Monday, December 24, 2012

Obama attends Inouye memorial in Hawaii

President Obama came to a veterans cemetery here on Sunday to honor the late Sen. Daniel K. Inouye, less as the nation’s top politician and more as a native son of Hawaii paying tribute to his roots.
The president had already formally memorialized Inouye (D-Hawaii), who died last week at age 88 after 50 years in the Senate, on Friday at the National Cathedral in Washington.

But on Sunday, sitting between first lady Michelle Obama and Inouye’s wife, Irene, Obama did not speak. He had no formal role at the ceremony at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific — nicknamed “Punchbowl” for the terrestrial imprint left by volcanic eruptions thousands of years ago.

Yet the moment at the cemetery had enormous emotional resonance for the president, who spent many formative years living with his grandparents in Hawaii. In the space of 90 minutes, he would attend the memorial service of a man who from afar had shaped his political thinking and remember another man who directly shaped his life choices.

Moments after the ceremony honoring Inouye ended, Obama traveled a half-mile southeast within the same cemetery, to Site 44, Row 400, of Columbarium No. 1 — the grave site of his maternal grandfather, Stanley A. Dunham.

Like Inouye, Dunham was a World War II veteran. Obama has said that Dunham and his wife, Madelyn, taught him the “idea of America.” He has recounted how his grandfather, “Gramps,” gave him dog tags “from his time in Patton’s Army,” and the future president came to understand that “his defense of this country marked one of his greatest sources of pride.”

Dunham died 20 years ago. The ashes of his wife and daughter, Stanley Anne, Obama’s mother, were scattered over the Pacific Ocean in Hawaii.

And while Obama has said that his grandparents influenced how he lived his life, Inouye had a profound effect on his politics. Last week, Obama said Inouye was “perhaps my earliest political inspiration.”

As part of the Japanese American 442nd Regimental Combat Team in World War II, Inouye lost his right arm protecting his unit from a grenade. In the memorial last week, Obama said he remembered watching Inouye ask questions during the Watergate hearings in the 1970s.

“The person who fascinated me most was this man of Japanese descent with one arm, speaking in this courtly baritone, full of dignity and grace,” Obama said. “This was a man who, as a teenager, stepped up to serve his country even after his fellow Japanese Americans were declared enemy aliens; a man who believed in America even when its government didn’t necessarily believe in him. That meant something to me. It gave me a powerful sense — one that I couldn’t put into words — a powerful sense of hope.”

On Sunday, surviving members of the 442nd Regiment and their families surrounded the ceremony. The formal eulogies were left to Inouye’s colleagues and staffers.

Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) said Inouye would only talk about the war in private, never in public. Reid had had an hour-long conversation with him just before Inouye, who was experiencing respiratory problems, went to the hospital, a little more than a week before he died.

“We talked as though there would be many tomorrows, but there wouldn’t be any,” Reid said.

In remarks by Reid and others, it was hard not to miss the nostalgia for an era of bipartisanship that Inouye reflected and one that seems to be disappearing with his generation.

Reid recalled how he had received a call last week from former Senate majority leader Bob Dole (R-Kan.), expressing his desire to pay his respects to Inouye in the Capitol Rotunda. Dole, who normally uses a wheelchair, insisted on walking and viewing Inouye’s casket directly.

“As a result of that war, both had lost the use of their right arms,” Reid recalled, and could work together despite their political differences.

Inouye “was a Democrat who would never hesitate to cooperate with a Republican for the good of the country,” Reid said. “Danny was the best senator among us all,” he said.

Inouye’s family has not decided on an exact burial spot. One option is Section D, near the center of the cemetery, where many of his comrades from the 442nd Combat Team are buried. His first wife, Margaret Shinobu Awamura, who died in 1996, is also buried there.

Near the end of the ceremony, Sen. Daniel K. Akaka (D-Hawaii) said he was saying goodbye to a brother who had paved the way for future generations.

“He made it possible for minorities like me, and later on, President Obama, to serve at the highest levels,” he said.

Then Inouye received full military honors — including a four-jet flyover — and a military officer delivered folded American flags that had been draped over Inouye’s casket to his wife and son Ken.
As the officer presented the flags, Obama remained attentive and silent.

Monday, December 17, 2012

President Obama’s enough-is-enough Newtown speech

President Obama’s speech Sunday night at a memorial service for the victims — mostly children — of a mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut was a forceful assertion that the politics surrounding guns (and gun control) must change.

“We can’t tolerate this anymore,” Obama said. “We are not doing enough and we will have to change.” (Full transcript of speech here.)

Obama noted that this was the fourth time in his presidency that he has had to grieve with a community after an incident of mass murder with a gun. But, his speech in Connecticut Sunday was a significant departure from the other addresses he had given to communities torn apart by shooting sprees.

