In a public referendum, a reported 87 percent of voters in Crimea, an autonomous Ukrainian republic with a population of 2.3 million mostly Russian-speaking residents that was part of Russia until being transferred to Ukraine in 1954, chose to join the Russian Federation. Crimea’s minority Muslim Tatar population, which was deported in 1944 then returned en masse in the 1980s, boycotted the vote, whose turnout was reportedly 83 percent. The United States imposed asset freezes and travel bans on 11 Russian and Ukrainian officials, and Ukraine’s interim prime minister, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, said his government, which recently dissolved Crimea’s parliament, would not recognize the results. “Under the stage direction of the Russian Federation, a circus performance is underway,” said Yatsenyuk. “It’s like they’re crazy Texans in western Ukraine,” said a pro-secession voter. “Imagine if the Texans suddenly took over power [in Washington] and told everyone they should speak Texan.” In the week prior to the referendum, Russia massed troops near the Ukrainian border, occupied Ukraine’s Chornomorskoye naval base, seized a Ukrainian gas plant, shut down all flights from the Crimean capital of Simferopol except those to Moscow, and vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution declaring the referendum illegal. “President Putin has started a game,” said Senator Robert Menendez (D., N.J.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, “of Russian roulette.” Former leftist guerrilla commander Salvador Sánchez Cerén was elected president of El Salvador, former Colombian president Álvaro Uribe was elected to the country’s senate, and North Korea held parliamentary elections under the slogan “Let’s all vote in agreement!” President Barack Obama appeared on Zach Galifianakis’s Internet talk-show satire, Between Two Ferns, and Ryan Seacrest’s radio program, On Air, to promote the Affordable Care Act and rebut Republican critics of his foreign policy. “I’ve been unfairly maligned,” Obama said of a criticism that he wears mom jeans, whereas Vladimir Putin wrestles bears. “I look very sharp in jeans.”
An international search by the governments of 26 countries continued for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, which disappeared en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. Malaysian authorities said the plane had stopped emitting radio signals at 1:07 A.M. on March 8, 12 minutes before the co-pilot radioed “good night” and 14 minutes before its transponder shut down, then said they didn’t know when it stopped signaling; said that five checked-in passengers had failed to board the plane, then said none had, then said four had failed to check in at all; described two passengers with stolen passports as having “Asian faces,” then suggested they looked like African-Italian soccer player Mario Balotelli; and said the plane had either been diverted to the northwest, over Asia, or to the southwest, over the Indian Ocean. “Clearly,” said CIA director John Brennan, “this is still a mystery.” U.S. Navy SEALs commandeered the oil tanker Morning Glory, a North Korean–flagged vessel of unknown origins that had been loaded with 200,000 barrels of oil at a militia-occupied Libyan port, and North Korea was found to have hidden a weapons shipment beneath 10,000 pounds of sugar. In Nigeria, gangs of semi-nomadic Fulani cattle herders killed at least 169 people in attacks on seven farming communities with which they have been engaged in land disputes, and seven people died in stampedes at a stadium in Abuja where 65,000 Nigerians had been invited to pay $6 to take an aptitude test for 4,556 job openings at the country’s immigration service. In Mexico, a self-defense organizer was accused of complicity in the deaths of two rival self-defense organizers, and a drug lord known as The Craziest One, who had been presumed dead in 2010, was declared newly dead. A Mississippi man who awoke last month in a body bag at a funeral home died.
The U.S. Senate unanimously passed a military sexual-assault bill that included a provision eliminating the “good soldier” defense, which allowed defendants to cite their exemplary military records to counter charges of sexual misconduct. Radio astronomers declared that they had detected the beginning of the Big Bang, and a former Tampa police officer charged with shooting a man in a cinema because he was annoyed by the man’s texting was found also to have been texting. During a dispute with an angry cyclist, a Liverpudlian driver opened his jacket to reveal an ailing red-crowned Amazon parrot. “Sorry,” said the driver, “I’ve got a parrot dying on me here.” Biologists in Buffalo gathered the carcasses of nearly a thousand ducks who had starved or eaten selenium-harboring invasive zebra mussels when they couldn’t access minnows beneath Great Lakes ice, and Breton fisherman Joseph Jambon loaned his boat Le Papy to a campaign designed to turn the invasive fornicating slipper snail (Crepidula fornicata) into a delicacy. A Wisconsin speech pathologist diagnosed Scooby Doo with rhotic replacement disorder, and Washington veterinarians reported that more dogs were being admitted for cannabis poisoning since the state legalized marijuana consumption. A U.S. government report about the economics of prostitution suggested that pimps prefer to work alone. “Pimps are like eagles,” said one survey respondent. “They soar by themselves.”
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