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WASHINGTON (AP) -- Senators prepared for a potentially rancorous day Tuesday - even by recent standards of partisan unpleasantness - as Democratic leaders threatened to change filibuster rules to stop Republicans from blocking White House nominees for top executive jobs.

Several Senate votes were scheduled to test whether Republicans will allow simple-majority confirmations of a handful of long-stalled nominations. Some senators held out hopes for a breakthrough early Tuesday after one didn't come in a rare, three-hour private meeting of nearly all 100 senators Monday night.

If neither side retreats, the two parties could be on a collision course, with potentially big ramifications for politics and policymaking for years to come.

Standing alone, the rules change that Majority Leader Harry Reid proposes is limited. It would end the ability of 41 senators, in the 100-person chamber, to block action on White House nominations other than judges. The out-of-power party still could use filibuster threats to block legislation and judicial nominees, who seek lifetime appointments.

But critics say Reid's plan would likely prompt Republicans to retaliate by doing even more to reduce the minority party's rights when the GOP regains control of the Senate. That could happen as early 18 months from now, after the 2014 elections.

"It's a decision that, if they actually go through with it, they will live to regret," Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said of Democrats.

Leaving Monday night's meeting, Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., said, "I think it's going to come to a head tomorrow." The two parties need a breakthrough, he said, but "it's not there yet."

Unlike the 435-member House, the Senate has a long and bumpy tradition of granting rights to minority-party members. The most powerful tool is the filibuster, which essentially kills a measure by using endless debate to prevent a yes-or-no vote.

The mere promise of a filibuster can block Senate action on almost anything unless 60 of the 100 senators vote to overcome it. Filibuster-proof majorities are rare, and Republicans now hold 46 Senate seats.

Both parties have accelerated their use of the filibuster in recent times. Since President Barack Obama took office in January 2009, Republicans have threatened filibusters repeatedly, infuriating Democrats.

Reid said Lyndon B. Johnson faced one filibuster during his six years as Senate majority leader. In the same length of time as majority leader, Reid said he has faced 413 threatened filibusters. The tactic, he said, blocks action on routine matters that Congress once handled fairly easily.

"The power of an extreme minority now threatens our integrity of this institution," Reid, of Nevada, said in a speech Monday. "My efforts are directed to save the Senate from becoming obsolete."

He called his proposal a "minor change, no big deal." But Republicans, led by McConnell, object bitterly.

Democrats acknowledged that Republicans will turn any such rules change to their advantage if they regain the Senate majority, which the two parties have often swapped in recent decades.

White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters the Senate "needs to confirm this president's nominees in a timely and efficient manner." That will be true, he said, "for the next president, and the next president after that. This has become ridiculous."

Asked if Obama worries that a filibuster rule change would make the Senate even more dysfunctional, Carney said, "Well, it boggles the mind how they would achieve that."

This notion that things can't get much worse in the often stalemated Senate seems to have convinced numerous senators and interest groups in recent months that there's little risk in changing traditions to end at least some of the logjams.

Senate Republicans particularly object to two union-backed members of the National Labor Relations Board, Richard Griffin and Sharon Block. Obama appointed them when he said the Senate was in recess.

An appeals court said Obama exceeded his authority. The board's actions since the two members took their seats are in legal limbo.

The administration and Senate leaders have discussed the possibility of replacing Griffin and Block with new nominees, but they reached no accord. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, vowed to cause a new ruckus if the two are replaced.

"I think it will be grossly unfair to throw them out, simply to make a deal, when they've done nothing wrong," he said late Monday.

Republicans also have opposed Obama's pick to lead the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, created in a Wall Street oversight revision that Republicans opposed. Obama nominated his pick, former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray, more than two years ago.

Many Republican senators say they will not confirm anyone to the consumer post unless the bureau's leadership structure is changed.

Several senators said Cordray's situation is easier to resolve than the NLRB controversy. But Sen. Richard Durbin of Illinois, the Senate's second-ranking leader, said he will not support any changes to the consumer protection bureau's structure as part of a compromise.

