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Today's Opinions

  • Getting your home ready to sell

    As the economy improves, today’s sellers are facing a very different environment than they were before the housing market stumbled in 2006.
    Today’s housing market features new procedures and standards, not the least of which are continuing borrowing hurdles for prospective buyers. If you are thinking about a home sale in the coming months, it pays to do a thorough overview of your personal finances and local real estate environment before you put up the “for sale” sign.
    Here are some general issues to consider:
    Make sure you’re not underwater. You may want to buy a new home, but can you afford to sell? The term “underwater” refers to the amount of money a seller owes on a house in excess of final sales proceeds. If what you owe on the home — including all selling costs due at closing — exceeds the agreed-upon sale price, then you will have to pay the difference out of pocket. If you’re not in a situation where you absolutely have to sell now, you may want to wait until your financial circumstances and the real estate market improves.
    Evaluate your finances. Before you sell, make sure you are ready to buy or rent. Making sure all three of your credit reports are accurate is an important part of that process.

  • Do ex-cons deserve a fresh start?

    Every now and then, you read a news story about an employee who went to a home to clean the carpet and later robbed the place.
    The perpetrator had a prison record.
    That is not only a trauma for the homeowner; it’s a serious problem for the business owner, who probably will be sued. The business owner, you’d think, has a duty to screen his employees and make sure he doesn’t expose customers to the risk of employees with a known criminal history.
    This poses a conflict with the “ban the box” movement.
    A standard practice on job application forms is to ask applicants whether they have ever been convicted of a felony. Check yes or no. The applicant who answers “yes” likely won’t be hired, or even get a second look.
    Advocates, such as the National Employment Law Project (NELP, nelp.org), want to eliminate that box.
    The “ban the box” movement says ex-cons deserve a chance to start fresh. If society won’t let them earn an honest living, the argument goes, they may have no choice but to resume criminal behavior.
    It’s in society’s interest to help them get back on their feet — but it’s loaded with obstacles.

  • How about saving the endangered hunter?

    The state Game Commission meets Aug. 27 to consider trapping cougars, hunting bears and saving wolves.
    Not on the agenda is another endangered species: the New Mexico Hunter.
    According to U.S. Fish and Wildlife, the number of hunters nationwide declined slightly over the 20 years from1991-2011, even as total population rose by nearly a quarter.
    Here in New Mexico, the number of hunting licenses issued fell about 9 percent between 2004 and 2013.
    That may be a reflection of changing demographics. As the Baby Boom enters our creaky and overweight “Golden Years,” more and more of us are reluctant to trade the comforts of the man-cave and a warm bed for the pleasure of tramping the mountains on a frosty fall morning.
    Another factor may be increasing urbanization, with more of us living in the city rather than in the small town farm-and-ranch country where hunting is traditional.
    Whatever the cause, a decline in hunting participation is bad news both for the state’s economy and the wildlife we share the land with.
    New Mexico’s 87,000 hunters spent more than $265 million on their sport in 2013 and contributed another $61 million to the state’s economy in labor, income and taxes, according to Game and Fish.

  • For critics of the Iran nuclear deal…

    For critics of the Iranian nuclear deal: I worked for years (1980-1988) at the IAEA in Vienna and a total of 15-plus years overseas in, guess what? Uranium resources, exploration, development and mining, as well as other focus areas in the nuclear fuel cycle, including nuclear waste management and decommissioning.
    To place this in context, it has been 35 years since I first sat down at a table with an Iranian counterpart. I cannot dismiss the safeguards challenges, but I believe that they are manageable.
    I’m quite familiar with the nuclear capabilities of most countries in that area, including Iran.
    Every president except Barack Obama since the Iranian hostage crisis in 1979 has been a badly misguided because you do not cut off communications with an enemy or potential enemy because it drives them deeper into a certain desperation that results in the worst outcome. Are you not familiar with the street riots against the mullahs in Teheran during the last election?
    The Iranians are ready to negotiate; their people want to reintegrate into the world society. So why tell ’em “Stuff it!?”
    Had we done that with the former Soviet Union, I think most of the world would be a cinder by now.

