Tagged: New Mexico

Photographer captures ice halo phenomena in Red River, NM


Click to see original

A photographer from Texas, Joshua Thomas, recently captured a photo in New Mexico of a rare ice crystal halo phenomenon.

In order to point out the interesting details in the photo, the US National Weather Service of La Crosse, Wisconsin made the photo into a diagram that shows the different aspects of the halo.

The phenomenon occurs when minuscule ice crystals in the atmosphere reflect and refract light in a certain way. The halos can be created by light from the sun or the moon, and seeing one often means there will be some kind of precipitation within the following 24 hours.

Delightful. A good reason to go outdoors in the winter. :)

Hastening death and suicide are different

In recent weeks, all of America was captivated by the story of Brittany Maynard, the 29-year old terminally ill brain cancer patient. She died on Nov. 1 of her own free will with the aid of physician-prescribed medication.

Prior to her death, Maynard and her family moved to Oregon, one of only three states that have enacted legislation – known as “death with dignity” or “aid-in-dying” legislation – that sets out strict requirements for competent adults with terminal diseases who wish to end their suffering by being aided in death. Washington and Vermont also have similar laws on the books.

Two other states – Montana and New Mexico – have not passed laws on the issue but have court decisions in place that effectively allow such deaths to take place. The Montana case was Baxter v. State; in the New Mexico case, known as Morris v. Brandenberg, Second District Judge Nan Nash – whose decision is currently being appealed – wrote that:

“If decisions made in the shadow of one’s imminent death regarding how they and their loved ones will face that death are not fundamental and at the core of these constitutional guarantees, then what decisions are..?”

When it comes to making the emotional appeal for such laws, Maynard, with the aid of Compassion & Choices, a leading aid-in-dying organization based in Oregon, told her story in about as articulate, intelligent and compassionate a way as humanly possible. Yet although her story made all the major media outlets, there was one point that was never picked up by any media with perhaps one exception –- what she planned to do, as she explained in one of her video clips, was not a suicide.

Despite this, many of the media captioned her story as one involving her “suicide” or “assisted suicide” (because the medication she used was lawfully prescribed by a licensed physician)…

But when we consider death with dignity, or aid-in-dying, the words “suicide” or “assisted suicide” should forever be banished from the lexicon.

I made this point a few years ago in a “friend of the court” brief for the Baxter court case in Montana; my argument was mentioned in a concurring opinion once the case was decided…

Physicians and other health professionals point to advances in palliative care to assuage the pain and suffering experienced by terminally ill and dying patients as one reason that ending one’s own life may now be avoided in these situations. It is certainly true that such advances have been made, but on balance, a competent adult with a terminal illness or disease must have a choice to end life with dignity on terms arrived at by that person.

A law like Oregon’s permits this option, and allows for what should be a basic human right at the end of life – a right that is to be granted only to those suffering from a painful terminal illness, not those wishing to end their lives for other reasons.

Which is my only dispute with the article. Although in general I don’t find many reasons legit – I can imagine one or another coming to pass. And I would want the right to make that decision.

Before she died, Maynard brought to the public’s attention her well-formed decision-making process and showed how it should apply to people in her specific situation…

In the end, as human thought advances over time, our views on ideas once held sacrosanct change. This is part of the human condition and ingrained within the fabric of social transition. Isn’t it high time that all of us discuss and evaluate the Brittany Maynards of our existence with the proper language that excludes the words suicide or assisted suicide, including anyone who writes, speaks or legislates about the subject in an open forum?

Let’s get little stuff out of the way. Regardless of questions about death with dignity, freedom of choice, you need to take care of the legal clutter impacting anyone in the clutches of the medical-industrial complex. Yes, that’s tongue-in-cheek. I’ve had some damned decent, thoughtful doctors in my life – they can help a great deal in discussions on the topic.

Here in New Mexico, you first should sort out a power of attorney with friend, spouse or significant other. Standard info on Advance Directives is available over here from the UNM medical school. Here’s one of the forms [.pdf] they suggest. I offer the link because it’s the one my wife chose – and she does a better job at this kind of search than I do.

