Big lottery winners remaining anonymous for now

Posted April 06, 2012, at 9:02 p.m.

RED BUD, Ill. — The tiny Illinois farm town of Red Bud is the kind of place with few strangers and few secrets. Yet the community of 3,700 has a lingering mystery on its hands: Who bought the winning Mega Millions lottery ticket, and why hasn’t the winner of the world-record $656 million jackpot come forward?

Though secrecy surrounds the ticket sold at the MotoMart convenience store, lottery officials note it’s not unusual for winners to lay low — and those who advise them say it’s just plain smart.

It’s exactly what the Kansas winner of the March 30 Mega Millions drawing decided to do. Kansas Lottery Director Dennis Wilson said the person came to the agency’s Topeka headquarters Friday morning with an attorney and some financial advisers. Wilson said the person does not want to be identified, even by gender.

A third winning ticket was sold in Maryland, and the woman who has claimed to have it now says she lost it. Mirlande Wilson of Baltimoresaid she would claim the jackpot if she finds the ticket. Wilson previously said she hid the ticket at the McDonald’s where she works.

Mississippi poised to close state’s sole abortion clinic

The sole abortion clinic in the state of Mississippi could be forced to close under a bill headed to the desk of Gov. Phil Bryant, who has said he intends to sign it.

The Jackson Clarion-Ledger reported that the state Senate gave final legislative approval to the measure on Thursday. It now heads to Bryant, a Republican who was elected to lead the state in November, at the same time an antiabortion “personhood” amendment failed when put to a statewide vote.

The legislation, HB 1390, would require all doctors who perform abortions in an “abortion facility” to have admitting privileges at a local hospital, and to be board-certified in obstetrics and gynecology.

The owner of the state’s sole abortion clinic, the Jackson Women’s Health Organization, told The Associated Press that all of her staff doctors are board-certified. The problem is the admitting-privileges requirement. Diane Derzis said only one of her doctors currently has local privileges.

The others do not because they live out of state, concerned about threats and stalking if they lived inside Mississippi. And local hospitals, Derzis told the AP, rarely give admitting privileges to out-of-state doctors.

Rick Santorum’s daughter Bella hospitalized again

Rick Santorum’s youngest daughter, Bella, who suffers from a severe genetic disorder, has been hospitalized, the presidential candidate’s campaign announced Friday.

“Rick and his wife Karen have taken their daughter Bella to the hospital. The family requests prayers and privacy as Bella works her way to recovery,” spokesman Hogan Gidley said.

Bella was born in 2008 with Trisomy 18, a rare defect in which a baby has an extra chromosome that results in abnormal development of the brain and major organs. Only one in 10 babies born with the disorder survive the first year of life.

Santorum was celebrating the Easter holiday weekend with his family in Virginia when Bella, 3, was taken to the hospital. Earlier this year, Bella was hospitalized with pneumonia, prompting Santorum to leave the campaign trail before the Florida primary.

Pope takes cross at end of Colosseum procession

ROME — Pope Benedict XVI encouraged those threatened by unemployment and other economic woes to draw courage and strength from the suffering of the crucified Jesus Christ as the pontiff presided over a Good Friday candlelit Way of the Cross procession at the ancient Colosseum.

Benedict, who turns 85 on April 16, didn’t carry the cross during the hour-long procession itself. Instead, he listened intently to meditations on suffering that he asked an elderly Italian couple to compose for the traditional ceremony. Then, as the final reflection was read aloud, the pontiff was handed the slender, lightweight wooden cross, which he held steadily for a few minutes.

Thousands of tourists, pilgrims and Romans jammed the boulevard outside the Colosseum and the ancient Roman Forum to pray with him on a mild, cloudy night and listen to hymns.

Faithful clutched candles and prayer books. A few held palms or olive branches they had saved from Palm Sunday, which opened solemn Holy Week ceremonies in the Catholic church.

Syrian refugees flee violence, talk of mass graves

REYHANLI, Turkey — After days of relentless shelling and sniper attacks, thousands of Syrian refugees streamed across the border into Turkey with horrific accounts Friday of mass graves, massacres and burned-out homes.

The latest reports of escalating violence fueled accusations that President Bashar Assad is rushing to stamp out as much of the year-old uprising as he can before a U.N.-brokered cease-fire next week.

The trigger for the new waves of refugees was an offensive in Idlib province, which borders Turkey and has become increasingly rebellious against the Assad regime.

Activists reported about 100 dead in the villages of Taftanaz and Killi in recent days.

The escalating violence has dimmed hopes that the fighting, which the U.N. says has killed more than 9,000 people, will end anytime soon. The country appears to be spiraling toward civil war, a development that could bring a regional conflagration.

Assad last week accepted a cease-fire deadline brokered by international envoy Kofi Annan, which calls for his forces to pull out of towns and cities by Tuesday and for everyone to lay down their arms by 6 a.m. local time Thursday.

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