Saturday, September 13, 2014
US Secretary of State John Kerry has arrived in Paris after a four-day tour of the Middle East trying to build a coalition to defeat Islamic State (IS).
Nearly 40 countries, including 10 Arab states, have signed up to a US-led plan to tackle the extremist group.
France is hosting a regional security summit on Monday.
However, the US refused to allow key regional player Iran to attend, prompting Tehran to dismiss the talks as "just for show".
Last week, US President Barack Obama presented a strategy to fight IS in both Iraq and Syria.
IS controls large parts of both countries and the CIA estimates that the group could have as many as 30,000 fighters in the region.
US air strikes have targeted IS in Iraq in recent weeks and President Obama has vowed to "hunt down" the group after it beheaded two American journalists.
Late on Saturday a video was also released appearing to show the beheading of UK hostage David Haines.
Mr Kerry arrived at Charles De Gaulle Airport in Paris after flying from Cairo, where he met Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi and Arab League chief Nabil al-Arabi.
He said that Egypt was "on the frontline of the fight against terrorism" and had a "critical role to play in publicly renouncing the ideology that IS disseminates".
On Monday, French President Francois Hollande will welcome diplomats from up to 20 countries for a conference on Iraqi security.
The talks come ahead of a UN Security Council meeting next week and a heads of state meeting at the UN General Assembly later this month.Iran unimpressed
One country not attending is Iran, which voiced its unhappiness at not being on the "selective guest list" by dismissing the talks as "just for show".
"What would interest Iran is a real fight against terrorism in the region and around the world, not this selective one," deputy foreign minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian told state television.
On Friday, Mr Kerry said the US would not be seeking the involvement of Iran in its coalition because of its "engagement in Syria and elsewhere".
Iran has backed the government of President Bashar al-Assad in Syria, while the US and several European and Gulf countries have supported the rebel factions fighting to overthrow him.
The US stance was attacked in Iran, with one senior official accusing the US of playing a "central role" in "arming and training terrorist groups to topple the legal Syrian government".
"In taking a big jump ahead of international bodies, America seeks to emerge as a Hollywood-style hero battling a crisis of its own making," Admiral Ali Shamkhani, secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, told state news agency IRNA.Iraq air strikes
In recent months IS has expanded from its stronghold in eastern Syria and seized control of more towns, cities, army bases and weaponry in Iraq.
The US has already carried out more than 150 air strikes in northern Iraq. It has also sent hundreds of military advisers to assist Iraqi government and Kurdish forces, but has ruled out sending ground troops.
Syria and its ally Russia have warned that any unilateral US military action on Syrian territory would be a violation of its sovereignty.
Meanwhile, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi ordered his forces to halt their air strikes on civilian areas under IS control on Saturday.
Correspondents say this is probably an attempt by Mr Abadi to win support for his Shia-led government from Sunni Muslims who had demanded a freeze on military action on civilian areas.
The violence in Iraq in recent months is thought to have displaced an estimated 1.2 million people.
If Only Obama Paid As Much Attention To World Events As He Does Golf, We Would Be In Much Better Shape.
Obama's Golf Rarely Idled by World Events
Saturday, 13 Sep 2014 09:29 AM
The president could only gaze through the windows of conference rooms, limousines and helicopters at the fairways at Celtic Manor Resort, where he was meeting with leaders from the alliance. His schedule never allowed a swing on the storied landscape that hosted the Ryder Cup in 2010.
His first day back in Washington, Obama grabbed his clubs and spent four hours playing at Fort Belvoir in Virginia, a favorite haunt where he golfed the previous weekend as well.
While on vacation on Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, last month Obama, 53, golfed on nine of his 14 days. That includes the two days he drew criticism for scooting out to play right after giving nationally televised statements responding to unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, and the beheading of a U.S. journalist by Islamic State extremists.
He has become, like many leaders in business and government, something of a golf fanatic.
“When you look at some of the research on leisure, and there isn’t a lot of it, there is this view of work hard-play hard,” Brigid Schulte, author of “Overwhelmed: Work, Love and Play When No One Has The Time,” said in an interview. “Sometimes people who are the most driven and work the hardest also play the hardest.”
Obama doesn’t always get his fix.
On Labor Day weekend, Obama was scheduled to attend a fundraiser and stay overnight in Westchester County, New York, before attending the wedding of the first family’s personal chef, Sam Kass, and MSNBC host Alex Wagner.
Westchester is home to four of the top-20 golf courses in the state, according to Golf Digest. The schedule conveniently would have left time for at least nine holes.
He instead returned to Washington for the night. New York’s WNBC-TV, citing sources it didn’t identify, said several courses declined to give him a tee time because it would disrupt reservations of their members. The White House staff said Obama came back to the White House because he had work to do.
At the start of his term in 2009, Obama favored pick-up basketball games with his buddies, including Education Secretary Arne Duncan. He’s now almost completely switched to the more leisurely sport.
