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St. Louis to bid on 2016 Democratic Convention

Wednesday, 26 February 2014 10:37 Published in Local News
It has been nearly 100 years since the city has hosted a Democratic National Convention, but St. Louis was one of about thirty cities to receive letters within the last week regarding interest in hosting the 2016 convention.
The city was considered a runner-up to host the 2012 convention, but lost out to Charlotte.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that Brian Wahby, the former chairman of the city's Democratic Party who led the 2012 effort, confirmed to the paper that he is in Washington today to attend the Democratic National Committee's winter meeting. 
 Wahby's visit is part of an on-going effort to bring the convention to the Gateway City.  Among the other cities invited to submit bids are Austin, Chicago, Dallas, Kansas City, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, Seattle, and Tampa.
Across the state, Kansas City is aggressively seeking the 2016 Republican National Convention.  

ARIZONA GOVERNOR RETURNS HOME AMID FUROR OVER BILL

Wednesday, 26 February 2014 06:28 Published in National News

PHOENIX (AP) — Gov. Jan Brewer returned to Arizona on Tuesday and faced a pressing decision about a bill on her desk that has prompted a national debate over religious and gay rights.

The Republican governor has been in Washington the last five days for a governors conference, and she is returning to a political climate that is much different from just a week ago.

The Arizona Legislature passed a bill last week allowing businesses whose owners cite sincerely held religious beliefs to deny service to gays. It allows any business, church or person to cite the law as a defense in any action brought by the government or individual claiming discrimination.

The legislation has caused a national uproar. The chorus of opposition has grown each day, with the business community, the state's Super Bowl Committee and both Republican U.S. senators calling for a veto. Former GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney was the latest prominent voice to weigh in and urge Brewer to veto the bill.

Brewer will likely spend the next day or more pondering Senate Bill 1062 before deciding whether to sign or veto the legislation.

There is widespread speculation that Brewer will veto the bill, but she has not said how she'll act, as is her longtime practice with pending legislation.

Political observers in Arizona cautioned that the governor is deliberate and not prone to act hastily, despite the growing calls from business, politicians of all stripes, and civil rights groups for a veto.

"She's no rookie to these high-profile deals — she gives both sides their due," said Doug Cole, a political consultant whose firm has run all of Brewer's campaigns for decades.

"She's going to get a very detailed briefing from her legal team, and give the proponents their best shot, and the opponents their best shot," he said. "Everybody's going to get their say, and they've giving it."

Some Republican senators who pushed the bill through the Legislature are now calling for a veto as well, but they cite "inaccurate" information about the measure for igniting a firestorm. They argue the bill is designed only to protect business owners with strong religious beliefs from discrimination lawsuits that have happened in other states. Some blame the media for blowing the law out of proportion.

Democrats say that argument doesn't wash and call SB 1062 "toxic" legislation that allows discrimination. They said they warned Republicans who voted for the bill that it was destined for trouble.

"We brought this to their attention five weeks ago," said Sen. Steve Gallardo, D-Phoenix. "We said this is exactly what is going to happen. You have a bill here that's so toxic it's going to divide this Legislature. It's going to be polarizing the entire state. And that's exactly what happened."

The bill was pushed by the Center for Arizona Policy, a social conservative group that opposes abortion and gay marriage. The group says the proposal simply clarifies existing state law and is needed to protect against increasingly activist federal courts.

The center's president, Cathi Herrod, has been deriding what she called "fear-mongering" from the measure's opponents.

"What's happened is our opponents have employed a new political tactic, and it's working," she said. "Throw out the threat of a boycott to attempt to defeat a bill, and you might just be able to be successful.

Herrod added she was surprised and disappointed that "in America today, false attacks and irresponsible characterizations about a piece of legislation can so intimidate and persuade people to change their opinion about religious liberty."

NATIONAL DROP IN OBESE TODDLERS, STUDY SUGGESTS

Wednesday, 26 February 2014 06:26 Published in Health & Fitness

ATLANTA (AP) -- Toddler obesity shrank sharply in the past decade, a new study suggests. While promising, it's not proof that the nation has turned a corner in the battle against childhood obesity, some experts say.

