Treating the problem: Medical, pharmacy boards consider changes to curb prescription drug abuse

Santa Fe New Mexican - Prescriptions for opioid painkillers would get greater scrutiny from doctors and pharmacists under proposals to be considered by the state's pharmacy and medical boards this summer. The plans also aim to better educate everyone involved about the dangers of overprescribing or becoming addicted to pills such as hydrocodone and OxyContin. The move comes as New Mexico's overall drug-overdose death rate is the highest in the country, and new statistics from the state Department of Health show a dramatic rise in the sale of opioid drugs, up 131 percent from 2001 to 2010. "The board was very alarmed at the overdose rate in the state," said state Board of Pharmacy Director Bill Harvey. "We're very serious about reducing the amount of opioids or controlled substances that are available for abuse," he said. On June 21, the board will consider various proposals, including one to increase the number of prescribers who use the state's prescription-drug monitoring program. That electronic database gives doctors and pharmacists access to a patient's prescription-drug history. Providers update the information at least every seven days -- an improvement over the monthly updates that were previously all that was required. Proponents say the database is critical to understanding a patient, but not all doctors use it when writing prescriptions. Read More News New Mexico


Texans helping out with New Mexico wildfires

Fort Worth Star-TelegramWhen nearly 4 million acres of Texas went up in smoke last year, more than 16,000 emergency responders from all 50 states and Puerto Rico helped the Lone Star State's beleaguered firefighters beat back the flames. Now, Texas is returning the favor. Fifteen emergency responders, including 11 from the Forest Service, headed to New Mexico over the weekend to aid in recovery efforts on the Little Bear Fire near Ruidoso. "This is our chance to say thank you; we have a big debt to repay," said Tom Boggus, director of the Texas Forest Service which contended with 10,331 fires last year at a cost of around $337 million. "We are available to help our neighbors. If we have the resources they need, we will go," he said Monday. Fire experts say that the same combustible combination of prolonged drought, heat and strong winds that created last year's Texas firestorm is still in place over much of the Rocky Mountain region."The drought ended over Texas and stayed in place over the Rockies," said Ed Delgado, national predictive services meteorologist at the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho. "Last year in Texas was quite an anomaly; it was a combination of all the things you don't want. You were in the midst of a 20-month drought, coupled with extreme temperatures that caused all the vegetation to be primed for fire," he said. All told, 6,500 firefighters from local, state and federal agencies are now committed to fighting large fires across the country, said Jennifer Jones, a public affairs specialist at the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho.The Texas responders joined more than 1,100 firefighters battling the 38,000-acre Little Bear Fire which has destroyed 242 homes and businesses. Another fire in the Gila Wilderness, already the largest in New Mexico history, has now blackened 463 square miles. Read More News New Mexico

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NM Democrats upset over elimination of straight-party voting

Capitol Report New MexicoOne day after hearing that Secretary of State Dianna Duran has decided to get rid of straight-party voting in the upcoming November elections, the reaction in the Roundhouse was predictable as Democrats opposed the ruling while Republicans approved it.
“A decision like that should be the prerogative of the voters,” Rep. Luciano “Lucky” Varela (D-Santa Fe) said while House Minority Leader Tom Taylor (R-Farmington) said, “I believe it’s a good move.”
In straight-ticket voting, voters simply select “Democrat” or “Republican” and every candidate in the appropriate party receives a vote — from the highest office in the land to the lowest local official.
Since Democrats outnumber Republicans in New Mexico, some say straight-party ballots help Democrats more than the GOP. “That’s probably true,” Republican Taylor said Monday (June 18) although the Associated Press story announcing the move pointed out that New Mexico Democratic and Republican voters tend to vote the straight-party ticket at roughly the same rate (23 percent for Democrats, 18 percent for Republicans in the 2010 elections).
“We disenfranchise people by not allowing a straight-party vote,” Varela said. “And to have the Secretary of State say she has the authority to do that is not right.”
Duran is the first Republican elected Secretary of State in 80 years and a spokesman for Duran said her office will not allow straight-party voting because there is no provision in state law specifically authorizing it. Read More News New Mexico


Susana changes e-mail policy

Susana Martinez
Capitol Report New MexicoResponding to criticism after at least two episodes of personal e-mails being used by members of her administration — including the governor herself — regarding state business, Gov. Susana Martinez announced a sweeping directive regarding electronic communications after meeting with the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government (NMFOG).