Republicans seem to have dropped efforts to block Gina McCarthy to head the Environmental Protection Agency. Reid, however, accused them of unwarranted delaying tactics, which included 1,100 written questions to the nominee.

© 2013 THE ASSOCIATED PRESS. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. THIS MATERIAL MAY NOT BE PUBLISHED, BROADCAST, REWRITTEN OR REDISTRIBUTED. Learn more about our PRIVACY POLICY and TERMS OF USE.
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LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Protesters ran through Los Angeles streets Monday night, breaking windows, attacking people on sidewalks and at one point raiding a Wal-Mart store, while others blocked a major freeway in the San Francisco Bay Area in the third night of demonstrations in California over George Zimmerman's Florida acquittal in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin.

Thirteen people were arrested after multiple acts of vandalism and several assaults in Los Angeles' Crenshaw District, Mayor Eric Garcetti and Police Chief Charlie Beck said at a news conference.

Garcetti and Beck didn't elaborate on the assaults or any injuries, but at least one man could be seen in the street with a head injury.

More than 300 officers were called to the scene and were at first slow to directly engage protesters in an attempt to allow a peaceful end to the demonstration, Beck said. But the chief said police would take a much stricter posture in the coming nights.

"This will not be allowed to continue," Beck said.

Several hundred mostly peaceful protesters gathered Monday night at Leimert Park southwest of downtown LA, many of them chanting, praying and singing.

But a smaller group of between 100 and 150 people splintered off and began blocking traffic on nearby Crenshaw Boulevard, some of them jumping on cars and breaking windows at liquor stores and fast food outlets.

Several protesters ran into a Wal-Mart store, where they knocked down displays before store security chased them out, and police began guarding the door.

Tonya Williams was shopping with her daughter when the protesters burst in and security briefly locked down the store.

"We thought we were going to be stuck in there," Williams said. "We saw the merchandise all thrown around. They had pulled the rack down, and there was merchandise all over the floor."

TV news helicopters showed some people kicking and punching others along the street, including two people sitting on a bus bench.

Police declared the gathering an unlawful assembly about three hours after it began, and most of the crowd left the street.

Garcetti, who returned early from an East Coast trip because of the demonstrations, praised the "overwhelming majority" who protested peacefully.

"We are a better city than what we have seen tonight in the hands of a few people," the mayor said.

In Oakland, dozens of demonstrators briefly blocked all lanes of Interstate 880 at the tail end of rush hour, stopping traffic in both directions for several minutes before lanes were cleared by authorities. Several protesters laid their bicycles on the ground in front of stopped cars.

"You've got to go. You will go to jail," one police officer shouted at demonstrators who were blocking traffic, the Oakland Tribune reported. However, police decided not to make arrests as the marchers, chanting "Justice for Trayvon Martin," were directed back to surface streets.

Later, another group tried to march up the onramp to Interstate 580 before being turned away by Oakland police and California Highway Patrol officers.

The freeway protesters broke off from a larger group organized via social media that gathered at Oakland City Hall about an hour earlier.

More than a half-dozen people were arrested on charges of vandalism and assault, both felony and misdemeanor, Oakland police spokeswoman Johnna Watson said.

Over the weekend, demonstrators in Oakland and Los Angeles blocked traffic and clashed with police in protests over a Florida jury's acquittal of neighborhood watch volunteer Zimmerman in the shooting death of the unarmed black teenager.

Police shot beanbag rounds and arrested six people - including one on suspicion of assaulting an officer - while breaking up relatively small demonstrations before dawn.

No injuries were reported to either demonstrators or officers.

Most demonstrations around the state were peaceful.

Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer sent a letter Monday to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder supporting the Justice Department decision to review the case to determine whether Martin's civil rights were violated.

"I respect the fact that the jury has spoken ... but I don't think this should be the last word," Boxer wrote in the letter.

© 2013 THE ASSOCIATED PRESS. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. THIS MATERIAL MAY NOT BE PUBLISHED, BROADCAST, REWRITTEN OR REDISTRIBUTED. Learn more about our PRIVACY POLICY and TERMS OF USE.
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GULLANE, Scotland (AP) -- Tiger Woods said his ailing left elbow is "good to go" for the British Open, and he insisted Tuesday there's no loss of confidence despite the longest stretch of his career without a major title.

