Juba (AFP) – A UN official said Tuesday between 400-500 people are believed to have been killed in South Sudan, where two days of fighting between rival troops has sent thousands of terrified civilians fleeing an alleged coup bid.
The United States ordered non-essential embassy staff out of the country as fierce battles raged in the capital Juba, setting off alarm bells over ethnic violence in the world’s youngest nation.
As sporadic clashes broke out in parts of the city, terrified residents hunkered down at home, too afraid to move. Others used any lull in fighting to flee to safer areas, an AFP reporter said.
“We are afraid of going outside,” said Juba resident Jane Kiden.
“We had wanted to go out and buy food from the market, but how can you go with the shooting? I am staying at home with my children.”
President Salva Kiir on Monday accused soldiers loyal to his arch-rival, former vice president Riek Machar, of staging a coup attempt in the oil-rich but deeply impoverished nation. The government said 10 key figures including ex-ministers have been arrested, and that others, including Machar, were on the run.
UN peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous told the UN Security Council that between 400-500 bodies had been taken to hospitals in Juba, while another 800 had been wounded.
Ladsous told the 15-member council that it appeared clashes in the “extremely tense” capital, which erupted late Sunday, were being carried out on ethnic lines.
Minister of Information Michael Makuei Lueth had earlier told AFP that at least 73 soldiers were killed in the fighting, while civilians were also reported to have died.
Security Council president Gerard Araud, France’s UN ambassador, would not confirm the toll after the talks.
“There is a heavy toll, it is obvious,” Araud told reporters, while adding that precise figures were not yet available. “There are dozens and scores of casualties, it is really not a minor incident,” he said.
Araud added that fighting had also been reported outside of the capital, in Pibor in Jonglei state which has a history of clashes between rival ethnic groups.
Americans should leave ‘immediately’
The US State Department issued a statement saying all non-emergency US government personnel have been ordered to leave South Sudan “because of ongoing political and social unrest” and also urged all Americans to get out of the country “immediately”.
A top UN envoy said at least 10,000 civilians “have received protection in the two UNMISS compounds in Juba”, and that UN staff were “taking every possible step to ensure their safety”.
However Ladous told the Security Council between 15,000 and 20,000 people had sought refuge from the UN.
The special representative of the UN secretary-general, Hilde Johnson, said it was “paramount” that the conflict did not assume ethnic dimensions.
“At a time when unity among South Sudanese is more needed than ever, I call on the leaders of this new country and all political factions and parties, as well as community leaders to refrain from any action that fuels ethnic tensions and exacerbates violence,” she said in a statement.
The African Union also said it was “deeply concerned” about the events and urged all players to show “maximum restraint”.
The heavy fighting and alleged coup has underscored the fragility of the nation which only became independent from Sudan in 2011.
‘We don’t know who is fighting who’
Machar — who was sacked in July — leads a dissident group within South Sudan’s ruling party, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), and had been seen as the main challenger to Kiir.
The two men hail from different ethnic groups and had in the past fought on different sides during Sudan’s long civil war.
Salva Kiir is an ethnic Dinka while Riek Machar is a Nuer.
An aid worker with the British charity Oxfam, Emma Jane Drew, told AFP by telephone that the situation in Juba was “very tense”.
“We don’t know who is fighting who,” she said, adding her team was unable to leave their compound.
The independent radio station Tamazuj said clashes were taking place around compounds belonging to Machar or his loyalists.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said over the past two days more than 300 people had been admitted to Juba Teaching Hospital, which reported 26 deaths, and Juba Military Hospital.
“Staff in both hospitals have been working around the clock, but they are struggling because of the sheer volume of patients and the severity of the injuries,” said Felicity Gapes, an ICRC delegate leading the medical response on the ground.
Communication in Juba was sporadic, with most phone lines down.
There were also unconfirmed reports of troops conducting violent house-to-house searches.
“We have heard unconfirmed reports of house-to-house military checks of civilians including the use of brutality and violence, though this is unconfirmed,” Oxfam’s Drew said.
- Politics Government
- Unrest, Conflicts War
- South Sudan
- Riek Machar
WASHINGTON (AP) — Richard Leon, the judge who declared that the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of millions of Americans’ telephone records is likely unconstitutional, has a long record of taking on executive branch actions.
Leon, a blunt-spoken, bowtie-wearing appointee of President George W. Bush, has ruled against the federal agencies on issues from drugs used for executions to warnings on cigarette packages.
