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Mark Memmott

As NPR and other news outlets report about the hundreds of people killed this month when the ship they were on went down off the Libyan coast, the stories are referring to those who died as "migrants."

We don't need to go on at length about why today's running of the Boston Marathon is important.

The headlines about one of Wednesday's big stories — the release of data from 2012 about Medicare payment to doctors around the nation — are certainly serious sounding:

-- "Sliver of Medicare Doctors Get Big Share of Payouts." (The New York Times)

This post is being updated.

Satellite images showing objects floating in the Indian Ocean have focused the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 and the 239 people who were on board to an area about 1,500 miles southwest of Perth, Australia.

Ukraine's plans to withdraw its troops from Crimea, which as we reported were announced Wednesday, have apparently been complicated by the issue of whether they will be allowed to take their weapons and other equipment with them.

This news that broke locally in Florida last week is starting to grab headlines and attention across the nation:

"Disney Ends Funding To Boy Scouts Over Gay Policy." (The Associated Press)

Here's how The Orlando Sentinel, one of the first outlets to report the news, frames the story:

"The first witness at Oscar Pistorius' murder trial told the court on Monday she heard 'bloodcurdling screams' from a woman followed by shots," Reuters writes.

It was, the wire service adds, "a dramatic opening to a case that could see one of global sports' most admired role models jailed for life."

NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton reminds our Newscast Desk that:

This may be welcome news for those who suffer from coulrophobia, but it's no joke to those who agree with Cole Porter that "all the world loves a clown":

Penn State University, which dismissed its president and its legendary football coach in late 2011 for their roles in dealing with allegations that an assistant coach had been molesting young boys, announced Monday that Florida State University President Eric Barron is leaving the Sunshine State to be PSU's next l

"Three starters on the Dolphins offensive line — Richie Incognito, John Jerry and Mike Pouncey — engaged in a pattern of harassment directed at not only Jonathan Martin, but also another young Dolphins offensive lineman and an assistant trainer," according to a report released Friday.

With more than 6,000 flights within the nation canceled today and more than 1,000 delayed because of the snow and ice storm moving up the East Coast, it's time once again to point to FlightAware.com's "Misery Map."

This is not our language. It comes from the forecasters at the National Weather Service, who we have to hope do not say things such as this unless they really mean it:

"Mind-boggling if not historical" ice accumulations are expected Wednesday and Thursday across a wide swath of the Deep South that includes Atlanta, other parts of Georgia, Columbia, S.C., and up to Raleigh/Durham, N.C. The forecasters are warning of a half-inch to an inch of ice.

Saying it is "the right thing for us to do for our customers and our company to help people on their path to better health," the CEO of CVS Caremark announced Wednesday that the company's 7,600 pharmacies will stop selling cigarettes and tobacco products by Oct. 1.

Larry Merlo also said CVS will try to help those who want to quit smoking with a "robust national smoking cessation program" at its locations.

Update at 12:17 p.m. ET. 'Obviously, There Were Errors':

During a televised press conference, the governor of Georgia and the mayor of Atlanta both said they would take responsibility for the mess unfolding across Atlanta's highways.

CNN reports that the broad effect is now coming to light: Officials says one person died, 130 were hurt, and 1,254 accidents were reported during the snowstorm.

In Louisiana:

-- "Jindal declares state of emergency, urges caution ahead of winter storm." (The Times-Picayune)

In Mississippi:

"Storm warning: Emergency plans put in place." (Clarion-Ledger)

In Alabama:

Update at 1:55 p.m. ET. Letter Sent To Boehner:

(This post was most recently updated at 1:30 p.m. ET.)

Saying that "critics are right to point out that without proper safeguards, this type of program could be used to yield more information about our private lives," President Obama said Friday that he wants the National Security Agency to stop holding on to massive amounts of "metadata" about the phone calls and electronic communications of millions of people around the world.

President Obama is expected to announce Friday morning that he is "ordering a transition that will significantly change the handling of what is known as the telephone 'metadata' " that the National Security Agency collects, officials are telling Reuters and NPR.

The wire service, which broke the story, writes that:

Hal Faulkner, a gay man whose last wish came true earlier this month when his discharge from the U.S. Marines was changed from "undesirable" to "honorable," has died.

NPR's Quil Lawrence, who told Morning Edition listeners about Faulkner last week, says that the 79-year-old Faulkner died Tuesday in Florida.

J. Pat Carter / Associated Press

The post-holidays hard news continues for employees of some major retailers.

One week after discount retailer Loehmann's started liquidating its inventory and Macy's announced it is eliminating 2,500 jobs, there's word that J.C. Penney is cutting 2,000 jobs and closing 33 stores.

Click here for our latest update.

The early reports about what happened Monday afternoon inside a movie theater near Tampa are certainly disturbing:

We've mentioned the polar vortex several times in recent days.

We've said, for instance, that it's "a low pressure system that's usually whirling around the North Pole but has weakened and come south."

But we're still getting asked this question:

Yes, it's going to be awfully cold again Tuesday for 150 million or so Americans.

But if below-zero temperatures aren't to your liking, take heart:

"Bitterly cold air over the eastern two-thirds of the country will slowly moderate through Wednesday," the National Weather Service says.

Florida State and Auburn put on a show Monday night with a college football championship game that went down to the wire and ended with Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Jameis Winston throwing a touchdown pass with just 13 seconds to go to bring Florida State the crown.

At one point, the Seminoles were behind by 18 points.

The final score: Florida State 34, Auburn 31.

There are obviously many things that could be said about Monday night's Bowl Championship Series game between No. 1 Florida State and No. 2 Auburn, starting with this:

One weather map tells the story.

Check out the National Weather Service's map of the Lower 48 for Monday night. If you need to know just how much of the nation's going to be freezing (or well below!), it offers a bone-chilling picture. Anywhere in the blue-to-purple shades is going to be cold — and that's before accounting for wind chills.

What is the Weather Service forecasting?

It's 2014 in Australia, New Zealand and other places on the "other side" of the international date line.

So we want to wish everyone a happy new year.

Although he says he still wants to be a quarterback in the National Football League, former phenom Tim Tebow has signed up to be a college football analyst for ESPN.

The sports network announced Monday that Tebow is coming aboard to be part of SEC Nation — a "pregame show that will originate from a different SEC campus each week beginning August 28, 2014."

Some critics — perhaps others would say Grinches? — don't like the North American Aerospace Defense Command's annual online "Santa Tracker."

At WBUR, author Ethan Gilsdorf writes that "real-time digital imagery of Santa and his route, or calculations of the loot he's delivered, take the imagination out of Christmas."

President Obama's oft-repeated promise that "if you like your health care plan, you can keep it" is 2013's "lie of the year," according to the fact checkers at the Tampa Bay Times' nonpartisan PolitiFact project.

PolitiFact says that:

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