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Williams, Djokovic show who's No. 1 at Wimbledon

Saturday, 29 June 2013 22:07 Published in Sports

LONDON (AP) -- As the sun set on the opening week of Wimbledon, just about the only seeding that truly signified something was No. 1.

That's the number beside the names of Serena Williams and Novak Djokovic, who turned in nearly perfect performances back-to-back Saturday on Centre Court to cap nearly perfect runs to the fourth round at the All England Club, while chaos reigned all around them.

In the final match of the fortnight's first half, played with the roof closed and lights glowing to make sure it would get done as darkness approached, defending champion Williams used eight aces and 11 return winners to power past 42-year-old Kimiko Date-Krumm of Japan 6-2, 6-0 in 61 minutes.

"She didn't lose energy, and her game, I think, is getting better, day after day. Not better in general, but adapting to the surface. Everything is getting better," said French coach Patrick Mouratoglou, who has been working with Williams over the past year, when she is 77-3. "So now let's enter into the most important part of the tournament. ... Now the matches are going to get tougher and tougher."

Might not necessarily have been a fair fight, considering that Date-Krumm is ranked 84th and was the oldest woman to reach the third round at Wimbledon in the 45-year Open era. Never better than a semifinalist at a Grand Slam tournament, she played Williams evenly for about three games, before the 16-time major champion took over.

"She has so much power, speed," Date-Krumm said. "She has everything."

Williams' easy win followed the 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 victory over 28th-seeded Jeremy Chardy of France turned in by 2011 champion Djokovic, who compiled a remarkable ratio of 38 winners to three unforced errors. The Serb's initial miscue of his own doing did not come until the third set's sixth game, when he double-faulted while ahead 4-1, 40-love.

"Everything went my way," Djokovic said. "I did everything I wanted to do."

Both he and Williams could say that about the way they handled matters throughout Week 1.

Williams has won all six sets she's played, allowing her opponents a total of 11 games. Djokovic has won all of his nine sets, dropping 29 games.

"You don't want to play your best tennis in the first round and continue to go down. I feel like I try to play better as each match goes on," said Williams, whose 34-match winning streak is the longest for a woman since older sister Venus had a run of 35 in 2000. "I try to find out something I can improve on from each match so I can do it better in the next round."

In other words: Look out, Sabine Lisicki, the 23rd-seeded German who will meet Williams on Monday for a quarterfinal berth.

Up next for Djokovic after the middle Sunday's traditional day of rest is another German, 13th-seeded Tommy Haas, the 35-year-old who is enjoying a career renaissance and eliminated Feliciano Lopez of Spain 4-6, 6-2, 7-5, 6-4.

How certain was Lisicki that she would be dealing with Williams and not Date-Krumm? Lisicki tweeted a photo of her with Haas early in the second set of Williams' match, writing: "Last Germans standing" and "We both play the no1's next."

Take a glance around, and a high seeding has mattered very little, with the notable exception of No. 2 Andy Murray, Djokovic's potential foe in the final. Indeed, in many cases, any seeding at all has guaranteed nothing whatsoever. The men's Nos. 3, 5, 6, 9 and 10 are all gone, including Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, with their 29 combined Grand Slam titles. The women's Nos. 2, 3, 5, 7, 9 and 10 are out, too, including four-time major champion Maria Sharapova and two-time Australian Open winner Victoria Azarenka.

Even during a pair of victories Saturday, both No. 4-seeded players, David Ferrer and Agnieszka Rawdwanska, looked shaky. Ferrer, the French Open runner-up this month, was treated for blisters on his right foot while coming back to beat No. 26 Alexandr Dolgopolov of Ukraine 6-7 (6), 7-6 (2), 2-6, 6-1, 6-2. Radwanska, who lost to Williams in last year's Wimbledon final, was pushed to three sets by 18-year-old American Madison Keys before winning 7-5, 4-6, 6-3.

"I'm very happy to be a little bit better," Radwanska said. "It was really close. Every set was really tight."

The highest-seeded man other than Murray on his half of the field is No. 20 Mikhail Youzhny, who will play the 2012 U.S. Open champion and Wimbledon runner-up after defeating Viktor Troicki 6-3, 6-4, 7-5.