Speaking in Aurora, Colorado just days after a gunman opened fire in a movie theater this summer, Obama was somber, subdued — and decidedly apolitical. The closest Obama got to making a statement (of any sort) came in the speech’s last line in which he said: “I hope that over the next several days, next several weeks, and next several months, we all reflect on how we can do something about some of the senseless violence that ends up marring this country, but also reflect on all the wonderful people who make this the greatest country on Earth.”

It was a very different Obama who took the stage at the Newtown memorial Sunday, a president not just saddened by the tragedy but fed up with the lack of forward movement in hopes of preventing the next one.

One sentence in Obama’s speech sums up his state of mind. “I’ll use whatever power this office holds…in an effort aimed at preventing more tragedies like this,” he said — a line the incumbent never came close to uttering in Aurora or, before that, in Tucson in 2011

What Obama’s speech seemed to signal is that, at least in his mind, a tipping point has been reached — that the slaughter of 20 first graders should not be soon forgotten, that it should mean something. 

His critics will note that he offered no specifics as to where he would hope to change laws on guns and that his speech in Newtown, unlike the address in Aurora, came after his second term was assured and he knew he would never need to stand for election again.

Both facts are true. But neither subtract from the fact that Obama could have very easily delivered a speech heavy on empathy and light on anything in the way of a call to action. That he chose to go in a very different direction is a telling indication of his commitment to try to make something happen on gun laws.

Obama’s speech Sunday night could be summed up in three words: Enough is enough. Now, can he lead a divided nation to see things his way?

Monday, December 3, 2012

Obama Plans for Climate Deal as Fiscal Cliff Negotiations Rage

As leaders in Washington obsess about the fiscal cliff, President Barack Obama is putting in place the building blocks for a climate treaty requiring the first fossil- fuel emissions cuts from both the U.S. and China.
State Department envoy Todd Stern is in Doha this week working to clear the path for an international agreement by 2015. While Obama failed to deliver on his promise to start a cap-and-trade program in his first term, he’s working on policies that may help cut greenhouse gases 17 percent in 2020 in the U.S., historically the world’s biggest polluter. 

Obama has moved forward with greenhouse-gas rules for vehicles and new power plants, appliance standards and investment in low-emitting energy sources. He’s also called for 80 percent of U.S. electricity to come from clean energy sources, including nuclear and natural gas, by 2035. 

“The president is laying the foundations for real action on climate change,” Jake Schmidt, who follows international climate policy for the Washington-based Natural Resources Defense Council, said in an interview in Doha. “Whether or not he decides to jump feet first into the international arena, we’ll see.”
Envoys from more than 190 nations are entering their second week of talks today at the United Nations conference working toward a global warming treaty. Their ambition is to agree to a pact in 2015 that would take force in 2020. It would supersede limits on emissions for industrial nations under the Kyoto Protocol, which the U.S. never ratified.

Quiet Effort

Obama’s push is being pursued without fanfare as the administration and Congress grapple to avert a budget crisis and $607 billion in automatic spending cuts. Unlike 2009, when Obama failed to prevent the collapse of climate talks in Copenhagen, the U.S. can point to more concrete actions it’s taking in the fight global warming. 

He has more ammunition at hand. The Environmental Protection Agency is required under the Clean Air Act to move ahead with regulations on emissions from existing power plants. Those are responsible for about a third of U.S. emissions, the largest chunk. 

Measures such as those, along with continued low natural gas prices and state actions, can cut emissions 16.3 percent by 2020, Resources for the Future, a research firm, estimates. Emissions already are down 8.8 percent from 2005 levels, according to Jonathan Pershing, a State Department negotiator in Doha.
`Stronger Position' 

“The U.S. is in a much stronger position going into the Doha talks despite failure of Congress to pass comprehensive climate legislation,” said Trevor Houser, a former U.S. climate negotiator who served during the Copenhagen meeting. “For countries like China that were able to hide behind a perception of U.S. inaction, the fact that U.S. emissions are falling helps increase pressure. It takes away the excuse that action is stalled because of the U.S.” 

A summer of extreme weather also is supporting the U.S. delegation in the talks by raising public awareness and concern about the risks of climate change, Pershing said last week in Doha. So far this year, superstorm Sandy devastated the East Coast while wildfires raged in the west and a record drought wrecked crops in the Midwest. 

“The combination of those events is certainly changing the minds of Americans and making clear to people at home the consequences of the increased growth in emissions,” he said at a Nov. 26 news conference in Doha.

Increasing Concern

The portion of Americans who say climate change will affect them a “great deal” or by a “moderate” amount rose by 13 points to 42 percent from March to September, and 68 percent said global warming will hurt future generations, up from 59 percent in May 2011, according to a poll by Yale University and George Mason University. 

“That number barely budged for four years, then suddenly jumps,” Andrew Light, coordinator of climate policy at the Center for American Progress, a Washington-based research group with ties to the Obama administration. “If you did same survey today, after Sandy, the number would be even higher.” 

Light notes that the number of Americans who believe climate change is real climbed to 70 percent in September from 57 percent in 2010. The number of people who say global warming isn’t happening has fallen almost by half, to 12 percent today from 20 percent over the same period.

