There is much to celebrate today and look forward to with regard to the economy. The Dow Jones Industrial Average recently hit its highest-ever close as American industry reaps some of its largest profits in history.
For the working class, those figures are important insofar as they lead to more hiring. And under President Obama, those gains have translated into steadily expanding employment.
In 2014, Americans will create some 2.5 million jobs as unemployment ticks down to 6.1 percent. I urge readers to recall the state of the economy when President Obama took office and credit him where it is due.
We should also bear in mind that the Obama administration has done this with only resistance by the GOP. Since 2011, President Obama has dealt with a "do nothing Congress" controlled by a Republican party that made it their sole priority from day one to make him a one-term president.
In spite of their efforts, we are moving forward, and I see plenty of room for optimism.
Forbes magazine predicts unemployment to drop to 5.4 percent by next summer, a rate President Reagan was never able to achieve during his two terms. Millions of Americans have health insurance who were not covered before President Obama took office.
In six years under President Obama, we have avoided plunging deeper into recession and are in fact growing steadily. Let's not forget that we are all Americans, regardless of who is sitting in the White House and which party is in control of Congress.
We would be well-served by legislators who put the nation in front of their districts and special interests.
Brooks P. Moore
Blue House Road
Is it any wonder that smokers are horribly confused and e-cigarette use all the rage when the CDC continues to teach nicotine addicts that nicotine is medicine and its use therapy?
The CDC's SmokeFree.gov website today tells smokers that, "The most commonly used quit smoking medications are nicotine replacement therapy (NRT)," and that "using these medications can double your chances of quitting for good."
The word "your" clearly implies population level effectiveness, not clinical efficacy over placebo.
Surely the CDC knows the difference. Alarms should have been demanding effectiveness evaluations since at least 2002, when a Journal of the American Medical Association study concluded that "NRT appears no longer effective in increasing long-term successful cessation in California smokers."
Sadly, despite smoking claiming 1,315 American lives daily, the CDC continues to perpetuate the "double your chances" NRT falsehood. Aside from demoralizing cold turkey quitters by suggesting they're twice as likely to fail, the CDC's site defies every known survey in asserting that "most people who quit don't quit cold turkey on their own."
A 2006 Australian cross-sectional study examined the smoking patients of 1,000 family practice physicians. It found that success rates among cold turkey quitters were roughly double the rates of those using the nicotine patch, gum or inhaler, and that cold turkey accounted for a whopping 88 percent of successful ex-smokers.
After 30 years of heavy nicotine gum marketing, a July 2013 Gallup Poll found that only one in 100 successful ex-smokers credited it for their success, that all FDA-approved quitting products combined accounted for only 8 percent of successful quitters, and that more ex-smokers had quit cold turkey than by all other methods combined.
Most recently, an October 2014 prospective population level study in Mayo Clinic Proceedings found that at six month follow-up, "compared with smokers using none of the cessation aids" . "use of NRT bought over the counter was associated with a lower odds of abstinence."
Meaningless clinical trial NRT efficacy findings derived by use of active placebos laced with just enough nicotine to tease and keep quitters in perpetual withdrawal, or the alternative, awareness of group assignment by experienced quitters in sensing the onset of full-blown withdrawal, have robbed millions of smokers of priceless periods of cessation confidence.
As I asked in a 2012 British Medical Journal letter, "If NRT is less effective long-term than quitting without it, are quitters paying with their lives?" If so, is the CDC on the wrong team (pharma's) in the war against smoking?
John R. Polito
Nicotine Cessation Educator
With all the controversy about the torture issue two things strike me. One is the hypocrisy of liberals in Congress. Some of the ones crying the loudest were briefed on the enhanced interrogations and at the time demanded more be done. Some even lied about knowing, Rep. Nancy Pelosi for one, but it is now a known fact.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein condemned the actions even though she had previously called for doing whatever was necessary. Worse than this, their constituency continues to elect them despite their total lack of integrity.
The second is what should be the most obvious and logical undertaking now, addressed long ago, the definition of torture. Is it not logical to decide what is and is not torture before we come unglued with self-righteousness over an array of various behaviors?
There are those who like to deny reality in favor of what they might wish it to be, but the fact is we gained valuable intelligence from the methods employed. That comes from those directly involved as opposed to those opining from the comfy view of their ivory tower. The end of enhanced interrogations has now led to a drying up of useful intelligence.
Torture is the infliction of severe pain or physical injury. The use of electric shock, breaking bones, burning, etc., are torture and should not be condoned if America is to hold the civilized and moral high ground.
Sleep deprivation, loud obnoxious music, discomfort from damp, cool temperatures (not hypothermia), humiliation, and waterboarding are not. None of these causes physical injury, only psychological fear and discomfort. Our military suffers many of these in the course of their training and service. Are we to treat those who murder and decapitate innocents better?
Education is our premier tool for investing in the next generation. Our teachers are in the business of preparing future CEOs, scientists, engineers, doctors and lawyers. Attracting and keeping excellent teachers is an exceptional way to fuel South Carolina's economic and business future. Nevertheless, teacher salary surveys consistently show South Carolina's educators to be in the bottom quartile among the 50 states in both beginning and average salaries.
Our teachers are doing an excellent job, and they deserve better. South Carolina continues to see student test results improve, including gains in scores on AP exams, the SAT, the state's PASS exams, and end of course tests.
Dropout rates continue to decline, and more children are entering school ready to learn due largely to improvement in preschool education.
We are also seeing achievement gaps narrow between white and minority students, rich and poor students, and students with and without disabilities. We still have a long way to go, but data trends indicate that our educators are committed to success in the long term.
It is in our best interest to make teaching an attractive career option for bright, motivated people who truly want to make a difference.
In recent weeks, South Carolina elected officials have begun talking about doing just that. Superintendent of Education-elect Molly Spearman has indicated that teacher pay increases and retention will be among her top priorities when she assumes office.
Additionally, state Senate leaders are considering the possibility of forgiving student loans and offering bonus pay for teachers who desire to teach in South Carolina's high-need rural schools. Hopefully, 2015 will be the year to see these exciting ideas come to fruition.
Larry G. Daniel