Here’s the statement released late Monday afternoon (June 18):
“Today, I am directing all state employees under the governor’s authority to utilize official state email when conducting state business via email.  This includes discussions preliminary in nature to final decisions or actions that have occasionally been sent via personal email because they are not required to be maintained under state law.  There is no state law that requires this to be done, but utilizing only state email to conduct state business in connection with public employees’ duties is another important step to ensure continued confidence in government.”
 ”This directive goes beyond what has been required or practiced in the past in New Mexico, and it exceeds what is practiced in most other states.  In addition, given that numerous other public officials, including legislators, discuss public matters on personal email addresses, I am urging the Legislature, other executive branch agencies, and local governments and municipalities to also adopt a similar policy that requires official email to be used when conducting state business and retained according to state regulations.  Furthermore, we would be pleased to work with interested parties to ensure that our records statutes and regulations are coherent, strong, practical, and consistent across government.”
Read More News New Mexico


Understanding Bill Clinton's Self-Image

Jim Spence
One of the first things I noticed when I moved to South Florida in 1973 was what I would call “old south” racism. It was right out there in the open. More than a couple of my older white male co-workers openly used racial slurs when referring to African Americans and Hispanics. I was disgusted at the startling contrast to the culture I knew growing up in New Mexico. I quickly learned to loathe the culture of the old south.
Later in life as an employer I remember a client from Canada in my office one day. She had a large account with my firm and apparently she decided to deliver an ultimatum. Either I’d fire two African American interns working for us, or she would move her accounts to another firm. I smiled and asked her to let me know where she wanted me to send those accounts. She stomped out.
Bill Clinton
Recently when it comes to racism I realized I share something in common with former President Bill Clinton. Clinton too despised the old south culture. And he spent years in public life defining himself as lifelong warrior against old south racism. We are not alone. There are tens of millions of middle-aged white men who grew up during the civil rights movement. We remember Martin Luther King Jr. and we also remember people like the late KKK Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia. Byrd’s filibuster of the civil rights law of the 1960’s was one of the most despicable moments in Senate history.
Fast forward to the 2008 presidential primary campaign on the Democratic side. The contest between Senator Barack Obama and Senator Hillary Clinton got heated. There was a real scramble for the all-important African-American vote on the Democrat side. In the end Senator Obama and his strategy team couldn’t resist the temptation to play on people’s fears and take a cheap shot. The Obama campaign openly inferred that Bill and Hillary Clinton were closet racists.
Now far be it from me to rush to the defense of the Clintons. Then again, those who despise racism and are warriors against all forms of prejudice and bigotry deserve better treatment than the Clintons got from Obama. Unfortunately, those of us who continue to refuse to support socialism, can expect no end to the racist accusations coming our way any time political hay can be made playing the race card. Sadly, millions of people who want Democrats to win will find excuses to look the other way while their political candidates accuse innocent people of harboring racist views. It even happened to the Clinton’s in 2008. It will happen again to Mitt Romney in 2012.
It is worth noting that a large part of Bill Clinton’s self-identity is embedded in his self-image as a champion of fair play when it comes to civil rights. Clearly Clinton has never forgotten the racial backstabbing he took from the political knife-wielding hand of Barack Obama in 2008. Don’t be surprised if the former president continues to make little backhanded comments favoring Romney’s qualifications from now until November. Chalk it up to a subtle form of payback for the slander directed his way. Some people rank racists one notch above child molesters. Bill Clinton is one of them.


