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Opinion

  • Take a glance at any contemporary parenting blog, website or social media group and you’ll see the “mommy wars” playing out.
    The battles range from helicopter parenting versus free-range kids to sling versus stroller and cloth versus disposable diaper.
    While the battles (and the guilt that comes with them) are real, they are keeping our attention from the real mommy wars: the abysmal lack of national policies to protect new mothers in the workplace.
    Almost three-quarters of mothers are in the labor force and they are the primary breadwinners in 40 percent of U.S. households. Still, the U.S. is one of the few nations on the globe that does not ensure that new moms have paid maternity leave. In fact, we have no federal policies on paid leave of any kind and our policy on unpaid leave does not protect enough working women.
    This Mother’s Day we need national policies that reflect our nation’s true family values.  
    Every country except the U.S., Suriname and Papua New Guinea provides paid maternity leave according to the World Policy Forum. Even in countries with poor civil rights records, such as Somalia, Iran and North Korea, women get at least some paid maternity leave.
    Women receive 12 weeks in India, 16 weeks in the Netherlands, and almost 70 weeks in Sweden.

  • As the Chair of the County Council, one of the biggest concerns I hear — and am also concerned with — is the idea of expanding beyond being a “one-horse town.”
    As a local government, there are several ways to try to encourage that. Some are harder than others.
    The first is to have policies that support the local businesses here now. This is a high priority for this council, and the staff knows and is working on that. Another is to have policies that encourage lab spinoffs; this has a lot of complications, but there are efforts towards this as well.
    A third is to be known as a great small town to relocate to and as a great place to visit.
    There are many businesses that can “live anywhere,” and the owners both support themselves and often hire others. They might even be small restaurant and shop owners.
    The current branding initiative is an effort by the County Council to work on the last two; becoming known, outside our community, as a great place to live and a great place to visit.
    There are few things branding is not. Branding is not about a slogan for our town, or how we feel about ourselves, or what we do here.

  • Every homeschooling parent has been asked the S-Question: “What about socialization?” The implications (real or imagined) of the question are less than flattering:
    • Students who attend schools outside the home are socialized better because they spend so much time with their immature peers, whereas students who attend school within the home are poorly socialized because they spend so much time with their mature parents.
    • Home school families do not interact with one another.
    • Socialization that occurs on the soccer field, during debate rounds and in church doesn’t count (or is somehow inferior).
    • Students who attend school outside the home are always well socialized.
    • Your kids are so weird.
    I would like to put the S-Question to rest by summarizing research I conducted along with my colleagues.
    We surveyed 223 families (asking questions of one teen and one parent), 95 of whom were schooling at home. The results point to three important observations: homeschooling teens socialize more than other teens, they socialize differently than other teens, but both of these observations miss the point. Socialization is not a home schooling issue; it is a religious phenomenon.

  • It’s easy to annoy teachers.
    Tell them that they’re overpaid. Or that you wish you had a cushy job like they have. Or that it’s all their fault when students perform poorly.
    But if you really want to provoke them, just say the word “PARCC.”
    Actually, PARCC isn’t a word. It’s an acronym, or perhaps more accurately an acrimoniousym. Over time, an acronym can become a word. If this happens for PARCC, it’ll probably be used as a curse word (kind of like ‘frack’).
    PARCC stands for Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers.
    The “partnership” refers to corporate partners of Pearson LLC who are making billions in profits off the backs of teachers and students (and taxpayers).
    But I do love acronyms. One of my favorites when discussing PARCC is FUBAR. I forget what that means, but it’s in the same general ballparcc.
    OK. I should mention that I signed a security confidentiality agreement promising not to discuss the content of the PARCC assessments.
    I did not, however, sign anything prohibiting me from saying that the test is a politically motivated pile of yak droppings. Of course, I wouldn’t say that. It’s not my style.

  • Many innovators wouldn’t dream of launching a business without a plan and a pile of money, but that’s precisely the “lean startup” approach that advocates say is revolutionizing and democratizing entrepreneurship.
    The methodology, introduced in 2011 by serial entrepreneur and startup coach Eric Ries, shuffles the traditional deck by putting the cart (the product or service idea) before the horse (the business organization), “selling” the wares before investing time and money building something that customers don’t really want.
    If it sounds counterintuitive, it’s because the conventional business development template begins with a business plan, followed by a search for financial backing and recruitment of a core management team. After months or years spent quietly developing and building the product, the creation is introduced to consumers through advertising and marketing.
    But many businesses fail after all this investment in product development and capital expenditure because people just don’t want the product being offered.
    The lean startup path seeks to avoid such waste of time and money by “selling” products before building them.
    Feedback first

