Good morning, and happy Thursday. Here are six of the top stories we are following this morning at NBC News:
1. Officials: More dead-ends in search for missing jet
Malaysia’s civil aviation chief is denying a Wall Street Journal report that the Malaysian Airlines jet continued flying for four more hours after it lost communication with air traffic controllers. Meanwhile, no debris was found at the spot where Chinese satellite images showed something that appeared to be wreckage. Read more in NEWS.
2. Death toll rises in New York City building explosion
At least seven people have died — and more than 70 injured — when two buildings exploded in East Harlem on Wednesday morning. One woman had called the local utility about a strong odor of gas just minutes before the blast. Read more in NEWS.
3. Pope Francis on mission to clean up Vatican finances
The new pope has proven to be popular among Catholics, according to an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, particularly for focusing on humility and service to others. But he’s also been a crusader in fixing the church’s scandal-scarred finances. Read more in NEWS.
Meanwhile, the pontiff sent out a special tweet on today’s first anniversary of being elected in his papal role:
4. Car plows into crowd at SXSW, killing two
A man suspected of drunken driving allegedly struck two people and injured 23 others early today outside of an Austin, Texas, club being used as a venue for the South by Southwest conference. Read more in NEWS.
5. Pistorius trial: Olympian vomits in court again
Oscar Pistorius retched and sobbed as the South African court today was shown graphic, close-up images of the body of Reeva Steenkamp, his girlfriend he’s accused of murdering last year. Pistorius has been visibly shaken and emotional in the highly charged trial, which began March 3. Read more in NEWS.
6. Venezuelan protesters in deadly clash with soldiers
Three more people have died in street battles in the country’s capital of Caracas, where near-daily clashes between anti-government protesters and armed government supporters has boiled over into violence. Students opposing the socialist government have vowed to keep protesting. Read more in NEWS.
… What’s trending today?
For the first time in nine years, Scrabble fans will get to pick a new word that will be added to its official dictionary.
Players have until March 28 to nominate their word of choice on Hasbro’s Facebook page. Sixteen finalists will be revealed on April 2, and voting will take place via Facebook until the winning word is announced April 10. It will then be added to the game in August.
Some of the nominated words so far are a sign of the times: