'Start Here': Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin linked to college bribery scheme, and Boeing's newest jet gets grounded

Here's what you need to know to start your day.

It's Wednesday, March 13, 2019. Let's start here.

1. 'Varsity Blues'

Dozens of wealthy parents stand accused of participating in a $25 million plot to smuggle their children into some of the nation's top colleges and the University of Southern California.

Emmy-winning "Desperate Housewives" star Felicity Huffman and "Full House" actress Lori Loughlin are among some 50 parents charged in what the Justice Department is calling the largest college cheating scam it's ever prosecuted.

"This whole thing," ABC News' Aaron Katersky says on today's "Start Here" podcast, "really belies the notion that college admissions is based on the meritocracy we all think."

2. Boeing backlash

Boeing is on the defensive as more and more carriers in more and more countries refuse to fly the company's 737 Max 8 jets after a crash in Ethiopia killed 157 people about five months after a crash in Indonesia killed 189.

The Federal Aviation Administration said it's yet to find evidence to take action, and Boeing said in a statement on Tuesday that the company has "full confidence in the safety of the 737 Max."

ABC News Senior Transportation Correspondent David Kerley tells us on "Start Here" that the two black boxes recovered from the crash site in Ethiopia should help solve the mystery of what went wrong on Flight 302.

3. 'Anything they can to survive'

A blackout in Venezuela has stretched to nearly a week as families are scrambling to secure food and fresh water.

The Venezuelan government has accused the U.S. and opposition leaders of hacking its power grid as part of an effort to supplant President Nicolas Maduro with Juan Guaido. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo denied that, saying the power outages are "a direct result of years and years of neglect to the Venezuelan energy system."

ABC News Chief National Correspondent Tom Llamas describes on today's podcast that many Venezuelans are "doing anything they can to survive."

4. Biden his time?

Former Vice President Joe Biden teased a potential 2020 candidacy on Tuesday as a friendly crowd chanted, "Run, Joe, run!"

"I appreciate the energy," he told a gathering of the International Association of Firefighters in Washington, D.C. "Save it a little longer -- I may need it in a few weeks."

Senior Congressional Correspondent Mary Bruce tells us on today's podcast that it's the clearest sign yet the 76-year-old may run, as people who know the former vice president tell ABC News he's "90 percent there."


'I do not believe that a civilized society can claim to be a leader in the world as long as its government continues to sanction the premeditated and discriminatory execution of its people': The governor of California announces a moratorium on the death penalty.

'Freeman said he was very upset': A Florida man takes a loaded AK-47 to his son's school.

'With one of her accomplices, she intentionally amputated her left hand, hoping to stage it as an accident': Authorities in Slovenia accuse a 21-year-old woman of some pretty elaborate insurance fraud.

From our friends at FiveThirtyEight:

Did the Giants just make the Browns Super Bowl contenders?: The trade definitively signals that the Browns -- just a year removed from a winless season in 2017 -- are legitimate contenders for a playoff berth.

Doff your cap:

In 2016, Virginia McLaurin visited the White House, and a video of her dancing with the Obamas ended up being viewed tens of millions of times.

McLaurin turned 110 on Tuesday, and Michelle Obama, a Harvard Law grad and best-selling author who also married a president, celebrated the occasion via Instagram.

"Start Here" is the flagship daily news podcast from ABC News -- a straightforward look at the day's top stories in 20 minutes. Listen for free every weekday on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeartRadio, Spotify, Stitcher, TuneIn, or the ABC News app. On Amazon Echo, ask Alexa to "Play 'Start Here'" or add the "Start Here" skill to your Flash Briefing. Follow @StartHereABC on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram for exclusive content, show updates and more.