meaningful event.
    On Sunday, we look forward to serving you a Cowboy Pancake Breakfast at the Posse Lodge, 650 North Mesa Road. This all-you-can-eat breakfast of pancakes, scrambled eggs, bacon, coffee, and juice is only $7 for adults and $4 for children under 10. We are grateful to the members of the Sheriff’s Posse Lodge who make it possible for our club to raise money to benefit our many service projects. Sunday’s funds will support New Generations, our varied and vibrant youth programs, including inbound and outbound student exchanges, weeklong leadership camps for high school students, essay competitions for eighth graders and support for GED students at University of New Mexico-Los Alamos.