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10 things you need to know today: March 19, 2014
Putin signs a treaty annexing Crimea, Obama awards overdue Medals of Honor, and more
 
Russians rally in the Red Square in Moscow. 
Russians rally in the Red Square in Moscow.  (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin)

1. Putin signs a treaty making Crimea part of Russia
Russian-backed forces stormed Ukraine's naval headquarters in Crimea on Wednesday and raised the Russian flag, a day after Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a treaty annexing the Crimean Peninsula. A Ukrainian serviceman was killed Tuesday as a base in the main Crimean town of Simferopol was attacked — the first death in fighting between Ukraine and pro-Russia forces since Moscow sent in troops three weeks ago. [The Washington Post, Reuters]
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2. Obama awards top medal to soldiers overlooked due to discrimination
President Obama on Tuesday awarded the Medal of Honor to 24 Army veterans who investigators said were passed over due to their race, religion, or ethnicity. The honorees — 17 Hispanic, one black, one Jewish, and five white — served in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. Only three are still alive. "No nation is perfect," Obama said. "But here in America, we confront our imperfections and face a sometimes painful past." [The New York Times]
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3. NSA can record every call made in a foreign country
The National Security Agency surveillance system can record "every single" telephone call in a foreign country, according to people familiar with the latest documents leaked by fugitive former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. The NSA can even replay conversations up to a month old. A classified summary says the system can collect a country's every call — billions of them — and store them in a 30-day buffer offering a look "into the past." [The Washington Post]
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4. Judge rejects KSM testimony in bin Laden relative's trial
A judge ruled Tuesday that jurors in the terrorism trial of Osama bin Laden's son-in-law, Suleiman Abu Ghaith, would not hear the testimony of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the accused mastermind of the September 11 attacks. From Guantánamo Bay prison, Mohammed told the defense that Abu Ghaith "was not a military man" in al Qaeda. Judge Lewis Kaplan said a defense request to admit the testimony was "entirely baseless." [Reuters]
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5. Court delays Oklahoma lethal injections due to drug shortage
An Oklahoma appeals court on Tuesday postponed two inmates' executions, a day after the state said it had run out of two drugs it uses in lethal injections. The executions of convicted killers Clayton Locket and Charles Warner were pushed back one month to give the state time to find an adequate supply. [The Associated Press]
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6. TV station helicopter crashes in Seattle, killing two
A news helicopter crashed in Seattle on Tuesday near the city's famous Space Needle, killing the pilot, Gary Pfitzner, and a photographer, Bill Strothman. The helicopter was taking off after refueling at a helipad on top of Fisher Plaza, which houses KOMO-TV. It made what a witness described as a "whining" sound, then spiraled down, landing on a car and igniting a fireball that injured a driver. [The Seattle Times]
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7. Toyota is expected to settle safety investigation for $1 billion
The Justice Department is expected to announce Wednesday that Toyota has agreed to pay $1 billion — one of the largest fines ever for an automaker — to settle a criminal investigation into its handling of unintended-acceleration complaints. For several years, Toyota did little more than change floor mats before recalling millions of cars in 2009 and 2010. Toyota says it has made changes to be more responsive. [CNN]
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8. Two winners share the third largest Mega Millions jackpot ever
Two winning tickets were drawn in Tuesday night's Mega Millions lottery, which had a jackpot estimated at $400 million. The payoff is the third-largest in the history of the game, which is available in 43 states, as well as Washington, D.C., and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The winning tickets were sold in Maryland and Florida. The record prize, $656 million, was split by three winners in 2012. [Chicago Tribune]
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9. California town approves the nation's highest minimum wage
The Richmond, Calif., City Council voted late Tuesday to raise the local minimum wage to $12.30 an hour by 2017, which would give the city the highest minimum wage in the U.S. Richmond is just north of San Francisco, which currently holds the record at $10.74 an hour. Opponents said such a hike would drive businesses out of town; supporters said Richmond's current minimum, $8 an hour, is not enough to live on. [NBC Bay Area]
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10. The Rolling Stones cancel tour
Mick Jagger honored his late girlfriend, fashion designer L'Wren Scott, on Tuesday, as his legendary rock group, The Rolling Stones, canceled a seven-day tour of Australia and New Zealand after her death. "I am still struggling to understand how my lover and best friend could end her life in this tragic way," Jagger wrote. He praised Scott, 49, for her "great presence" and talent, and said, "I will never forget her." [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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