Quiet Effort

To date, few of the administration’s programs get attention away from Washington and the environmental groups following them. 

An EPA rule targeting mercury emissions, for example, would further boost the cost of burning coal, making cleaner-burning natural gas more attractive. California, the world’s ninth- largest economy, has started its cap-and-trade program, covering 85 percent of emissions in the state. 

Such policies “are just the beginning,” said Robert Stavins, director of Harvard University’s Environmental Economics Program in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He expects the U.S. to meet its goal of cutting emissions 17 percent. While that’s less than the 40 percent scientists say is needed. European Union’s pledge to reduce pollutants 20 percent by 2020 and says it will go to 30 percent if others follow. 

“The interesting thing is that for the past three UN climate conferences, the U.S. delegation has never talked about this,” Stavins said in an interview. “They haven’t been interested in taking credit internationally for what’s already in place. When I mention this to other parts of the world, people are shocked.” 

The silence, he said, is understandable in part because the “last thing” the Obama administration wants is for State Department officials overseas making it appear as if the White House was trying to “take an end run around the Congress” on climate policy. 

“It would have been very bad for the president’s re- election,” he said. 

Monday, November 19, 2012

Agency’s tips on avoiding winter sickness bug

HEALTH bosses are advising people in Bolton on how to avoid a “winter vomiting” illness. 

The Health Protection Agency (HPA) North West issued a warning about the highly-infectious illness, known as “norovirus”, that becomes more common in the winter months. 

The norovirus infection is the most common cause of vomiting and diarrhoea in the UK.
In January, an outbreak of the virus forced bosses at the Royal Bolton Hospital to close two wards to new admissions. Nursing and residential homes were also affected. 

It is generally a short-lived illness, from which the majority of people recover in 12 to 60 hours. 

The HPA says people with the infection should stay at home and ensure they stick to a strict personal hygiene routine, such as handwashing. They should also avoid contact with others where possible and stay away from school, work or social gatherings. 

Relatives of children and the elderly who have the illness are advised to call their GP or NHS Direct on 0845-4647 if they become dehydrated. 

Patients are not advised to visit their GP surgery or A&E unit. According to the HPA, patients will recover without treatment. They should rest and take plenty of drinks to replace lost fluids. 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

7 tips to save on your 2013 health insurance

In choosing health insurance, Cariann Moore used an online spreadsheet tool provided by her employer to compare insurance plans. She found that a high-deductible plan with a lower pricetag would save her money.
"For me, it makes it so much easier and demystifies what can be a little overwhelming when you have all these options," said Moore, who works for C3 customer-service firm in Plantation.

With health insurance premiums up an average 7 percent for 2013, employees are finding they need to be savvier consumers. To deal with rising costs, employers are putting the onus on workers "to take control over what their health expenses are," said Terri Byers, national benefits enrollment manager for West Palm Beach-based Oasis Outsourcing, which handles payroll and benefits for companies.

Here are seven tips on choosing health insurance and reducing costs:

• Make sure you enroll. If you don't re-enroll in your benefits or are given new plan options, you could end up without coverage for 2013. Check your enrollment dates, often in early November or in the spring, and make sure you sign up.

Most people who are offered employer-sponsored health insurance should take it, said Keith Mendonsa, consumer insurance specialist for, which provides insurance quotes online. And people with pre-existing conditions should definitely take it, since they could be declined on their own, he said.

• Pay attention to your insurance costs. Look at three things: your premium cost contributions this year compared to last; your maximum "out-of-pocket," which is your financial obligation for a catastrophic health issue; and your deductible.

"If my deductible is $2,500 and my out-of-pocket max is $5,000, I know I'm going to have to pay $2,500 if I go into the hospital. Can I afford that?" Byers said, as an example. But if the deductible and out of pocket are both $2,500, then all your healthcare expenses will be covered by your insurance after the deductible is met.

Consumers make the mistake of picking what they think is the "richer" plan, Byers said. But check whether your doctors are on the less expensive HMO plan, as well as the pricier PPO insurance.
"It's really understanding your plan," she said.

• Compare traditional with high-deductible plan options. More employers are offering a high-deductible plan, which generally offers a lower premium.

But be prepared to pay the amount of the deductible in the coming year if you have serious health care issues, said Mendonsa.

Moore, 34, chose a high deductible plan because she's relatively healthy and doesn't have to buy many prescription drugs. "It made more sense for me," she said. "Knock on wood; I haven't been in an emergency room for a very long time."

But a family that has frequent visits for the children to the pediatrician or even an emergency room may prefer the co-pays and lower deductible of an HMO, Byers said.

Ask your employer if there's a "gap" plan available, which is combined with high-deductible insurance to offset the cost if an employee lands in the hospital. Under a high-deductible plan, the employee has to pay the deductible, which can be $5,000 or more, before surgery or other major health care expenses are covered.

