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   WASHINGTON (AP) — Aiming to help rural communities deal with climate change, the Obama administration is creating seven regional "climate hubs" that will serve as clearinghouses for information and outreach about extreme weather across the U.S.
   Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack was to announce the new hubs Wednesday at the White House. The hubs fulfill one aspect of a broader climate change plan that President Barack Obama unveiled last year.
   Based at existing Agriculture Department facilities, the hubs aim to help farmers and rural communities fight climate change and adapt to weather changes. The hubs will assess local climate risks, such as drought and wildfire, then develop plans for dealing with them, such as improved irrigation techniques.
   Citing environmental changes such as longer fire seasons and intense droughts, the Agriculture Department said the hubs would help mitigate the unique implications that climate change poses for rural areas and the people who live there. The goal is to synchronize the federal government's preparation and resources with what other entities, such as universities, tribal communities and state governments, are doing to prepare for shifting temperatures.
   The seven regional hubs will be housed in forest service stations or government research labs in Ames, Iowa; Durham, N.H.; Raleigh, N.C.; Fort Collins, Colo.; El Reno, Okla.; Corvallis, Ore.; and Las Cruces, N.M. Three smaller, additional "sub-hubs" will be created in Houghton, Mich.; Davis, Calif.; and Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico.
 
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   BAGHDAD (AP) — Multiple bombings rocked central Baghdad on Wednesday, striking mainly near the heavily fortified Green Zone where key government offices are located and killing at least 16 people, Iraqi officials said.
   The attacks were the latest in a relentless push by Sunni militants to undermine confidence in the Shiite-led government's efforts to maintain security in Iraq, two years after the pullout of American troops from the country.
   There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the bombings but such systematic and brazen attacks against government buildings, security forces and Shiites in general bear the hallmarks of al-Qaida's affiliate in Iraq. The terror group has become emboldened by the successes of its fellow militants in the civil war next door in Syria and by widespread Sunni anger at the government.
   The deadliest of Wednesday's attacks took place across the street from the Foreign Ministry building, when two parked car bombs went off simultaneously in two different parking lots. Those explosions killed at least seven people and wounded 15, a police officer said.
   Shortly afterward, a suicide bomber walked into a nearby falafel restaurant where he set off his explosives-laden belt, killing five people and wounding 12, the officer added. The restaurant and others around it are often used by officials or visitors waiting for security escorts to take them inside the Green Zone.
   Also Wednesday morning, a parked car bomb went off in Khilani Square in the Iraqi capital's commercial center, killing four people and wounding eight, another police officer said.
   Two medical officials confirmed the causality figures. All officials spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to talk to media.
   Iraq has seen resurgence in violence over the past year. According to U.N. figures, 2013 had the highest death toll since the worst of the country's sectarian bloodletting began to subside in 2007. The U.N. said violence killed 8,868 last year.
   Al-Qaida's affiliate in Iraq has in the past staged spectacular attacks on Iraqi government ministries such as in August 2009, when suicide bombers hit the Finance Ministry and the Foreign Ministry ministries, killing more than 100 people. The bombings were quickly claimed by the Islamic State of Iraq, as the group was known at the time.
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Missouri had one scoring drought that cost it a chance at beating No. 3 Florida.
 
The Tigers went 4-plus minutes without a point in the second half, a scoreless stretch that proved to be the difference in a 68-58 loss to the Gators on Tuesday night.
 
Jabari Brown led Missouri with 15 points while Jordan Clarkson added 14. But neither came through when the Tigers needed them most.
 
Michael Frazier II got hot in the second half, hitting four 3-pointers. His third one in a 2-minute span put Florida ahead for good, 51-48. Patric Young's driving layup with 4:10 remaining gave the Gators (20-2, 9-0 Southeastern Conference) a 58-48 lead.
 
"They made shots and we didn't. That's pretty much it," Brown said. "I don't know what else to say about it. We got some good looks, but we didn't make the shots."
 
Missouri's 3-point shooting kept the Tigers (16-6, 4-5) in it for much of the game.
 
Missouri made 8 of 21 from behind the arc, but just 4 of 13 in the second half.
 
"We knew it was going to be a slugfest," coach Frank Haith said. "We were OK with that. ... Our game plan was good and we were executing. Then they got going. They got it in the paint, they got to the free-throw line and got aggressive there in the second half, and that was the difference in the game."
 
Frazier finished with 14 points. Scottie Wilbekin had a career-high 19. He was 13 of 16 from the free throw line, most of them down the stretch. Young chipped in 13 points and six rebounds.
 
But Frazier's 3s were the key.
 
