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Today's Opinions

  • Fracking: The rest of the story

    On Sunday Jan. 5, the Los Alamos Monitor carried a 1/3-page article on fracking of petroleum wells, authored by Marita Noon, spokesperson for organizations that, in their own terms, “influence policy makers regarding energy, its role in freedom and the American way of life.”
    Noon argues against the public fear of fracking (hydraulic fracturing), its water consumption, and the chemicals used in fracking. She neglects to mention the public’s main fear, which is contamination of ground and surface waters due to fracturing through the pressure-bearing geologic formation.
    In Wyoming, the Environmental Protection Agency found widespread upward leakage of oil and gas along the outside of wells due to imperfect cementing of the well casings. Experts from New Mexico Tech offered a similar conclusion in testifying to a NM legislative committee. This problem is overlooked in the public arguments. New Mexico regulations do not require testing of the cement after it is injected to form a seal between the casing and the larger borehole.

  • A stark choice in the new year

    At this moment, four out of every 10 unemployed workers in the United States have been looking for a job for more than six months, the highest level of long-term joblessness since the Great Depression. While more people are buying goods and services now than four years ago, businesses are only beginning to hire back laid-off workers, and there are still three workers lined up for every open job.
    In depressed towns and cities, the holidays have been tough for the long-term unemployed. And their situation is about to get much worse.
    About 1.3 million Americans received their last extended unemployment check before New Year’s Eve. Later this year, another 3.6 million long-term unemployed workers will lose support unless Congress renews this lifeline.
    The unemployed who receive assistance get about $300 a week, on average. That’s hardly enough to cover rent or a mortgage and pay for heat, electricity and a phone – so they can continue to search for work instead of worrying about where the family will be sleeping that night.
    The unemployed were left in the cold by the recent budget deal. Congress left town without figuring out how to pay for extended unemployment benefits, leaving the long-term jobless to wonder how they’ll make their mortgage payments in 2014.

  • Webber failed to mention specifics

    I appreciate gubernatorial candidate Alan Webber’s willingness to engage in a much-needed discussion over New Mexico’s flailing economy. However, I do want to clarify that economic leadership cannot be limited to the governor’s office. In fact, it is the Legislature that sets economic policy. The PRC and courts also have a great deal to do with policies that help or harm New Mexico’s economy.
    Speaking directly to Webber’s points, he either makes inaccurate statements or fails to specify what he’d do to improve our economy. For starters, Webber claims that our state is offering “hundreds of millions of dollars in tax cuts trying to lure big-box stores to New Mexico.” He offers no details as to the specifics of the policy or its harms, nor does he offer viable alternatives for developing our economy.
    Webber also writes about education reform, citing the need to “leave politics at the door.” He offers no other specific education reforms while failing to explain how politics can be eliminated from an education system that is funded by taxes and operated by a combination of elected officials and government bureaucrats.

  • Teachers key to education

    When will Governor Susana Martinez and Education Secretary-Designate Hanna Skandera learn?
    The proposed budget for Education for the 2015 Fiscal Year includes plenty of funding for such gimmicks as increased testing, carrots for high test performance and sticks for low (without factoring in poverty statistics, percent of non-English speakers and parent participation), and fancy teaching programs from out-of-state providers, but none for raises for teacher salaries.
    Granted, the governor proposes raising the starting salary for new teachers about 10 percent, but only to suck them into teaching in our state and then treat them like dirt along with existing faculty.
    No thought is given to trying to retain experienced teachers by paying them a living wage.
    Given the number of actual hours that teachers spend in the classroom (before and after class hours and on weekends), at home, and attending various training and certification sessions, their salaries barely qualify as minimum wage.
    And their benefits are gradually decreasing while teachers’ share for them is constantly increasing.
    Teachers are the keystone species in the education ecosystem.

  • Tell full story of Manhattan Project

    The United States Department of Interior has recommended Los Alamos as the site of a national park, or national historical park, for the Manhattan Project, which built the atomic bomb in World War II in secret at more than 30 U.S. sites.
    Builders of the A-bomb anticipated its use against Germany, but in May 1945 Germany surrendered. In July, the bomb was tested successfully near Alamogordo and the U.S. called upon Japan to surrender. When Japan refused, the U.S. bombed the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on Aug. 6 and Aug. 9. Surrender followed in September.
    The conventional justification is about 500,000 American lives were saved by eliminating the need for an invasion of Japan. In opposition is the contention that the A-bomb was unnecessary because Japan was close to surrender.
    The A-bomb was a great scientific achievement by many of the world’s most distinguished scientists, under the leadership of theoretical physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer, with military support by Major General Leslie Groves of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

  • How to manage money for someone else

    Anyone who’s ever been asked to step in and manage their parents’ or someone else’s personal finances can tell you that it’s an awesome responsibility — and by “awesome,” I don’t mean “totally cool.” It’s more like “inspiring an overwhelming feeling of fear.” (Thank you, Dictionary.com.)
    In recognition that millions of Americans act as fiduciaries (i.e., manage money or property) for loved ones, often with no formal training or expertise, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has created four, easy-to-understand caregiver guides called “Managing Someone Else’s Money” (consumerfinance.gov.)
    CFPB Director Richard Cordray notes that there are 50 million older Americans — and millions of aging baby boomers are rapidly approaching retirement. Some 22 million people over 60 have already given someone power of attorney to make their financial decisions, and millions of others — including younger disabled adults — have court-appointed guardians or other fiduciaries. “In order to protect our seniors, we must educate the caregiver generation,” Cordray said.

  • Students out-think policymakers on lottery scholarships solutions

    David Maestas, New Mexico State University’s student president, wonders why legislators and the administration have watched the lottery scholarship fund drift toward insolvency for three years without doing anything.
    Good question, David.
    As tuition and demand rose and lottery sales ebbed, policy makers kicked the question around, introduced bills and even formed a task force. It’s all gone nowhere.
    Students have come up with their own solution, which deserves a serious hearing.
    Maestas was among student leaders around the state who developed a proposal. They would raise the minimum grade point average from 2.5 to 2.75, reduce the number of consecutive semesters for scholarship use from eight to seven (three for students at two-year colleges), and make the grant a flat sum and not a promise to pay tuition, whatever that tuition might be.
    In other words, the grants would rise and fall with the lottery fund and be dependent only on the lottery fund and not on taxpayers. It’s a critical distinction and one lawmakers wrestled unsuccessfully.

  • Business leaders back marriage equality

    New Mexico has welcomed people for centuries and has always celebrated both our interconnectedness, as well as our differences. New Mexico has been home to Hispanic and Native American people for many centuries and more recently to Anglo populations.
    Our diversity is part of what sets us apart and what we treasure and that’s why it’s not surprising that we have long welcomed and accepted gay and lesbian people in our families, neighborhoods and workplaces.
    As mayors of two major New Mexico cities, representing businesses, as well as promoting the aspirations of everyday New Mexicans, we were elated by our Supreme Court’s decision to grant marriage equality to everyone in the state. Clearly, every person deserves this basic freedom.
    We also know that marriage equality brings fairness to the workplace and presents our state to all our customers, whether local or visiting, as a welcoming place to live, work and visit.