For a Healthier Planet and People: Don’t Have a Cow, Man

2013-07-05 12.02.27Numerous questions have been raised in recent years about animal-based farming and the consequences for people, the environment, and the animals themselves. The news about pending recommendations to eat less meat for environmental reasons may now bring this issue to the front page. Continue reading

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The Gang Who Couldn’t Shoot Straight–Part II–A Culture of Corruption

Main Street Sunland Park, NM

Main Street Sunland Park, NM

In an earlier blog I wrote two years ago I discussed a rather tawdry story of election fraud and corruption in the border town of Sunland Park, New Mexico.  The then mayor pro temp, the city manager, and a number of other officials and council members were indicted and sent to jail. Apparently, millions of dollars were misspent, including questionable trips to Mexico by various city officials. The Governor had the city’s finances taken over by the State’s Department of Financial Affairs. Fast forward two years to today. Sunland Park, having just regained back control of its finances from the DFA this past summer, now seems bent on expanding its budget and power by the time-proven method of annexing adjacent properties. In this case the City Council, facing bankruptcy and looking for new avenues of revenue, has cast its eyes on the local community of Santa Teresa, hoping to add this more affluent community to its overall tax base. Continue reading

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Recycled Thoughts

The following are some important ideas regarding recycling in the border region by guest contributor Dr. Marshall Carter-Tripp:

Smiley-5copy_zpsa902abb2Recent travels in the West/Northwest and into Alberta took me to several national parks, and to small cities and towns along the way, many in very isolated areas. It was interesting to discover that recycling exists in places where there is no Internet or cell phone coverage! For example, the lodging areas of Yellowstone National Park have many strategically placed recycling bins, and each cabin had separate trash and recycling baskets. Accommodations at Flagg Ranch, between Yellowstone and Glacier, also had these recycle bins and separate containers in the rooms. Hotels in some towns, such as the Hampton Inn in Butte, Montana, offered recycling. As we returned, we found the Riverbend Hot Springs in Truth or Consequences was in the group, and its recycling included glass. Continue reading

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Private Prisons: The Injustice League

Check out the interesting article, “Private Prisons: The Injustice League,” by Online private-prison-profitParalegal Programs at www.online-paralegal-programs.com , providing some interesting information on what’s happening with our private prisons systems in line with our recent blog, “The Exceptional World of US Prisons.”

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Where Have All The Rivers Gone?

shutterstock_107999030 The US The US southwest and west are experiencing severe drought – in some cases, perhaps, the worst ever recorded.  For example, in California experts have characterized it as a 500-year drought.   Over 40,000 people in California will have no water supplies in the next few months, and state officials acknowledge the figure will rise.  While this is a drought-driven problem failure to anticipate and prepare for drought is also playing a role . This is a major threat to the farming industry of the state – and to the agricultural production of the US as a whole given that California’s output is a substantial portion of US total output.   Winter-based industries such as ski resorts are also facing a declining future as snowpack falls – only 15% of normal in the Sierra Nevada, to take one US example.   (This is happening worldwide, highlighted this year by the Winter Olympics in Russia, made possible only by saving snow from last year and by massive snow-making.) Continue reading

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The Ugly American

 

Poster from "The Ugly American" movie starring Marlon Brando

Poster from “The Ugly American” movie starring Marlon Brando

In the book The Ugly American (1958), the authors Eugene Burdick and William Lederer describe Americans living in a fictional, Southeast Asian country that was a thinly disguised Vietnam.  Popularized by a movie starring Marlon Brando, the book’s title came to symbolize the view of Americans as often seen from abroad—arrogant, loud and ostentatious.  The title actually alludes to an American government worker who, while physically unattractive, lives and works closely with Southeast Asians in improving their daily lives by bringing small scale, innovative technology into their local villages (a bicycle-powered water pump, improved chicken coops, etc).  The fictional hero of the book was actually a real person, Homer Atkins, who worked in Vietnam with the International Cooperation Agency—now the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)— in the 1950s.  Our efforts of civilian aid to Vietnam then were obviously overwhelmed by the ensuing military conflict of the Vietnam War of the sixties and seventies, leaving scars and tragic memories still felt by many Americans to this day.  Arriving at Hanoi International Airport recently I was curious, if not somewhat apprehensive, as to how an “ugly American” might be met.  The following describes my own personal experience and thoughts about going forward in Vietnam and Southeast Asia. Continue reading

