KNOW IT ALL: Friday's Top Stories at NBC News


A Ukrainian soldier stands guard near a checkpoint which troops seized in the early morning in the village of Andreevka, 7 kms from the center of the southern Ukrainian city of Slavyansk, on Friday. Ukraine's military lost two helicopters and two servicemen in an offensive launched just before dawn against pro-Russian rebels holding the flashpoint town of Slavyansk, insurgents and authorities said. VASILY MAXIMOV / AFP - Getty Images

Good morning, and thank goodness it's Friday. Here are some of the stories we're following today:

1. Merkel makes White House visit to talk Russia

German Chancellor Angela Merkel will meet with President Obama today, and Russia is expected to be high on the agenda. The pair could decide when to pull the trigger on tougher sanctions against Russia because of its involvement in Ukraine. Troops in Ukraine, meanwhile, launched a military offensive today against pro-Russian separatists in the east — effectively shattering a peace accord hammered out last month, Russian officials said. Read more in NEWS.

2. Hunt for missing jet could take up to a year

The search for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 could take up to a year, Australian officials said today, as they vowed not to give up looking for any signs of the doomed plane in the southern Indian Ocean. A report released Thursday didn’t shed much light on what could have happened to the aircraft, nor did the audio recordings of the final cockpit conversation. Read more in NEWS.


3. Sterling reportedly battling cancer amid more fallout

Disgraced Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling is battling cancer, according to two reports. His possible failing health comes as the other NBA owners begin the next steps to formally vote Sterling out of the league. Meanwhile, the head of the NAACP’s L.A. chapter, Leon Jenkins, submitted his resignation over plans that the group was going to honor Sterling, who was caught on tape making racist comments. Read more in NEWS.

4. Execution officials couldn’t find inmate’s vein

New details emerged Thursday in the botched execution of Oklahoma inmate Clayton Lockett. The state’s prison chief wrote in a letter to the governor that medical officials were unable to find a good vein to administer the lethal injection via Lockett’s arms, legs or feet. So instead, they ran the line into his groin, where the vein collapsed. Additionally, Lockett had been Tasered and cut his own arm hours before the execution. Read more in NEWS.

5. Fatal shooting of two Alaska troopers shocks remote town

Two state troopers were killed Thursday in the remote village of Tanana. Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell said in a statement that he and his wife, Sandy, “were deeply saddened to learn of the senseless, brutal crime that took the lives of two of Alaska’s finest.” One person was detained in the shootings, but police gave no further details. Read more in NEWS.

6. Kentucky Derby fever rises as No. 2 horse bows out

Early second choice Hoppertunity is hopping out of Saturday’s big race at Churchill Downs because of a sore left front foot. That leaves California Chrome as the first place favorite. Meanwhile, fans of The Derby, now in its 140th running, can follow their favorite horses on social media, dress up and drink mint juleps, even if it’s from home. Read more at POP CULTURE and follow The Derby at NBC SPORTS.

The winner of the TODAY show's Kathie Lee and Hoda's Derby hat contest definitely went all out:

… What’s trending today?

Who says chivalry is dead?

College Hunks Hauling Junk employee Cesar Larios acted as a human seat for an elderly woman in a broken down elevator. Someone snapped a picture of Larios with 79-year-old Rita Young on his back, and then uploaded it to Facebook. Young was having a panic attack during the ordeal.

“She kind of started putting her weight on my back little by little, and then after a few seconds, she was just, like, chilling on my back,” Larios later told FOX 13 in Detroit.

Young told the station she’d like to thank Larios again.