The 64-year-old judge writes with flair, occasionally using exclamation marks to amplify a point. In a ruling 2009 ruling ordering the release of a Guantanamo detainee, he wrote in response to a government argument, “I disagree!” In Tuesday’s ruling, he wrote that “there is the very real prospect that the (NSA) program will go on for as long as America is combatting terrorism, which realistically could be forever!”
His bluntness was on display at a hearing in the NSA case last month, before he decided how he would rule.
“I mean, I am not kidding myself,” he told both parties, predicting the case would go to the Court of Appeals and probably the Supreme Court after that. “It doesn’t matter, however I rule.”
He has decided several Guantanamo Bay cases, including one in 2008 in which he ordered the release of five detainees after concluding that the government’s evidence linking the men to al-Qaida was not credible as it came from a single, unidentified source.
“To allow enemy combatancy to rest on so thin a reed would be inconsistent with this court’s obligation,” Leon said.
But in a ruling the following year, Leon said the government could continue to hold an assistant cook for Taliban fighters.
“After all, as Napoleon himself was fond of pointing out, an army marches on its stomach,” Leon said in issuing the ruling.
Leon, a native of South Natick, Mass., and graduate of Harvard Law School, had previous stints including the Justice Department, Capitol Hill and private practice before joining the court in 2002.
Bobby Burchfield, a partner at McDermott Will Emery who has known Leon since his days on Capitol Hill, said he wasn’t surprised that Leon would be willing to issue a ruling that would have a big impact on the government.
“He comes from a prosecutorial background, so it isn’t that he has it in for the government,” Burchfield said in a telephone interview. “Knowing him, I give him the benefit of the doubt that he looked at it carefully and found something that bothered him.”
Last year, Leon blocked the importation of a drug used in executions, ruling that the Food and Drug Administration ignored the law in allowing it into the U.S. “Few in our society are more vulnerable than a death row inmate facing lethal injection,” he wrote.
In another ruling, he blocked a federal requirement that would have forced U.S. tobacco companies to put large graphic images on their cigarette packages to show the dangers of smoking, ruling that it violated the First Amendment.
Follow Fred Frommer on Twitter: http://twitter.com/ffrommer
- Politics Government
- Richard Leon
By Tom Ramstack
FORT MEADE, Maryland (Reuters) – An accused conspirator in the September 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington was expelled from a courtroom at the Guantanamo Bay war crimes tribunal on Tuesday for being disruptive.
During a pre-trial hearing in the death penalty case, Army Colonel Judge James Pohl discussed with the five defendants their right to be present during the courtroom proceedings.
Each of the defendants said he understood his rights until the judge asked Ramzi Binalshibh, who is accused of wiring money to September 11 hijackers and passing information to key al Qaeda operatives.
Binalshibh initially said he did not understand, but then began complaining about his prison cell conditions. He said guards intentionally made banging sounds that kept him awake at night.
Military officials denied the allegations.
Then, raising his voice, Binalshibh complained through an interpreter about “a secret CIA prison.”
As he continued speaking loudly, Pohl warned: “If you don’t stop talking, you will be escorted out of the court at this time.”
When Binalshibh continued to speak, Pohl asked the guards to remove the defendant from the courtroom.
The hearing at the Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base in Cuba was monitored by Reuters over a closed-circuit broadcast at the Fort Meade, Maryland, army base.
It was not the first time the defendant had been expelled from the court. Pohl also ordered Binalshibh out of the room during a September hearing after he refused to stop shouting.
The U.S. military has identified Binalshibh and the other defendants as “high-value detainees” who played key roles in plotting the September 11 attacks, which killed about 3,000 people, destroyed the World Trade Center in New York City and damaged the Pentagon in Washington.
The five defendants are alleged al Qaeda conspirators who could be executed if convicted of charges that include mass murder, terrorism and hijacking.
The defendants were captured in 2002 and 2003 and were first charged at Guantanamo in 2008. The tribunals and the charges were revised by the Obama administration and the defendants were arraigned on the current version in May 2012.
Other issues raised during the pre-trial hearing on Tuesday included requests by defense attorneys to introduce evidence that the defendants were tortured by their U.S. captors. The defense attorneys also accused Guantanamo prison officials of interfering with their clients’ rights to private communications with their lawyers.
As the hearing reconvened after lunch Tuesday afternoon, Binalshibh was brought back where the judge again asked him whether he understood his right to be present in the courtroom.