• Use incentives to reduce costs. "Employees should think about how they can be better consumers with the services a carrier offers," said Heather Leck, president of Corporate Benefit Advisors in Delray Beach. Some plans offer a hotline to a nurse or doctor, price checks on tests ordered by a doctor, such as an MRI, or where to find the best deal on a prescription.

At NCCI in Boca Raton, employees will find incentives including an extra $75 in their paycheck if they participate in a program that encourages them to know their blood pressure, cholesterol levels and other health measures, said Gail Nichols, compensation director for the data firm.

• Set pre-tax dollars aside. Use a flexible spending account either from your employer or a third party, such as a bank, to deposit money to cover health costs not covered by insurance. Find the list of IRS-approved expenses on your health insurer's website.

Note that contributions in 2013 for flexible spending accounts have been lowered to $2,500 in 2013, but Byers said she doesn't think it will affect most people. "I don't see many people using the full $5,000," she said.

Employers that offer high-deductible plans also may have the option of a health savings account, where pre-tax dollars also can be socked away. The difference between a flexible spending account is money must be used by year-end, while a health savings account rolls over to the next year. If you have a number of healthy years where you don't use what you deposit, you could rack up extra retirement savings.
"Take advantage of the services that can help you save money," she said.

• Mix and match coverage. Your spouse or domestic partner may have less expensive coverage. Or, it may be less expensive for certain family members to be insured on an individually-purchased health plan. Note that employer-based plans are more likely to cover pregnancy, according to eHealthInsurance.

Mendosa said some employees may find their employer's health plan no longer meets their needs – perhaps they need a brand-name prescription and the plan only covers generics. Or, the monthly cost for premiums is more than the employee can afford. If you have no pre-existing conditions, look at options to purchase insurance on your own.

But don't cancel or disenroll from existing coverage until approved for a new one, he said.

•Review coverage options for adult children. Since 2010, the health care law has allowed adult children to retain coverage under a parent's health insurance policy until age 26. But make sure adult children who live in another state have access to your in-network health care providers.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

5 tips for marathon runners

Sean Croon will be a marathon veteran in this weekend’s Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon. The New Zealand Native has run eight of the 42 kilometre runs, in addition to completing several triathlons and two Ironman competitions. 

He shares his knowledge by coaching marathon newbies at the Commerce Course Running Room. With the weekend race coming up, we asked him for his top tips for participants. 

1. Start slow.
“Keep to the pace that you have trained for. Lots of people go way too fast and break. When you’re at the starting gates and you’ve got thousands of people pouring out around you, it’s hard to go the pace that you should be going. Then you get to about 20 km and you run out of putt.”
2. Don’t forget to hydrate.
How much should you be drinking? “Its different for different people. You should be looking at 500 to 700 mL per hour. It depends how much you sweat, how hot the day is and how big you are.”
3. Wear familiar clothes.
“Don’t go out and buy that fantastic shirt that you saw and wear it for the first time on race day. You don’t know if it’s going to rub on you or chafe or you’re going to sweat and it will be uncomfortable.”
4. Eat the right stuff, often.
“If you are having gels, you probably want to have one every 30 to 45 minutes. When you’re doing a marathon your body actually uses up all of the fuel quite quickly. You can’t store enough in your body to do a (full) marathon.”
5. Wash your face at your last stop.
“When you do your first marathon, you’ve got all your friends and family waiting. You’ve been out there for four or five hours there’s a lot of things on your face you might not want to be showing off to everybody. So your last drink stop, splash water on your face. You’ll look good as you cross the finish line.”

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Obama: I'm 'eye candy' for women of 'The View'

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama bantered playfully and held hands Monday during a taping of the female-oriented talk show, "The View," giving no indication of second thoughts about the appearance despite criticism that the president was blowing off international diplomacy in order to take part in the often-fluffy daytime gabfest.

"I told folks I'm just supposed to be eye candy here for you guys," President Obama said during a back-and-forth about him being the only man on the program. The show's five co-hosts are women.
The first lady played along by letting the audience in—just a tad—on their relationship and even some of their marital spats.

"He's very loving, he's very giving. He's very open. He's funny; I'm funnier," Mrs. Obama said when asked to describe her husband's personality.

Asked whether her husband ever gets angry, she replied: "Yeah, yeah, he does. I can make him mad -- any number of ways."

"By being thoroughly unreasonable," the president jumped in, smiling, according to a pool report.
The Obamas also talked about their 20th wedding anniversary falling on Oct. 3—the night of the first presidential debate. President Obama said the couple will celebrate the following Saturday.

"I like lavishing her with all kinds of attention when she deserves it, and she always deserves it," the president said.

President Obama also said the couple's daughters, Malia and Sasha, are becoming more independent and no longer seem eager to hang out with their father.

"They're now at the point where, they still love their daddy, but they come in [to visit him] strategically. They're not being surly or anything," Obama said, while adding that the children now pay about a five-minute visit and then take off.

"The View" program the Obamas taped Monday is set to air Tuesday, taking the first couple in front of a politically-coveted heavily-female audience six weeks before the November election.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Tuning health info to Indian audience

We are no strangers to receiving health tips on mobile phones, but mDhil takes a different approach to the service. 