I have to remember to keep my fey sense of humor out of the way. We had our first Death Panel get-together with my wife’s doctor a few weeks back. I have nothing but contempt for the conservative idjits who coined that term – so, of course, I deliberately use it as a joke. My wife’s doctor didn’t smile.

And we were the first patients I think she ever had bring up the topic. My first official discussion with my own doctor is next month – who is the husband of my wife’s doctor. Not really relevant; but, interesting.

The most important thing we learned was this Advance Directives form is more important, thoughtful and primary than the DNR [Do Not Resuscitate] form often referred to in discussions like this. I have one mate up in Canada who has it tattooed across his stomach. But, he’s in terrible health with a truly failing heart. My honey and I are essentially in good health. I have several worn-out bits here and there; but, the basic meat machine still works fine.

A DNR doesn’t allow for accidents or even health disasters which used to be considered inevitably fatal, lingering or otherwise. My wife’s doctor made a sensible case for reliance on this advance directive. A DNR can be added in person or via power of attorney if you end up teetering on the edge. but, a DNR can get in the way of what is reasonable resuscitation, nowadays – with years of perfectly satisfactory life following.

And we live in New Mexico, so unless the state succeeds in challenging current case law, we can rely on assistance from our doctors in a reasonable end to a terminal condition. At least I hope so. That’s the discussion I have next month. My doctor is bright and reasonable. I just presume that includes agreeing with me. :)

Are we approaching EOL? The end-of-life for the Rio Grande?


Click to enlargeLaura Paskus

PILAR, NM — From his cabin on the Rio Grande, river runner Steve Harris watches the flows of the river ebb and peak throughout the year. When the water runs clear, he glimpses northern pike below the surface. In winter, bald eagles nest along the river. And throughout the year, foxes and beavers, bears and badgers traipse through the yard.

“This is my retreat to go back to after foraying out into the water wars,” he says, only half-joking. “Uncle Steve” has been running the Rio Grande, in one place or another, for about 35 years. And he’s been defending the river about that long, too.

As drought has intensified over the past few years, however, trying to protect what’s left of the river has gotten harder and harder…

That’s a chronic problem: For instance, as New Mexico reinitiates a statewide water-planning process dating back to the 1980s, officials have said they’re not incorporating the effects of climate change into the equation.

Yet less precipitation and higher temperatures seem to be colliding with the river’s future…

The push-up dam outside Harris’s cabin is the first diversion structure on the Rio Grande in New Mexico. It diverts water into a small acequia that sustains a few acres of pasture and a garden in the village. “Once you get below here, the river’s been diverted to some degree or another,” he says, ticking off the biggest dams and reservoirs downstream: Cochiti, Elephant Butte and Caballo. “And on this same river, if we drove a thousand miles downstream, it would be dry.”

Traveling through an arid landscape susceptible to drought, the Rio Grande has often flowed in fits and starts. But until its waters were tamed in the 20th century—by dams, canals and increasingly sophisticated irrigation ditches—the river would also overflow its banks and swell across the wide floodplain.

Those floods could wreak havoc on settlements and inundate farmland. But they also nurtured native fish species, gave birth to the cottonwood forests and helped push the river toward the sea. Today, the river is constricted and controlled, sucked dry by the demands of irrigators and cities and prevented from navigating new channels.

As drought continues and climate change ramps up, the “Big River” is on its way to being the first of many climate casualties in New Mexico. And unless we all reconnect to Rio Grande—recognize its importance as a living river—our grandchildren might not know it as a force of nature…

The numbers are sobering. But they shouldn’t take anyone by surprise. Climate scientists have long been warning that the southwestern United States will experience warmer temperatures.

Authors of the National Climate Assessment’s 2013 report noted that in the Southwest, the period since 1950 has been warmer than any period of comparable length in at least 600 years and that recent flows in the four major drainage basins of the Southwest, including the Rio Grande, have been lower than their 20th century averages. The report predicts continued warming, a decrease in late-season snowpack and continued declines in river flows and soil moisture.

From the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to the New Mexico Environment Department, everyone has been issuing warnings about New Mexico’s water future.

During the Bill Richardson administration, the New Mexico Environment Department released a report detailing the potential effects of climate change on water resources, infrastructure, agriculture, natural systems, outdoor recreation tourism, environmental quality and health, low-income communities and communities of color and Native American communities.

Now, we’re starting the new year with the second term of a Republican governor owned lock-stock-and-two-loaded-barrels by the Oil Patch Boys. She cares more about engineering a gerrymandered electorate with a predictably complex photo ID system that satisfies both Homeland Insecurity and the Koch Bros.

Lip service is about as close as New Mexicans can get to acknowledgement of climate change from Governor Susana. Especially since she’s probably hoping to be the first Hispanic woman vice-presidential candidate.

The Democrats who remain in charge of the State Senate aren’t likely to be any more courageous than their cousins in Congress.

RTFA, though. It offers a detailed and well-described look along the course of the Rio and its decline.

What a backup reservoir looks like during a drought

image
Click to enlarge — New Mexico Sailing Club’s marina at Heron Lake

The San Juan-Chama Project, which delivers water from the mountains of southwest Colorado to central New Mexico, had the first shortfall this year in its four-decade history after three consecutive years of bad snowpack.

Water managers say the impact on Rio Grande Valley water operations was small, but the implications are significant – a demonstration that a supply once seen as dependable backup to a faltering Rio Grande might not be as reliable as once thought. Albuquerque and Santa Fe pull San-Juan Chama water from the Rio Grande for their local water supplies…

The first-ever shortfall comes just a year after a federal study warned that climate change would mean less reliable supplies from the project as temperatures warm during the 21st century…

Scientists are not ready to blame the shortfall on climate change, but they point out that the pattern seen in recent years is consistent with last year’s U.S. Bureau of Reclamation study of the risks to the San Juan-Chama Project posed by climate change…

Studies using tree rings to estimate long-term water supplies showed there were risks of shortfalls even without climate change, said hydrologist Dagmar Llewellyn, the study’s lead author.

“It isn’t just climate change,” she said in an interview.

But the warmer temperatures in recent decades can add to problems caused by a lack of winter snow, Llewellyn said. With a longer growing season and greater evaporation, less of the rain and snow that does fall makes it into the region’s rivers.

“The difference is it’s hotter,” she said. “For the same precipitation, you’re going to have less water…”

Llewellyn’s study concluded that, by the 2020s, the previously unheard of possibility of a San Juan-Chama Project shortfall could happen on average once every six years.

But, hey – gubernatorial elections are every four years. Republicans should be able to lie their way into continuing control of the legislature and the governor’s mansion. Between Koch Bros/Oil Patch Boys money and Democrats whose primary concern is which wardheeler’s kid is next in line to run for office – no problemo.

Prez of NM Medical Society suspended — drinking on job, sex with patients, WTF?

A New Mexico doctor posed a “clear and immediate danger to the public” for numerous infractions including having sex with patients, drinking on the job and leaving some women to give birth while unattended, the state medical board ruled.

Dr. Christopher Driskill was suspended by the New Mexico Medical Board on Friday for allegedly committing several incidents of misconduct…

The board ruled the obstetrician and gynecologist kept a personal stash of alcohol in his office.

Other inappropriate behavior includes prescribing drugs to a sexual partner, being under the influence while at work, writing lewd personal notes in medical charts, delaying a c-section and leaving a patient to give birth unattended because he was having sex with another patient…

Driskill, 42, was the incoming president of the New Mexico Medical Society

The board is now considering whether to revoke Driskill’s license. A hearing date has not been set. Dr. Driskill can challenge his suspension but at this point has not.

What is there to say? I glad the dude wasn’t my doctor.

How did he get to be elected/appointed by his peers to be the new head of the New Mexico Medical Society?