Binalshibh hesitated, which prompted Pohl to say: “I want you to answer yes or no.”
Then Binalshibh said, in English: “I want to leave … It’s torture, torture. Don’t stop me like that.”
The judge then ordered guards to again remove Binalshibh from the courtroom.
“You’re stopped,” Pohl said as Binalshibh was escorted out, shouting, “I’m not a war criminal.”
Pohl told Binalshibh’s attorney that his client would be allowed back in the courtroom only if he answered the judge’s questions and was not disruptive.
(Editing by Scott Malone and Gunna Dickson)
- Crime Justice
- Society Culture
Brett Stewart, a student at Colorado’s Arapahoe High School, compares the chaos following last week’s school shooting to the scene in “Saving Private Ryan” when Tom Hanks and others storm the beaches of Normandy.
“That’s what it felt like when we crossed the street to take refuge at a nearby church. Students screaming, crying, frantically looking for friends, calling parents and huddling together. When I walked across Dry Creek, it felt like I was walking into a war zone,” Stewart writes of the experience in an essay for Strike Magazine.
Stewart, who clearly has a gift for the written word, paints the scene with stomach churning detail. He writes of being in his fifth-hour psychology class when he first heard the shots.
Via Strike Magazine:
It took my class a moment to realize that gunshots had been fired less than a hundred feet from where we were. Our teacher immediately locked the door, turned down the lights, and had everyone get on one wall. Pepper Spray in hand, she crouched at the door lying in wait for any possible threat. God bless her.
Stewart writes that he and the rest of his class were led outdoors by a SWAT team, across a street and to a nearby church.
There, Stewart writes, he had a realization.
Again, via Strike Magazine:
I found it somewhat interesting that a giant mural of Jesus was staring down at us, with an ever-so-reassuring Bible quote. I found myself frustrated at it. “Well, Jesus, where the hell are you now?” was my initial thought. But then I realized he, or whatever deity or mystical force of faith you believe in, was indeed there.
He was there in the form of our teachers. Of our students. Of the churches, businesses and parents who immediately came to our aid. I hold my teachers in higher regard than I ever have in my life, and will never forget my admiration and thankfulness for how well they handled the situation. The police arrived in a timely fashion, and despite the horrible news of the injuries, it could have been much worse. It could have been Columbine.
Aside from the gunman, who died from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot, one person was seriously injured during the rampage. Seventeen-year-old Claire Davis was shot and remains in critical condition.
Follow Mike Krumboltz on Twitter at @mikekrumboltz.
- Arapahoe High School
- Brett Stewart
While there may be no such thing as a free lunch, we guarantee that no-cost travel goodies do exist. Our sixth edition of this series rounds up some nifty freebies and near freebies, like hotel parking, museum visits, and even cruises. Check out these deals for the coming year, but book fast — free doesn’t last forever.
Kids Ski Free
Between airfare, equipment rentals, lift tickets, and obligatory hot chocolate breaks, skiing can get expensive, and taking the whole family can break the bank. Luckily, many resorts offer ski-free benefits for kids. Check out Park City’s information page for reduced or free rates for children, including free access for kids six and under at Snowbird and Park City Mountain resorts. Colorado’s Keystone offers free stay-and-ride benefits for kids 12 and under. And in ski resorts throughout Colorado, Vermont, Utah, and other snow-happy states, fifth graders can ski for free with special passports; find information about Colorado’s passport program and Vermont’s 5th Grade Passport, or Google your destination for more information.
Free National Park Admission
The National Park System provides outdoorsy entertainment that’s already inexpensive, but on certain days each year, admission is completely free. The fee-free days kick off on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day weekend (January 18 through 20) and continue through 2014, including during National Park Week, an annual multiday event that takes place in April. Check the National Park Service website for updated information and calendars. (Note that while admission is waived, extras such as camping fees, tours, and concessions are not included.)
Stay a Night for Free
One-night-free hotel stays provide great value — and great reason to extend your vacation. This year brings deals from Radisson Blu (third night free when purchased online by December 31), Sheraton (third or fourth night free at select Florida properties), and Marriott (one night free for new Marriot Rewards members). Pro tip: Always peruse your preferred hotel’s deals and packages page throughout the year for more free-night deals. Online travel agencies like Priceline may advertise a lower per-night rate, but free nights are usually only available through the property itself.