“Most of the information sent out as SMS tips or on the Internet are geared towards western audiences,” says the online service’s founder, Nandu Madhava. “With mDhil, we are trying to help the Indian audiences manage their health better.” 

The idea for the company, which was launched in 2009, struck Madhava while he was working as a Peace Corps volunteer in Latin America. “I was a translator for the U.S. doctors working there. One common complaint was the lack of simple health information for people in the developing world that could be easily accessed and understood. Often issues like reproductive health and women’s health are taboo, so there is little discussion and information available.” 

The website,, is easy to navigate. Information is easy to find with topics neatly classified under headings such as ‘Diet and Nutrition’ and ‘Emotional Health.’ 

“We have very minimal advertising,” Madhava says. “We are adamant that the user experience should be priced above all short-term revenue generators.” mDhil does sell some of the content to mobile carriers. Recently, it tied up with Airtel for the telecom firm’s subscribers to receive health information on their mobile phones. 

Madhava credits his creative team with ensuring the quality of content. The company has doctors on its staff as well as a specialist team. Most of the content is in English, and work on translating them in different Indian languages is under way. “We have already started translating some of our videos into Hindi. We plan to launch in Tamil and Kannada shortly.” This he hopes will make the information more accessible to populations that do not know either English or Hindi. Mobile videos in more regional languages is expected to drive the company’s future growth. 

Trying to find investors and teams that shared his vision wasn’t easy, but Madhava persisted. “Video and health SMS content in India is very generic. Most of it is either news, about Bollywood or astrology. That convinced me that health was an unexplored niche with potential.” 

A lot of the information on the site deals with reproductive health diseases and safe sex choices but the site isn’t aimed at just young audiences. “Since we are mobile and web-based, we knew a lot of young people would be among our earliest users. We want our information to serve them well but our sections have something for all age groups.” The topics discussed are diverse. So there are videos on the cervical cancer vaccine as well as articles aimed at keeping teachers healthy. 

“There are seven people watching an mDhil video every minute,” adds Madhava. The service’s Facebook page has been liked by more than two lakh persons. 

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Obama opens up about gun violence

In one of his most expansive responses yet to gun crime, President Barack Obama on Wednesday embraced some degree of control on the sale of weapons but said he would also seek a national consensus on combating violence. He said responsibility for curtailing bloodshed also rests with parents, neighbors and teachers to ensure that young people "do not have that void inside them."

Speaking just six days after the movie theater shooting in Aurora, Colo., that left 12 dead, Obama pledged to work with lawmakers of both parties to stop violence, not only the sudden massacres that have bedeviled the nation, but the steady drip of urban crime that has cost many young lives.

"We should leave no stone unturned and recognize that we have no greater mission that keeping our young people safe," Obama said in a speech to the National Urban League.

Obama called for stepped-up background checks for people who want to purchase guns and restrictions to keep mentally unbalanced individuals from buying weapons. He says those steps "shouldn't be controversial, they should be common sense."

But he also added: "We must also understand that when a child opens fire on other children, there's a hole in his heart that no government can fill."

Obama's speech represented a bookend to a four-day trip that began in Colorado on Saturday when he visited with survivors of the theater massacre.

For Obama, the address to the National Urban League was a necessary overture to a voting bloc that overwhelmingly backs him but that has sustained much of the brunt of the economic downturn.

In his speech Obama promoted his economic and health care policies, tailoring what has become a standard campaign speech to his African-American audience. He drew attention to initiatives that have helped Americans in general, and African-Americans in particular.

But, as he did during his 2008 campaign, he also pressed personal responsibility.

He said young Americans are competing against kids in Beijing and Bangalore. "You know, they're not hanging out ... they're not playing video games, they're not watching `Real Housewives,"' he said. "I'm just saying. It's a two-way street. You've got to earn success."

Ahead of Obama's remarks, the Urban League played a video showing photos of famous African-Americans that culminated with images of the president and his family the night of the 2008 election. The crowd of several thousand responded with thunderous applause that was sustained as Obama walked on stage and peppered with chants of "four more years."

Obama spoke on the same day that the Senate gave him a political victory by passing an extension of Bush-era tax cuts for households with less than $250,000 in earnings. The president has made retaining current tax rates for middle-class taxpayers a central piece of his economic policy while rejecting Republican efforts to extend the current tax rates for all. Under Obama's plan, taxes for wealthier Americans would rise. The Senate measure, however, was expected to go no further because of the Republican-dominated House.
While enthusiasm among some Obama supporters has faded since 2008, support for America's first black president remains high among African-Americans. In a recent Associated Press-GfK poll, 82 percent of black adults said they would vote for Obama. His approval rating among blacks was 87 percent.

Obama skipped an appearance at the NAACP earlier this month, raising questions about whether his campaign was taking black voters for granted. The White House blamed a scheduling conflict and sent Vice President Joe Biden to address the nation's oldest civil rights organization.