  • You can trust scientific research reports … we hope

    A recent story in the Chronicle of Higher Education suggests that Michael LaCour, a UCLA graduate student, has fabricated data for another journal article.
    Science magazine has retracted the article, due to “the misrepresentation of survey incentives, the false sponsorship statement, and LaCour’s inability to produce original data.” Unfortunately, this is only the latest in a long string of integrity issues in research publications.
    The scary reality, though, is not the articles that have been found to be questionable, but the possibility of many other fabricated articles that have not been discovered and retracted.
    Meanwhile, John Bohannon intentionally published some weak and questionable findings related to chocolate just to demonstrate how quickly non-refereed journals will snatch up research. He claims, “I fooled millions into thinking chocolate helps weight loss.” Sign me up!
    The Office of Research Integrity oversees integrity on behalf of the Secretary of Health and Human Services. They are currently investigating 50 cases of research misconduct.
    Granted, the vast majority of published research is carefully reviewed and published with full integrity (we think). Nevertheless, one should be properly skeptical of the scientific claims. How can we be more informed consumers of research claims?

  • Pesticides are destroying some of Earth's creatures

    “What’s past is prologue,” Shakespeare said. How many times do we have to combat the use of pesticides?
    Rachel Carson’s lessons in “Silent Spring” must be revisited today. The chemical industry has become stronger in protecting and increasing its use of pesticides and poisons.
    Now, two of the agro giants, Dow and Monsanto, are battling each other’s products to kill super weeds, which were created by the use of pesticides in the first place.
    Hummingbirds, as well as other pollinators, are vital to our ecosystem. Bees, butterflies, bats, wasps, beetles, the air and some mammals help pollinate our flowers and plant foods.
    Their disappearance from the Earth is monstrous and is due in large part to the use of pesticides.
    Because some Los Alamos residents are reporting the absence or dwindling numbers of hummingbirds, it is important to do what we can to reduce pesticide use.
    Mary Deinilein, an education specialist at the Smithsonian National Zoo Migratory Bird Center explains how these chemicals affect non-targeted pests.
    These are some possible direct effects on survival and/or reproduction:

  • The Planned Parenthood horror show, it’s not a movie

    Babies are being born alive, only to be butchered for their parts, harvesting tiny hearts, brains and livers.
    Fetal organs are being transplanted into lab rats for research. Horror shows are usually like that: repulsive, disturbing, barbaric and sickening.
    Except that Planned Parenthood’s horror show is not a movie, but a real nightmare that keeps getting worse.
    No one is above the law. The trafficking and sale of aborted baby body parts for profit is illegal and unethical.
    In fact, it is a federal felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $500,000 (42 U.S.C. 289g-2). If this had been any other medical facility or hospital, there would be unquestioned support for immediate investigation.
    Claims of innocence do not suffice.
    Hillary Clinton admitted the videos “are disturbing” and went on to say, “this raises not questions about Planned Parenthood so much as it raises questions about the whole process, that is, not just involving Planned Parenthood, but many institutions in our country.”
    Clinton added that if there’s going to be a congressional inquiry into the videos, “it should look at everything,” and not just one organization.

  • Search for home health care just got easier

    Medicare has just begun publishing star ratings for home health care agencies to help consumers tell the good providers from the bad.
    Medicare pays for health care you receive in the comfort and privacy of your home if you meet certain requirements. You must be homebound, under a physician’s care and in need of part-time, skilled nursing care, or rehabilitative services.
    One in 10 people with traditional Medicare relies on home health services in a given year. A third of all home visits are for patients released from the hospital but still requiring attention. The other two-thirds are for people trying to stay out of the hospital in the first place.
    Medicare’s website — medicare.gov — is a convenient place to begin your search for a home health agency. With a few clicks, you can compare the providers in your area, check on the types of services they offer and the quality of their care.
    To help you understand the differences in quality between agencies, Medicare has added star ratings to its website. One star means “poor,” two stars are “below average,” three stars mean “average,” four stars are “above average” and five stars mean “excellent.”