Free Parking and Charging for Hybrid-Car Owners
Eco-friendly travelers with hybrid cars already experience the benefits of going light on the gas, but hotel chain Kimpton provides yet another perk: free parking. At properties in Dallas, Washington, D.C., San Jose, and Vero Beach, Florida, overnight guests with hybrid cars receive free parking with package stays. Furthermore, guests who need to re-up their batteries can do so for free at one of Kimpton’s complimentary electric-car charging stations (in Dallas, Chicago, Seattle, and Portland). Find more discounts at a dozen other properties across the U.S. on Kimpton’s Hybrid Parking page.
Free Hotel Breakfast
A free breakfast can be a wonderful, money-saving way to start a vacation day, and according to the American Hotel Lodging Association, more hotels are offering complimentary breakfasts than ever. Many of the big chains, including Holiday Inn Express, Hampton Inn Suites, Embassy Suites, and Best Western, offer free breakfast; Gadling helpfully rounds them all up here. And starting this year, Marriott Rewards Gold and Platinum Elite members get free breakfast in the lounge or restaurant at participating JW Marriott, Autograph Collection, Renaissance, and Marriott hotels in the U.S. and Canada.
Free Car-Rental Upgrades
Want a midsize car but for a compact price? Book a Delta Vacations package by December 31 and get free one-category upgrades from National and Alamo in popular locations, including pricey Hawaii (plus earn bonus SkyMiles). Enterprise regularly offers double-category upgrades, while Hertz currently offers upgrades on economy through full-size rentals at airport locations through December 31.
Free Flights in the Bahamas
Save big on airfare in the Bahamas when you book a package through MyOutIslands.com, the official tourism-board website for the blissfully undiscovered Bahamas Out Islands. Plan a four-night trip for travel between now and October 31, 2014, and receive two free round-trip flights from Nassau, including all government taxes and fees (for stays of three nights, guests receive one free flight). There are no cruise ships, no traffic, and no jumbo jets in this paradise, but you will find further savings at Out Islands resorts, including free nights at Sandals Emerald Bay in Great Exuma and Green Turtle Club in Abaco.
Free Museum Visits
In 2014, you needn’t break the bank to gain some cultural experience. On one night in May, museums across Europe and the U.K. will stay open until midnight or later in celebration of Nuit des Musees and Museums at Night, concurrent events that offer free admission to after-hours museumgoers. Stay tuned for dates and participating locations via the International Museum Day website. Year-round, the Louvre offers free admission on the first Sunday of every month, plus free Friday evening admission for visitors 26 or under and free admission any time for visitors 18 or under. Similarly, the Museum of Modern Art in New York City opens its doors to all for free on Friday evenings from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. as part of UNIQLO Free Friday Nights. FreeMuseumDay.org curates a list of free-admission days at museums in Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York City, Portland, Seattle, and the Bay Area. Our favorite freebie? Visitors with the first name “Isabella” always receive free admission to Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.
Free Stops in Iceland
Icelandair, the so-called “backpackers’ airline,” gets high marks for its affordable service to more than a dozen destinations in Europe. In fact, we consider it one of the 10 best airlines you’ve never flown for its low cost and also for this nifty little perk: a no-charge stopover in Iceland. The free-layover benefit continues into 2014, allowing you to add capital city Reykjavik to your European itinerary. As a bonus, many of Iceland’s natural wonders, from its geysers to its barren parks and sea cliffs, are free, and children 13 and younger get free admission to its famous Blue Lagoon geothermal spa through the end of 2014.
Cruising has gotten inexpensive as of late, and this deal from Italian line MSC offers some pretty unbelievable savings for the coming year. Guests receive two-for-one fares on itineraries in Europe and the Caribbean, plus their choice of one free onboard perk: up to $400 in ship credit (good for anything from spa services to boutique purchases), a complimentary beverage package, or prepaid service charges and gratuities worth up to $240. (Cruise prices start at $550 per person, so these aren’t small savings.) Offer expires March 31, 2014; check MSC’s deal page for pricing information and itineraries.
–By Dara Continenza
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London (AFP) – British police on Monday said they had finished examining new information about the 1997 death of Diana, princess of Wales, but had found “no credible evidence” she was murdered.
Scotland Yard police headquarters announced in August it was checking the credibility of recently received information about the deaths of the princess and her boyfriend Dodi Fayed, including an allegation that she was murdered by a British military figure.