Thanks, Mike

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice to film in New Mexico


Morocco, Shmorocco – I can’t tell the difference either

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was scheduled to shoot in Africa, but with the Ebola virus epidemic going on there, it’s probably best to stay home. Instead, it looks like Deming, New Mexico will be filling in as a replacement location. Henry Cavill News spotted a posting on the New Mexico Film Office website, which was looking for extras for a Warner Bros. movie back in September…

According to the casting notice, entire families age 8 and older are needed to re-create an African village scene. The deserts in New Mexico can easily pass for Morocco, the location in Africa that they originally wanted to shoot at. The Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice crew is expected to film in New Mexico in mid-November, right after they’re done in Chicago, Illinois…

Holy Javelina, Batman!

Thanks, Mike

Conservative Nutball says Obama establishing terrorist base in New Mexico

MikeGroves-Organ Mountains
Click to enlargeMike Groves

Conservative commentator Erik Rush unspooled a wild conspiracy theory in his latest World Net Daily column, which describes his belief that President Barack Obama plans to turn over land in New Mexico to Islamist militants…

“As uncomfortable for them as it may be, (government officials) must come to grips with the fact that Obama is a well-placed saboteur representing malignant interests, enemies both foreign and domestic, that have been strategizing the downfall of the United States for decades,” wrote Rush, who appears regularly on Sean Hannity’s Fox News program.

While some Obama critics feared the president’s designation of New Mexico’s Organ Mountains-Desert Peak would weaken border security, Rush worried the area might be handed over to ISIS as a staging ground for domestic attacks…

Rush, who has previously suggested Obama is gay and recently claimed LGBT people shared the same goals as ISIS, outlined a nightmare scenario he believed Obama was cooking up with his Islamist allies…

He warned Obama would seize “absolute power” by imposing martial law after orchestrating terrorist attacks in the U.S. or possibly by using his “jihadist army” to pacify unsuspecting Americans.

Click the link and RTFA if you feel the need to soil your brain with this dreck. Or you can watch for Rush’s regular appearance on Fox News with that omniscient judge of political noise – Sean Hannity.

BTW, the Organ Mountains are a desert garden. If you want to hike and explore, carry as much water as possible, bring cool weather gear if you plan on overnighting. It is truly beautiful country that deserves wilderness status and protection.

Thanks, Mike

Surface Mining At Ground Zero

trinity2

Wind-blown sand still uncovers sun-bleached bones of men and mules dead for centuries along New Mexico’s Jornado del Muerte, the waterless hell where Spaniards died traveling between Santa Fe and Chihuahua. Few large areas in the United States can match its barren, flat desolation.

Near the center of this vast expanse lies man’s first great insult against the earth – – Trinity Site.

Ground Zero, where a massive steel tower holding the first atomic bomb was vaporized at 5:29 a.m., July 16, 1945, was a slight depression in the silent flatness. For a radius of more than 100 feet melted sand in the form of green glass covered the desert like a splotchy carpet shining in the light from above, dull by night, bright by day. This monument to man’s inhumanity to man, the largest blur on the landscape, was surrounded by a high fence, tight strands of barbed wire, a locked double gate and multilingual warning signs.

The gate was chained shut. Three padlocks served as links in the chain in 1951, any one of which permitted entry when unlocked. A large steel lock was stamped AEC, for the Atomic Energy Commission. A heavy brass padlock was stamped War Dept. The third padlock, a new one hardly larger than the links it secured, replaced one of these links recently melted in two by Jesse Petty’s gas torch. Jesse, my best friend and fellow draftee army buddy, from Carrizozo, New Mexico, had snapped the chain back together wit the little lock during his trip to the site.

Jesse had volunteered, I’ll go out there and cut the chain for you and put on a new padlock, but I won’t go in there, not for anything,”

He had given me the keys when we each returned to Guided Missile School at Ft. Bliss, Texas, from our weekend trips to different home cities.