  • The hard work of many dedicated volunteers resulted in a successful Northern New Mexico Spring Arts and Crafts Fair. It was a fantastic spring day with nice weather, although storm clouds lingered in the area. People had the opportunity to visit with friends and mingle among the booths. The art classes from Los Alamos schools had its work on display inside Fuller Lodge showcasing the many talented students in our school district.
    The fair benefited from the efforts of RSVP members who posted flyers around Los Alamos before the fair. We also wish to thank Los Alamos County Parks Department for mowing and trimming the grounds around Fuller Lodge, as well as cleaning up trash during the fair. Many people commented about how nice the area looked for the fair. It truly was beautiful.
    As always, a big thank you goes to our board members and volunteers who spent many hours in preparation, as well as time staffing the fair. This includes Emily Mercer and Irene Kwon from LAHS National Honor Society, volunteers Bill Hamilton, Lisa Lloyd, Tadg Woods, Michael Donnelly, Mitch Pfaff and Adam Joseph. The Arts Council appreciates the time you give to our organization.

  • After surfing through the Legislature on a rare wave of bipartisan support, the debate over civil asset forfeiture now moves to local communities, as defenders of the controversial practice hope to preserve county and municipal ordinances as a tool in the ongoing war on drunk driving.
    In the Legislature, where a discouraging word can almost always be heard on even the most Mom-and-Apple-Pie issue, the question of whether the government should be able to seize your property without actually proving you guilty of a crime seems to arouse the libertarian in even the staunchest law-and-order advocate.
    The bill, sponsored by Ruidoso Republican Rep. Zachary Cook, passed both House and Senate without a single dissenting vote despite dire warnings from the Department of Public Safety that ending asset forfeiture absent a criminal conviction of the property’s owner would have an “indeterminate but substantial” negative impact on law enforcement statewide.
    And, although her former colleagues in the law enforcement community urged Gov. Susana Martinez to veto, she signed the bill in April.

  • In our public and personal discourse, there are some words that must be used only with the utmost care.
    One is “Nazi.” Another is “slavery.” Both refer to horrific historic chapters in human history that called into question our humanity.
    Unfortunately, we sometimes carelessly inject these words into our conversations in reference to something else entirely. By corrupting the meanings of these words, we disrespect those who suffered under fascism and slavery.
    I read that the Los Alamos Republican Party has recently elected a new leadership team. I was shocked to find in “The Adopted Principles of the Republican Party of Los Alamos” a call for “leaders who will refocus governments on executing their legitimate tasks well instead of enslaving and bankrupting us.”
    Americans rigorously debate the proper scope and function of government at all levels, but this claim that Los Alamos Republicans experience repression akin to what slaves in this country experienced for 250 years goes beyond the boundaries of truth and into the realm of the worst possible hyperbole.

  • The column by Cal Thomas in Wednesday’s April 22 edition of the Albuquerque Journal highlights a growing problem with our citizenry in understanding and living with our form of government.
    Civics is no longer a must for public school students. In the 1940s, civics was a semester course in New Mexico. Somewhere along the line civics as a discrete separate course was dropped and the topic was meshed with social studies where one-thirteenth of it was incorporated in each class from kindergarten through 12th grade (see New Mexico Public Education Department social studies teaching standards).
    Jay Leno’s popular program segment, “Jay Walking,” Interviewed people on the street about government and current affairs. They could not identify civic office holders nor could they define pieces of the Constitution or government processes.
    Similar instances were cited by Thomas in his article. One wonders why some people go to the polls. I am sure that most people who voted for a recent constitutional amendment did not understand what they were voting for.

  • Dear Residents of Los Alamos County:
    Local Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts and Venture Scouts are prepared to help the Letter Carriers and LA Cares to collect, sort and store your donations of food and supplies during the 23rd annual National Food Drive on Saturday. The event is sponsored by the Letter Carriers. All we need is your help to “Stamp Out Hunger.”
    It may be surprisingly to learn that even in our well-off community there are dozens of families, many with young children or elderly, who need help, in addition to those in our neighboring communities. In fact, one in six Americans struggle to get enough to eat. So what can you do to help?
    Go to your pantry and fill a grocery bag (double it for strength) or a box with non-perishable food and other necessities. Then on Saturday morning place it near your mailbox and soon your Letter Carrier, a Boy Scout or an adult leader will pick it up and take it to be sorted, stored and distributed by LA Cares.

