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Today's Opinions

  • Getting St. Nicholas right

    St. Nicholas is, in fact, the greatest saint in the history of Christianity. Forget Peter, Paul, or Mary; St. Nicholas has them all beat. No other saint enjoys his unique relationship to all three branches of Christianity — Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Protestant — nor his persistent presence in secular culture.
    Archbishop Nicholas of Myra and wonder-worker of the late third and early fourth century, has been and continues to be venerated ecumenically by all the various households of the Christian faith. Although rites and customs vary, some begin their remembrance of St. Nicholas as early as Dec. 6 (his feast day on the liturgical calendar) and continue to celebrate him all through the Twelve Days of Christmas until Jan. 5.
    The mode or means of veneration can vary as well. The Orthodox and Catholic churches through hymns and litanies ask him to pray for us and recount the miracles attributed to his intercessions or direct intervention. Outside of church in Orthodox and Catholic cultures, children can usually expect gifts to be given in the name of St. Nicholas. It is in this tradition of giving that St. Nicholas persists in Protestant cultures. And it is unmistakably St. Nicholas even in the most dogmatically Protestant of countries (e.g. “Sinter Claas” in 17th century Holland).

  • Guidelines on holiday visits for long-term care residents

    Holidays can be a challenging time for residents of long-term care facilities and their families. Two questions are often asked: Can I bring my loved one home, or to a holiday celebration, and what can I do to ensure a successful visit that doesn’t feel awkward?   
    Regarding visits away from a nursing home, residents receiving skilled nursing care may participate in short visits away from a facility without danger of losing their Medicare coverage. The Medicare Benefit Policy manual outlines rights of residents granted a short leave of absence to attend a family or religious occasion without jeopardizing their Medicare status. As long as a resident returns to the nursing home by midnight on the day of the leave, the facility may still bill Medicare for their stay. For families wishing to have a loved one home for an overnight visit, residents can leave a skilled nursing facility for short periods without losing their coverage, however, facilities may bill residents to hold their beds. For more information, visit medicareadvocacy.org/you-can-leave-the-nursing-home/. Residents who utilize Medicaid for long-term care services may also be allowed to leave a nursing home for brief periods. The state Medicaid plan covers three reserve bed days for brief home visits without prior approval. A physician’s order is required for this arrangement.

  • Planning a home remodel that actually pays off

    There was a time when contractors building McMansion-style home additions or Michelin-worthy kitchens were a regular sight in many neighborhoods — until around 2006, when the Great Recession began to take hold.
    Here’s the good news: home improvements are starting to add value in a rising housing market. Here’s the bad news: you have to be very careful about the renovation or remodeling projects you select to avoid over-stretching your budget.
    In 2014, completing successful home improvements comes down to two critical questions, will you get most of your money back when you sell your property (the days of 100 percent-plus returns on renovations are over, at least for now) and how will project costs affect your overall financial plan?
    Here are questions to fuel your planning:
    • How long you plan to live in the home after the renovation. The Great Recession proved many homeowners didn’t recoup elaborate — or sometimes modest — improvement costs when selling their homes. Even in a recovering market, it’s good to be wary. For now, renovate for the long haul and your personal enjoyment, not overnight sale.

  • Unsustainable subsidies and an unstable system

    On Dec. 3, while 190 governments were meeting for two weeks of climate change talks in Lima, Peru (which, after 30 hours of overtime, produced a compromise deal that environmental groups said “went from weak to weaker to weakest”), Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cabinet agreed to a package that continues Germany’s optimistic ‘ though unrealistic — goal and increases subsidies for measures designed to cut emissions.
    Regarding Germany’s “climate protection package,” Barbara Hendricks, Environment Minister, admitted: “if no additional steps were taken, Germany … would miss its targets by between five to eight percentage points.”
    The results of the German agreement will require operators of coal-fueled power plants to reduce emissions by at least 22 million tons — the equivalent of closing eight of them. The Financial Times (FT) believes the plan will “lead to brownouts in German homes.”
    With the goal of generating 80 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2050, Germany has aggressively pursued a green dream with unsustainable subsidies that have produced an unstable system described by FT, on Nov. 25, as: “a lesson in doing too much too quickly on energy policy.”

  • A big LALT thank you

    The Los Alamos Little Theatre is very pleased to announce that one day and one very generous patron was all it took to raise the final money for the purchase and installation of an assisted listening system for the Performing Arts Center at 1670 Nectar St.
    All contributions received will go toward improving the listening experience for LALT productions and special performances.
    We want to give a special thanks to the Los Alamos National Bank for jump-starting our fundraising effort through its community reinvestment program.
    We have to have the system installed and operating in time for the opening performance of “Murdered to Death” on Jan. 16.

    John Gustafson
    Vice president
    Los Alamos Little Theatre
    Board of directors

  • A white noise Christmas

    So, another Christmas is nearly upon us. The streets will soon be littered with drying Yuletide trees, the shipping industry busy with items being returned and neighbors taking bets on how long it will take that jerk across the street to take down his 54,000 watt solar-flare holiday display.
    Perhaps we should take a step back and remember what the true spirit of the holiday season is fear of losing sunlight! Winter Solstice is Sunday, the “shortest day of the year.”
    This is very confusing though. I own a rather nice stopwatch and I’ve carefully measured Solstice for several years running, and I’ve discovered that it is not the shortest day. In fact, it’s the same length, 24 hours. I’m going to have to do more research on this.
    Pagans, Druids, Wiccans and other Sun worshipers will gather at Stonehenge “hoping in earnest” that the Sun will rise again. As daylight hours continue to wane, the ancients would worry that the Sun had finally given up on human civilization and might decide to call it quits. Hence the celebrations upon the “return of sunlight” as the days would again begin to increase after Solstice.

  • What is PNM thinking?

    New Mexicans breathed a sigh of relief last year in hearing that PNM would be closing down two of the dirtiest coal-fired plants in the nation.
    Those two generators at the San Juan Generating Station in northwestern New Mexico are responsible for six million tons of carbon pollution in our skies every year, not to mention other pollutants like mercury, sulfur dioxides, etc.
    Unfortunately, our relief was short-lived. PNM has a backward plan to make up for its loss of generating capacity from closing half of the San Juan coal plant. Rather than making an investment in clean, abundant solar and wind power, PNM has stuck with what it knows best — dirty, expensive and dangerous coal and nuclear generators.
    PNM proposes to derive more than 40 percent of its total generating capacity from coal through 2053! In addition, it will increase its use of nuclear power (created at the Palo Verde site in Arizona) to 30 percent, while getting less than 4 percent from solar and no new wind.
    At a time when the rest of the world is in a race to develop the most efficient technologies to lead the world into a cleaner and prosperous energy future, the powers at PNM are stuck trying to extract every bit of profit from coal and nuclear.

  • Thank you, public servants

    A big thank you to the Secretary of State’s staff and the Los Alamos County Clerk and her staff for all the many hours and hard work that went on behind the scenes in accomplishing the first ever in New Mexico statewide recount. I’m sure much the same thing went on in clerks offices across the State. Those of us who did the recount in Los Alamos saw how hard Sharon, Adrianna , Gloria, Ona and Jocelyn had worked in preparing for the recount to go smoothly. Thank you for making a tedious and time-consuming job as painless as possible. It was a pleasure to work with the entire recount team.
    Mary Wilhoit
    Los Alamos