March 17, 2014 / 5:25 AM / 4 years ago

PRESS DIGEST - Wall Street Journal - March 17

March 17 (Reuters) - The following are the top stories in the Wall Street Journal. Reuters has not verified these stories and does not vouch for their accuracy.

* More than 95 percent of Crimeans voted to break away from Ukraine and rejoin Russia, according to preliminary results, in a referendum that raises the stakes in the most acute East-West confrontation since the Cold War.()

* Strange alliances have cropped up since armed militants overtook the city of Fallujah early this year and placed it under the control of the city’s Sunni majority. That majority may hate al Qaeda and its rigid theocratic mores - but they despise Nouri Al Maliki, the Shiite prime minister, even more.

* Vodafone Group Plc has reached an agreement with shareholders of Ono to buy the Spanish cable company for just over 7 billion euros ($9.73 billion) including debt. ()

* German utility RWE AG intends to sell its oil and gas production unit to Russian billionaire Mikhail Fridman for more than $7 billion. ()

* Senate lawmakers released their first draft of a bipartisan bill Sunday spelling out their proposal, previously announced last week, to eliminate Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The legislation replaces the mortgage-finance giants with a new system in which the government would continue to play a potentially significant role insuring U.S. home loans. ()

* American Financial Group Inc plans to withdraw its takeover bid for National Interstate Corp after a judge signaled he would block the deal and parties to a lawsuit over it were unable over the weekend to resolve their differences, an AFG spokeswoman confirmed. ()

* Hours after Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd kicked off the process for an IPO in New York, the head of the Hong Kong stock exchange, once the front-runner for the deal, urged regulators to allow changes of rules to accommodate new listings. ()

* Toyota Motor Corp has suspended operations at two auto assembly plants in India, following the failure of wage negotiations with the union, a company spokesman said Monday. ()

* Long frustrated in efforts to collect payments from some users of its software in China and other emerging markets, Microsoft Corp has enlisted help from an unlikely set of allies: attorneys general in states such as Louisiana and Oklahoma. ()

* Encana Corp is in advanced talks to sell its Wyoming natural-gas fields to private-equity firms Carlyle Group LP and NGP Energy Capital Management LLC for about $2 billion, according to people familiar with the matter. ()

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