Republican challenger Mitt Romney also addressed the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, raising eyebrows when he told the crowd: "If you want a president who will make things better in the African-American community, you are looking at him."

Obama announced that he would sign an executive order on Thursday that creates a new office to bolster the education of African-American students. The White House says the office will coordinate the work of communities and federal agencies to ensure that these youngsters are better prepared for high school, college and career.

Obama also was raised campaign money at two separate stops in New Orleans: an intimate 20-person event at the cost of $25,000 per person, and a larger event at the House of Blues for 400 people, with tickets starting at $250.

Obama raised at least $6 million at events this week in California, Oregon and Washington. The president started the trip Sunday with a stop in Colorado to meet with survivors and families of the victims of last week's movie theater massacre. 

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Mail Order Golf Offer One FREE round of golf for 2 people with additional perks

This summer, Golf equipment site Mail Order Golf has teamed up with the world renowned DeVere Club to offer you a fantastic promotion for all golf enthusiasts out there.

Mail Order Golf stock various products from a whole range of New Golf Balls to Lake Balls, from putting tees, aids, novelty golfing products and other Golf Gifts. Officially licensed by the PGA, Wilson, Dunlop and Links Choice Mail Order Golf with the largest selection of Lake Balls in Europe.
Not only can you claim one free round of golf for two people, but this offer also includes 50% off green fees for two of your friends! 

Included in this fantastic offer is the opportunity to meet the local golf membership adviser prior to your game which will help you and your family or friends get the best from any of the DeVere courses available. 

The DeVere golf group has once again been awarded the ‘Golf group of the year award’ by the 59 Club. With their well established reputation, exciting range of luxury golf courses, and fantastic facilities; Mail Order Golf is providing the opportunity for golf lovers out there to escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life and spend the day at one of these many prestigious golf courses and all you have to do is purchase 100 Top Flite golf balls from their website. (

With the golf season in full swing, why not make the most of the luxurious grounds in one of the eleven DeVere Clubs available to use with this offer?

Included in this voucher is one of the top golf courses in the north of England, Oulton Hall in Leeds; where the greens of the Calverley and Hall courses are a good test for golfers of all abilities. Whether it is overlooking the idyllic sceneries of the Loch Lomand at The Carrick; enjoying the fresh air in the peaceful surroundings of Berkshire countryside at Wokefield Park, or experiencing the spectacular 18 hole championship course at Herons’ Reach in Blackpool. This offer will allow you to spend quality time with family and friends at an extremely affordable price. 

The voucher is valid till the 30th June 2013, which means there is plenty opportunity to be flexible with dates and times that suit you. 

To take advantage of this offer (RRP £320), simply purchase 100 Top Flite Golf Balls; including models such as Infinity, XL2000, XL3000, Gamer, etc from or call 0845 389 1707.

Mail Order Golf is an online golf store who offers the largest selection of lake balls in Europe. They stock all major golf ball brands including Titleist golf balls, Nike, Srixon, Callaway and many more.

For further information contact:
Chris Preston
Tel: 0844 8717775

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

China Makes Golf History Twice in One Week

China, a country once renowned for its proletarian pride, is experiencing a surge in that most patrician of sports: golf.

Over the weekend, 22-year-old Chinese golfer Feng Shanshan claimed women’s golf’s LPGA Championship title by shooting 6-under-par for the week, becoming the first Chinese player to win a major tour event and title.

As if that weren’t enough, 14-year-old Chinese golfer Andy Zhang made history of his own on Monday by becoming the youngest player ever to qualify for this week’s U.S. Open after Briton Paul Casey withdrew because of a shoulder injury.

“It’s going to be a great experience, hitting balls next to Tiger [Woods],” Zhang, who also played a practice round with this year’s Masters winner Bubba Watson, told ESPN, noting his surprise that the older pros had been “very nice” to him and were giving him good tips. “I need to make sure I’m not in a dream right now.”

The triumphs of Feng and Zhang are a boon to China’s global sporting ambitions, though they’re the sort of development that probably sets Mao Zedong’s waxen body to spinning it its glass case on Tiananmen Square. Despite some claims that the sport was invented in China, golf was banned under Mao as a bourgeois indulgence. Even now, with the Communist Party having embraced entrepreneurs and luxury brands rushing to cater to the country’s nouveau riche, the sport remains a somewhat controversial hobby due to concerns over the growing tracts of precious arable land being appropriated to build courses.
That history is likely one reason that China– which reportedly only opened its first golf course in 1984 – hasn’t experienced the same success in the sport as some of its neighbors.

While Asian peers like South Korea dominate the golf circuit—the country has 24 golfers in the LPGA’s top 100—Ms. Feng is the only mainland Chinese golfer to appear on either the men’s or women’s top 100 rankings (though Taiwanese golfer Yani Tseng is the women’s No. 1).

