Wednesday, 29 January 2014 02:48 Published in Local News
Several elected officials around the St. Louis area have issued responses to President Obama's State of the Union address. Leaders from both Missouri and Illinois shared their thoughts. They vary widely in their impressions, and as one might expect, seem to fall along party lines.
Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL):
"Tonight the President gave an optimistic speech about opportunity for American families, an economy on the rise and leveled a call to action to ensure this is a year of progress for the middle class.
"From programs to grow the economy and create jobs like the launching of new manufacturing institutes and infrastructure investments to efforts to strengthen the middle class like raising the minimum wage, expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit along the lines of a bill introduced with Senator Brown, and making college more affordable, tonight's speech focused on creating more opportunities for American families.
"Improving opportunities for American families requires innovation and action and I plan to work with my colleagues to build on the work we've done in my Defense Appropriations Subcommittee to reverse the devastating cuts to federally funded research and development and grow these programs for years to come.
"Finally, tonight's speech challenged us in Congress to set aside the partisanship and gridlock that is preventing us from improving the lives millions of Americans. We must now rise to the occasion."
U.S. Congressman Wm. Lacy Clay (D) MO:
"Tonight, President Obama laid out a bold, optimistic agenda that challenged us to reward hard work, renew economic security for middle-class families and keep faith with our senior citizens.
"I strongly support the President's call to raise the minimum wage; pass comprehensive immigration reform; renew the Voting Rights Act; continue expanding access to affordable healthcare for all, and eliminate barriers to higher education that are keeping millions from achieving their dreams.
"He also laid out a clear path that would continue our nation's remarkable progress towards achieving energy independence and creating millions of new jobs in the emerging 21st Century green economy.
"I am hopeful that Congress can build on recent bipartisan agreements to move this progressive agenda forward to benefit all Americans."
U.S. Congresswoman Ann Wagner (R-MO):
"The people of the 2nd District are tired of the same old failed speeches and policies from President Obama. The Show-Me state wants to know, ‘where are the jobs!’ It's time the President started working with Congress and not around us.
"The President called for a ‘year of action.’ I don't know where the President and Senate Democrats have been for the last year, but House Republicans have taken action on solutions that will make your lives just a little better, a little easier to manage.
"In fact, the House has passed over 170 pieces of legislation in the last year that have been ignored by the United States Senate and the President. The House has passed solutions that will increase the size of your paychecks, increase upward mobility, restore your individual liberties and lower costs on everyday items that you depend on every day like groceries, gasoline and the cost of your health care. These common-sense solutions offer the American people a better future versus a failed present.
"It's time we turn the page and begin a new era focused on empowering the American people and not the government."
U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill (D) MO:
"We've made a lot of progress these past few years, creating millions of jobs and pulling our economy out of the ditch—but there are an awful lot of commonsense ideas still sitting on the table that could build on that success, if elected leaders stop kowtowing to the political extremes and start working toward compromise to get things done. Raising the minimum wage for working families, building innovative private-public partnerships to invest in our roads and bridges, making the tax code fairer, and fixing our broken immigration system aren't partisan initiatives. They're commonsense goals that we should all be ready to rally behind to strengthen America's middle class families."
U.S. Congressman John Shimkus (R) IL:
"These speeches are always more political than whoever the President is wants to make it seem. President Obama – in an election year – took a more liberal, activist tone. I happen to disagree with many of his ideas.
"Promises made in speeches are also not automatically the law of the land. However, President Obama wants to start using executive authority to take more actions without Congress’ involvement. This is an unprecedented challenge to Congress by a President.
"While the President talks about energy security, his EPA has taken several steps that will hinder what was becoming a growing coal industry. I'm afraid of what his pen or his EPA might do to other energy issues that benefit Illinois.
"The President talks about jobs, yet his Administration has taken more steps to stymie job growth than to create jobs. The House has sent hundreds of bills over to the Senate that would directly or indirectly help job creation.
"Finally, I want to say that the failures of Obamacare go beyond a website that doesn't work. Here in Illinois, we are prime examples of the fiasco of Obamacare – we have had thousands more people receive cancellation notices from insurance companies than we have signed up on the website."
Wednesday, 29 January 2014 02:18 Published in National News
WASHINGTON (AP) — Relatively few Americans — less than 5 percent of hourly workers — toil for the minimum wage today.
Yet President Barack Obama's push to offset years of inflation by raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour would ripple through the economy and touch the lives of millions more workers and their families.
Here are some questions and answers about Obama's proposal:
Q: How much is the U.S. minimum wage now?
A: It's $7.25 an hour, or about $15,000 per year for full-time work. For a worker supporting a family of two, that falls just below the federal poverty line.
A minimum wage of $10.10 would mean earning about $21,000 per year.
Q: How many Americans work for minimum wage?
A: About 1.6 million, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. They are a smaller share of the workforce than in previous decades.
Another 2 million people are paid even less, because of various exceptions in the law. Many are waiters, bellhops and others whose wages are augmented by tips from customers. Their minimum is lower — $2.13 an hour — and hasn't gone up for more than two decades. Obama supports boosting the minimum for tipped workers to $7.07.