Otherwise, Saturday's winners on that side of the men's draw were 130th-ranked Lukasz Kubot of Poland, who beat No. 25 Benoit Paire 6-1, 6-3, 6-4; 80th-ranked Kenny de Schepper of France, who defeated No. 22 Juan Monaco 6-4, 7-6 (8), 6-4; and 54th-ranked Fernando Verdasco of Spain, a 6-2, 6-4, 6-4 winner against Ernests Gulbis.

Things have generally been less hectic on Djokovic's portion of the tournament, but No. 9 Richard Gasquet lost 7-6 (7), 5-7, 7-5, 7-6 (5) to 20-year-old Bernard Tomic, whose father has been barred from tournaments after being accused of head-butting Tomic's hitting partner. No. 23 Andreas Seppi of Italy, meanwhile, won his seventh consecutive five-setter, edging No. 12 Kei Nishikori 3-6, 6-2, 6-7 (4), 6-1, 6-4, and 49th-ranked Ivan Dodig of Croatia moved on when Igor Sijsling retired while trailing 6-0, 6-1, 1-0, the 13th player to stop mid-match or withdraw before one, equaling a tournament high.

For a moment, it looked as if there might be a 14th when No. 8 Juan Martin del Potro hyperextended his left knee as chased a ball late in his 7-5, 7-6 (3), 6-0 defeat of Grega Zemlja. The 2009 U.S. Open went champion sprawling face-forward into the players' chairs and racket bags on the sideline.

"It was really painful," del Potro said. "I was a little scared."

Del Potro and Murray each own one Grand Slam title, the only two of the last 33 not claimed by Federer, Nadal or Djokovic.

There isn't a lot of company for Williams in the major championship department, either. Two women with one apiece advanced Saturday, though: 2011 Wimbledon winner Petra Kvitova and 2011 French Open winner Li Na.

Otherwise, just as with the men, there are some fresh faces among the women. That includes 19-year-old Laura Robson, the first British woman to reach Wimbledon's fourth round since 1998; 19-year-old Monica Puig of Puerto Rico; and 20-year-old Sloane Stephens of the U.S., who'll face Puig on Monday.

That matchup prompted this question for Stephens from a reporter: Is there pressure for you when you're playing someone in the next round who you're older than?

"Like a year, OK," Stephens said. "No, not really."

At 31, Williams is the oldest No. 1 in WTA rankings history, but she's still more than a decade Date-Krumm's junior.

"I honestly never thought I would play until my 30s, to be honest. I don't see my stopping any time soon," she said. "However, I don't see myself playing into my 40s. That's why I have so much respect for Kimiko."

They spent a good chunk of the early evening wondering where and when they would play, because their match was scheduled to be last on Court 1, where Ferrer and Dolgopolov went to a fifth set. It wasn't until 7:59 p.m., minutes after Djokovic's match ended, that the Wimbledon referee's office announced it was shifting Williams' match to Centre Court, with the roof shut and lights on.

Williams was rather dominant serving and receiving. In the first set, she delivered seven aces at up to 116 mph, at least one in each of her four services game, and hit nine return winners, at least one in each of Date-Krumm's four service games.

When it was over, Williams wagged an index finger in the air, as if to remind all she is No. 1, then exchanged high-fives with some fans.

"Every time I go out there, I tell you, I feel like anything can happen. I don't feel invincible. I feel like anything can happen," she said. "More than anything, that keeps me completely motivated."

PRESSURE ON HOUSE TO ACT ON IMMIGRATION

Friday, 28 June 2013 11:32 Published in National News
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The House and its conservative majority are coming under pressure to act after the Senate passed a landmark immigration bill opening the door to U.S. citizenship to millions while pouring billions of dollars into securing the border with Mexico.

President Barack Obama, traveling in Africa, called Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., to urge them to have the House act on the issue and emphasize it's a priority for him, the White House said Friday.

But the bill's prospects are highly uncertain in the Republican-led House, where conservatives generally oppose citizenship for immigrants living in the country unlawfully. Many also prefer a step-by-step approach rather than a comprehensive bill like the legislation the Senate passed Thursday on a bipartisan vote of 68-32.