Estimates show the number of golfers in China ranges from 300,000 players to 3 million—still just a drop in the bucket in a country of 1.3 billion. But with golf set to reappear in the Olympics in 2016, the country known for coveting gold medals is placing a new emphasis on the sport.

One example of that effort, highlighted in a report by the state-run Xinhua news agency earlier this month, is a school in southern China’s Zhuahi city in Guangdong province that offers free golf training to kindergartners. Letting “children get in touch with golf is a good trial,” Liu Tie, head of the Industry Planning and Development Department of the Zhuhai Culture, Sports and Tourism Bureau, told Xinhua.
Helping to fuel the interest is the growing number—and increasing outlandishness—of golf courses in the country like the world’s largest Mission Hills golf club on southern Hainan Island, which continue to be built despite a nationwide moratorium on new courses.

Most recent available statistics suggest China has around 500 18-hole courses, compared with more than 15,000 in theU.S.

For her part, Feng told the LPGA she hopes that her success can help to inspire young golfers in Chinathe way tennis champion Li Na has.

“Hopefully [my win is] going to help golf in Chinabecause I want to be [tennis star] Li Na for golf in China. I want to be like a model that the other juniors can follow my steps and get on the LPGA,” she said. “There are good players fromChina, young players, right now. I became the first one, but I’m sure there will be a second, third, more people winning in the States and winning majors.

“I think, you know all of the Asians are good. That’s what my parents told me. All of the Asians are good at controlling small things. I don’t know if that’s true or not. But I will say if Koreans can, Chinese can, and golf in China is really growing up and getting more popular. I believe in the futureChinawill be one of the strongest countries on golf.”


Monday, March 19, 2012

Nothing easy for Ernie Els

The walk from the 18th green to the scoring trailer at Innisbrook's Copperhead course is a long one, with plenty of time for reflection.

Fans and volunteers lined the ropes along that trek, but even they knew better than to offer Ernie Els any encouragement at this point. He had just bogeyed the last two holes Sunday afternoon at the Transitions Championship, the disappointment oozing throughout the crowd, the pain as prevalent as if each and every one of them had missed that short putt themselves.

What can you say in a moment like this? Do you cheer? Console? Cry?

Els, a Hall of Famer who has won three major championships and tournaments all over the world, was anything but his Big Easy persona making that journey that must have seemed like miles.

He has been battling the putting demons for most of the past two years, put himself in position to win with some excellent ball-striking, could all but see that Masters invitation delivered to his doorstep -- and then let two makeable putts over the last three holes along with an errant approach ruin his day.

After signing his scorecard, he did a slow burn waiting for television and radio interviews, snapping at a PGA Tour official in the process and then doing all he could to not go off on the questioners.

He clearly needed some time to cool off after his bogey-bogey finish cost him a spot in a playoff with Luke Donald, Jim Furyk, Robert Garrigus and Sang-Moon Bae. Els probably should have won the tournament in regulation, having missed a 5-footer for birdie at the 16th and then the 4-footer for par at the last, the one that would have put him in a playoff.

Donald won it with a birdie on the first extra hole, making the clutch putt to put him back atop the Official World Golf Ranking over Rory McIlory. Els, now 42, can only lament what it was like to play that kind of golf.

"It's going to be tough to get over this," Els admitted in the parking lot afterward, searching for words to describe how a round of 4-under-par 67 and a tie for fifth could look so bad.

He led the field in greens in regulation, and hit 14 of 18 on Sunday. He was 6 under par for his round through 12 holes and leading, but couldn't coax another one in the hole that would have wrapped it up.

"Ernie was playing behind me today, and he was bombing shots I was looking back and he was 50 yards past where I was," Donald said. "He obviously felt like he was swinging well this week. Obviously played well to get into that position.

"But yes, it's unfortunate to miss a short putt like that. You know, putting is very mental. Hopefully he can figure it out. … Ernie's obviously struggled on the greens more than anything, and that kind of seeps through the bag."

At the toughest hole on the course, the 451-yard par-4 16th, Els blasted a drive 308 yards. With 147 to the pin, he knocked his approach to inside 5 feet. A birdie there and he takes a 2-shot lead with two holes to go. And he pulled the putt left of the hole.

Lost, of course, were the two beautiful shots that put him in that position.

"Back in the day I would have made that putt and would have won the tournament by two or three shots," Els said. "Now it's a different story."

It is one of missed putts, blown opportunities and frustration. Els has played in the Masters 18 times and probably should have his own green jacket. But you can't get one if you don't play, and right now, Els is on the outside looking in at the year's first major championship, not yet on the invite list for Augusta National.

That is due to his slip last year outside of the top 50 in the world. You have to go back 20 years -- to the end of 1992, when he was a virtual nobody and ranked 40th -- to find him that low.

By falling outside of the top 50, Els saw a Masters invite slip through his grasp, one that he's had three months to rectify by either winning a PGA Tour event or moving into the top 50 again. He started the Transitions at 68th in the world, and moved to only 62nd with his tie for fifth.

