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Today's Opinions

  • Feedlot studies inch ahead

    The feat is to pick up the pace.
    New Mexico is known for stark White Sands and surreal bat caves, not for green pastures. A natural result is public surprise at the numbers reached by the New Mexico dairy industry.
    Dairy is the number one agricultural business in New Mexico. New Mexico ranks eighth in the nation in the value of dairy products. California tops the list.
    From 2001 to 2006, New Mexico’s milk production was the fourth fastest growing in the U.S., with a growth of 33 percent over five years.
    How does a large and fast-growing dairy business tend cows with no pastures? The answer is feedlots.
    Feedlots are large arrays of pens with provisions to feed lots of cows. New Mexico has more than 350,000 milk cows on some 150 dairy farms. Having 2,000 cows in a feedlot is typical.
    You don’t have to be an old cowhand to guess the by-product and problems that come from a pen of 2,000 cows.
    An average dairy cow produces six or seven gallons of milk a day and 18 gallons of wet manure. The story thickens.
    Nitrogen has key roles in nature’s schemes for all major life forms. The involved pathways are found under the heading “nitrogen cycle.”

  • Letter to the Editor 7-3-15

    No ‘God’ in Constitution

    To Vernon Kerr: Surely you know that neither the words ‘Christian,’ nor ‘God’ appear in the U.S. Constitution.
    We who are not Christian are aware of that fact.  Perhaps you should remember that also.

    Alan Hack
    Los Alamos

  • 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.”