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10 things you need to know today: March 18, 2019

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Harold Maass
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern
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1.

Ethiopian authorities cite 'clear similarities' in 2 crashes

Preliminary data from the flight recorders of the Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 Max 8 plane that crashed a week ago, killing 157 people, show "clear similarities" to the deadly crash of a Lion Air 737 Max 8 in October, Ethiopia's transport minister, Dagmawit Moges, said Sunday. Moges did not discuss the similarities. Both planes were new, and crashed shortly after takeoff. Both aircraft flew with erratic altitude changes that could have indicated pilots struggling to control the jets. Thousands of people marched through the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, on Sunday with empty caskets. Authorities have said recovering and identifying the bodies could take months. [CNN]

2.

New Zealand leader promises gun reform after mosque massacres

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Monday that she planned to announce gun reforms in response to the Friday mass shootings that killed 50 people at two mosques in the city of Christchurch. "Within 10 days of this horrific act of terrorism we will have announced reforms which will, I believe, make our community safer," Ardern said after her cabinet reached agreement "in principle" on the proposals. "Our gun laws will change," Ardern said. Australian Brenton Tarrant, 28, a suspected white supremacist accused in the attacks, was charged with murder on Saturday. Ardern said he had a gun license and used five guns, including two semi-automatic weapons purchased legally but modified. New Zealand has relaxed gun laws but regulates military-style semi-automatic weapons. [Reuters, CNN]

3.

People flock to New Zealand memorials to honor mosque massacre victims

Thousands of mourners turned out Sunday to pay tribute at makeshift memorials to the 50 people killed by a gunman who attacked two Christchurch, New Zealand, mosques. People from across the country showed up to leave notes, candles, and balloons outside the Al Noor Mosque and Christchurch's botanic gardens. Relatives continued to wait for authorities to release the victims' bodies two days after the Friday mass shootings. Islamic law calls for cleansing and burying the dead as soon as possible, usually within 24 hours. Authorities said they were conscious of the cultural and religious needs, and were working as fast as possible to verify identities and causes of death so they can release the bodies. [The Associated Press]

4.

Record flooding continues in Midwest after 'bomb cyclone'

Heavy rain from a "bomb cyclone" caused what the National Weather Service called "major and historic flooding" in the Midwest on Sunday, as the Missouri River hit record levels in some areas between Omaha and Kansas City. At least three people were killed, and hundreds of families were forced to leave their homes. The home base of the U.S. Strategic Command, which oversees U.S. strategic nuclear forces, had to sharply curb operations. More rain is expected in some areas on Tuesday. "That could trigger new or aggravate problems if that rain targets the areas hit hardest by the flooding," he said. The governors of Nebraska, Iowa, and Wisconsin have declared states of emergency. [NBC News, USA Today]

5.

Gillibrand officially launches presidential campaign

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) on Sunday formally launched her 2020 presidential campaign. Gillibrand, who joins more than a dozen candidates for the Democratic nomination to challenge President Trump, said she would deliver the first major speech of her campaign in from of Trump International Hotel in New York City next week, although she already has visited several key early-primary states. "We need a leader who makes big, bold, brave choices. Someone who isn't afraid of progress," Gillibrand said in a video released early Sunday. "That's why I'm running for president." [Reuters]

6.

Report: U.S. to leave 1,000 troops in Syria

The U.S. military is putting together plans to keep 1,000 American service members in Syria, The Wall Street Journal reported Sunday, citing U.S. officials. The preparations mark a shift from President Trump's announcement three months ago that he had ordered a complete withdrawal of U.S. troops from the war-torn country. The U.S. has been trying to negotiate a safe zone in northeastern Syria, key to the withdrawal plan, through talks with Turkey, allies in Europe, and U.S.-backed Kurdish fighters in Syria. Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, refuted the Journal report, saying, "There has been no change to the plan announced in February and we continue to implement the president's direction to draw down U.S. forces to a residual presence." [The Wall Street Journal, CNN]

7.

Israel top court bans far-right candidate, allows Arab slate

Israel's Supreme Court on Sunday reversed an election committee decision and disqualified a far-right candidate from the April 9 national election. The court also overturned the Central Election Committee's blocking of a joint Arab slate and a candidate from a leftist alliance from the election. Human rights groups and Arab-led parties praised the ruling, but Michael Ben Ari, leader of the far-right Otzma Yehudit faction, called the decision against his candidacy anti-democratic. "There is a legal junta here who wants to take over our lives," Ben Ari said in a statement. "This is not democracy." [The Washington Post]

8.

Trump slams GM, union leader for closure of Ohio plant

President Trump on Sunday harshly criticized General Motors and an Ohio union leader over an assembly plant GM closed this month. Trump said he called GM CEO Mary Barra and asked her to sell the plant or "do something quickly." He said she "blamed" the United Auto workers for the decision to shut down the factory. "I don't care," Trump tweeted, "I just want it open!" Trump said "the economy is so good" there is no reason the plant can't succeed. "Democrat UAW Local 1112 President David Green ought to get his act together and produce," Trump tweeted. "G.M. let our Country down, but other much better car companies are coming into the U.S. in droves." Green has written letters to Trump asking him to step in and save the plant. [CNBC]

9.

Duke, North Carolina, Virginia, and Gonzaga take NCAA tournament top seeds

The Duke Blue Devils took the top overall seed in the NCAA men's basketball tournament on Sunday. Duke, led by freshman superstar Zion Williamson, was joined by Virginia, North Carolina, and Gonzaga as the No. 1 seeds in the four March Madness brackets. Duke stumbled at the end of the regular season, going 3-3 in six games Williamson missed after his Nike shoe blew out and he wrenched his knee. He returned for the ACC tournament, which Duke won with victories over North Carolina and a Florida State team that was fresh off a victory over Virginia. The tournament starts Tuesday with two games, with the Final Four scheduled to begin April 6. [MarketWatch]

10.

Surf guitar king Dick Dale dies at 81

Dick Dale, widely known as the "King of Surf Guitar," died over the weekend. He was 81. Dale, born Richard Monsour, grew up in Massachusetts but his music came to represent the surf culture of his adopted state, California. Dale started out playing drums, and early in his career played country music. The song "Misirlou," which he recorded in 1962, made him part of rock history and resurfaced in Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction in the 1990s. Despite recognition as an icon, Dale said he wasn't a true master guitar player. "The guitar players are guys like Stevie Vai, Eddie Van Halen, these are guys that are really masters of their instruments," he once said. "I'm just a master of just getting sound." [Orange County Register]