The president has golfed 38 times so far this year and 195 times since taking office in 2009, according to Mark Knoller of CBS News, who keeps detailed records of presidential activities.
The pace doesn’t put Obama anywhere near other golf- addicted presidents.
Woodrow Wilson, president during World War I, played about 1,200 rounds, according to biographer A. Scott Berg. Dwight Eisenhower, who made the game popular in the U.S. and had a putting green installed on the White House’s South Lawn, clocked in at about 800 rounds in his eight years in office, according to the U.S. Golf Association.
It’s a hobby that’s long been fodder for critics.
Obama’s immediate predecessor and another regular golfer, George W. Bush, came in for criticism in 2002 when he delivered a denunciation of terrorism while at a golf course and then followed up by telling reporters, “Now watch this drive,” before teeing off.
He gave up the game in 2003 because, he said later, playing while the U.S. was at war in Iraq sent the wrong message. He took up mountain biking as an alternate activity to get away on weekends.
Obama plays on, undeterred by criticism from commentators and political opponents.
The president has a small circle of regular golfing buddies that includes White House aides, athletes and political donors - - all sworn not to reveal his handicap. He typically spends four to five hours playing 18 holes. It’s time he’s away from the prying eyes of the press, who accompany him to the courses -- usually on military bases near Washington -- but are holed up sitting in vehicles or a base lounge.
Obama doesn’t forget about the rest of his job while on the golf course, former deputy White House press secretary Bill Burton said in an article last month.
“We should all be able to appreciate the fact that he is taking the opportunity to be a dad, a husband and even a leader of the free world who can clear his head on the golf course,” Burton wrote in a piece published Aug. 25 in Politico.
While it’s possible to have a so-called process addiction, or a compulsion to do something repeatedly, five hours a week hardly rises to that level, said Stacey Rosenfeld, a licensed clinical psychologist who specializes in eating disorders and addictions.
“I don’t think it’s the amount of time that designates whether or not it’s a problem,” said Rosenfeld, who is licensed to practice in New York and California. “It’s like alcohol. It’s more your relationship to the behavior.”
Golf or any other activity would become a problem if it interfered with family or work, causing a person to lose control of what they want or need to do, said Anne Fletcher, author of “Inside Rehab” about addiction treatment.
“There’s no question that people can suffer from compulsive engagement in other kinds of behaviors other than drug and alcohol use,” she said. “The characteristic of addiction is loss of control.”
That doesn’t appear to be the case with Obama, who is juggling conflicts in Syria and Iraq and Ukraine and racial and immigration-related tensions at home.
“I don’t see any evidence that our president is failing to meet his obligations,” Fletcher said.
Obama’s golf failures in Wales and in Westchester are exceptions. He’s sampled many great courses.
On Martha’s Vineyard, he played at Vineyard Golf Club and Farm Neck Golf Club. Vineyard, in Edgartown, bills itself as the only “organic” golf course in the U.S., using no synthetic pesticides, fertilizers or herbicides. Farm Neck, in Oak Bluffs, borders the sea and was also a choice of President Bill Clinton.
What Obama missed in Westchester include Winged Foot West in Mamaroneck, rated no. 2 in New York by Golf Digest and designed by golf course architect A. W. Tillinghast, or Quaker Ridge Golf Club in Scarsdale, rated no. 10 and built on land George Washington traversed during the Revolutionary War.
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Missouri Legislature Overrides Governor’s Veto Of Bill Permitting Armed Teachers
September 12, 2014 by Ben Bullard
Both chambers of the Missouri legislature this week accomplished an override of Democratic Governor Jay Nixon’s veto of a bill expanding both concealed and open carry rights at schools in the Show Me State.
Nixon had vetoed SB 656 in July, arguing that training educational staff to carry concealed firearms on campus “would not make our schools safer” and that only school resource officers should be allowed to possess weapons on school grounds.
The bill provides for school boards to designate “one or more school teachers or administrators as a school protection officer” after holding a public hearing, requiring the employee to complete a MPOSTC-approved training program, and sharing all information about the resource officers with the state Department of Public Safety. It also provides criminal penalties if a school protection officer fails to secure his weapon while at work.
The Senate overturned Nixon on a partisan 23-8 vote. The House followed suit a day later, overriding the veto Thursday on a bipartisan 117-39 vote.
The bill also does a number of other things, as summarized by The Missouri Times’ Collin Reischman:
An omnibus bill dealing with firearms, Nixon vetoed this bill for it’s provisions allowing schools to designate and train a “school protection officer,” to legally carry a firearm on school property. The bill also lowers the minimum age for a CCW permit from 21 to 19. The bill also prohibits health care professionals from asking about requiring asking a patient about firearm ownership or recording and/or reporting such ownership to a government entity. The bill also addresses so-called “open carry” law. Under the bill, local governments will not be able to prohibit CCW holders from engaging in open carry practices. Democratic Senators Scott Sifton and Jolie Justus spent nearly two hours discussing the bill in a semi-filibuster. The bill ultimately passed by a vote of 23-8 along party lines.