Good morning, and happy St. Patrick's Day. Here are six of the top stories we are following this morning at NBC News:
1. Sweeping majority of Crimeans vote to join Russia
More than 96 percent of Crimean voters indicated on Sunday they wanted to break away from Ukraine and become a part of Russia. President Barack Obama told Russian President Vladimir Putin that the U.S. and its allies were "prepared to impose additional costs on Russia for its actions." Crimea's parliament is set to meet Monday to formally request annexation by Russia. Read more in NEWS.
Meanwhile, NBC News' Richard Engel happened across a rather unsettling notion:
2. China demands more information from Malaysia on missing jet
China 's officials and media have been critical about Malaysia's search efforts and specificity of information. "We hope that Malaysia can provide more thorough, accurate information to countries participating," said China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman. Meanwhile, Australia took the lead searching the Indian Ocean after Malaysian authorities revealed Saturday that the jet could have flown thousands of miles off course. Read more in NEWS.
3. Pistorius had 'great love' for guns, witness testifies
A firearms service provider testified that Oscar Pistorius — accused of murdering his girlfriend — has a "great love and enthusiasm" for guns. The witness said Pistorius bought several firearms from him. Later, when pictures from the crime scene were displayed in court, the mother of the victim left the courtroom Read more in NEWS.
4. Some see more white than green this St. Paddy's Day
Parades in the Mid Atlantic and Midwest celebrating the patron saint of Ireland will be hampered by snow. Part of Pennsylvania and New Jersey could pick up 7 inches and Washington D.C. 5 inches through the morning — and the snow is expected to keep falling throughout the day. Meanwhile, in New York, snow wouldn't be a problem for parade-goers, but a controversy was "brewing." Read more in WEATHER.
5. 45 percent of food stamp recipients are children
An annual report from the United States Department of Agriculture found that nearly half of food stamp recipients are children, meaning 20 million participants are under the age of 18. Nine percent of recipients are age 60 or older, and nearly 10 percent are disabled adults, the study also found. Read more in ECONOMY.
6. March Madness gets underway
Have you started your bracket? Florida, Wichita State, Arizona and Virginia claimed the No. 1 seeds, as a total of 68 teams gear up to compete for the ultimate college basketball prize. Read more in SPORTS.
... What's trending today?
One little guy is certainly in the March Madness spirit, and for good reason — his grandfather is the St. Joseph's Coach. The little man might have a while before he can play college ball, so for now, he's helping out grandpa by mimicking his every move. Looks like he's even learning how to handle a press conference.