The ultimate holiday stocking stuffer: $400 million Mega Millions payout
Will Friday the 13th (the last of 2013) be lucky for Mega Millions hopefuls? After failing to hit a winner since Oct. 1, Friday's lottery drawing jackpot has swollen to $400 million, the second-largest in Mega Millions' history and the fifth-largest jackpot ever. Depending on ticket sales, lottery officials could hike the jackpot to $425 million or more Friday. While the odds of winning are just 1 in 259 million, ticket sales are surging ahead of the 11 p.m. drawing for what could be the ultimate Christmas stocking stuffer, worth a lump sum, post-tax $144.9 million.
Geminid meteor shower will be the best light show of the year
Those willing to endure some cold and stay up past their bedtimes are about to be treated to the annual Geminid meteor shower. This year's shower begins to peak just after midnight Thursday (the early-morning hours of Friday) and lasts through dawn. The 48 hours of prime viewing will continue through the predawn hours of Saturday. Falling stars should be visible beginning mid-to-late evening and ending at dawn both nights.
Experts wonder what's next for Kim Jong Un after uncle's execution
The dramatic downfall of Kim Jong Un's uncle, Jang Song Thaek, who had been considered the second-most-powerful figure in North Korea, surprised even veteran observers of the country. While many analysts agree the move was part of a purge to consolidate Kim Jong Un's rule, they say the wider implications for this tightly sealed state remain as tough to fathom as ever. "No one can be sure what this young leader may do," said Tong Kim, a North Korea expert at Korea University in Seoul.
Bipartisan budget deal heads to the Senate
After winning broad bipartisan support in the House of Representatives and passing 332-94, the two-year budget framework must now be approved by the Senate. The deal eliminates the threat of a government shutdown through fiscal year 2015 and modestly reduces the deficit over the next decade, although it does not affect spending on entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare. A vote on the agreement is expected next week in the Senate, where Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., cautioned that Democrats will need at least five Republicans to support the package to ensure they can overcome a filibuster threat. So far, the only GOP senators who have publicly stated their position are opposed to the package.
John Kerry meets with Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu to push peace talks
Continuing a furious pace of shuttle diplomacy, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry ismeeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in his latest push for Mideast peace Friday morning. It is Kerry's ninth trip of the year to the region amid a rare snowstorm that blanketed Jerusalem. Concerned that a final status agreement may not be possible by the May target the two sides accepted when they resumed talks in August, U.S. officials say Kerry is hoping for a framework accord that would contain the principles of a comprehensive pact, but not specific details.