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(Jefferson City) (AP) – Fresh off his re-election, Missouri Auditor Tom Schweich confirmed Thursday that he is considering a bid for governor in 2016 and touted an encouraging letter from supporters as “a powerful incentive to go forward” with a campaign.

Schweich, a Republican from the St. Louis suburb of Clayton, was elected to a second four-year term this month after facing no Democratic opposition. Until now, he had declined to publicly discuss his gubernatorial aspirations. He told The Associated Press that he will announce a decision about a gubernatorial campaign early next year.

Schweich’s comments came as supporters released a letter signed by more than 120 people encouraging the 54-year-old auditor to run for governor.

Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon is barred by term limits from seeking re-election.

So far, former U.S. Attorney and Missouri House Speaker Catherine Hanaway is the only declared Republican candidate for governor, and Attorney General Chris Koster is the only Democrat running.

(Jefferson City) (AP) – A Missouri lawmaker promised Thursday to try to block proposed pay increases for legislators and other elected officials, which had been recommended by a state board days earlier.

Rep. Mark Parkinson, R-St.Charles, said he plans to introduce a resolution against the raises next session.

The Citizens’ Commission on Compensation for Elected Officials suggested Tuesday 8 percent pay raises both in fiscal years 2016 and 2017 for the governor and other statewide officials, although they haven’t written an official report yet.

The governor, who currently is paid $133,821 a year, would make about $156,088 a year under those recommendations. State lawmakers would receive a $4,000 raise from the current $35,915 over two years, and the lieutenant governor would make $9,500 more to $95,984.

Some eligible for raises would only get part of the benefits before their terms end in January 2017.

A spokeswoman for the Office of Administration said the estimated cost of the increases to the state has not yet been determined.

The state constitution requires the commission meet every two years to evaluate whether to increase officials’ pay, and the panel’s suggestions take effect automatically unless two-thirds of the Missouri Legislature votes against them.

(West Plains) – A recap of the educational European trip students in the William and Virginia Darr Honors Program took this summer will be the topic of the next Friends of the Garnett Library monthly luncheon meeting Friday, December 12, on the Missouri State University-West Plains campus.

Darr Honors Program Director Alex Pinnon and the students will present a program about their Honors Abroad trip to Germany, Italy, Austria and Switzerland in May and discuss the impact traveling abroad had on what they have learned.

The luncheon and meeting will take place from noon to 1 p.m. in rooms 104 and 105 on the lower level of the Lybyer Technology Center. Parking is available in the lot off Cass Avenue on the north side of the building. The cost of the meal is $10, and it’s payable at the door. Those wishing to eat are asked to make a reservation by calling 417-255-7940 or emailing FriendsofGarnettLibrary@MissouriState.edu by Tuesday, Dec. 9.

(Mountain Home) – The Baxter County Sheriff’s Office is joining forces with other state and local law enforcement officers over the 2014 Thanksgiving holiday.

The “Click It or Ticket” enforcement campaign during the holiday period begins Monday, November 24 and continues through November 30.

The Thanksgiving holiday is among the busiest of travel periods both in Arkansas and across the nation, and deputies will be working overtime to ensure the highways and streets are safe by strictly enforcing the laws, including the Arkansas mandatory seat belt law.

There were 301 traffic deaths nationally during the 2012 Thanksgiving reporting period, and sixty percent of the passenger vehicle occupants who died were not wearing seat belts. In Arkansas, during the same holiday reporting period, ten people lost their lives and 201 people were injured.

According to estimates from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), during calendar year 2012 seat belts saved more than 12,000 lives nationwide.

(Mountain Home) – Arkansas State University-Mountain Home (ASUMH) and other two-year colleges across the state will celebrate Community College Work$ Week December 1-5.

In a recent proclamation, Governor Mike Beebe declared the week a celebration of the work of community colleges across the state, and vital role that these institutions play in meeting local economic development and workforce needs.

As a part of the state-wide celebration, ASUMH will host government and business leaders at the ASUMH Technical Center from 7:30-8:30 AM on Monday, December 1 for a continental breakfast, facility tours, and information on training programs. The center is located at 4034 Highway 62 West in Mountain Home, AR.

Community College Work$ is joint project of the twenty-two members of Arkansas Community Colleges (ACC), formerly the Arkansas Association of Two Year Colleges (AATYC). For more information on Community College Work$, contact Christy Keirn, Director of Communications and Institutional Advancement, at 508-6109.

(Mountain Home) – Area teens are invited to Teen Tuesday at the Donald W. Reynolds Library Tuesday, November 25 from 5-7 PM.

Teen Tuesday is a monthly program at the Library designed especially for teens in grades 7th – 12th, which includes snacks, movies, or activities with a different theme each month.

For additional information, contact Teen Librarian John Dyer at john.d@baxlib.org or 870-580-0703 or visit www.baxlib.org. The Donald W. Reynolds Library Serving Baxter County is located at 300 Library Hill, Mountain Home, AR.

(Melbourne) – Ozarka College offers an Associate of Science degree and a Certificate of Proficiency in Criminal Justice and Corrections, both of which can be completed fully online.