“The Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) undertook a scoping exercise to assess the relevance and credibility of that information,” the force said in a statement issued Monday.
“That scoping exercise is now complete,” it stated, adding that a formal statement would be made on Tuesday.
Diana and Fayed were killed in a car crash in a Paris underpass in the early hours of August 31, 1997, along with their driver, Henri Paul.
It is understood that the claim a member of elite British army regiment the Special Air Service (SAS) was involved was made by the former parents-in-law of an ex-soldier, based on information he had talked about in the past.
“The final conclusion is that whilst there is a possibility the alleged comments in relation to the SAS’s involvement in the deaths may have been made, there is no credible evidence to support a theory that such claims had any basis in fact,” said the police statement.
“Therefore the MPS are satisfied there is no evidential basis upon which to open any criminal investigation,” it added.
Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley has provided all involved parties with a summary report of the probe.
Operation Paget was the name of the two-year police inquiry into the numerous conspiracy theories surrounding the crash.
Led by John Stevens, formerly Britain’s top policeman, it concluded in 2006 that all the allegations it assessed were without foundation.
It rejected the murder claims voiced by some, including Fayed’s father, the Egyptian tycoon Mohamed Al-Fayed.
Dodi Fayed, 42, and driver Paul — the deputy head of security at Al-Fayed’s plush Hotel Ritz in Paris — were pronounced dead at the scene of the crash.
The Mercedes-Benz car had smashed into a pillar and spun around.
Diana, 36, the ex-wife of Prince Charles, the heir to the British throne, and the mother of Princes William and Harry, died later in hospital.
Bodyguard Trevor Rees-Jones, a member of the Al-Fayed family’s protection team, survived.
Seeking to outrun chasing paparazzi photographers, Paul was found to have been speeding. His blood alcohol level was found to have been more than three times over the French limit.
Diana married Charles in 1981 but their shaky marriage fell apart soon after Harry’s birth in 1984, with both sides admitting adultery. They separated in 1992 and divorced in 1996.
- Family Relationships
- Dodi Fayed
The federal government has spent nearly $1 million studying romance in popular culture, according to a new report that targets government waste.
The National Endowment for the Humanities has awarded $914,000 to help fund the “The Popular Romance Project” since 2010, an ongoing culture study that explores “the fascinating, often contradictory origins and influences of popular romance as told in novels, films, comics, advice books, songs, and internet fan fiction.”
With help from taxpayers, the Popular Romance Project has produced a documentary about romance novels called, “Love Between the Covers,” a website “dedicated to romance and romance novels” and academic conferences on the genre.
The grants are highlighted in the 2013 “Wastebook,” an annual report released by Oklahoma Republican Sen. Tom Coburn that highlights taxpayer-subsidized programs that he argues are questionable or unnecessary, especially during a time when lawmakers are viciously debating spending levels and how to trim the nation’s $17 trillion debt.
The Romance Project is just one of nearly 100 programs targeted by Coburn’s report, which also include a documentary on super heroes, promotion of a “Green Ninja” character to educate children about climate change and a zombie-themed video game for math education. Coburn’s paper calls into question nearly $30 billion in federal spending that some would argue would have been better spent elsewhere.
The release of the “Wastebook” comes at a time when Congress is slashing funding for food assistance programs that benefit 47 million Americans and sequestration has trimmed federal spending on other domestic and military programs.
“As you glance at each of the entries presented in this report,” Corbun writes in the opening pages of this year’s “Wastebook,” “place your personal political persuasion aside and ask yourself: Do each of these represent a real national priority that should be spared from budget cuts or are these excesses that should have been eliminated in order to spare deeper cuts to those services and missions that should be performed by the federal government?”
We’ll leave that determination to you.
- Arts Entertainment
- Politics Government
- romance novels
- Tom Coburn
Apple, Twitter, Netflix, Google, Facebook, Yahoo … a phalanx of top executives from leading tech companies meets Tuesday with President Barack Obama to discuss the impact that his controversial spying programs have had on online commerce.
Obama will host the group in the Roosevelt Room of the White House one day after a federal judge decreed that NSA bulk collection of telephone data likely violates the Constitution.
The White House is billing the get-together as a chance “to discuss progress made in addressing performance and capacity issues with HealthCare.Gov and how government can better deliver IT to maximize innovation, efficiency and customer service.”
What about the NSA spying? After all, the blue-ribbon commission charged with reviewing the National Security Agency’s mass warrantless collection of Americans’ telephone metadata and other controversial practices delivered its report to Obama on Friday.
