Mega Millions frenzy pushes jackpot up
NEW YORK, March 30 (UPI) -- There were long lines at convenience stores Friday as last-minute ticket purchases across the United States pushed the Mega Millions jackpot to $640 million.
Many people bought multiple tickets. Basketball player Chris Singleton of the Washington Wizards sent out a tweet to let fans know he would be spending $10,000, The Washington Post reported.
The 42-state lottery jackpot has rolled over 18 times since Jan. 25, the last time someone won the big one. The buying frenzy pushed the jackpot up from a record $540 million early Friday to $640 million by early afternoon.
A lottery official told CBS News the millions of tickets sold means there is a 90 percent probability that at least one will be a winner. But the odds of any individual ticket winning remain a daunting 1 in 176 million.
A typical Mega Millions drawing sells 250,000 tickets in the nation's capital.
The previous largest payout was $390 million in 2007, claimed by two players in New Jersey and Georgia.
Mega Millions is to be drawn at 10:59 p.m. EDT.
Obama clears way for new Iran sanctions
WASHINGTON, March 30 (UPI) -- U.S. President Barack Obama cleared the way Friday for new sanctions against Iran to pressure the regime into giving up its suspected quest for nuclear weapons.
An Energy Information Administration report indicated though oil supplies tightened at the beginning of the year and remain tight, "there currently appears to be sufficient supply of non-Iranian oil to permit foreign countries to significantly reduce their import of Iranian oil," the White House said in a statement.
Production disruptions in South Sudan, Syria, Yemen, Nigeria and the North Sea were responsible for the reduction in oil supplies in the first two months of the year.
The declaration allows the United States to move forward with sanctions against financial institutions doing business with Iran.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest, en route to an Obama campaign appearance in Vermont, said no decision had yet been made on whether to open the strategic oil reserve to try to ease rising domestic gasoline prices, which averaged $3.925 across the country Friday, compared to $3.606 last year at this time. Prices were highest in Alaska, California, California, Connecticut, Illinois and Indiana where the average topped $4 a gallon.
JetBlue voice, data recorders retrieved
WASHINGTON, March 30 (UPI) -- Officials investigating a JetBlue pilot's erratic behavior during a New York-to-Las Vegas flight have flight data and cockpit voice recorders, officials said.
National Transportation Safety Board spokeswoman Kelly Nantel said once the agency reviews the downloaded information, any data from the recorders would be forwarded to the FBI, CNN reported.
Investigators are looking into the apparent in-flight meltdown of Capt. Clayton Osbon, whose outburst and odd behavior Tuesday prompted the co-pilot to lock him out of the cockpit. Crew and passengers subdued Osbon.
Court records indicated that when Osbon couldn't unlock the door with his entry code, he pounded on the door "hard enough that [the first officer] thought he was coming through the door."
Osbon was charged in U.S. District Court in Texas Wednesday with interfering with crew members.
An FBI affidavit stated the flight's first officer said Osbon told air traffic controllers to "be quiet," turned off the aircraft's radios and said, "We're not going to Vegas" before delivering a "sermon" about the "sins in Las Vegas" and leaving the cockpit.
Police doubt killer's al-Qaida claim
TOULOUSE, France, March 30 (UPI) -- French officials say they doubt Mohammed Merah's claims of ties to al-Qaida but say they still wonder how he acquired a cache of firearms.
Police said their investigation indicates Merah's personal torment was at least as important as any terrorist ties in his becoming a self-styled jihadist who killed seven people over a span of several days in the Toulouse area, The New York Times reported Friday.
Merah killed a rabbi, his two children and another schoolgirl outside of a Jewish school last week and three paratroopers of north African descent the week before. Merah allegedly admitted to the shootings during a two-day standoff with police at his apartment in Toulouse before he was killed in an exchange of gunfire. During on-and-off negotiations, police said he told them he was trained by al-Qaida and killed his victims over the treatment of Palestinians, among other things.
Merah was buried Thursday in Toulouse after Algeria, where his father lives, refused to accept his body for burial.
Investigators said Merah may have exaggerated, even invented, his claims that he received terrorist training.
Lobbyist sentenced for using Pakistan cash
WASHINGTON, March 30 (UPI) -- A Fairfax, Va., man was sentenced to two years in prison for plotting to hide Pakistan government funding of his lobbying efforts, the Justice Department said.
Syed Ghulam Nabi Fai, 62, was sentenced Friday after earlier pleading guilty to a two-count criminal indictment involving falsifying and covering up facts he was obligated to reveal, hindering the IRS from collecting revenue and trying to impede the administration of tax laws, the Justice Department said in a release.
Justice officials said Fai was involved in a decades-long scheme to conceal the transfer of at least $3.5 million from the Pakistani government to fund his lobbying efforts in America as they related to Kashmir.
Court documents indicate Fai was director of the Kashmiri American Council, a non-governmental organization in Washington, that described itself as dedicated to raising awareness about the struggle of the Kashmiri people for self-determination. But court documents said organization was secretly funded by Pakistani government officials, including the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate.
"Mr. Fai spent 20 years operating the Kashmiri American Council as a front for Pakistani intelligence," said Neil MacBride, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. "He lied to the Justice Department, the IRS and many political leaders throughout the United States as he pushed the ISI's propaganda on Kashmir."
After he completes his prison sentence, Fai will spend three years on probation, the department said.