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College exam scandal fallout & the FAA stands by Boeing: The Morning Rundown

William Rick Singer orchestrated the college cheating scandal — and then wore a wire to expose it.
Image: Lori Loughlin, right, and her daughter Olivia Jade Giannulli attend a gala in Beverly Hills, California, on Feb. 27, 2018.
Lori Loughlin, right, and her daughter Olivia Jade Giannulli are under fire over the college cheating scandal. Axelle / Bauer-Griffin / FilmMagic file

Good morning, NBC News readers.

We've learned more about the man behind the massive college bribery scandal. The FAA is still resisting calls to ground Boeing jets. And 16 days before the U.K. is due to leave the E.U., Brexit may now be even more up in the air than before.

Here's what we're watching today.

‘I put everything in place’: Architect of cheating scandal wore wire to expose it

The man who confessed Tuesday to being behind a $25 million scheme to help college applicants cheat on entrance exams published a book in 2014 that stressed the need to establish a “personal brand” to get into a top school.

Now, William Rick Singer’s personal brand includes a host of criminal charges that could send him to jail for a maximum of 65 years.

Singer admitted that he helped bring down his own criminal enterprise by becoming “a cooperating witness” and wearing a wire for the FBI.

Of course, Singer is not the only one stung by his involvement in the scheme.

Actress Lori Loughlin and her husband, fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli, agreed to pay bribes totaling $500,000 to get their two daughters into the University of Southern California, according to the indictment.

Now one of their daughters, YouTube celebrity and social media influencer Olivia Jade, is coming under fire for past comments she made insinuating that she was not the most eager scholar.

The scandal has exposed the lengths some wealthy parents will go to get their children into elite colleges. While most parents are horrified by the scam, the stress and desperation of the college admissions process behind it is all too familiar.

FAA stands by its call to allow Boeing jet model to fly

Aviation experts, consumer advocates and politicians on both sides of the aisle have called for the Federal Aviation Administration to get the 737 Max 8 and Max 9 out of the skies while safety concerns raised by two recent deadly crashes are addressed.

But the federal agency has doubled down on its decision to allow airline carriers to continue operating the aircraft over America.

"Thus far, our review shows no systemic performance issues and provides no basis to order grounding the aircraft," the FAA said in a statement released Tuesday night.

That hasn't stopped the flood of criticism from industry experts.

"There’s been very little attention that has been paid in our country to the large loss of life in both of these accidents," one former chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board. "Had these accidents occurred in the United States, would we still be discussing this?"

With 16 days to go, the path forward on Brexit is clear as mud

For the second time in as many months, British lawmakers rejected Prime Minister Theresa May’s divorce deal with the European Union.

Tuesday's crushing defeat came just over two weeks before the United Kingdom is due to leave the 28-country bloc on March 29.

It casts doubt on whether Britain's departure will occur as scheduled — or even at all.


Science + Tech = MACH

A gigantic solar storm hit Earth about 2,600 years ago, according to a new study. If it happens again, scientists say we could have big trouble.


Did you spend the night tossing and turning? Here are five ways to fall asleep faster, according to experts.

Quote of the day

"I am absolutely responsible for it. I put everything in place. I put all the people in place and made the payments directly.”

William Rick Singer to a federal judge in Boston as he pleaded guilty to charges of racketeering conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy, conspiracy to defraud the United States, and obstruction of justice in the college cheating scheme.

One fun thing

Southern California is all aflutter thanks to an annual migration of butterflies known as the painted lady.

In recent days, the skies of some areas have been filled with the winged creatures as they fly from the deserts of Mexico toward their breeding grounds in Northern California and the Pacific Northwest.

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Thanks, Petra