Woods held his regular session with the media ahead of the British Open at Muirfield, where he resumes his quest for a 15th major title. Once considered a lock to break Jack Nicklaus' record, he hasn't won one of golf's biggest events since the 2008 U.S. Open.

"I feel very good about my game," Woods said. "I feel very, very good going into major championships. I've had a pretty good year this year so far - won four times. Even though I haven't won a major championship in five years, I've been there in a bunch of them where I've had chances. I just need to keep putting myself there and eventually I'll get some."

The biggest question mark for Woods at this major is his health.

He strained his elbow at last month's U.S. Open, playing in visible pain while struggling to a 32nd-place finish. He hasn't played since Merion, even skipping his own tournament to give the injury time to heal.

"The elbow feels good," Woods said. "It's one of the good things of taking the time off to let it heal and get the treatment and therapy on it. The main reason was that coming over here, the ground is going to be hard, obviously. And I'm going to need that elbow to be good. And just in case the rough was, well, reports were it was going to be high, and it was going to be lush. I needed to have this thing set and healed. And everything is good to go."

Woods has dealt with several injuries, a swing change and major distractions in his personal life since winning at Torrey Pines five years ago.

Not like he hasn't been in contention. Woods has eight top-10 finishes in the majors since his last victory, but he hasn't been able to break his drought. Now he's returning to a course where he shot his worst round as a professional, an 81 in miserable conditions during the third round of the 2002 British Open.

"It's just a shot here and there," he said. "It's making a key up-and-down here or getting a good bounce there, capitalizing on an opportunity here and there."

Woods is again the world's top-ranked player, and no one comes close to his 13 PGA Tour victories over the last five years. But he knows better than anyone that major titles are what will determine his legacy. These are the tournaments he gears his entire season around, the ones he wants more than any others.

In his eyes, it's just a matter of time before he wins another one.

"It's not much," Woods said. "It could happen on the first day, it could happen on the last day. But it's turning that tide and getting the momentum at the right time or capitalizing on our opportunity. That's what you have to do to win major championships."

---

Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at WWW.TWITTER.COM/PNEWBERRY1963

© 2013 THE ASSOCIATED PRESS. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. THIS MATERIAL MAY NOT BE PUBLISHED, BROADCAST, REWRITTEN OR REDISTRIBUTED. Learn more about our PRIVACY POLICY and TERMS OF USE.
Tuesday, 16 July 2013 06:00
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NEW YORK (AP) -- Yoenis Cespedes certainly made his mark at the All-Star game - and he's not even on the roster.

Actually, it was a dent.

Oakland's second-year slugger won baseball's Home Run Derby with a dazzling display of power Monday night, becoming the first player left out of the Midsummer Classic to take home the crown.

Cespedes beat Bryce Harper 9-8 in the final round at reconfigured Citi Field, hitting the decisive drive with five swings to spare. The outfielder from Cuba flipped his bat aside and raised his left arm in triumph when he sent his 32nd homer of the night some 455 feet to center field, where it caromed off the back wall of the black batter's eye.

He was swarmed by the American League All-Stars near the third base line.

"You come for a show in New York. He put on a show," said Detroit Tigers pitcher Max Scherzer, set to start for the AL on Tuesday night.

The final addition to the field, Cespedes was the fourth player not selected for the All-Star game to compete in the event.

Right off the bat, he proved he belonged. With family in the stands, Cespedes hit a whopping 17 home runs in the first round - more than any other player managed in their first two trips to the plate.

"I felt that I was getting into a very good rhythm, and that as long as the ball was right over the plate, I felt like I was in a good groove," he said through a translator. "That was the key."

Baseball's big boppers took aim at two trucks parked beside the home run apple behind the center-field fence, a popular staple at Mets games dating to their days in Shea Stadium.

With a shiny prize to shoot for, Cespedes dinged the hood on one and elicited a rousing cheer.

Cuban reliever Aroldis Chapman of the Cincinnati Reds brought Cespedes water and a towel during the first round, and 2010 champion David Ortiz strolled over to offer encouragement and advice.