The Criminal Justice and Corrections program prepares students for career opportunities, as well as transferability for a Bachelor of Science degree.

Earning a degree in the field of Criminal Justice and Corrections provides students with career opportunities for Federal level law enforcement, such as the FBI, DEA, ATF, Air Marshal Service, Secret Service, and Border Protection.

Spring and summer registration is currently open, and financial aid is available for students who qualify. For more information about Ozarka College’s Criminal Justice and Corrections program, please contact Nick Wilcox, Ozarka College’s Criminal Justice Program Coordinator at 870.994.7273 or email: nick.wilcox@ozarka.edu.

FILE - In this Monday, June 23, 2014 file photo, an Islamic militant group fighter stands with two children posing with weapons as they watch other members of the group parade in commandeered Iraqi security forces vehicles down a main road at the northern city of Mosul, Iraq, more than two weeks after IS took over the country's second largest city. Across the vast region in Syria and Iraq that is part of the Islamic State group's self-declared caliphate, children are being inculcated with the extremist group's radical and violent interpretation of Shariah law. (AP Photo, File)

FILE – In this Monday, June 23, 2014 file photo, an Islamic militant group fighter stands with two children posing with weapons as they watch other members of the group parade in commandeered Iraqi security forces vehicles down a main road at the northern city of Mosul, Iraq, more than two weeks after IS took over the country’s second largest city. Across the vast region in Syria and Iraq that is part of the Islamic State group’s self-declared caliphate, children are being inculcated with the extremist group’s radical and violent interpretation of Shariah law. (AP Photo, File)

(Beirut) (AP) – Teenagers carrying weapons stand at checkpoints and busy intersections in Iraq’s second-largest city, Mosul. Patched onto the left arms of their black uniforms are the logos of the Islamic Police.

In Raqqa, the Islamic State group’s de facto capital in Syria, boys attend training camp and religious courses before heading off to fight. Others serve as cooks or guards at the extremists’ headquarters or as spies, informing on people in their neighborhoods.

Across the vast region under IS control, the group is actively conscripting children for battle and committing abuses against the most vulnerable at a young age, according to a growing body of evidence assembled from residents, activists, independent experts and human rights groups.

In the northern Syrian town of Kobani, where ethnic Kurds have been resisting an IS onslaught for weeks, several activists told The Associated Press they observed children fighting alongside the militants. Mustafa Bali, a Kobani-based activist, said he saw the bodies of four boys, two of them younger than 14. And at least one 18 year old is said to have carried out a suicide attack.

In Syria’s Aleppo province, an activist affiliated with the rebel Free Syrian Army said its fighters encountered children in their late teens “fairly often” in battles against the rival Islamic State group.

It is difficult to determine just how widespread the exploitation of children is in the closed world of IS-controlled territory. There are no reliable figures on the number of minors the group employs.

But a United Nations panel investigating war crimes in the Syrian conflict concluded that in its enlistment of children for active combat roles, the Islamic State group is perpetrating abuses and war crimes on a massive scale “in a systematic and organized manner.”

The group “prioritizes children as a vehicle for ensuring long-term loyalty, adherence to their ideology and a cadre of devoted fighters that will see violence as a way of life,” it said in a recent report. The panel of experts, known as the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria, conducted more than 300 interviews with people who fled or are living in IS-controlled areas, and examined video and photographic evidence.

The use of children by armed groups in conflict is, of course, nothing new. In the Syrian civil war, the Free Syrian Army and Nusra Front rebel groups also recruit children for combat, said Leila Zerrougui, the U.N. secretary-general’s special representative for children and armed conflict.

But no other group comes close to IS in using children in such a systematic and organized way. And the effect is that much greater because IS commands large areas in which the militants inculcate the children with their radical and violent interpretation of Shariah law.

“What is new is that ISIS seems to be quite transparent and vocal about their intention and their practice of recruiting children,” said Laurent Chapuis, UNICEF regional child protection adviser for the Middle East and North Africa, using an alternate acronym for the group. “Children as young as 10, 12 years old are being used in a variety of roles, as combatants as messengers, spies, guards, manning checkpoints but also for domestic purposes like cooking, cleaning, sometimes providing medical care to the wounded.”

“This is not a marginal phenomenon. This is something that is being observed and seems to be part of the strategy of the group,” Zerrougui said in a phone interview from New York.

She said some children join voluntarily for various reasons but others are targeted.

“They are abducting children and forcing them to join, they are brainwashing children and indoctrinating them to join their group. All the tools used to attract and recruit children are used by this group,” she said, adding that children as young as 9 or 10 are used for `’various roles.”

In areas of Syria and Iraq under their control, the Sunni extremists have closed schools or changed the curriculum to fit with their ideology. Their goal, according to the U.N., is to use education as a tool of indoctrination to foster a new generation of supporters.

A video recently published by an IS media arm shows what it says is a graduation ceremony for boys, who appear to be in their teens. Dressed in military uniforms, they are lined up to shake hands with a sheikh. Another scene shows the boys posing with AK-47s, their faces hidden under black masks. The video touts the children as a “generation of lions, protectors of religion, dignity and land.”