My plan was to drive a truck to the Trinity atomic bomb site, use my keys to pass through the unguarded US Government gate remove the radioactive glass called Trinitite and transport it close to Los Alamos for a proper burial at its spiritual origin…

…While living in the remote desert of northern New Mexico I had seen an aerial photograph of the radioactive site in a popular magazine. It looked like a giant scab. It was an impurity waiting to be taken away. Writers wrote about it. I was determined to remove it without a trace of publicity. My self-appointed task was to gain entry to the government glass and haul it off for burial, to repair the desert, clean away this radioactive afterbirth.

And so it goes. I’ve never heard this story before. Our online compadre, Mike, just suggested it. I read it – and it is fascinating.

When I was still on the road I’d drive by Trinity site every week or so and think about getting in on the annual visit. Always figured my years of pissing off the FBI, CIA, every piece of alphabetized fascist crap-mentality in government would probably get me arrested and thrown out. Never have visited.

Dr. Pray’s story is fascinating. The Feds let on that the Trinitite, the atomic glass burned from molten sand at that first test site disappeared over years of tourists taking souvenirs. Ralph Pray’s story makes a lot more sense.

He died May 30, 2014.

Thanks, Mike

Monday morning reminiscence of Italy over breakfast


Click to enlarge source

A gentle rain, this morning. One of the delights of monsoon season, sometimes, in high desert country. Sunrise shining through the rain. Felt and smelled like nothing but my Italian grandparents’ farm in New York state – or Tuscany, which never got so cold in the winter.

My notes about a morning in Bivigliano are over at my friend Om Malik’s personal blog. The link is behind the photo above, taken in his vacation, the R&R he’s still immersed in – in Tuscany.

And Monday breakfast often depends on leftovers. I ate just a tad extra of my wife’s pork stew, yesterday; so no meat in the most important meal of the day – yet. Only my second cup of coffee with a touch of cinnamon in the brew, dark roast and strong as usual.

I’d baked a couple of long slender loaves of Italian bread, last week, instead of the usual boule. A quarter whole wheat, three-quarters unbleached white flour per usual. I turned one into broccoli bread the way the maestro did it at the Grand Bakery in my old Fairhaven neighborhood. I stuffed the loaf with steamed broccoli, minced garlic lightly sauteed in e.v. olive oil, dried red chile fragments.

The two heels of that loaf remained from the weekend. So, I split them, leaving a little broccoli in each piece. Toasted them till the sharp edges of the bread were just turning brown. Rubbed the stiff crust with a clove of garlic and brushed each surface with more of my favorite Sicilian extra virgin olive oil, and just a few grains of Malden sea salt.

Sat down with my coffee and Paul Desmond on Pandora streaming. “So long, Frank Lloyd Wright”.

The rain should stop, soon. Sheila’s a true New Mexico dog and won’t come outside for a walk with me until it does.

Operator of failing nuclear dump gets $1.9 million bonus — and $54 million fine! UPDATED


Visitors to Carlsbad, New Mexico, in proper summer attire

The contractor that operates the federal government’s underground nuclear waste dump in southeastern New Mexico received a $1.9 million bonus just five days after an underground truck fire closed the facility.

The Albuquerque Journal reported Sunday that the U.S. Department of Energy awarded Nuclear Waste Partnership the funds based on an “excellent” job performance in maintaining the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in Carlsbad.

Some observers say last February’s fire and the radiation leak that followed nine days later show the contractor failed at its job.

Initial probes by federal regulators into both incidents identified a host of management and safety shortcomings.

The Department of Energy says it is not considering revising or terminating its contract with Nuclear Waste Partnership.

The company has a contract to operate the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant through 2017.

Consistency is the leading mental illness in our government. Time in office, time on the job is considered praiseworthy and a sign of qualification by the Senators and Congress-critters that dole out taxpayer dollars like so many blue ribbons at a hog-calling contest. Quality of work is meaningless.

The Waste Isolation Pilot Project was run badly enough that the chief executive at the site was fired as a result of the equipment fire and, separately, the radiation leak.

There are nations with an honorable civil service, competent, dedicated bureaucrats. The United States just doesn’t happen to be one of them.

Thanks, Mike

UPDATE: $54 milliion fine from the state of New Mexico for crap safety.

Thanks, Mike, again