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Sharks beat Blues 4-2 to sweep season series

Tuesday, 17 December 2013 22:40 Published in Sports
 
ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Joe Pavelski scored the first of three straight goals by San Jose, and Antti Niemi stopped 20 shots to lead the Sharks to a 4-2 win over the St. Louis Blues on Tuesday night.
 
San Jose completed a season sweep of the Blues, winning all three games by a combined 16-7. St. Louis has lost two in a row after winning eight of 11.
 
Matt Irwin, Brent Burns and Marty Havlat added goals for the Sharks, who led 3-0 after 22 minutes. Niemi improved to 18-6-6.
 
Kevin Shattenkirk and Jay Bouwmeester scored second-period goals for the Blues.
 
The Sharks jumped to a 2-0 first-period lead on goals by Pavelski and Irwin in a span of 2:56. Both came from close range on rebounds of missed shots that caromed off the end boards.
 
Pavelski scored his 13th after a miss by Havlat, and Irwin jumped on a misfire from Justin Braun for his first of the season.
 
St. Louis goalie Jaroslav Halak gave up three goals on the first 12 shots he faced and fell to 16-6-2.
 
The Blues climbed to 3-2 on Bouwmeester's goal with 24.2 seconds left in the second period. Havlat pounced on a rebound with 11:41 left in the game to make it 4-2.
 
San Jose won the earlier meetings 6-2 and 6-3.
 
NOTES: San Jose has outscored its opponents 44-15 in the first period this season. .... Blues coach Ken Hitchcock celebrated his 62nd birthday. ... St. Louis C David Backes missed his first game since Jan. 25, 2010, a string of 274 successive regular-season appearances. He sustained an upper-body injury in a collision with Ottawa C Colin Greening on Monday. Backes, who has 16 goals and 14 assists in 32 games, is expected to be out at least a week. ... The Blues were also without LWs Jaden Schwartz and Vladimir Sobotka, who missed the game with upper-body injuries. Backes, Schwartz and Sobotka have combined for 29 goals and 38 assists. ... The Sharks are 0 for 16 on the power play over their last seven road games.

BUDGET DEAL SPLITS GOP LEADERS IN HOUSE, SENATE

Tuesday, 17 December 2013 08:33 Published in National News

WASHINGTON (AP) — Senate Republican leaders are criticizing a bipartisan budget deal, parting ways with their House counterparts who shepherded the measure through that chamber last week.

The split makes it harder for the Republican Party to present a united front as it approaches the midterm election year. And it shows that even modest tweaks in tax and spending policies trigger strong reactions in conservative circles.

Still, senators in both parties say the budget deal should have enough votes to pass and become law, perhaps by Wednesday. And some GOP activists play down the House-Senate divide's implications, saying it's driven by internal congressional politics more than by serious philosophical splits.

"Our leadership gets along pretty well, and coordinates pretty well with each other," said Terry Holt, a longtime Republican strategist and former congressional staffer with close ties to House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio.

Holt said it's not unusual for the minority party in the House or Senate to force the other party to provide the overwhelming majority of votes for contentious legislation.

Republicans control the House, and they provided more than half the "yes" votes when the budget deal passed the House 332 to 94. But Republicans hold only 45 of the Senate's 100 seats. GOP leaders are doing little or nothing to help the budget bill survive Tuesday, when a key procedural vote is scheduled.

"This is one of those votes you see fairly regularly," Holt said. "If they don't need people's votes, they don't push them."

Republicans note that a Democratic senator from Illinois, Barack Obama, voted in 2006 against raising the federal debt ceiling, when Republican George W. Bush was president. When Obama became president, he chided Republicans for opposing the same type of debt ceiling increases.

The bipartisan budget bill, which Obama supports, would restore about $63 billion in across-the-board spending cuts scheduled to take effect over the next two years. It calls for $85 billion in budget savings over the next decade. Among other things, it would extend existing cuts to Medicare providers, raise airline security fees and require federal civilian employees to pay more of their pension costs.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has signaled he opposes the budget deal. The Senate's second-ranking GOP leader, Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, has criticized it too. His campaign website stated Monday, "Senator Cornyn Opposes the Latest Budget Deal," but the article was removed from the site late in the day.

Some senior Republicans who lack leadership positions are supporting the budget measure. The bill is imperfect, said Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, "but sometimes the answer has to be yes."

"Ultimately, this agreement upholds the principles conservatives stand for," Hatch said. "And with Democrats controlling the White House and the Senate, it is the best we could hope for."

McConnell and Cornyn face tea party-backed Republican primary challengers in their re-election bids next year. Such challenges make it difficult for Republicans to back a bipartisan budget measure that hard-core conservatives criticize because it eases scheduled spending cuts, former GOP congressional aide John Feehery said.

McConnell repeatedly has defended the "sequester" cuts that the budget bill would reduce, Feehery noted. So the senator could open himself up to fierce criticism if he backed the compromise measure.

"It would be nice to get everyone on the same page," Feehery said. "But it's probably too much to ask."

Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, the 2012 Republican nominee for vice president, said the majority party must show it can govern if it's to remain in power. Ryan, chairman of the House Budget Committee, was the top Republican in shaping the compromise plan now awaiting Senate action.

When a Republican senator's criticisms were noted last week, Ryan dismissed them on MSNBC's "Morning Joe," saying, "Read the deal and get back to me."

"In the minority, you don't have the burden of governing, of getting things done," Ryan said.

MEGA MILLIONS JACKPOT CLIMBS TO $586 MILLION

Tuesday, 17 December 2013 08:29 Published in National News

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — The Mega Millions jackpot soared to $586 million on Monday amid a frenzy of ticket purchases, a jump that pushed the prize closer to the $656 million U.S. record set last year.

Paula Otto, executive director of the Virginia Lottery and Mega Millions' lead director, said ticket sales are ahead of projections for Tuesday's drawing, increasing the likelihood that the record could fall by then. If the prize goes unclaimed for a 22nd consecutive drawing, the next one likely would shatter the record, set in March 2012, she said.

"I think we'll be very close to the record, and maybe even surpass it," Otto said, adding that sales are difficult to predict.

That was enough for Drew Gentsch to play one ticket Monday morning. The attorney from Des Moines never plays, but the jackpot was too good to pass up.

"I think it's ridiculous but you have to dream big," he said. "The odds of winning are so low, there's no real reason to play. But it's fun to do so once in a while."

Between 65 and 70 percent of the roughly 259 million possible number combinations will be in play when the numbers are drawn, Otto estimated. She said the jackpot may be increased one more time on Tuesday morning in advance of the evening drawing.

"Lotto players are procrastinators. They tend to buy on the day of the draw," she said.

No ticket matched the six numbers needed to win Friday's $425 million prize. The jackpot was raised Saturday to $550 million before Monday's jump to $586 million. It is currently the fourth-largest jackpot in U.S. history.

Some players were taken aback by the growing jackpot and the possibility that it could keep getting bigger.

Natali Justiniano Pahl, 47, bought five tickets from a convenience store in downtown Des Moines. She said the growing jackpot made her excited, albeit somewhat weary.

"It gets the excitement up, but there's a point when it's too much," said Justiniano Pahl, who works in human resources. "$5 million would be good; $550 million would be good. Either one would change your life."

___

Associated Press writer David Pitt contributed to this report from Des Moines.

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