Together, both groups make up 4.7 percent of workers paid by the hour, and even less of the workforce when salaried workers are included.
Q: Are these the only workers who would get a boost from Obama's plan?
A: No. Millions more people who earn less than $10.10 an hour would get an automatic raise. Many of them work in states that have imposed a minimum wage that's higher than the current federal one.
And some people who already make more than $10.10 would get raises, too, as businesses adjusted their pay scales upward.
Democratic lawmakers pushing for the increase predict it would lead to raises for some 30 million people. Republican opponents counter that it could force companies to reduce hiring or even lay off some workers.
Q: How many states have a minimum wage higher than the federal one?
A: Twenty-one states, plus the District of Columbia, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
None is as high as the wage Obama seeks. Washington state's is highest at $9.32 an hour, adjusted annually for inflation. California's minimum wage is set to climb to $10 in 2016.
State lawmakers aren't waiting for a divided Congress to act. Democratic legislators are pushing minimum-wage increases in more than half of the states this year, although several are political longshots.
Q: Who makes minimum wage?
A: Most are workers in part-time jobs. They tend to be in the service industry, especially in restaurant and sales jobs.
Most are adults. But teens and young people make up a disproportionately large share: half of minimum-wage workers are under age 25.
Nearly three-quarters have a high school degree or more education. More than three-quarters are white.
Nearly 2 out of 3 are female.
Q: Where did the minimum wage come from?
A: It started at 25 cents per hour in the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act. Since then, Congress has raised it 22 times. Its value peaked in the 1960s, but the wage hasn't kept up with inflation since then.
The last increase was in 2007, during the presidency of George W. Bush. It was phased in to reach $7.25 in 2009.
Obama wants the wage to be indexed to inflation, so it would rise automatically in the future.
Q: Why not raise the minimum wage?
Q: Many congressional Republicans and other opponents say that would dampen hiring or even spark layoffs at a time when the nation is struggling with high unemployment. They argue that much of the cost would be passed along to consumers as higher prices. And they say it isn't an efficient way to help the poor, because many people earning the minimum wage are part of a middle-class or higher-earning households.
Q: So what do Obama and Democratic supporters say?
A: They say that raising the minimum wage would boost the economy and create jobs, because cash-strapped workers tend to spend any extra money that comes in. Supporters argue that boosting low wages would help narrow the gap between the nation's poorest and richest families. And they say full-time workers with families shouldn't have to live in poverty.
Wednesday, 29 January 2014 02:11 Published in Health & Fitness
One of every 10 clinical trials for adults with cancer ends prematurely because researchers can't get enough people to test new treatments, scientists report.
The surprisingly high rate reveals not just the scope and cost of wasted opportunities that deprive patients of potential advances, but also the extent of barriers such as money, logistics and even the mistaken fear that people won't get the best care if they join one of these experiments.
"Clinical trials are the cornerstone of progress in cancer care," the way that new treatments prove their worth, said Dr. Matthew Galsky of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York.
When an experimental drug or other treatment fails to make it to the market, people often think it didn't work or had too many side effects, but the inability to complete studies can doom a drug, too, Galsky said.
He helped lead an analysis of 7,776 experiments registered on Clinicaltrials.gov, a government web site for tracking medical experiments, from September 2005 to November 2011. All were mid- or late-stage studies testing treatments for various types of cancer in adults.
About 20 percent of the studies were not completed for reasons that had nothing to do with the treatment's safety or effectiveness (legitimate reasons for ending a study early). Poor accrual — the inability to enroll enough patients in enough time to finish the study — led to nearly 40 percent of premature endings.
Company-sponsored studies were less likely to be completed than those sponsored by the government or others. Late-stage cancer trials can cost companies "tens to even hundreds of millions of dollars," and that money is wasted if no clear answer on the drug's value is gained, said Dr. Charles J. Ryan, a cancer specialist at the University of California, San Francisco.
He heads the program for a conference later this week in San Francisco where Galsky's study will be presented. It was discussed Tuesday in a telebriefing by the American Society of Clinical Oncology, an organization for doctors who treat cancer.
Ryan and Galsky said they hoped the study would spur more research on why more patients don't participate. In most cases, the treatment being tested is provided for free, but there can be other costs such as lab tests. Some states require insurers to cover these additional costs, but others do not, so money may be one hurdle for patients.
Some doctors do not strongly encourage patients to participate in studies, and sometimes patients fear they'll get a dummy treatment instead of real medicine. However, in cancer clinical trials, ethical standards require that all patients get the current best care, plus a chance at an experimental treatment.
"Patients still have concerns about getting a placebo, but they're always going to get at a minimum the standard of care," said Shelley Fuld Nasso, head of the National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship, a patient advocacy and education organization.
Doctors need to encourage more patients to participate, and clinical trial designers need to make sure they are testing key questions and treatments to honor the contributions of study participants, she said.
Cancer patient info: http://www.cancer.net
Decision-making guide: http://bit.ly/L67zkT
Clinical trials: http://www.clinicaltrials.gov