"Today, the Senate did its job. It's now up to the House to do the same," Obama said in a statement. "As this process moves forward, I urge everyone who cares about this issue to keep a watchful eye. Now is the time when opponents will try their hardest to pull this bipartisan effort apart so they can stop common-sense reform from becoming a reality. We cannot let that happen."

Members of the Senate's so-called Gang of Eight, the senators who drafted the bill and hoped a resounding vote total would pressure the House, echoed the plea.

"To our friends in the House, we ask for your consideration and we stand ready to sit down and negotiate with you," Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said. "You may have different views on different aspects of this issue, but all of us share the same goal, and that is to take 11 million people out of the shadows, secure our borders and make sure that this is the nation of opportunity and freedom."

At a news conference, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, made clear the House would not simply take up the Senate bill as some Democrats and outside advocates are calling for, but would chart its own legislation with a focus on border security. How exactly Boehner will proceed remained unclear, but the speaker has called a special meeting of his majority Republicans for July 10 to go over options.

"The House is not going to take up and vote on whatever the Senate passes. We're going to do our own bill," Boehner said. "It'll be legislation that reflects the will of our majority and the will of the American people."

At a panel discussion Friday hosted by Bloomberg Government and the National Restaurant Association, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., rejected the notion that House Republicans would feel any pressure to act just because the Senate had done so.

"If anybody thinks that because there's a Senate bill the House members will feel pressure, that's just not true," said Diaz-Balart, who's involved in a faltering bipartisan effort in the House to craft a comprehensive bill. He said the pressure would come because lawmakers recognize the system is broken and in need of repair.

The bill passed by the Senate devotes $46 billion to border security improvements, including calling for a doubling of the border patrol stationed on the U.S.-Mexico border and the completion of 700 miles of fencing - changes added at the last minute to attract Republican support. No one would be able to get a permanent resident green card until those border enhancements and others were in place.

The bill also makes it mandatory for employers to check their workers' legal status, sets up new visa programs to allow workers into the country and establishes new tracking systems at seaports and airports to keep better tabs on people entering and leaving the country.

At its contentious core, though, is a 13-year path to citizenship for the 11 million immigrants living in this country illegally.

Without such a provision, senators say the legislation could not pass the Senate. With it, its prospects are difficult in the House.

Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., predicted that the House might end up having to pass the Senate bill after failing to find any other avenue forward and feeling pressure from the public to act.

But that approach is strongly opposed by many conservatives. Boehner also dismissed the idea of relying on Democratic votes instead of a majority of his Republicans to pass an immigration bill.

At the same time Boehner said he hopes the bill will be bipartisan, and he encouraged a House group of four Democrats and three Republicans trying to forge a compromise to continue their efforts.

He offered no details on how a House bill could be both bipartisan and supported by more than half of his own rank and file, given that most of the single-issue immigration bills that have moved through the House Judiciary Committee recently did so on party-line votes over the protests of Democrats. None envisions legal status for immigrants now here illegally.

Speaking alongside Diaz-Balart Friday, Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., a top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, dismissed the bills passed by her committee so far as "a series of small-bore, partisan bills that are in some cases bizarre."

Boehner declined to say whether there were circumstances under which he could support a pathway to citizenship, but he made clear that securing the border was a priority.

"People have to have confidence that the border is secure before anything else is really going to work. Otherwise, we repeat the mistakes of 1986," he said, referring to the last time Congress overhauled the immigration system.

One option could be to bring up one or more of four narrowly focused immigration bills approved by the Judiciary Committee this week and last, hoping to pass it and use it as a vehicle for House members to enter into negotiations with senators on a merged bill in the fall or winter.

--- Associated Press writers Donna Cassata and Jim Kuhnhenn contributed to this report.

© 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.

CLASHES AS EGYPT LEADER'S BACKERS, FOES RALLY

Friday, 28 June 2013 11:23 Published in National News
CAIRO (AP) — Thousands of backers and opponents of Egypt's Islamist president held competing rallies in the capital Friday and new clashes erupted between the two sides in the country's second largest city, Alexandria, in a prelude to massive nationwide protests planned by the opposition this weekend demanding Mohammed Morsi's removal.

