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San Jose Police Crack Down On Violence

The San Jose Police Department is cracking down on violent crime after the city's 25th homicide this year.

KQED Launches Affordable Care Act Guide

Are you confused about Obamacare? KQED and The California Report created a guide to help answer your questions about the Affordable Care Act.

Tobacco Ban Proposed for All California Baseball Fields

Baseball and tobacco have long been linked. But this relationship might soon be a thing of the past, at least in California's five Major League Baseball parks. This week, Assemblymember Tony Thurmond proposed a statewide ban on smokeless tobacco products such as chewing tobacco and e-cigarettes at all baseball venues. In San Francisco, a supervisor proposed a similar citywide ban.

Study: Exposing Infants to Peanuts May Prevent Peanut Allergies

Early exposure to peanuts may reduce an infant's likelihood of developing a peanut allergy, according to a major new medical study. The research is expected to change the way doctors advise parents. We'll discuss the study and learn how "exposure therapy" is used to treat food allergies.

PBS NewsHour

New cancer treatments target disease-causing mutations

A woman undergoes a free mammogram inside Peru's first mobile unit for breast cancer detection, in
         Lima

Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

HARI SREENIVASAN: Some cutting-edge research is giving new hope to cancer patients.

Researchers are zeroing in on the causes of specific cancers and are finding dramatically different ways to fight the disease.

To explain the latest findings, I’m joined by Dr. David Hyman, an oncologist with Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center here in New York.

So, as we talk about cancer, as we talk about hope, let’s just kind of clarify, what is the current way we treat cancers, and what are some of these new studies showing?

DR. DAVID HYMAN, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center: The historic ways that we have always treated cancers is by treating them based on the organ they come from, so treating patients with breast cancer or colon cancer or lung cancer identically.

What these new types of studies are really asking is whether we can target specific mutations which are mistakes in the genes that arise in tumors and treat them the same even if they come from different organs.

So we have recognized that there are certain mutations that we find across multiple disease types.

And so one question is, can we really start to think about these diseases as diseases harboring mutation A or B, rather than lung cancers or colon cancers?

HARI SREENIVASAN: And so how effective are these drugs when they target a specific mutation, instead of a specific region of the body that the cancer is coming from?

DR. DAVID HYMAN: Well, they can be very dramatically effective in ways that are really previously unprecedented.

So, we know, for example, in lung cancers, chemotherapy has a response rate at best in the 30 percent range.

We have certain medicines now that target certain mutations in lung cancer where the majority of patients have benefit and their tumors shrink.

And so what we are trying to do is take those early successes in lung cancer, in melanoma, and now extend those to the larger variety of cancers that we see.

HARI SREENIVASAN: So how much of a sea change is this? I mean, when you think about — as we began this conversation, in my own head, I was thinking lung cancer, breast cancer, colon cancer, I mean, just like you said, right?

And now you are talking about a completely different approach to even looking at and learning these cancers and saying, here is what makes you, you.

DR. DAVID HYMAN: Yes, here is what makes this cancer tick or grow.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Right. Right

DR. DAVID HYMAN: It’s — it’s a really big change in the way that we think about cancer.

It really is this idea of precision medicine, you know, not treating all patients the same, but treating their individual cancers based on really detailed analysis. And I think it really represents a sea change.

Now, I don’t want to give the impression that the organ in which the cancer arises has no importance.

And what we have actually seen in these studies is that certain cancer types may not respond the same.

So, a colon cancer that has a BRAF mutation may not respond as well as a melanoma with a BRAF mutation.

So I think it’s going to be a combination of understanding the genetics in the cancers that we treat, and also understanding the effect of the organ where they come from.

HARI SREENIVASAN: OK.

So — and these clinical trials, are they different than the clinical trials that we are used to, where one person gets the placebo and they might or might not improve, and another person gets the real drug?

DR. DAVID HYMAN: I think they are different in a variety of ways.

Number one, most clinical trials in cancer have required specific disease types. So, everyone that goes on that trial has one type of cancer.

The clinical trials that we’re doing now, these so-called basket studies, allow patients from any type of cancer to participate, as long as they have a mutation in their tumor that we think suggests they would benefit from the drug being tested.

The other point is that these trials are typically not randomized trials, meaning that everybody that participates gets the drug.

We know exactly what they’re getting. And the reason for that is that the benefit that we’re looking for in the form of what percentage of patients have significant shrinkage of their tumor is so high, that it’s previously unprecedented for those diseases.

So, we don’t really need to do randomized studies, because, if half of the patients or more are having shrinkage of their tumor, there is really no question that that treatment is better than the established care.

HARI SREENIVASAN: All right.

Dr. David Hyman, an oncologist with Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, thanks so much.

DR. DAVID HYMAN: Thank you.

The post New cancer treatments target disease-causing mutations appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

Dysfunction in Congress not limited to homeland security fight

WASHINGTON — Congress’ dysfunction isn’t limited to the struggle to keep a Cabinet department running without interruption.

