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10 things you need to know today: March 18, 2014
Russia recognizes Crimea as independent, GM recalls another 1.5 million vehicles, and more
 
Putin addresses the Federation Council in Moscow. 
Putin addresses the Federation Council in Moscow.  (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

1. Putin, defying the U.S., starts the process of annexing Crimea
Russian President Vladimir Putin defied new U.S. and European Union sanctions and announced Monday that Russia would annex the Ukrainian region of Crimea. Putin recognized Crimea as an independent state on Monday. A day earlier, Crimeans voted to break away from Ukraine, although the validity of the referendum, which took place under a heavy Russian troop presence, was disputed by Kiev, the U.S., and Europe. [Reuters, The New York Times]
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2. GM recalls another 1.5 million vehicles
General Motors on Monday announced the recall of 1.5 million more vehicles, mostly crossover SUVs needing a wiring fix for side airbags. GM was already facing criticism for waiting 10 years before the recent recall of 1.6 million vehicles to repair ignition switches linked to 12 fatal crashes. "Something went wrong with our process, and terrible things happened," GM CEO Mary Barra said. [Los Angeles Times]
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3. Affordable Care Act sign-ups reach 5 million
ObamaCare call centers are at their busiest since December as Americans hurry to sign up for health insurance before 2014 open enrollment ends on March 31, the Department of Health and Human Services reported Monday. The rush has pushed the number who have signed up for coverage on the ObamaCare exchanges to more than 5 million people. That gives the Obama administration two weeks to reach its goal of 6 million. [The Huffington Post]
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4. New data strengthens Malaysia Airlines hijacking theory
U.S. officials said late Monday that Malaysia Airlines Flight 370's initial turn off its course for Beijing was programmed into the Flight Management System computer, not performed manually. That suggests that someone in the cockpit with aviation training made the turn, bolstering Malaysian authorities' suspicion that the plane vanished with 239 passengers on board as the result of a criminal hijacking, not an accident. [NBC News]
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5. Men get faster care than women after having heart attacks
Younger women wait longer than men in emergency rooms for treatment after heart attacks, according to a study in this week's issue of the Canadian Medical Association Journal. The authors gave two explanations: Many male patients might be more assertive, and hospital staff might confuse women's chest pains with panic attacks. [The Canadian Press]
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6. Apple introduces less expensive iPhone 5C overseas
Apple has begun selling a cheaper version of the iPhone 5C, although so far it is only available in Europe and Australia. With just 8GB of storage, the new smartphone has half as much storage as the lowest capacity model introduced last year. The UK Apple Store is selling the unlocked version for £429 ($712). British carrier O2 listed the 8GB iPhone 5C on Tuesday for $166 less than the 16GB model. [ZDNet, CNET]
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7. Minor earthquake hits L.A. but does no damage
Los Angeles was rattled awake Monday morning by a magnitude 4.4 earthquake. Passengers on some commuter trains faced delays while crews inspected tracks, but city officials received no reports of deaths, injuries, or damage. "It appears the greatest impact of this temblor was a rude awakening," Mayor Eric Garcetti said. Such minor quakes typically come about once a year, but this was the first in four years. [Los Angeles Times, Reuters]
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8. Arts patron Rachel "Bunny" Mellon dies at 103
Philanthropist Rachel "Bunny" Mellon died Monday at her Virginia home. She was 103. The Listerine heiress, who married wealthy arts patron Paul Mellon, was a confidante of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. Mellon avoided publicity, but late in life found herself connected to the John Edwards sex scandal, when prosecutors linked a $700,000 campaign contribution from her to payments to Edwards' then-mistress, Rielle Hunter. [The Washington Post]
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9. Scientists spot evidence of the Big Bang
A group of scientists announced Monday that they had found the first direct evidence of the Big Bang, the abrupt start of the expansion of the universe from a small, super-condensed spot. The team, which included researchers from Harvard, Stanford, and Caltech, detected ripples in cosmic background microwaves, a form of light remaining from the universe's youth billions of years ago. [Bloomberg News]
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10. Fashion icon L'Wren Scott, Mick Jagger's girlfriend, found dead
Fashion designer L'Wren Scott, the longtime girlfriend of Mick Jagger, was found dead Monday at her New York apartment. Scott's assistant found her hanging by a scarf attached to a doorknob. Investigators found no sign of foul play and suspect Scott committed suicide. Scott started out as a model, and moved on to design clothes worn by A-list movie stars, as well as First Lady Michelle Obama. [The Associated Press]

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Harold Maass is a contributing editor at TheWeek.com. He has been writing for The Week since the 2001 launch of the U.S. print edition. Harold has worked for a variety of news outlets, including The Miami HeraldFox News, and ABC News.

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