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As deadline looms, NFL meetings, negotiations resume

Meetings between lawyers and staff for the NFL and its players resumed Tuesday, with lawyers drafting language for a potential deal on certain issues. Among those present were people who are concerned with drug testing and how free agency would work.

Full negotiations are scheduled to start Thursday, with the clock ticking toward July 15, the day league officials have identified as critical for an agreement to be in place to avoid disruption of training camps and preseason games, which generate considerable revenue that is part of the salary cap.

The state of negotiations was still described as fragile by someone who had been briefed over the weekend, and the players’ leader, DeMaurice Smith, and some current players were said to be angered by a complaint filed by a group of retired players who believe their interests have not been properly represented during the negotiations. Still, nobody on either side seems to think the complaint could derail a deal.

The issue of improved benefits for retired players has become an unexpectedly thorny one in recent weeks. Players and owners had agreed to create a “legacy fund” for retired players, with money that was to be diverted from rookie contracts under a new rookie wage scale going to retirees.

—Judy Battista, The New York Times

Facebook’s Zuckerberg is No. 1 page on Google(PLUS)

Any guesses as to who is the most popular person on Google(PLUS), the company’s new social networking service? Ashton Kutcher, perhaps? Or Lady Gaga?

Actually, that title is currently held by Mark Zuckerberg, the founder and chief executive of Facebook — the very service that Google(PLUS) was meant to challenge.

As of Tuesday evening, Zuckerberg had nearly 35,000 people following his updates on the service, more than anyone else in a broad survey of Google(PLUS) profiles by Social Statistics, an outside service. His fan base exceeds that of Larry Page, one of the founders of Google and its recently appointed chief executive, who had only 24,000 people following him.

Google(PLUS) is less than a week old and is still not yet widely available to the public. But access to the service, which lets people share photos, links, status updates and video chats with groups of friends, is already in high demand among early adopters who are eager to play with its features. That includes Zuckerberg, who apparently signed up to keep tabs on his new adversary.

—Jenna Wortham, The New York Times

Reid shifts Senate attention 
from Libya to debt limit

WASHINGTON — With Republicans protesting that the Senate should be concentrating on the debt limit standoff this week, Sen. Harry Reid, the Nevada Democrat and majority leader, on Tuesday conceded the point and abruptly called off a planned debate on Libya.

After a series of complaints by Republicans that their Fourth of July break had been canceled to deal with the debt limit fight and not Libya, Reid essentially threw in the towel and said the Senate would instead take nonbinding votes later this week on how to address the debt limit dispute.

Republicans on Tuesday threatened to block consideration of the bipartisan resolution on Libya introduced two weeks ago, which would authorize U.S. military operations there, saying lawmakers should instead devote their energies to resolving the ongoing budget fight. Backers needed 60 votes to open debate on Libya and may have come up short in a vote set for Tuesday evening.

“We need to focus on the issue at hand,” said Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn.

In an appearance on the Senate floor, Reid said: “Notwithstanding the broad support for the Libya resolution, the most important thing to focus on this week is the budget. Meetings are in process now and will continue on the debt limit and the larger debt matter throughout the Capitol.”

—Carl Hulse, The New York Times

New Jersey Senate President refuses to apologize to Christie

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s office scolded the State Senate president Tuesday for calling the governor names and saying he wanted to punch him. But the Senate leader, refusing to apologize, said Christie was in no position to complain about harsh language.

Christie’s vetoes last week of dozens of items in the New Jersey budget infuriated the Senate leader, Stephen M. Sweeney, and other Democrats, who charged that the governor’s vetoes were politically motivated. In an interview with The Star-Ledger of Newark, published Sunday, Sweeney called the governor “a bully and a punk,” “a rotten bastard” and a few other names, including at least one best left unrepeated.

“I wanted to punch him in his head,” the senator said.

“You know who he reminds me of?” he also told The Star-Ledger. “Mr. Potter from ‚ÄòIt’s a Wonderful Life,”’ he also told The Star-Ledger, referring to the movie’s villain.

Sweeney’s wary alliance with the governor, a Republican, has been a crucial force behind enacting laws like a property tax cap and curbs on employee benefits. A rupture could complicate the governor’s pursuit of his agenda.

Christie is on vacation, but Tuesday, his communications director, Maria M. Comella, released a statement saying, “The governor believes the language used was inappropriate and disrespectful to the office, but he continues to stand ready to work with Senator Sweeney and the Legislature in a bipartisan manner to get things done for the people of New Jersey.”

—Richard Perez-Pena, The New York Times