"He's one of a kind," Wilbekin said. "There's not too many shooters out there that's better than Frazier."
 
Florida coach Billy Donovan notched his 16th consecutive 20-win season. Only Syracuse's Jim Boeheim and Duke's Mike Krzyzewski have longer active streaks.
 
Donovan's current team has some issues — shaky free throw shooting and few long-range threats outside Frazier — but the addition of Chris Walker could increase Florida's chances of making another deep run in the NCAA tournament.
 
A forward from Bonifay in Florida's panhandle, Walker sat out 12 games, or 40 percent of the season, because the NCAA determined he "received preferential treatment from five people, including two agents." The NCAA said Walker and people close to him accepted free cellphones and service, airfare, lodging, meals and apparel while he was a prospect.
 
"I was like 16 or 17," Walker said. "I really had no idea about the rules and everything."
 
Walker was ordered to donate the $270 received from the agents to a charity of his choice and serve 80 hours of community service.
 
After failing to qualify academically and spending the fall taking online classes to gain eligibility, Walker joined the team Dec. 14 and has been practicing since. His debut, though, was on hold as the NCAA wrapped up its investigation. He was cleared to play last week, setting up his much-anticipated debut.
 
Walker had four points, two rebounds and two blocked shots in 7 minutes. Both of his baskets came on thunderous dunks in the final 2:07 of the first half. He finished alley-oops from fellow freshman and former AAU teammate Kasey Hill. The second one had the O'Connell Center rocking — but just briefly.
 
Brown hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer a few seconds later, giving Missouri a 28-25 lead.
 
But it didn't last, mostly because Florida started playing inside-out and clamping down on defense.
 
"They're a veteran team. They've played together for a long time," forward Ryan Rosburg said. "They have seniors and that's what you expect. We knew that coming in here. ... And if we wanted to win, we had to make those plays down the stretch and we didn't."
Wednesday, 05 February 2014 00:38
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ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Kyle Turris scored the deciding goal in the fifth round of the shootout to go with one in regulation, and the Ottawa Senators beat the St. Louis Blues 5-4 on Tuesday night.
 
T.J. Oshie had a goal and an assist and scored to open the shootout for the Blues, who lost at home to an Eastern Conference opponent for the first time in 10 games this season. St. Louis had a season-high 50 shots but squandered a two-goal cushion in the third period and missed two chances to close it out in the shootout.
 
Jason Spezza had his third three-point game of the season and capped a three-goal flurry in a span of 2:35 that gave Ottawa a 4-3 lead midway through the third period. Erik Karlsson had a goal and an assist to give him 53 points, best among NHL defensemen.
 
Blues defenseman Jordan Leopold tied it at 11:08 with his first goal of the season on an odd-angled shot that banged off goalie Robin Lehner.
 
The attendance of 14,758 was more than 4,000 shy of capacity at the Scottrade Center, the crowd held down by a snowstorm that left roadways clogged.
 
The Blues also set a season best with 23 shots in a two-goal second period, seemingly taking control with a 3-1 lead despite coming up empty with more than 2 minutes of a two-man advantage.
 
The puck got lodged in the netting on Oshie's goal that made it 3-2, a score that went unannounced until after Oshie pointed out the puck's location and then the play was reviewed.
 
Ottawa beat Jaroslav Halak for three goals in a span of four shots in the third, with Milan Michalek and Turris scoring. The Senators bounced back from a 2-1 overtime loss at Pittsburgh a night earlier.
 
Besides scoring his first goal in 38 games with St. Louis over two seasons, Leopold also saved one in the second period. Karlsson's shot trickled between Halak's pads and was on the goal line and still sliding when the defenseman swatted it away.
 
The game began with the promise of fisticuffs from the Blues as retribution for an elbow to the head by Ottawa's Zack Smith that was blamed for the concussion that sidelined leading scorer Alexander Steen for 11 games in late December. Rugged Ryan Reaves was picked to take the opening faceoff for the Blues, presumably set to square off with Smith, but both players were whistled for minor unsportsmanlike conduct penalties in the opening minute and both teams settled down.
 
Turris tied it on a pass that deflected off the skate of a Blues player at 7:02, and Spezza capitalized when the Blues failed to clear the puck out of the zone and beat Halak with a high drive for his 15th goal of the season for a 4-3 lead.
 
NOTES: Leopold has six points in 22 games this season. ... Ottawa D Chris Phillips (lower body) missed his fifth straight game. ... Blues backup goalie Brian Elliott started for Ottawa in a 5-2 loss the last time the Senators played in St. Louis on Nov. 19, 2010.
Wednesday, 05 February 2014 00:36
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