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10 things you need to know today: May 17, 2014
GM will pay a record $35 million fine, flooding in the Balkans kills at least 20 people, and more
 
Thousands are evacuating their homes in the Balkans amid the threat of more flooding.
Thousands are evacuating their homes in the Balkans amid the threat of more flooding. (AP Photo/Marko Drobnjakovic)

1. GM to pay record $35 million fine following ignition switch recalls
General Motors' 10-year delay in recalling vehicles with faulty ignition switches cost the company $35 million in a record settlement, the Department of Transportation announced on Friday. GM employees knew about the defect as early as 2004, but the company failed to recall nearly 2.6 million vehicles until February of this year. The faulty ignition switches could shut off while driving, disabling airbags and even anti-lock brakes and power steering; the problem reportedly led to the deaths of at least 13 people. [TIME]

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2. Record flooding kills at least 20 people in the Balkans
At least 20 people are dead and tens of thousands more are evacuating their homes in Serbia and Bosnia, following record floods in the Balkans this week. Meteorologists said rainfall of this magnitude occurs only once each century, and the flooding is the worst recorded since scientists began tracking it 120 years ago. Officials believe they may find more bodies as floodwaters recede, and Serbian Prime Minister Aleksander Vucic warned his citizens that a new flood wave pushing along the Sava River could hit regions of the country on Sunday. [The Associated Press]

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3. GOP leaders block vote on citizenship path for military veterans
Republican leaders in the House on Friday blocked a vote on a popular bipartisan measure which would have provided a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who had served in the military. The legislation, known as the ENLIST Act and proposed by Jeff Denham (R-Calif.), focused specifically on those who had been brought illegally to the U.S. as children and later served in the military. It was opposed by far-right members who said the bill equated to "amnesty" for immigrants. [The Associated Press]

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4. Top VA health care official resigns amid uproar
Just a day after appearing before Congress in response to the Department of Veterans Affairs' alleged mismanagement, Dr. Robert Petzel stepped down from his post as undersecretary for health. Petzel, who was expected to retire later this year, offered his resignation to VA Secretary Eric Shinseki on Friday; Shinseki accepted, saying the VA must "do more to improve timely access" to healthcare. Complaints about long wait lists and falsified reports at VA hospitals and clinics have rocked the department, triggering a deluge of inquiries. [The Associated Press]

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5. NAACP names Cornell William Brooks as new national president
On the 60th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education decision by the Supreme Court, the NAACP announced Cornell William Brooks as its new national president and CEO this morning. Brooks, 53, is a civil rights attorney and ordained minister from Georgetown, South Carolina. "As long as America continues to be a great, but imperfect nation, there will be a need for the NAACP," he said. Brooks also noted that he plans to address issues such as voting rights, resegregation of schools, and renewed activism among young people. [The Associated Press, The Root]

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6. Arkansas Supreme Court suspends gay marriage ruling
Just a day after Arkansas judge Chris Piazza revised his ruling last week which overturned the state's gay marriage ban to include all state laws preventing gay couples from marrying, the state Supreme Court suspended Piazza's decision on Friday. Piazza first struck down the state's same-sex marriage ban last week, and more than 450 same-sex couples had since obtained marriage licenses. However, the Supreme Court noted a law prohibiting clerks from issuing marriage licenses, which is separate from the marriage ban. Piazza expanded his ruling to include that law on Thursday, only to have the Supreme Court place his revised decision on hold. [The Associated Press]

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7. U.N. monitors: Human rights violations escalating in Ukraine
United Nations monitors released a report Friday saying a significant number of human rights violations had been noted in Crimea and eastern Ukraine. The 34-strong contingent, which Russia dismissed as political maneuvering by Western powers, cited a "wave of abductions and unlawful detentions." Most of the incidents reported were in eastern parts of the country currently controlled by armed groups, and the report noted that Ukraine's May 25 presidential election could be an important factor in calming the tension — although several candidates have reported incidents of intimidation already. [Reuters]

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8. Golden Gate Capital agrees to buy Red Lobster for $2.1 billion
Let's hope the "Olive Garden renaissance program" pays off for Darden Restaurant Inc., which agreed on Friday to sell its Red Lobster seafood restaurant chain for $2.1 billion to Golden Gate Capital. The San Francisco private equity firm will officially acquire the chain after the deal closes in the first quarter of 2015. Darden's Red Lobster store sales declined by 8.8 percent in March as compared to the same time last year. However, some of Darden's shareholders expressed concern over how the deal would affect their stock values. [Los Angeles Times]

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9. Barbara Walters makes final appearance on The View
Barbara Walters retired on Friday from a journalism career spanning more than half a century. There to see her off The View, a talk show Walters founded 17 years ago, were 25 of the most influential female broadcast journalists working today — representing every major news network. "I was teary, but I wasn't going to cry because I was really very happy," Walters said after the show, which also featured guest appearances by Oprah Winfrey and Hillary Clinton, wishing Walters a happy retirement. [ABC News]

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10. Scientists discover bones of what may be 'biggest dinosaur ever'
Paleontologists announced this week that they have uncovered the fossilized bones of what may be the largest dinosaur discovered yet. A local farmer first found the remains in Argentina, and scientists said they have uncovered nearly 150 bones so far, all in "remarkable condition." While researchers at the site estimate the dinosaur could have been as tall as a seven-story building, Dr. Paul Barrett cautioned that it is too early to know for sure just how big the animal might have been, but that it is nevertheless "a genuinely big critter." [BBC News]

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Sarah Eberspacher is an associate editor at TheWeek.com. She has previously worked as a sports reporter at The Livingston County Daily Press & Argus and The Arizona Republic. She graduated from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism.

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