10 Things to Know: This Week's Takeaways

Associated Press Updated: March 8, 2014 at 1:00 am • Published: March 7, 2014 0

Looking back at the stories to remember from the past week:

1. UKRAINE CRISIS DEEPENS: Ukraine lurched toward a possible breakup as Russia tightened its grip on Crimea and Western powers groped for solutions to the crisis. Lawmakers in Crimea unanimously declared they want to join Russia and planned to put the decision to voters on March 16, a move condemned by President Barack Obama. The West answered with the first real sanctions against Russia.

2. MILITARY SEX ASSAULT MEASURE FAILS: Bowing to the Pentagon, the Senate agreed to leave the authority to prosecute rapes and other serious crimes with military commanders in a struggle that highlighted the growing role of women in Congress. The 55-45 vote to strip commanders of that authority fell short of the 60 votes necessary to move ahead on the legislation. It would have given the decision to take serious crimes to courts-martial to seasoned military trial lawyers, independent of the chain of command.

3. AMERICAN JOB MARKET IMPROVES: U.S. employers stepped up hiring in February despite harsh winter weather. The monthly Labor Department report renewed hopes that the economy could accelerate this year. Employers added 175,000 jobs, up from 129,000 in January. The unemployment rate rose to 6.7 percent from a five-year low of 6.6 percent as more Americans began seeking jobs. But that was regarded as an encouraging sign because it suggested job seekers were becoming more optimistic.

4. PISTORIOUS TRIAL STARTS: Oscar Pistorius' murder trial began in South Africa with emotional and at times gruesome testimony about the double-amputee runner's actions and the injuries of his girlfriend immediately after she had been shot three times — once in the head — on Valentine's Day last year. Witnesses recalled hearing screams and gunshots from the Olympic sprinter's residence. One described how a weeping, praying Pistorius knelt at Reeva Steenkamp's side and struggled in vain to help her breathe.

5. SAT GETS AN UPDATE: The organization that oversees the SAT college-entrance exam announced the first update to the test since 2005. The changes will set the perfect score back at 1,600, make the essay optional and end the practice of penalizing students for wrong answers. College Board officials said the revisions were needed to make the exam more representative of what students study in high school and the skills they need to succeed in college and beyond.

6. EL NINO COULD RETURN: The weather-weary United States might soon get some relief, but it could be at the cost of an even warmer year worldwide. Federal forecasters predicted a warming of the central Pacific Ocean this year that will change weather around the globe, bringing more rain to drought-stricken California and southern states and a milder winter to the northern U.S. The El Nino warming should develop by this summer, but there are no guarantees.

7. BIN LADEN'S SON-IN-LAW GOES ON TRIAL: Osama bin Laden's son-in-law went on trial in New York on charges he conspired to kill Americans in his role as al-Qaida's mouthpiece after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Sulaiman Abu Ghaith is the highest-ranking al-Qaida figure to face trial on U.S. soil since the attacks. Prosecutors will make their case to an anonymous jury.

8. UNITED CRACKS DOWN ON OVERSIZED BAGS: United Airlines is getting tough on passengers with oversized carry-on bags. The Chicago-based airline has started a push to better enforce rules restricting the size of carry-on bags — an effort that will include instructing workers at security checkpoint entrances to eyeball passengers for bags that are too big. Fliers with overstuffed luggage will be sent back to the ticket counter to check their suitcases for a fee.

9. DIVERSITY WINS AT OSCARS: Diversity might have been the biggest winner at the 86th annual Academy Awards. For the first time, a film directed by a black filmmaker — Steve McQueen of "12 Years a Slave" — won best picture and a Latino — Alfonso Cuaron of "Gravity" — took home best director in a ceremony presided over by a lesbian host and overseen by the academy's first black president. Only two of the top six awards went to Americans.

10. PROMINENT MEDICAL ETHICIST DIES: Dr. Sherwin Nuland, a medical ethicist who opposed assisted suicide and wrote an award-winning book about death, died of prostate cancer at age 83. Nuland's 1994 book, "How We Die: Reflections on Life's Final Chapter," described how life is lost to diseases and old age. The tome helped spark national debate over end-of-life decisions and doctor-assisted suicide, which he called "the exact opposite direction in which we ought to go."

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