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Historic $1.5 bln Powerball jackpot sparks U.S. ticket-buying frenzy

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NEW YORK Dreams of quitting an uninspiring job, helping the needy and traveling the world opened American wallets on Wednesday for a chance to win the biggest-ever $1.5 billion Powerball lottery jackpot.

The frenzy to buy tickets was expected to push the largest-ever U.S. lottery prize even higher by the time the six winning numbers are picked at 10:59 p.m. EST (0359 GMT) on Wednesday at lottery offices in Tallahassee, Florida. It is the world’s largest potential prize for a single winner.

The jackpot is worth nearly $930 million if a winner chooses an immediate cash payout instead of annual payments over 29 years, according to the Multi-State Lottery Association. Powerball is played in 44 states, Washington, D.C. and two U.S. territories.

It may take several hours to determine if anyone has picked the six winning numbers, said Gary Grief, executive director of the Texas lottery, at a news conference.

If no one holds the winning numbers, the jackpot will be rolled over for Saturday’s drawing, pushing the annuitized prize to an estimated $2 billion, with a cash value of $1.24 billion, said Kelly Cripe, spokeswoman for the lottery in Texas, one of the participating states.

As lines snaked out doors a few hours before the drawing, a technical glitch hit some retail locations in Texas, which is selling tickets at a rate of $144,195 per minutes, Texas Lottery officials said.

“If I win, I’ll give it all away to poor people,” said New York restaurant deliveryman Osman Gamie, 43, after buying a dozen of the $2 tickets at a midtown Manhattan grocery.

“I don’t like to live like the rich man – too many headaches,” said Gamie, a new U.S. citizen from Bangladesh.

The ticket-buying mania was expected to reach a rate of $1.3 million per minute during the evening commuter rush hour, Grief said.

Powerball sales are “exponentially higher” than normal, Grief said. Since the jackpot was last hit on Nov. 4, 2015, a total of $2.65 billion in Powerball tickets have been sold, including $133 million sold on Wednesday by midday, Grief said.

Odds of picking a winning combination are 1 in 292 million.

For every $1 worth of Powerball sales, 50 percent goes to prizes, 40 percent to causes such as education, and 10 percent to retailers who sell the tickets and other administrative costs, Grief said.

“It’s amazing; it’s crazy,” said Milwaukee Wal-Mart worker Juan Galindo, 41, who sought to pump up his luck by purchasing tickets at three different locations in Wisconsin over the past two days. The father of two said winning would allow him to build his dream house.

In New York, a steady stream of lottery ticket buyers braved some of the most frigid temperatures so far this winter and flowed into the tiny grocery store in midtown Manhattan.

Tatiann Cave, a 23-year-old home health aide, said she would use the jackpot to start her own cosmetics business. She has been using her mother’s kitchen in New York to cook up test batches of products she dreams of selling under the name “Black Goddess.”

“I’d like to quit my job and do something inspiring,” Cave said.

(Additional reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee and Jon Herskovitz in Austin, Texas; Editing by Frank McGurty and Lisa Shumaker)

Source: R-Entertainment

Smitten with actress, Mexico's 'Chapo' tripped up by flirting

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MEXICO CITY Details of flirtatious phone messaging chats between Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman and actress Kate del Castillo have gripped Mexico, and an official said his “obsession” with her led him to lower his guard and be caught.

Guzman, 57, was arrested in the northern city of Los Mochis on Friday, six months after a dramatic second jailbreak through a tunnel in his cell. He is now back in the same prison.

Mexican authorities said they intercepted a series of instant message conversations in which del Castillo, 43, brokered a secret meeting between Guzman, herself and Hollywood star Sean Penn in October, helping them trace the kingpin.

A senior government official, who declined to be identified, said one reason Guzman left his redoubt in the Sierra Madre mountains of Sinaloa for Los Mochis was because he was desperate to set up another meeting with the Los Angeles-based actress.

“I’ll look after you more than my own eyes,” Guzman said, according to transcripts of the exchanges published by newspaper Milenio on Wednesday. “I’m very moved,” she replied. “Nobody has ever looked after me.”

The government official said the messages were genuine and that Guzman “had a kind of obsession” with the actress that was his undoing.

Del Castillo took to Twitter to thank her supporters and wrote: “Not surprisingly many have chosen to make up items they think will make good stories and that aren’t truthful.”

She pledged to give her story in due course.

