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10 things you need to know today: March 15, 2019

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Harold Maass
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1.

Dozens killed in mass shootings at 2 New Zealand mosques

At least 49 people were killed Friday in mass shootings at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, Police Commissioner Mike Bush said. Dozens more people were seriously wounded. Police said three people were taken into custody, and one person was charged with murder. A man who claimed responsibility for the attacks posted links to a white-nationalist, anti-immigrant manifesto on social media and identified himself as a racist. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said many of those targeted may be migrants and refugees. "It is clear that this can now only be described as a terrorist attack," Ardern said, adding that Friday "will be one of New Zealand's darkest days." The country's national security alert system has been raised to high. [The Associated Press]

2.

Senate rejects Trump border emergency declaration

The Senate on Thursday voted 59-41 to reject President Trump's declaration of a national emergency on the U.S.-Mexico border, with 12 Republicans joining Democrats in a bipartisan rebuke. The vote on the measure, already approved by the Democrat-controlled House, set up what would likely be Trump's first veto, which he signaled he would use to keep the declaration in place. Proponents in the Senate fell eight votes short of the votes they would need to override a veto. Trump declared a national emergency on the border to give him access to new sources of money to build his promised border wall after Congress declined to fund it. Supporters of the measure said Trump was setting a dangerous precedent by using the National Emergencies Act of 1976 to go around Congress' authority to make spending decisions. [The New York Times]

3.

U.K. lawmakers approve Brexit delay

Britain's Parliament voted Thursday to approve delaying the U.K.'s exit from the European Union, which had been scheduled for March 29. The 412 to 202 vote marked an acknowledgement that lawmakers need more time to agree to Brexit terms, although they overwhelmingly rejected holding a second referendum on whether to leave the EU. Earlier this week, lawmakers rejected for the second time Brexit terms that Prime Minister Theresa May negotiated with the EU. Parliament also rejected leaving the EU with no deal in place. The issue remained unresolved, however, because the Brexit deadline is legally binding. May must now go back to the EU and request an extension, probably for three months, but all 27 remaining members of the European trading bloc would have to agree to the change. [BBC News]

4.

Stanford students file first lawsuit over admissions cheating scandal

Two Stanford University students on Thursday filed the first federal lawsuit over an alleged college admissions cheating scheme that led to charges against 50 people, including 33 parents and several college coaches. The students who filed the suit, Erica Olsen and Kalea Woods, are seeking class-action status, and argue that the scandal has diminished the value of their degrees, because prospective employers might wonder whether they got in because of their merits "versus having parents who were willing to bribe school officials." The lawsuit asks for compensatory and punitive damages, and names Stanford, the University of Southern California, UCLA, the University of San Diego, the University of Texas at Austin, Wake Forest, Yale, and Georgetown, all schools cited in the alleged conspiracy. [USA Today, CNN]

5.

House votes 420-0 to demand making Mueller report public

The House on Thursday voted 420-0 to pass a non-binding resolution calling for the Justice Department to make Special Counsel Robert Mueller's final report public. No member of Congress voted against the resolution, though Republican Reps. Justin Amash (Mich.), Matt Gaetz (Fla.), Paul Gosar (Ariz.), and Thomas Massie (Ky.) voted "present." The resolution, which needed a simple majority to pass, called for the report to be available to Congress once it's released, though it remains unclear when Mueller's investigation into whether President Trump's campaign was involved with Russian election interference in 2016 will conclude. [The New York Times, C-Span]

6.

Connecticut high court rules Sandy Hook parents can sue gun-maker

The Connecticut Supreme Court on Thursday reversed a lower court judge's dismissal of a lawsuit that families of victims in the 2012 Sandy Hook elementary school massacre filed against the Remington Arms Company. The ruling clears the way for the families to subpoena internal documents on how the gun company marketed the semi-automatic AR-15 assault-style rifle, which was used in Sandy Hook and numerous other mass shootings. "There is a reason why this particular consumer product is the one that is used by people who want to inflict the most damage," said David Wheeler, whose son Ben was killed in the Sandy Hook attack. "That reason very likely potentially resides in the documents that we have been unable to look at until now." [Hartford Courant]

7.

North Korea threatens to end talks and resume nuclear tests

North Korea on Friday threatened to halt negotiations with the Trump administration on denuclearization. Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son-hui said at a Pyongyang news conference that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Adviser John Bolton had created an "atmosphere of hostility and mistrust" that prevented a deal at last month's summit between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Choe said relations between Trump and Kim were "still good and the chemistry is mysteriously wonderful," but that Kim had doubts about the value of further talks. She said Kim would soon decide whether to end a moratorium and resume nuclear and missile tests.

8.

Tesla unveils Model Y SUV

Tesla on Thursday unveiled its Model Y SUV, which CEO Elon Musk predicted would become the electric-car maker's best seller. A $47,000 two-row version will come out in fall 2020. It will go from 0 to 60 miles per hour in 5.5 seconds. A $60,000 performance model is expected to be available this year, with a $39,000 base model to be released in 2021. Musk said the Model Y will share about 75 percent of its components with Tesla's new Model 3 sedans, making the SUV far less expensive to launch than the Model 3 has been. With its $39,000 to $60,000 range, the Model Y is more expensive than the Model 3 but far less expensive than the ultra-luxury Model X SUV. [USA Today, CNBC]

9.

Ethiopian Airlines pilot reportedly hit trouble right after taking off

The pilot of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 reported a "flight control" problem just one minute after taking off from Addis Ababa on Sunday, The New York Times reported Thursday, citing a person who reviewed air traffic communications. The brand new Boeing 737 MAX aircraft crashed while en route to Nairobi, killing all 157 people on board. The person said that three minutes into the flight, the pilot sounded panicked, and requested permission to return to the airport. By that point, air traffic controllers had already noticed that the plane had accelerated to an unusually high speed, and was erratically moving up and down. Within five minutes, contact with the jet was lost. The voice and data recorders are now in France, where they will be analyzed. [The New York Times]

10.

'Bomb cyclone' hits Iowa and Nebraska with flooding

The "bomb cyclone" that hit Colorado with snow and hurricane-force winds moved on to hit Iowa and Nebraska with heavy rain, flooding, and tornadoes on Thursday. Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds declared a disaster as crews rushed to rescue dozens of people trapped by floods. In western Kentucky, a tornado touched down in West Paducah, injuring one person, downing power lines, and forcing authorities to close several roads. "I saw the trees coming up out of the ground and flying through the air and power lines coming up and laying down over the road," said McCracken County Deputy Sheriff Sgt. Ryan Willcutt. The storm system is expected to bring the dangerous weather east before heading north into Canada. [CNN]