Residents of IS-controlled areas said the militants are teaching children at school to become fighters.

One resident in the Iraqi city of Fallujah described seeing his 6-year-old son playing with a water pistol in front of the house and screaming: “I am a fighter for the Islamic State!”

“I waved him to come to me and I broke the gun in two pieces,” said the man, who spoke on condition of anonymity out of fear of his life.

He also said he and his son recently stopped at an IS checkpoint. His son shouted, “We love the State!” and one of the fighters asked, “Which state?” When the son replied, “the Islamic State,” the fighter “told him, `Good boy,’ and let us through,” the resident said. The incident persuaded the man to move his family to the northern city of Kirkuk, now in Kurdish hands.

“The boys are studying, not to learn, but to become mujahedeen,” he said.

Earlier this year in Syria, the Islamic State group abducted more than 150 Kurdish boys, held them in a school in Aleppo province and showed them videos of beheadings and attacks, while subjecting them to daily instruction on militant ideology for five months, the U.N. and Kurdish officials said. The boys were later released.

In Raqqa province, an anti-IS activist collective has documented the presence of at least five known youth training camps, one specifically for children under 16 in the town of Tabqa. The collective, named Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently, has released a video showing children crawling under barbed wire as part of their military training. The video could not be independently confirmed but is consistent with AP reporting on the subject.

Residents in IS-controlled areas in Iraq, such as Mosul and Fallujah, say it is not uncommon to see gun-toting boys in their late teens standing at checkpoints and even younger ones riding in militant convoys, usually accompanying their fathers in parades.

Another resident of Fallujah said many boys as young as 11 volunteer to join the group, but that IS often seeks the parents’ consent for those under 16. He said others join under pressure or in exchange for money.

“Once they’re done training, their skills and abilities are tested before they decide where to send them off. Many want to be on the front lines,” said the man, who identified himself as Abu Abdullah al-Falluji.

In a report released earlier this year, Human Rights Watch interviewed four former IS child fighters in Syria who described military training with the group. One, Bassem, who joined the group at 16, said he left after being seriously wounded by shrapnel in battle. A 17 year old, Amr, told the group that children in his unit signed up for suicide missions – and that he reluctantly did so as well under pressure.

Thousands of foreign fighters have flocked to IS areas from all over the world, many of them with their families.

A video emerged this month showing two boys, both speaking perfect French, holding guns aloft and claiming to be in Raqqa. They stand on a dusty street; a man walks by and takes no notice of their weapons. The boys, who look much younger than 10, say they’re from Strasbourg and Toulouse. French prosecutors have opened a formal investigation to identify the children.

“Over there, you’re in a country of infidels. Here, we’re mujahedeen. We’re in Syria, we’re in Raqqa here,” one of the boys says in the video. “It’s war here.”

Salama reported from Baghdad. Associated Press writer Lori Hinnant in Paris contributed to this report.

(Harrison) (AP) – Agriculture officials say heavy rains during the year may mean higher production costs for Arkansas cattle farmers this winter.

The National Agricultural Statistics Service says 52 percent of Arkansas’ pastures are in good or excellent condition. Heavy rains throughout the year largely benefited cattle farmers with plentiful hay.

But excessive rains in north-central Arkansas diminished the crop’s nutrient content and will likely require some farmers to rely more heavily on supplemental feed through the winter.

Boone County Extension Agent Mike McClintock says a high volume of hay was produced this year but the quality of the hay is much lower in terms of its nutritional value. Fescue hay typically has a crude protein content of about 8 to 10 percent if harvested in late May, but drops during the summer.

(Columbia) (AP) – Missouri hunters likely will use lead bullets during firearm deer season this year despite potential health complications from the metal.

The Columbia Missourian reports little is being done in Missouri to warn hunters about the risks of lead despite efforts in other states to encourage using safer copper bullets.

Lead bullets, Carrol Henderson of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources said, leave fragments of the metal after the bullets strike.

Copper bullets cost about twice as much, but tear into an intact, blossom shape on impact.

Henderson said a deer hunter might spend an extra $5 a year on copper bullets.

A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed elevated levels of lead in people who recently ate wild game shot with lead bullets, though it stopped short of saying that the meat was the only possible reason for the elevated levels.

Lead in bullets is a relatively new public health issue, but the negative mental and physical effects of lead exposure have been documented for thousands of years, according to an article from the Environmental Protection Agency. Young children are particularly at risk from lead exposure, which can impair brain development and lead to cognitive and behavioral problems.

According to the CDC’s website, no safe blood level of lead in children has been identified, and a 2005 report analyzing intellectual test scores of 1,333 children found there was “no evidence of a threshold for the adverse consequences of lead exposure.”

The Missouri Conservation Department has no regulations on lead bullets, although there are strict nontoxic shot rules for shotgun handling. The department’s website does contain a word of caution about lead exposure on a page titled “Hunter Ethics and Safety.” The paragraph devoted to lead bullets says that “lead in venison is a concern, but not a human health crisis.”