“The meeting will also address national security and the economic impacts of unauthorized intelligence disclosures,” the White House said.
The group also will discuss efforts to boost economic growth.
Here’s the list of attendess, as furnished by the White House:
- Tim Cook, CEO, Apple
- Dick Costolo, CEO, Twitter
- Chad Dickerson, CEO, Etsy
- Reed Hastings, Co-Founder CEO, Netflix
- Drew Houston, Founder CEO, Dropbox
- Marissa Mayer, President and CEO, Yahoo!
- Burke Norton, Chief Legal Officer, Salesforce
- Mark Pincus, Founder, Chief Product Officer Chairman, Zynga
- Shervin Pishevar, Co-Founder Co-CEO, Sherpa Global
- Brian Roberts, Chairman CEO, Comcast
- Erika Rottenberg, Vice President, General Counsel and Secretary, LinkedIn
- Sheryl Sandberg, COO, Facebook
- Eric Schmidt, Executive Chairman, Google
- Brad Smith, Executive Vice President and General Counsel, Microsoft
- Randall Stephenson, Chairman CEO, ATT
- President Barack Obama
- the White House
BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — Riding the commuter trains around Argentina’s capital can make for a dismal, sweaty trip on cars that mostly date back to the mid-1960s.
Users of the seven lines that connect Buenos Aires with neighboring municipalities complain about rundown railcars, careless drivers and a lack of information at stations.
And they worry about safety. One train slammed into a downtown station last year, killing 51 people and pushing the government to take over direct operation of the trains from private companies. Then a crash in June killed three people.
Cameras installed after the latest accident have captured train drivers reading books, talking on cellphones and even sleeping while operating trains.
“We’re afraid,” says Mariza Cano, a maid riding a crowded train on the Sarmiento line with her 11-year-old daughter. “We’re often feeling that we’ll be lucky if we reach our destination, but sometimes there’s no other option but to travel by train because taking the bus takes way too long.”
President Cristina Fernandez has promised improvements by early next year including 1,000 new railroad cars. Some railcars manufactured abroad have been purchased and put into the fleet. Stations have been painted. New electronic screens inform passengers about arrivals and departures.
But commuters say that much remains to be done and that riding the trains remains a hassle.
The railways, signals and track have had little upgrading since being built early in the 20th century. The lines’ electrical system is more than 80 years old.
Here’s a gallery of images from Argentina’s trains.
AP photographers and photo editors on Twitter: http://apne.ws/15Oo6jo
By Barbara Goldberg
(Reuters) – A last-minute ticket buying frenzy could make Tuesday’s Mega Millions jackpot the biggest U.S. lottery prize in history, and odds are mounting for a winner just a week before Christmas, a game official said.
The prize swelled to $586 million on Monday, with another spike in sales expected Tuesday before the 11 p.m. EST drawing, said Paula Otto, Virginia’s lottery director, who heads the multi-state Mega Millions game.
If the winner chooses to take the lump sum cash option, instead of payments over 30 years, the jackpot would be $316 million, according to MegaMillions.com.
As much as 70 percent of tickets are typically bought the day of the drawing, she said.
Ticket buying reached a fever pitch over the weekend, with 20 percent more chances sold than expected, Otto said.
The spending tsunami pushed the prize closer to the record U.S. jackpot of $656 million, won March 2012 in a Mega Millions drawing. The second largest lottery jackpot was $590.5 million, won May 2013 in a Powerball game.
“If it doesn’t surpass the record, we’ll be close. It’s growing a little faster than we thought,” Otto said on Monday.
The more tickets sold, the better chance someone will match one of the 259 million possible number combinations that could land a jackpot. By Tuesday’s drawing, players will have bought enough tickets to cover 65 percent to 75 percent of the possible number combinations to strike it rich, Otto said.
“You don’t know you have a winner unless it’s 100 percent covered, though,” she said.
If no one picks the exact combination of numbers that appear on six randomly selected lottery balls, the prize will keep growing until the next drawing on Friday.
“We’ve never had a jackpot this high the week before Christmas,” said Otto, who kept mum on whether she is hoping for the drama that a Christmas Eve drawing could bring.
“You like to see winners and you like to see big jackpots. I leave it in the hands of the bouncing balls,” Otto said.
(Editing by Scott Malone and Steve Orlofsky)
- Mega Millions