Border Patrol Council: Holder Should Resign

Eric Holder
Washington Times - The National Border Patrol Council, which represents all 17,000 of the agency’s nonsupervisory agents, called Monday for the resignation of Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. for his role in the botched “Fast and Furious” gunrunning operation that resulted in the death of a U.S. Border Patrol agent.
Council President George E. McCubbin III, a 25-year Border Patrol veteran, described Mr. Holder’s actions in the case as “a slap in the face to all Border Patrol agents who serve this country,” adding that the attorney general showed “an utter failure of leadership at the highest levels of government.”
Two semi-automatic AK-47 assault weapons found at the scene of the Dec. 15, 2010, killing of Border Patrol Agent Brian A. Terry were traced by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) to “straw buyers” who bought the weapons as part of the Fast and Furious investigation. The agent died during a gunfight with heavily-armed Mexican bandits along the U.S.-Mexico border south of Tucson, Ariz. Read full story here: News New Mexico


On energy, Republican Governor Bob McDonnell more closely resembles President Obama

Marita Noon
Support for available, abundant, and affordable energy generally falls along party lines—with Republicans supporting “responsible” energy (the stuff that really works) and Democrats pushing “renewable" energy (the stuff they hope will work someday). But when an elected official, or spokesperson, makes foolish choices, he or she needs to be called to task.
I’ve encouraged people to tweet about Karl Rove’s contrarian position backing the extension of the wind energy subsidy, known as the PTC, which is set to naturally expire at the end of this year. Rove’s PTC extension support puts him at odds with most of the Republican Party. We can’t vote Rove out, but we can shame him for supporting a subsidy at a time when we have to borrow from China to do it. He should know better.
I’ve asked people to call or email Tennessee’s Republican Senator Lamar Alexander to pressure him to join his party—and coal state and vulnerable Democrats—in supporting Senator Inhofe’s resolution (SJ 37) that would neuter President Obama’s regulatory war on coal. Despite the known increase in electricity prices and the hardships the regulations will put on working families, Alexander is resolutely siding with the President.
Now, it is time to call out Republican Governor Bob McDonnell—whose actions on energy more closely resemble those of the Obama administration than his Republican colleagues. Read rest of column here: News New Mexico

Stimulus for New Mexico Funds Monkey Study, European Travel

New Mexico Watch Dog - A half-million dollar stimulus grant intended to create or save jobs in New Mexico so far has bought 150 hours of observing monkeys and trips to Vienna and Barcelona.  After nearly three years, the project has reported creating or saving only 1 full time job on average per year.  And that job has now left the state. Beginning in August 2009, using money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the National Science Foundation began funding a $496,067 study at the Santa Fe Institute entitled,“Network Conflict Theory: Empirically-Based Models of Conflict Dynamics and Effective Conflict Management Strategies.” The Santa Fe Institute described the project in one of its own publications:  “[Researchers] sifted through 150 hours of observations…collected on patterns of  conflict in a monkey society to see if monkeys  learn better strategies as they gain experience  fighting.’ Read More News New Mexico


Father's Day Memories

Over the Father's Day weekend I heard a song that brought back memories. The tail end of the song, "The Hokey Pokey" was playing on a television show while I was channel surfing.
While waiting for the golf tournament to begin I decided to do a little Internet research on the song and discovered that a man from Idaho, Larry LaPrise, wrote the tune way back in the 1940's. LaPrise died at the ripe old age of 93 back in 1996. Apparently as preparations began for his funeral things got pretty traumatic for his family. While trying to get him situated in the coffin in front of all his loved ones, the funeral director put his left leg in. And then the trouble started.


Raging N.M. fire prompts rescue of threatened fish

Gila Trout
Washington Post Biologists are trying to save trout that are threatened in southwestern New Mexico from the post-wildfire ravages even as crews nearby and around the West struggle to contain blazes that have charred hundreds of square miles of forested countryside. A team used electroshock devices to temporarily stun the Gila trout so they could quickly be scooped into a net. From there, the fish were being put into a tank to be ferried out of the wilderness via helicopter to a special truck that was waiting to drive them to a hatchery in northern New Mexico for safe keeping. The first load of trout was brought out Friday and the work would continue into Saturday, said Art Telles, a biologist and staff resource officer with the Gila National Forest. The fish are imperiled by the wildfire aftermath — choking floods of ash, soil and charred debris that are expected to come with summer rains. “When we have hot fire in some of these drainages, that can move ash and sediment after the rains start and that is pretty deadly to trout,” he said. Read  More News New Mexico