For the past several days, Morsi's opponents and members of his Muslim Brotherhood have battled it out in the streets of several cities in the Nile Delta in violence that has left at least five dead. The latest died Friday from injuries suffered in fighting the day before, security officials said.

Many fear the clashes are a sign of more widespread and bloodier battles to come on Sunday, the anniversary of Morsi's inauguration, when the opposition says it will bring millions into the streets around the country.

"We must be alert lest we slide into a civil war that does not differentiate between supporters and opponents," warned Sheik Hassan al-Shafie, a senior cleric at Al-Azhar, the country's most eminent Muslim religious institution.

The Cairo International Airport was flooded with departures, in an exodus airport officials called unprecedented. They said all flights departing Friday to Europe, the United States and the Gulf were fully booked with no vacant seats.

Many of those leaving were families of Egyptian officials and businessmen and those of foreign and Arab League diplomats — as well as many Egyptian Christians, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to talk to the press.

In the Mediterranean city of Alexandria on Friday, scuffles erupted between Morsi's supporters and opponents, near the local headquarters of the Muslim Brotherhood.

The fighting began when thousands of anti-Morsi protesters marched toward the Brotherhood headquarters, where up to a 1,000 supporters of the president were deployed, protecting the building. Someone on the Islamist side opened fire with birdshot on the marchers and the two sides began to scuffle, according to an Associated Press cameraman at the scene.

Nine people were wounded by birdshot, Deputy Health Minister Mohammed al-Sharkawi told AP.

Security forces fired tear gas at the Brotherhood supporters, but when the two sides continued battling, they withdrew.

Each side insists it is and will remain peaceful on Sunday — and each has blamed the other for the violence so far.

Tamarod, the activist group whose anti-Morsi petition campaign evolved into Sunday's planned protest, said in a statement it was opposed "to any attack against anybody, whatever the disagreement with this person was," and accused the Brotherhood of sparking violence to scare people from participating Sunday.

Tamarod says it has collected nearly 20 million signatures in the country of 90 million demanding Morsi step down.

The Brotherhood says the five killed in the Delta clashes were its members. Some people "think they can topple a democratically elected President by killing his support groups," Gehad el-Haddad, a Brotherhood spokesman, wrote on his Twitter account.

In Cairo, thousands of Morsi backers filled the street outside the Rabia el-Adawiya Mosque in Cairo, not far from the presidential palace. The palace — one of the sites where the opposition plans to hold rallies Sunday — has been surrounded by concrete walls.

In his Friday prayer sermon, the cleric of Rabia el-Adawiya warned that if Morsi is ousted "there will be no president for the country" and Egypt will descend into "opposition hell."

Outside in the street, the Islamists chanted religious slogans. "It is for God, not for position or power," they shouted. "Raise your voice strong, Egyptian: Islamic Shariah." Many wore green headbands with the slogans of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Across the city, thousands of Morsi opponents massed in Cairo's central Tahrir Square, shouting for the president to "leave, leave."

Violence erupted in several parts of the Delta, north of Cairo.

At least six people were injured when an anti-Morsi march was attacked by the president's supporters in the city of Samanod, according to a security official. Attackers fired gunshots and threw acid at the protesters as they passed the house of a local Brotherhood leader, the official said.

In the Delta city of Tanta, four unidentified men believed to be Morsi supporters tried to attack a mosque preacher during his sermon, in which he called on worshippers to stand with Al-Azhar's calls to avoid bloodshed.

Hundreds of protesters in the nearby city of Bassioun hurled stones at the local headquarters of the Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party. They tore down the party's sign and crushed it, security officials said.

Security officials say three people have died in the past three days in Nile Delta city of Mansoura, along with two others in the nearby province of Sharqiya.

In Sharqiya on Thursday, an Islamist march encountered an anti-Morsi march, leading to scuffles that evolved into full-fledged battles, the officials said. The two sides hurled stones at each other and fired gunshots, and at least 70 were injured.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the press.

___ Mohammed Khalil of Associated Press Television News contributed to this report from Alexandria.

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