Friday, March 30, 2012

Published:

Obama: Global oil supply OK to move on sanctions on Iran; pressure on US allies to respond

WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Barack Obama said Friday he was plowing ahead with potential sanctions against countries that keep buying oil from Iran, including allies of the United States, in a deepening campaign to starve Iran of money for its disputed nuclear program.

The world oil market is tight but deep enough to keep the squeeze on Iran, Obama ruled.

The sanctions aim to further isolate Iran's central bank, which processes nearly all of the Iran's oil purchases, from the global economy. Obama's move clears the way for the U.S. to penalize foreign financial institutions that do oil business with Iran by barring them from having a U.S.-based affiliate or doing business here.

Obama's goal is to tighten the pressure on Iran, not allies, and already the administration exempted 10 European Union countries and Japan from the threat of sanctions because they cut their oil purchases from Iran. Other nations have about three months to significantly reduce such imports before sanctions would kick in.

Still, administration officials said that Obama is ready to slap sanctions on U.S. partners and that his action on Friday was another signal.

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$1 at a time, Americans wager nearly $1.5 billion on longest of shots to become a millionaire

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) -- Lottery ticket lines swelled as Americans wagered nearly $1.5 billion on the longest of long shots: a less than 1 percent chance to join the 1 percent Friday night as the winner of a record $640 million Mega Millions jackpot.

A café worker in Arizona reported selling $2,600 worth of tickets to one buyer, while a retired soldier in Wisconsin doubled his regular weekly ticket spending to $55. But each would have to put down millions more to guarantee winning what could be the biggest single lotto payout in the world.

"I feel like a fool throwing that kind of money away," said Jesse Carter, who spent the $55 and donated the last two tickets he bought at a Milwaukee store Friday to a charity. "But it's a chance you take in life, with anything you do."

The jackpot, if taken as a $462 million lump sum and after federal tax withholding, works out to about $347 million. With the jackpot odds at 1 in 176 million, it would cost $176 million to buy up every combination. Under that scenario, the strategy would win $171 million -- less if your state also withholds taxes.

Laura Horsley, who does communications and marketing for a trade association, bought $20 worth of Quick Pick tickets at a downtown Washington, D.C., liquor store Friday. But Horsley, who said she won't buy a lottery ticket unless the jackpot tops $100 million, remained realistic.

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Political pressures could put Obama in election-year bind on gay marriage: Support it or not

BURLINGTON, Vt. (AP) -- President Barack Obama could be caught in an election-year bind on gay marriage, wedged between the pressure of supporters who want him to back same-sex marriage and the political perils of igniting an explosive social issue in the midst of the campaign.

Interviews with gay rights advocates and people close to Obama's campaign suggest it is no longer a matter of if, but when the president publicly voices his support. But Obama backers are split over whether that will happen before the November elections.

Gay marriage is already a big issue in a handful of states that have it on their ballots in November, including Maine, where Obama was headlining two fundraisers Friday. He was not expected to wade into the issue during his remarks.

The president also headlined fundraisers Friday in Vermont, one of six states, plus the District of Columbia, where gay marriage is legal. He did not mention the subject during his two appearances there.

Once an opponent of gay marriage, Obama declared in 2010 that his personal views on the subject were "evolving." He has gone no further in public since then.

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Old photos may be deceptive in Fla. shooting case; experts warn against rush to judgment

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) -- When he was shot, Trayvon Martin was not the baby-faced boy in the photo that has been on front pages across the country. And George Zimmerman wasn't the beefy-looking figure in the widely published mugshot.

Both photos are a few years old and no longer entirely accurate. Yet they may have helped shape initial public perceptions of the deadly shooting.

"When you have such a lopsided visual comparison, it just stands to reason that people would rush to judgment," said Kenny Irby, who teaches visual journalism at the Poynter Institute, a journalism think tank in St. Petersburg, Fla.

The most widely seen picture of Martin, released by his family, was evidently taken a few years ago and shows a smiling, round-cheeked youngster in a red T-shirt. But at his death, Martin was 17 years old, around 6 feet tall and, according to his family's attorney, about 140 pounds.

Zimmerman, 28, is best known from a 7-year-old booking photo of an apparently heavyset figure with an imposing stare, pierced ear and facial hair, the orange collar of his jail uniform visible. The picture, released by police following the deadly shooting, was taken after Zimmerman's 2005 arrest on an assault-on-an-officer charge that was eventually dropped.

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Supreme Court has a wide range of options in ruling on Obama's health care overhaul law

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The arguments are done and the case has been submitted, as Chief Justice John Roberts says at the end of every Supreme Court argument. Now the justices will wrestle with what to do with President Barack Obama's health care overhaul. They have a range of options, from upholding the law to striking it down in its entirety. The court also could avoid deciding the law's constitutionality at all, although that prospect seems remote after this week's arguments.