  • Storefront lenders can still charge their low-income borrowers any interest rate they see fit because legislators didn’t fix the problem.
    These companies, called “predatory” by their many critics, are the bottom feeders of banking. They exist because there’s a need.
    A lot of people never have enough money left after expenses to make a deposit and they don’t have credit cards either.
    The term for them is “the unbanked.”
    Storefront lenders make small loans at triple-digit interest rates (or more) to the unbanked. When borrowers can’t repay, lenders roll over the loan and fees and interest spiral.
    Predatory lending is the flawed answer to a problem. Banks and credit unions are practiced in sizing you up to decide if you’re credit worthy before they loan you a dollar and the complaint is usually that they’re too strict.
    Storefront lenders make loans to anybody. There’s the rub.
    As I discovered when I wrote about them recently, storefront lenders don’t care whether you’re credit worthy or not. They expect to get burned on a large number of their loans, so they charge high fees and interest rates. They make their money from the people who do attempt to repay their loans.

  • Research and development (R&D) is the good genie that improves every technical tool important to society and business.
    Few tools have more troubling defects than the tools of regulating. We know so by the heated reactions they spark in every interest group.
    Why then is R&D used so little to improve these tools? Our lack of R&D ignores the lush fields of opportunity for improving regulatory tools.
    R&D projects can be mapped to show where they fit with the four distinct steps in the regulatory process, namely, (1) rule-making, (2) permitting, (3) inspection and (4) enforcement.
    Politics and publicity focus on rule-making, which also involves science and engineering. Yet, most of the day-to-day work is in implementation — permitting and inspecting. Here is where many tasks could be done better, faster and cheaper if aided by 21st century technology. Indeed, this is the founding vision of R&D.
    In broad terms, environmental voices are not fond of swift permitting. By the same token, industrial voices are not fond of swift inspection and enforcement.
    Over time, each side tweaks certain parts to make them clumsy. Both sides conclude that a clumsy part is a fair reason to add more unwieldy parts. Both sides and all taxpayers suffer the cost of this contest.

  • Breast cancer is unfortunately prevalent not only among humans, but also in our feline friends.
    Just like with people, mammary cancer is very aggressive in cats, and they have the best chance of survival if caught early.
    “Eighty-five percent of mammary tumors found in cats are malignant, and more that 80 percent will eventually spread to other locations in the body, such as the lymph nodes, lungs, bone and internal organs,” said Dr. Jacqueline Bloch, medical oncology resident at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences.
    It is found that Siamese and domestic shorthair cats are more at risk for mammary tumors.
    “Siamese are especially prone to developing them at a relatively young age,” Bloch said. “The average age is 10 years in other cats.”
    However, it is a risk for any cat to develop a mammary tumor, and like with other cancers, it is important to get a proper diagnosis.
    “Mammary tumors in cats are best diagnosed by a biopsy. This helps us to give prognostic information to the owners as well as diagnosis,” Bloch said. “Sometimes we can obtain diagnosis by a relatively non-invasive needle biopsy.”

  • Giving sight to community

    The Los Alamos Lions Club would like to express appreciation to the people of Los Alamos who have donated their used eyeglasses. These glasses are taken to an eyeglass distribution center where they are refurbished and given to needy persons in the United States, as well as around the world.
    Only volunteers of the Lions Club perform these jobs. Thanks also to Eye Associates of New Mexico for their donation of glasses.
    The collection boxes for used eyeglasses may be found at the Betty Ehart Senior Center, Los Alamos Medical Center and the Mesa Public Library.
    Lions Club has a dinner meeting at the home of Mary Swickard the first and third Thursday of the month. Any interested persons are welcome. Call 672-3300 for more information.

  • Katie’s parents were excited to see their daughter going to college.
    They told her that she would be making all sorts of new friends, that she should welcome the experience of new adventures and new challenges, and most importantly that she should not be afraid of the unknown.
    Yeah, right! Can you imagine parents telling their 18-year-old daughter not to be afraid of college? Encouraging her to take chances? Encouraging her to trust new friends?
    One in five female students on college campuses report sexual assaults to the authorities (police). These statistics do not include the alarming number of brutal sexual assaults not reported.
    Of course, if women didn’t go to college, they wouldn’t get raped in college, right?
    That’s the inspirational logic spewed from the putrid decomposing brain of Phyllis Schlafly, who said “Boys are more likely than girls to look at the cost-benefit trade-off of going to college. The imbalance of far more women at colleges has been a factor in the various sex scandals that have made the news in the last couple of years.”
    That’s pure genius!  Schlafly equates the increase in female enrollment in colleges to a cost-benefit for men. And women are “asking for it” by going to college in the first place.

