Daily Briefing

10 things you need to know today: March 29, 2014

Sarah Eberspacher
Putin and Obama discussed the ongoing tensions in Ukraine. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin)
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Putin calls Obama to discuss Ukraine crisis

The White House said on Friday Russian President Vladimir Putin called President Barack Obama to "discuss the U.S. proposal for a diplomatic resolution to the crisis in Ukraine." The phone call comes amidst a Russian troop buildup on Ukraine's border, which has led Obama to push America's allies to bolster sanctions against Russia. No date for a meeting between Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey V. Lavrov was set, and officials did not report on the call's specifics. [NPR, The New York Times]


Port Authority chairman resigns over Christie bridge scandal

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie announced on Friday that David Samson, chairman of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, was resigning from office. The move comes a day after Christie's internal inquiry into last year's George Washington Bridge scandal; the inquiry cleared New Jersey's governor of any Bridgegate wrongdoing. Samson, who denied involvement and was not interviewed as part of Christie's review, is 74 years old, a fact Christie noted in his Friday press conference. [The Week]


General Motors recalls 971,000 more vehicles

Just days before CEO Mary Barra is scheduled to appear before Congress, General Motors recalled 971,000 more vehicles on Friday. That brings the total number of GM-recalled cars to 2.5 million worldwide, 2.2 million of which were sold in the United States. Citing faulty ignition switches, Barra said in a statement the cars are safe to drive while owners await replacement parts, even issuing a series of YouTube videos answering questions about the recalls in an attempt to assuage public concern. [Forbes, The Wall Street Journal]


March Madness continues: And then there were (the Elite) Eight

Finishing up the NCAA tournament's Sweet Sixteen play on Friday night, No. 4 Michigan State knocked off top-seeded Virginia, 61-59. In-state rival No. 2 Michigan also earned a trip to the Elite Eight, defeating No. 11 Tennessee, 73-71. Last year's championship team Louisville lost to Kentucky, 74-69, while No. 7 seed Connecticut defeated No. 3 seed Iowa State. Tonight's matchups pit No. 1 seeds Florida and Arizona against No. 11 Dayton and No. 2 Wisconsin, respectively. [Los Angeles Times]


England and Wales hold first same-sex weddings

Coming eight months after England's government legalized same-sex marriage, couples in England and Wales were finally able to begin marrying at 12:01 a.m. today. For the historic event, the British government flew rainbow-colored flags over prominent government buildings. Gay couples in England have entered civil partnerships, which offer the same legal rights as marriage, since 2005. [BBC, TIME]


California Senate suspends lawmakers accused of criminal wrongdoing

In a 28-1 vote, California's state Senate voted on Friday to suspend three Democratic lawmakers, all of whom are fighting criminal cases. Sens. Roderick Wright and Ronald Calderon had previously taken voluntary leaves of absence to fight their criminal cases, but Sen. Leland Yee, who was charged two days ago with conspiracy to traffic in firearms without a license and accepting campaign funds for political favors, refused to resign. "Leave. Please," President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg told Yee before the Senate's vote. While suspended, the three men will still receive pay. [Los Angeles Times]


Doctors successfully use 3-D printing in life-saving surgery

Doctors at the University Medical Center Utrecht in the Netherlands announced this week that they had successfully performed a skull implant using 3-D printing. The 23-hour surgery, which took place several months ago, involved replacing nearly an entire skull with a plastic replica. The 22-year-old woman in question is reporting fewer symptoms and experiencing better brain function than with the non-3D implant version, doctors said, because thanks to the printing method, the components are an exact fit. [NBC News]


Mexico's drought, cartel influences, contributing to lime shortage

If you notice limes going up in price at the grocery store over the next few months, blame a bad harvest in Mexico this season. The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports limes priced at 21 cents each last year; now, they cost 53 cents apiece. A bad growing season from drought, along with Mexican cartels extorting the lime growers, means American restaurants and grocery stores, which buy up most of the produce, will feel the effect. "Sometimes a lime is just a lime, and that's what you need," Annika Stensson, spokeswoman for the National Restaurant Association, noted. [USA Today]


Tigers sign Miguel Cabrera to MLB-record $292 million contract

Move over, Alex Rodriguez. The Detroit Tigers announced on Friday a major-league record $292 million contract for triple crown winner Miguel Cabrera. The All-Star third baseman's new contract is for $248 million, but it also adds in the $44 million he was still owed from his previous contract. The 10-year contract averages out to about $43,000 each time Cabrera makes a plate appearance. By contrast, the 2012 median household income in Detroit was $26,955 per year. [Chicago Tribune]


University of Iowa denies Girls request to film on campus

Citing plot points that painted the school in a negative light, the University of Iowa denied a request from Lena Dunham's HBO show, Girls, to film on the campus. Dunham's character was accepted into the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and the show planned to film parts of its fourth season at the real-life campus. However, "after reviewing the script, I felt the storyline placed the city and university in an unfavorable light," Joe Brennan, the school's vice president of strategic communication, said. Don't worry about spoilers, though: "I won't share details as I don't think it fair to reveal the plot in advance," Brennan added. [The A.V. Club]