The warmth between the drug lord and the actress has surprised even Mexicans inured to the often stranger-than-fiction events of the drug war. Stores in Mexico City on Wednesday sold piñatas resembling the pair, with “del Castillo” brandishing a pistol with “I love Chapo” written across it.

The newspaper said some of the messages were copied from an intercepted phone used by one of Guzman’s lawyers. Another of his lawyers said reports the two were close were “speculation.”

Later messages between the two appear to have been retrieved from a Blackberry device that a lawyer bought for del Castillo on Guzman’s orders. The kingpin wanted her to have a pink handset but in the end agreed to gray.

Guzman’s ties with del Castillo began publicly in 2012 when the actress, who has fronted campaigns for L’Oreal and Ford, wrote an open letter calling on the capo to “traffic in goodness” and saying she believed more in him than the government.


The conversation carried on after the meeting with Penn at a time when authorities were in hot pursuit of Guzman, who narrowly escaped a raid authorities say was made possible by leads gathered from his contacts with del Castillo.

Guzman comes across in the messages as increasingly enamoured with the actress, while she tries to talk about work, including an unnamed project involving people in Hollywood.

“I haven’t slept much since I saw you. I’m so excited about our story,” she wrote on Oct. 10. “I’m more excited about you than the story,” Guzman writes. “You’re making me blush,” del Castillo responds.

Copies of TV episodes of “La Reina de Sur,” del Castillo’s most famous role, portraying a fictional trafficker, were found in the safehouse Guzman was hiding in prior to his capture.

In one exchange, del Castillo said a contact had arranged for a U.S. lawyer to defend Guzman and his sons.

The kingpin was impressed.

“Come now because I’m dying to look after you, the way it should be,” he wrote. “You’re the best in this world, there’s no way I can repay you for what you’ve done for me and my children.”

(Reporting by Frank Jack Daniel; additional reporting by Ana Isabel Martinez, Joanna Zuckerman Bernstein and Michael O’Boyle in Mexico City and Mark Hosenball in Washington; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

Source: R-Entertainment

Cheesy puns abound as White House hosts online chat

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<span class="focusParagraph articleLocation”>The White House attracted pungent waggery on Wednesday after using the arcane theme of a big block of cheese to lure people into a post-State of the Union online conversation with administration officials.

The social media event was inspired by President Andrew Jackson’s 1837 open house featuring a 1,400-pound block of cheese, with a meta allusion to fictional White House chief of staff, Leo McGarry, who told his staffers about the cheese draw in an early episode of “The West Wing” TV series.

Following President Barack Obama’s final State of the Union address on Tuesday evening, the administration invited Cabinet officials, members of Congress and Senior White House officials to answer questions submitted by the public on social media such as Twitter and Facebook, with the hashtag #BigBlockOfCheeseDay.

It was the third year the White House has staged the event and it was among the top trending hashtags on Twitter on Wednesday as people asked questions on topics ranging from climate change to the economy.

Others jumped in to deliver a gouda deal of cheese puns.

Margarey Gach (@mgachby) tweeted: “Seeing the White House accounts inundated w/ cheesy puns is really grate. They feta keep this up all day #BigBlockOfCheeseDay.”

“#BigBlockofCheeseDay you cheddar believe it,” wrote Darren Bown (Dazzb84).

“Pure bliss with a slice of swiss #BigBlockOfCheeseDay,” tweeted Carol Layne (@keddle01).

Chuck Badger (@CharlesBadger) tweeted: “I think you have to be a “West Wing” fan to truly appreciate the glory that is #BigBlockOfCheeseDay today.”

Big Block of Cheese Day was intended as a nod both to President Jackson and “The West Wing,” and to make the administration more accessible, the White House said in its blog. The event drew serious responses from administration officials such as Valerie Jarrett, a senior Obama adviser, and Labor Secretary Tom Perez.

Asked about plans for the minimum wage, Perez (@LaborSec) tweeted: “Americans shouldn’t have to win the geographic lottery for fair paycheck. Need to #RaiseTheWage #BigBlockOfCheeseDay.”

    Other officials such as first lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough were also expected to take part.

    Twitter users were invited to use the hashtag #AskTheWH along with #BigBlockOfCheeseDay to get their questions answered.

(Reporting by Gina Cherelus; Editing by Dan Burns and Frances Kerry)

Source: R-Entertainment

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