A look at six potential outcomes, from the simplest to the most complicated possible rulings:

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Q. What if the Supreme Court upholds the law and finds Congress was within its authority to require most people to have health insurance or pay a penalty?

A. A decision in favor of the law would end the legal fight and allow the administration to push forward with implementing its provisions over the next few years, including the insurance requirement, an expansion of Medicaid and a ban on private insurers' denying coverage to people with pre-existing health problems.

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On the run, Osama bin Laden lived in 5 safe houses, fathered 4 children, his widow says

ISLAMABAD (AP) -- Osama bin Laden lived in five safe houses while on the run in Pakistan and fathered four children -- two of them born in government hospitals, his youngest widow has told investigators.

The details of bin Laden's life as a fugitive in Pakistan are contained in the interrogation report of Amal Ahmed Abdel-Fatah al-Sada, bin Laden's 30-year-old Yemeni widow. They appear to raise fresh questions over how bin Laden was able to remain undetected for so long in Pakistan after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, despite being the subject of a massive international manhunt.

Details from the report were first published by the Pakistani newspaper Dawn.

The Associated Press obtained a copy on Friday.

Al-Sada is currently in Pakistani custody, along with bin Laden's two other wives and several children. They were arrested after the U.S raid that killed bin Laden in May in his final hideout in the Pakistani army town of Abbottabad. The U.S. Navy SEALs shot her in the leg during the operation.

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Clashes, protests erupt across Syria, further complicating Annan's peace mission

BEIRUT (AP) -- Clashes and protests broke out across many parts of Syria Friday, further complicating a peace mission by U.N. envoy Kofi Annan who urged the government to lay down its weapons first to immediately end the country's yearlong crisis.

As angry protesters lamented inaction by Arab countries, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton tried to work out how to help the opposition in talks with Saudi Arabia, the biggest advocate for arming the rebels against President Bashar Assad.

Her visit comes ahead of a 60-nation weekend gathering of the so-called "Friends of the Syrian People" in Istanbul. The meeting is an effort to find ways to aid Syria's fractured opposition, which has been frustrated by the government's military gains on the ground. The U.S. is seeking to unify Syria's opposition movement and find ways to further isolate Assad's regime.

Assad accepted a peace plan brokered by Annan earlier this week and promised Thursday to "spare no effort" to make sure it succeeds. But he demanded that armed forces battling his regime commit to halting violence as well.

Underscoring the challenges, activists reported shifting clashes, some close to the capital Damascus, and others in the northern Idlib province, the restive central province of Homs and the country's east. The reported death toll ranged from 34 to 42.

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Aung San Suu Kyi alleges Myanmar vote neither free nor fair, but is determined to win seat

YANGON, Myanmar (AP) -- Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi said Friday that Myanmar's landmark weekend elections will be neither free nor fair because of widespread irregularities, but vowed to continue her candidacy for the sake of the long-repressed nation.

Suu Kyi said opposition candidates had been targeted in stone-throwing incidents, campaign posters vandalized and members of her party intimidated during the run-up to Sunday's closely-watched parliamentary by-elections.

During a news conference on the lawn of her crumbling lakeside residence in Yangon, the 66-year-old Nobel Peace Prize laureate said government officials were involved in some of the irregularities and that they go "beyond what is acceptable for democratic elections."

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Romanian doctor darts around Europe to save babies caught in web of corruption back home

BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) -- Dr. Catalin Cirstoveanu runs a cardio unit with state-of-the-art equipment at a Bucharest children's hospital. But not a single child has been treated in the year-and-a-half since it opened.

The reason?

Medical staff he needs to bring in to run the machinery would have expected bribes.

So Cirstoveanu has launched a lonely crusade to save babies who come to him for care: He flies them to western Europe on budget flights so they can be treated by doctors who don't demand kickbacks.

That's what Cirstoveanu did last week for 13-day-old Catalin, who needed heart surgery. Cirstoveanu packed a small bag, slipped emergency breathing equipment into the baby carrier and caught a cheap flight to Italy, where doctors were waiting to perform the surgery.

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A week before Masters, all-male membership debate returns at Augusta

The stars are aligning. Phil Mickelson won at Pebble Beach, and Rory McIlroy reached No. 1 in the world. And, of course, there was Tiger Woods in Sunday red, a winner again at last on the PGA Tour.

It's Masters time.

But even as the azaleas start to bloom, a thorny issue has returned -- the all-male membership at Augusta National Golf Club -- thanks to another achievement that took place far away from the fairways and greens. Virginia Rometty officially took over Jan. 1 as CEO of IBM, the first woman to be chief executive in the 100-year history of Big Blue.

IBM is a longtime corporate sponsor of the Masters, and its last four CEOs have been invited to be members.

Next in line, though, is a woman.