  • I have to admit that initially I was uninterested, even close-minded, about the negative yield being offered on a growing share of European sovereign debt.
    “It must be a short-term aberration,” I thought at first. “Completely nutso,” I sniffed dismissively as the phenomenon spread. “Who in their right mind would invest in a financial instrument that would guarantee a loss of principal?”
    Upon calmer reflection, I would shrug and think, “Well, to each his own, but none of those topsy-turvy debt instruments for me.”
    More recently, I have taken a more tolerant attitude toward negative-yield debt. As I teach my Econ 101 students, the key to success in the economic marketplace is to set aside your own preconceptions and preferences and to acknowledge that the consumer is always right.
    In fact, the more I think about it, I find myself attracted to the idea of offering such a service to satisfy this unfathomable consumer appetite for negative yields. Maybe I should announce that anybody out there who would like to send me money on the condition that I return less than all of it to them in the future is free to do so (as long as they include payment for any incidental transaction costs). From that perspective, negative interest rates are quite ingenious.

  • White poles frame the lanes of N.M. 279 at its intersection with N.M. 124 just north of Laguna and form a cluster.
    For the first-time observer, the white hilltop cluster is odd: “What in the world is that?” Turn north on 279 and the purpose — if not the rationale — becomes evident. The poles channel traffic, such as it is, through the intersection.
    Our years long, nine-figure difference between what ought to be done maintaining and building highways and the money available, as defined by the state Department of Transportation, must be a matter of policy. It has continued so long that it must be on purpose.
    Just kidding. I hope.
    Within the policy, some things stand out — the ghostly cluster, for example.
    One doesn’t just build a road. My sample of the materials from a Transportation Commission meeting is a five-eighths-inch thick book.
    Examples of work DOT likes appear in the department’s annual report. While the project descriptions are all happy news, some interesting hints slide in. The 2013 report’s description of rebuilding the I-10/I-25 interchange south of Las Cruces mentions reconstruction of two bridges “to meet current design standards.”

  • Great community
    outcome for Earth Day

    On behalf of the Pajarito Environmental Education Center and as chairperson for the Earth Day Festival at the new Nature Center, I would like to thank the committee, the many volunteers, the staff, the community and the weather for making our Earth Day Festival a wonderful celebration. Fit in amongst the moving, settling and opening of the Los Alamos Nature Center was planning for the celebration of our planet Earth.
    The committee included volunteers and staff of PEEC, the Los Alamos Co-Op Market, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Bradbury Science Museum, and University of New Mexico-Los Alamos. Although we have sponsored an Earth Day Festival for 15 years, this was a new place, which presented new challenges. Each contributor’s ideas and dedication were greatly appreciated.
    Our sponsors included Los Alamos National Bank, LANL, Atomic City Transit, UNM-LA, the Los Alamos Monitor, the Los Alamos County Environmental Sciences and Los Alamos Mainstreet. We could not have done it without their support.
    We would especially like to thank Kristin Henderson, chairperson of the County Council, who took time to be our Master of Ceremonies.

  • Back in early April, Lt. Gov. John Sanchez found himself in Roswell speaking to the Chaves County Republican Party’s annual dinner.
    It’s the sort of thing lieutenant governors do, part of the unofficial job description that goes with the position: If the governor can’t or doesn’t wish to make a speech before a group of local party leaders, send the lieutenant governor.
    Normally news coverage of such appearances goes largely unreported except, perhaps, by the local newspaper. In this case, however, after the lieutenant governor made it known to Chaves County’s top Republicans that “pressure is growing for a special session of the Legislature,” the story made a good deal of news.
    Naturally the Roswell Daily Record picked it up, but so did numerous other New Mexico papers and statewide TV newscasts. It even showed up in the conservative Washington Times back in the nation’s capital.
    Which makes a certain amount sense, inasmuch as only a few days earlier Gov. Susanna Martinez made it abundantly clear that she wasn’t keen on a special session. Mixed signals coming out of any governor’s administration make headlines.

  • “If your children are no better than you are, you have fathered them in vain, indeed you have lived in vain,” according to Alexander Solzhenitsyn in “Cancer Ward.”
    Actually, I am not satisfied merely if my children are better than I am, for I have set that bar rather low. At the very least, my goal is that my children will be above average, better than their peers.
    I am not speaking of academic ability. We are drowning in evidence of academic strengths and weaknesses, based on required standardized testing.
    Instead, I am thinking of positive youth development, sometimes referred to as character development.
    Do people view me as a man of integrity? Do people view my children as people of integrity? Are they contributing members of society, in their families, at the workplace, and in their churches?
    Psychology is not as accurate when it comes to measuring positive youth development. It is a more subjective domain — the evidence is easier to misinterpret and exaggerate.
    A large amount of research in psychology is based on survey data, in which people describe themselves.