Good morning. Here are some of the stories we’re following today:
1. Election for Israeli prime minister remains a tight race
Millions of Israelis were voting Tuesday in a parliamentary election that pitched incumbent prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu against centrist rivals like Isaac Herzog. More than 10,000 polling stations were open across Israel, with polls due to close Tuesday night local time. Results are not expected until early Wednesday, and are likely to be followed by coalition negotiations. "Boujie" — born Isaac Herzog — has enjoyed a successful campaign after promising to improve strained relations with allies and neighbors, and analysts say that if elected, the well-connected attorney-turned-politician could change the tone in relations with the U.S. Read more in NEWS.
2. Robert Durst agrees to extradition to face murder charge
The New York City real estate heir linked to two killings and a disappearance agreed on Monday to travel to Los Angeles to face a first-degree murder charge after he was captured in an HBO documentary mumbling to himself, "Killed them all, of course." In a brief hearing in New Orleans, Durst agreed to extradition to face the charge in the 2000 killing of Susan Berman, his longtime confidant and college friend. Outside court, his lawyer, Dick DeGuerin, said that Durst didn't kill Berman: "He is ready to end all speculation and go to trial." Read more in NEWS.
3. Kurdish commander is helping lead fight against ISIS
Commander Kamal Kirkuki already has 11 bullets in his body from fighting Saddam Hussein's army. Now, he's leading his fighters to squeeze out ISIS from northern Iraq. During a tour given to NBC News, Kirkuki says his military force has taken around 200 ISIS prisoners and killed many more on the battlefield. But they concede they have lost a lot of their own fighters, known as Peshmerga. "About 1,000 Peshmerga have been killed by ISIS since this war started and 5,000 injured. But we are building our independence now," Kirkuki said. Read more in NEWS.
4. Rescuers race to reach Vanuatu's far-flung islands after cyclone
Cyclone Pam slammed into the tiny Pacific island nation on Friday and Saturday, leaving nearly one dozen people dead and causing extensive damage. Officials were only able to reach the remote outer islands of Vanuatu on Tuesday and communications were still down in many places. More than 80 percent of buildings were destroyed or badly damaged on the southern Tanna Island, Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop told reporters in Canberra. "We understand that the reconnaissance imagery shows widespread devastation," Bishop said. "Not only buildings flattened — palm plantations, trees. It's quite a devastating sight." Read more in NEWS.
5. Cops recall deadly shootout with Boston bombing suspects
Law enforcement caught up in the manhunt for the two Boston Marathon bombing suspects two years ago recalled in federal court Monday the events leading up to one of their deaths. The first to respond was Watertown, Massachusetts, police officer Joseph Reynolds, who was nearby when the call went out. In court, Reynolds said he found the Mercedes SUV that the Tsarnaev brothers were allegedly driving in his direction, very slowly. "We locked eyes at each other," Reynolds said of his encounter with the driver, Tamerlan Tsarnaev. Read more in NEWS.
6. Get your brackets ready! March Madness begins
The annual college hoops tourney kicks off Tuesday with the early-round games known as the First Four, which are played in Dayton, Ohio. Up first will be the Manhattan Jaspers taking on the Hampton Pirates at 6:40 p.m. ET, and then the BYU Cougars playing the Ole Miss Rebels at 9:40 p.m. ET. The winners will advance to the round of 64 and have an uphill fight against some of the top teams, including the No. 1 seed the Kentucky Wildcats. Follow the action at NBC Sports.
And now this ...
Cigars aren't the only product benefiting from the easing of the trade embargo between the U.S. and Cuba first announced late last year. A group of Americans donated skateboards to young Cubans to help spread the sport and open dialogue between the countries.