The Rockettes danced atop the dugouts and did their famous kickline between first-round batters.

"It's far different from in Cuba," Cespedes said. "There might be two people at our games. There's only one photographer, and this is completely different and foreign to me. But I'm very happy to be here."

His first-round outburst was enough to send him straight into the finals, though he added six long balls in round two for good measure. Some of his drives were especially impressive, too.

Cespedes hit about a half-dozen balls into the upper deck in left, never reached by anyone in a game, and banged another couple of shots off the restaurant windows in the corner just below.

The 27-year-old Cespedes has struggled as a sophomore, batting .225 with 15 home runs, but hardly anyone in the game doubts his ability.

"This trophy will motivate me so that things continue to go well for me, and I just want to thank the people that believed in me, that thought I could play at this level," he said.

The 20-year-old Harper, wearing shiny gold spikes as his father pitched to him, hammered eight homers in all three rounds. But the Washington Nationals phenom couldn't keep up with Cespedes.

"He's incredible," Harper said. "He's an absolute machine."

Colorado outfielder Michael Cuddyer and Baltimore first baseman Chris Davis, who leads the majors with 37 homers, were eliminated in the second round. Davis tied Reggie Jackson (1969) for the AL record before the All-Star break.

"I had a little blister come up second round. It's just one of those things," Davis said. "I usually get one once a year and it just happened to be tonight. It actually popped during a swing. My main concern is obviously not to hurt myself and to hang onto the bat.

"It's something that I've dealt with in my career since I can remember. You've just got to kind of wear it for a couple of days and then it hardens up and you're good to go."

Citi Field opened in 2009 with a cavernous outfield and yielded the fewest home runs in the majors over its first three seasons, according to STATS. But the Mets erected a new fence in front of the old one, dubbed the Great Wall of Flushing, before last season. That trimmed dimensions by up to 12 feet and lowered the height of the wall from as high as 16 feet to 8 all around.

Since then, the ballpark has ranked closer to the middle of the pack in home runs, 18th out of 30. But it's still no hitter's haven. In fact, hometown favorite David Wright had joked he would take his Derby swings from second base.

Cespedes, however, and most of the other sluggers had little trouble clearing the old wall. When they got good wood, it was long gone.

"This stadium may be very difficult, but it's not as difficult as Oakland. And if I can do it in Oakland, I thought, why can't I do it here?" Cespedes said.

Wright and another hometown darling, Pirates slugger Pedro Alvarez, were both eliminated in the first round. Alvarez went to high school in New York City and grew up in the same Manhattan neighborhood as Manny Ramirez.

Wright managed five home runs as the sellout crowd of 43,558 chanted "Let's Go Mets!"

"I ran out of gas," he said.

Also knocked out early were defending champion Prince Fielder, the only player besides Ken Griffey Jr. to win multiple times, and American League captain Robinson Cano of the New York Yankees, who made Cespedes his final pick.

NOTES: Cespedes' home run total matched Ortiz (2010) and Cano (2011) for the third-highest behind Bobby Abreu (41 in 2005) and Josh Hamilton (35 in 2008). ... Davis was credited with the longest drive of the night at 502 feet. ... Oakland third base coach Mike Gallego pitched to Cespedes, who averaged 405 feet on his home runs. He became the first A's player to participate in the Derby since Jason Giambi in 2001 and joined Mark McGwire (1992) as the team's only winners. "Before I left, they asked me to bring home the trophy," Cespedes said. ... The American League topped the NL 53-50. ... Cano showed up at the afternoon news conference in a snappy suit. Harper was in a T-shirt, mesh shorts, sneakers and his spiky mohawk. At least he was dressed in blue and orange, Mets colors. ... By hitting 103 home runs in all, the sluggers raised $529,000 for charity.

© 2013 THE ASSOCIATED PRESS. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. THIS MATERIAL MAY NOT BE PUBLISHED, BROADCAST, REWRITTEN OR REDISTRIBUTED. Learn more about our PRIVACY POLICY and TERMS OF USE.
Tuesday, 16 July 2013 06:18
Published in Sports
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