Lawmakers couldn’t finish their work last year and it’s showing now. The leftover business could prove even more divisive than the dispute over rolling back President Barack Obama’s immigration policies on a bill providing money for the Department of Homeland Security.

Stretches of brinkmanship are certain to consume much of the legislative calendar in 2015. One critical issue is whether to increase the nation’s borrowing authority. That debate could have major repercussions for the recovering economy.

The to-do list includes forestalling a 21 percent cut in Medicare payments to physicians, preventing a cutoff of highway and transit dollars in the middle of peak construction season this summer and renewing critical parts of the Patriot Act.

There’s also a debate among Republicans, the majority on Capitol Hill, about whether to renew the charter of the Export-Import Bank, which provides credit to purchasers of U.S. exports.

“We haven’t even started talking about either one, (Medicare payments) or highways,” said Rep. Sander Levin of Michigan, top Democrat on the powerful House Ways and Means Committee. “So that shows how procrastinated all this is.”

Approaching are deadlines for longer-term legislation set to expire, including the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

A look at Capitol Hill’s leftover agenda and expiring laws that may be renewed, with an assessment of the degree of difficulty:

MEDICARE FEES

Doctors who participate in Medicare face a 21 percent cut in their payments at the end of March. Because of a flawed formula dating to 1997, Medicare doctors are threatened with big fee cuts almost every year. Congress has since stepped in 17 times to prevent the cuts but has failed to permanently fix the problem.

Lawmakers hope to resolve the issue once and for all this year. In the meantime, they plan a temporary fix that would buy six months or so. Shouldn’t be too difficult.

HIGHWAY FUNDING

Authority to spend money from the highway trust fund expires May 31, the end of a reprieve passed last fall. The uncertainty is slowing construction in some states. A long-term fix won’t be ready by then, so the most likely solution is Congress will punt again. Even doing that requires coming up with billions of dollars to fix the short-term shortfall, which won’t be easy.

EXPORT-IMPORT BANK

On June 30, temporary authority expires for the bank. Critics say it picks winners such as Boeing Co. and General Electric and that too little of its financing benefits small business. The bank has support from Democrats and establishment Republicans but increasingly is opposed by conservatives, who note that its subsidies for foreign purchasers of exports such as jumbo jets give foreign airlines advantages over U.S. carriers. This split clearly has the bank in danger of losing its charter. Very difficult.

DEBT LIMIT

The government’s borrowing authority lapses on March 15. Filing-season tax surpluses and Treasury Department accounting maneuvers could delay the need for Congress to step in until August or later. Action is mandatory or else the government would default on its obligations.

In 2011, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, used the debt limit as leverage to pry spending cuts from President Barack Obama. Since then, Obama has refused to negotiate. Last year, Boehner had to rely on Democratic votes to pass an extension. Raising it again will prove difficult, but it must be done.

PATRIOT ACT

Three controversial provisions expire June 1: authorizing the bulk collection of telephone records, obtaining surveillance warrants without naming the person being wiretapped, and allowing surveillance of foreigner suspected of terrorist activity but who are not affiliated with a terrorist organization. Both left and right oppose the provisions, but solid majorities are likely to back them amid the growing threat from the Islamic State group. Obama signed a four-year extension in 2011. Not too hard.

CHILDREN’S HEALTH

The Children’s Health Insurance Program, which provides health coverage to millions of children in low-income families, expires Sept. 30. There’s pressure to renew it well before then because state legislatures are drafting their budgets for the upcoming fiscal year, which begins July 1 in most places. A fight is unlikely because top Republicans such as GOP Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, and Michigan Rep. Fred Upton, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, are proposing to tighten eligibility for the program, possibly taking away insurance from many children, and roll back a scheduled increase in federal matching funds to states. Tricky, but doable.

 

The post Dysfunction in Congress not limited to homeland security fight appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

WHO: More than 1 billion young people at risk for hearing loss

A woman listens to music as the sun sets as seen between buildings on Boa Viagem beach in Brazil June 30, 2014. More
         than 1 billion young people around the world are at risk of hearing loss, the WHO said this week. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

A woman listens to music as the sun sets as seen between buildings on Boa Viagem beach in Brazil June 30, 2014. More than 1 billion young people around the world are at risk of hearing loss, the WHO said this week. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

More than one billion young people around the world are at risk of hearing loss because of recreational exposure to loud sounds, the World Health Organization said Friday.

The U.N. agency says its analysis of data from middle-and high-income countries showed that nearly half of 12-to 35-year-olds listen to unsafe sound levels on devices like smartphones and MP3 players.

Additionally, nearly 40 percent are exposed to hazardous noise levels at entertainment venues like sporting events, nightclubs and bars.

“As they go about their daily lives doing what they enjoy, more and more young people are placing themselves at risk of hearing loss,” WHO official Dr. Etienne Krug said in the Friday press release.