Next week's Arnold Palmer Invitational is the last chance to get into the top 50, and he's likely in need of a victory there, too, to crack the top 50. Short of that, his only way into the Masters would be a win at the Shell Houston Open.

"I was just trying to win a golf tournament," Els said when asked if he was thinking about the Masters, which starts April 5. "Obviously, I can't lie to you, I've been thinking about it constantly. But I just want to get the job done and win golf tournaments."

Els said the missed putt on 16 affected him on both his tee shot at the 17th hole and on the short putt on 18. After failing to convert the birdie putt, there was a long wait on the 17th tee, a difficult 218-yard par-3 where Els pushed his 4-iron to the right and was fortunate to have a shot to the green.

He left himself a 25-footer for par, narrowly missed, then walked to the 18th tee tied for the lead. After a perfect drive, Els had just 160 left, but pulled his 7-iron approach just off the green. He hit a decent chip to 4 feet, then missed.

Afterward, Els was asked by a television interviewer if he had the confidence to make the putt. You could almost see the steam coming from the top of Els' head as he answered by saying "I just pulled it a bit." He then did a radio interview when he said, "I was just trying to jam it in there and I pulled it."

This, obviously, was not the time to be asking questions, but Els consented, then signed autographs as he walked around the clubhouse and to the parking lot. There, the fire inside him having subsided somewhat, he lamented the missed opportunity.

"When you're on the hot seat, people are going to criticize you," he said. "When you hit a good putt and it misses, you're still going to get criticized, you know? So that's the position I'm in. If I hit a good putt, feel it's a good putt and it doesn't go in … doesn't matter what I say.

"I just feel like I'm in a difficult position. Have to defend myself all the time. It kind of came to a boiling point there, almost. It was a bit of an odd question."

Understandable, really.

Els could walk away from the game now and not have to apologize for his career. More than 60 worldwide wins, with 18 PGA Tour titles and three major championships is what already has the South African in the Hall of Fame.

But you could tell by how much it hurt Sunday that Els is not satisfied.

Before heading to Bay Hill, Els is playing in the Tavistock Cup at Lake Nona on Monday and Tuesday. He was asked if it's a good thing to be playing right away.

"I'd rather be sitting here drowning my sorrows," he said, chuckling. "Maybe that's also a good thing … not to do that."

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Paul Lawrie shoots flawless 65 to win Qatar Masters

Paul Lawrie is back in the world's top 50 for the first time since 2003 after a flawless performance gave him a second Qatar Masters title on Sunday.

The Scot, known as "Chippy", chipped in twice during a brilliant closing 65 to beat the Australian Jason Day and the Swede Peter Hanson by four.

Less than a year ago the 1999 Open champion was down at 272nd place in the rankings. Now he is part of golf's elite group again. The win guarantees him a place in the 64-man Accenture World Match Play championship in Arizona this month and the Volvo World Match Play in Spain in May.

He is on course to win a second Ryder Cup cap 13 years after his first and if he can stay in the top 50 for another seven weeks will make a return to the Masters at Augusta in April after an eight-year gap.

This is the Aberdeen player's first success since his long-time coach Adam Hunter died of leukaemia in October and Lawrie was close to tears when reminded of that afterwards.

"I don't think I can play much better than that," said the 43-year-old on Sky Sports after finishing with a 15 under par total in an event cut to 54 holes because of strong winds on Friday. "I've been playing well for a long, long time but it's just nice to come out one ahead and shoot seven under."

It was the joint lowest round of the day. He said: "When you've got a chance to win a tournament you don't sleep as well the night before and things go racing through your mind. You've got to get back to basics and I did that. I hit some nice shots coming in."

Also reminded that his 1999 victory in the tournament was followed five months later by lifting the Open Claret Jug at Carnoustie, Lawrie said: "Now wouldn't that be nice to get that again?"

And as for the Ryder Cup he said: "I've been trying to keep that to the back of my mind. If I keep playing as I am I will get in, there's no question, but there's a long way to go and I know as well as anyone there are a lot of good players."

The first chip-in was perfectly timed. Lawrie had been caught by Sergio García moments before, but holing out for eagle from just short of the green at the long 9th put him two in front again.

García, six under for the first 11 holes, then bogeyed the 13th and 15th to drop back to joint fifth and instead it was Day who applied the pressure.

The 24-year-old, runner-up in both the Masters and US Open last season, began each half with four successive birdies but a bogey six on the 9th left him with too much ground to make up.

Lawrie went clear with birdies on the 11th, 14th and 16th and victory was in effect sealed when he chipped in again at the short 17th.

Hanson caught Day by pitching in for eagle on the 16th and matching his two-putt birdie on the last. They finished with rounds of 67 and 65 respectively.

Fourth was the 45-year-old American John Daly. Down at 543rd in the world at the start of the week, it was the former Open champion's best display since he finished second in the 2009 Italian Open.

Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer, third and fourth on the rankings, finished 12th and ninth respectively, Westwood sharing his position with José María Olazábal on the Ryder Cup captain's 46th birthday.