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The World is Not Flat

iPhone 5

iPhone 5

Thomas Friedman, author of the best seller The World Is Flat, argues that information technology has leveled the world’s competitive markets and made access to finance and products more dependent on understanding that technology and its opportunities. Technology had made the world “flat.” However, anyone who has traveled twelve time zones away from home elsewhere in the world knows that the world is not flat, not even in the sense that Friedman suggests. Among other things infrastructure, policies (public and private) and cultural differences ensure that while we may indeed be globally connected, the world is definitely not flat. Though my experience in traveling over the past six months may only provide anecdotal evidence, I think I can illustrate that using information technology—your smart phone, your iPad and/or your laptop—while abroad may not be as simple or as inexpensive as one would hope. That is staying “connected,” essential in the type of travel I was doing, was challenging to say the least. Continue reading

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The Secrets of Florence—Or Following in the Steps of Dan Brown’s “Inferno”

I apologize in advance to my good friends and scholars of Florence for any mistakes I have inadvertently made in describing their wonderful city and history—PM

 

9780385537858_p0_v11_s260x420I am just wrapping up nine weeks in Florence, Italy where I tried to see if my grey cells could accept the idea of learning a new language (Italian) and maybe unleash some long dormant art skills.  In the process of wandering the streets and checking out the sights of the city while not otherwise occupied conjugating verbs like “essere” (to be) or splashing paint on canvas (and my clothes—I finally got smart and bought one of those tourist aprons) I learned a bit about Florence and it’s “secrets.”  For those of you who are aficionados of Dan Brown you know his latest book “Inferno” mostly takes place in Florence where his main character, Dr. Robert Langdon, races through various secret passages among some of the more famous landmarks of the city.  The Italian tourist industry being very astute has developed an entire new series of tours which retrace Langdon’s fictional steps through the city.  I managed to get on some of those tours as well as a few private ones that I describe here and where I also try to add a little “fact” to the “fiction” of “Inferno.” Continue reading

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Running with the Bulls—Trying to Understand the Culture

A poster from Pamplona, Spain

A poster from Pamplona, Spain

The small town of Pamplona, Spain is famous for its annual Fiesta de San Fermin, better known as the “Running with the Bulls” festival. Ernest Hemingway first brought international attention to Pamplona and the running of the bulls festival in his book “The Sun Also Rises.”   The plot of the book is not about the festival itself but he does describe it in great detail. Since I was in the neighborhood (nearby France) during the week long festival I decided to take time and spend a few days observing it and see if fiction fit with fact.  I stayed in the nearby town of Puente la Reina, close enough to check out the action but far enough away to have some peace and quiet. The following describes my own experience at the festival—what I saw, what I felt and, maybe, what can be concluded in a broader cultural sense or not. Continue reading

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Life in the Not So Fast Lane—The French Have a Different Approach

The French have a different take on road travel from the Germans and most of the rest of Europe for that matter.  For one they have speed limits no matter where you are the max being 130 kph (or 78 mph)—not intolerable even if you are in a hurry but not the daredevil approach of the Germans either.  The dominance of Mercedes and BMW is replaced by Peugeot and Renault so my little red Peugeot 208 stood a good chance in the “speed” lanes with the rest of France.  Road etiquette remains somewhat the same when it comes to passing—in general no one passes in the right lane and the slower cars and trucks always occupy the right.  So far so good.  There are, however two very big differences in traveling the roads of France versus Germany.  One, is the “invisible lane” and, two, is the “tolls-from-hell” that exist in much of France—make sure you bring a lot of cash and don’t assume that American Express (or Visa or Mastercard) will suffice. Continue reading

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