“They should be aware that once you lose your hearing, it won’t come back,” Krug said.

The WHO and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention define the high acceptable workplace noise level as 85 decibels – about the volume of heavy city traffic — over an eight-hour period.

Credit: NewsHour Weekend

Credit: NewsHour Weekend

As volume increases, safe exposure duration falls. People should not spend more than 15 minutes around noise levels of 100 decibels, the WHO said. According to the agency, 100 decibels is typical for sporting events, nightclubs and bars.

The WHO recommends young people guard against hearing loss by wearing earplugs at noisy events, keeping the volume down on personal audio devices and limiting their use of such gadgets to less than one hour per day.

In time for International Ear Care Day, March 3, the WHO is launching “Make Listening Safe,” an initiative intended to “draw attention to the dangers of unsafe listening and promote safer practices.”

The post WHO: More than 1 billion young people at risk for hearing loss appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

Consumers frustrated by government error on health care tax forms

The Healthcare.gov website is displayed on laptop computers arranged for a photograph in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Monday,
         Nov. 4, 2013. Irritation arises after government error on health care tax forms. Photo by Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty
         Images.

The Healthcare.gov website is displayed on laptop computers arranged for a photograph in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Monday, Nov. 4, 2013. The government sent nearly one million consumers erroneous information on forms that they need to complete their 2014 tax returns. Photo by Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

WASHINGTON — It’s not uncommon to feel some trepidation around tax-filing season. But there’s an added hassle this year for nearly a million consumers who got financial help with health insurance premiums under President Barack Obama’s law.

The government sent consumers erroneous information on forms that they need to complete their 2014 tax returns. Now they’re getting robocalls and emails advising them to delay filing until the mistakes get fixed.

Some are taking it in stride. Others wonder what else could go wrong.

“It’s been a comedy of errors from the start,” said K.C. Crafts, a freelance financial writer from South Berwick, Maine.

The mistake the government made affected 800,000 customers receiving subsidized health coverage through the federal insurance market. Some states running their own insurance exchanges also have had tax-form troubles.

In the federal case, 2015 premiums were substituted for what should have been 2014 numbers on new tax forms called 1095-As. Those forms are like W-2s for people who got subsidized health insurance – building blocks for filing an accurate tax return.

Crafts said her form has another error as well, potentially more serious. The coverage dates are wrong, and the result makes it appear as if she and her husband got much more in subsidies than they actually received. Maine is one of the 37 states served by HealthCare.gov, which is run by the Department of Health and Human Services.

“This is not just an aggravation, it’s a financial issue, because I could end up paying for a clerical error,” she said.

The Obama administration says it’s trying to figure out what caused the broader mistake, even as it rushes corrected information to affected taxpayers.

Asked for an explanation at a recent House hearing, HealthCare.gov CEO Kevin Counihan put it this way: “It appears there was an unfavorable interaction between two pieces of software code.” Translation: The administration is still technologically challenged by health insurance programs.

“This is an unforced error,” scolded Rep. Matt Cartwright, D-Pa. “It provides fodder for those who want to tear down” the law.

Donna Brown of Austin, Texas, said she thinks it’s about on par for the government.

“I never am too surprised when the federal government makes mistakes like this,” said Brown, a former executive administrative assistant for a tech company. Taking a break from the industry’s pressures, she said she’s relieved that she was able to get health insurance as a result of Obama’s law. Brown usually files her taxes at the last minute, so the error notices haven’t affected her routine.

“Whoever implemented this, there would have been problems,” said Brown. “It’s new. Even though it’s the second year of coverage, it’s the first time these statements are coming out.”

The health care law offers subsidized private insurance to people who do not have access to coverage on the job. Because those subsidies are delivered as tax credits, recipients have to account for them each year on their tax returns. That’s what the 1095-A tax form is supposed to help them do.

For John Stephens of Littleton, Colorado, it’s turned to vexation. An audio recording and editing specialist, Stephens said his 1095-A indicates he was only insured for the last two months of 2014, when in fact he had coverage since February. Such a mistake could expose him to tax penalties that the law levies on people who remain uninsured if they can otherwise afford coverage.

Stephens said he’s spent a lot of time on the phone with his insurer and the Colorado health insurance exchange, which is run by that state. “It’s really easy for them to bounce the ball back to the other.” Last year, insurers said many of the enrollment records they got from the then-new insurance markets had errors.

Spokesman Curtis Hubbard said the Colorado exchange is reviewing its records and working with Stephens’ insurer to resolve the situation.

Stephens said he suspects his situation is an early indicator of more problems. “It’s the pointy end of the spear,” he said. “It’s going to be a big, big problem.”

Hubbard said Colorado sent out about 107,000 of the forms to consumers. So far, the exchange has gotten about 170 calls with questions.

 

The post Consumers frustrated by government error on health care tax forms appeared first on PBS NewsHour.