The finding comes from a government study considered a gold-standard gauge of trends in the public's health. The researchers found that obesity among children ages 2 to 5 decreased - to 8 percent, from 14 percent a decade ago. That would represent a 43 percent drop.

But the only decline was seen in preschoolers, not in older children. And some experts note that even the improvement in toddlers wasn't a steady decline, and say it's hard to know yet whether preschooler weight figures are permanently curving down or merely jumping around.

It is enough of a decline to be optimistic, said Cynthia Ogden, one of the study's authors.

"There's a glimmer of hope," said Ogden, an epidemiologist with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The report was published online Tuesday in the Journal of thecs American Medical Association.

Health officials have long been hoping for more substantial evidence that they've turned a corner in the fight against childhood obesity.

Obesity is seen as one of the nation's leading public health problems - health officials call it a longstanding epidemic. A third of U.S. children and teens and more than two-thirds of adults are obese or overweight.

Officials are particularly worried about the problem in young children. Preschoolers who are overweight or obese are five times more likely than other children to be heavy as adults, which means greater risks of high cholesterol, high blood sugar, asthma and even mental health problems.

After decades on the rise, childhood obesity rates recently have been flat. But a few places - including New York City and Mississippi - reported improvements in the last couple of years. Seattle joined that list last week, with a report of recently declining obesity in older school children in low-income school districts.

More broadly, health officials last year reported at least slight drops in obesity for low-income preschoolers in 18 states. But they mainly were children enrolled in the federal Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program, which provides food vouchers and other services. Experts attributed the improvement to WIC policy changes in 2009 that eliminated juice from infant food packages, provided less saturated fat, and made it easier to buy fruits and vegetables.

The new study is a national survey of about 9,100 people - including nearly 600 infants and toddlers - in 2011-2012, in which participants were not only interviewed but weighed and measured. The results were compared to four similar surveys that stretched back to 2003.

"I think it's fair to say that (this study) is probably the best source of data we have on whether the prevalence of obesity is increasing with time," said Dr. Robert C. Whitaker, a Temple University expert of childhood obesity.

The main finding was that, overall, both adult and childhood obesity rates have held flat in the past decade. And there were no significant changes in most age groups.

But there were two exceptions: For some reason experts aren't sure about, the obesity rate in women age 60 and older rose from 31.5 percent to more than 38 percent. And the preschool obesity rate dropped.

Some health leaders in Washington, D.C., and Atlanta celebrated the latter finding. They say it's an early sign of a pay-off from campaigns to increase breastfeeding rates and cut consumption of sodas and other sugary beverages. First lady Michelle Obama issued a statement that her `Let's Move!' initiative - which promotes youth exercise and good nutrition - is causing healthier habits "to become the new norm."

Some experts were more cautious about the results.

The preschooler obesity numbers fell from 14 percent in 2003-2004 to 10 percent in 2007-2008, then jumped to 12 in 2009-2010, then slipped to 8 in the most recent survey.

So it seems to have been jumping around a little. "We're going to need more" years of data to see if the apparent trend is really nosing downward, said John Jakicic, director of the University of Pittsburgh's Physical Activity and Weight Management Research Center.

Some wondered whether it makes sense that preschoolers would be the ones leading a downward trend in childhood obesity. For years, most childhood anti-obesity initiatives were older-kid efforts removing soda vending machines from schools and increasing physical education.

Apart from the WIC policy change, there's been less of a push regarding preschoolers. "Relative to older children, less has been done" to fight obesity in toddlers, Whitaker said.

Lingering questions aside, Jakicic said he was still glad to see the numbers. "I think we should be excited it's not getting worse," he said.

© 2014 THE ASSOCIATED PRESS. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. THIS MATERIAL MAY NOT BE PUBLISHED, BROADCAST, REWRITTEN OR REDISTRIBUTED. Learn more about our PRIVACY POLICY and TERMS OF USE.

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