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10 things you need to know today: February 4, 2014
Fresh economic fears hammer stocks, the Northeast gets another wave of winter storms, and more
 
New York is expecting three winter storms this week. 
New York is expecting three winter storms this week.  (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

1. Stocks plunge on fears of economic trouble
Global shares fell to a four-month low early Tuesday following the Dow Jones industrial average's 326-point Monday plunge. The sell-off, which stoked fear of a 2014 crash, was prompted by a weaker-than-expected manufacturing report that deepened concerns about the economy. The Dow's 2.1 percent drop was the blue-chip index's worst day of the year. The S&P 500 fell 2.3 percent Monday, and the tech-focused Nasdaq lost 2.6 percent. [Reuters, Los Angeles Times]
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2. Northeast braces for more harsh winter weather
After a brief rest from a series of severe winter storms, the Northeast got hit with another heavy snow on Monday. New York City got up to eight inches. The weather forced the cancelation of 1,950 flights. Mayor Bill de Blasio warned that the worst was yet to come, with another storm due to hit Tuesday. "The fact is that we are facing not one, not two, but three storms potentially this week," he said. [Daily News]
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3. Lew urges Congress to act before hitting debt ceiling again
Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew said the government would be hitting the $17.2 trillion debt ceiling soon. He urged Congress to raise the limit fast because any hint the U.S. might default could "cause harm to our economy." An October deal let the government borrow enough money to pay its bills through February 7, and it can juggle to cover its obligations a little — but not much — longer. [NPR]
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4. Thai opposition asks court to void last weekend's elections
The embattled Thai government's troubles escalated on Tuesday, as the opposition filed a legal challenge that could nullify a weekend election and China canceled a massive rice order due to a corruption probe. Opposition protesters disrupted voting in a fifth of the country's constituencies. The incomplete poll could leave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra presiding over a caretaker government, instead of renewing her mandate as she hoped. [Reuters]
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5. Al Qaeda distances itself from Syrian Islamist rebels
Al Qaeda has disavowed the most brutal jihadist group fighting to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri said in a post on radical Islamist websites that the infighting between the group — the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria — and other rebel factions was "a catastrophe for jihad in Syria." ISIS leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi has affirmed loyalty to al Qaeda but ignored Zawahiri's commands in the past. [The Wall Street Journal]
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6. Tech firms release data on government spying
Under a new legal deal with the government, tech giants, including Google, Microsoft, Facebook, and Yahoo, have released new details on the National Security Agency's demands of customer data for secret investigations. Google and Microsoft said the NSA ordered them to hand over information on as many as 10,000 accounts in a six-month period in 2012 and 2013, while Yahoo reported complying with requests for information on more than 40,000. [The Associated Press]
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7. Idaho gay-rights protesters block entrance to the state Senate
Idaho police arrested 44 gay rights activists Monday after protesters blocked the entry into the Idaho Senate chambers. The demonstrators stopped lawmakers from entering by standing shoulder to shoulder for more than two hours, demanding that anti-discrimination protection for gays be added into a bill coming up for debate. Former state Sen. Nicole LeFavour, the state's first openly gay lawmaker, organized the protest. [Idaho Statesman]
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8. Hillary Clinton's 2016 prospects brighten after Bridgegate
New Jersey's Bridgegate scandal appears to have gotten voters' attention. A new CNN/ORC poll released Monday found that Hillary Clinton (D) had extended her lead over New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) in a hypothetical matchup in the 2016 presidential race. Clinton was up 48 percent to 46 percent in a December poll, but in the new survey she led Christie 55 percent to 39 percent among registered voters. [Politico]
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9. Mandela left most of his $4.1 million estate to family
The executors of Nelson Mandela's estate made details of his will public on Monday. Most of the $4.1 million fortune left by South Africa's first black president will go to his third wife, Graca Machel, who is entitled to half of the estate. Mandela, who died December 5 at age 95, also left money to other relatives, staff members, his schools, and the African National Congress. His former wife Winnie Madikizela-Mandela was not mentioned. [The Associated Press]
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10. Castaway claims he spent 13 months lost at sea
The U.S. ambassador in the Marshall Islands, Tom Armbruster, met with a mysterious castaway found on a remote atoll after allegedly surviving 13 months adrift in the Pacific Ocean. The man, 37-year-old Jose Salvador Alvarenga, said he left Mexico in December 2012 with a companion, who later died, for a one-day shark-fishing trip but got lost at sea. "He's in much better shape than one would expect after such an ordeal," Armbruster said. [CNN]

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Harold Maass is a contributing editor at TheWeek.com. He has been writing for The Week since the 2001 launch of the U.S. print edition. Harold has worked for a variety of news outlets, including The Miami HeraldFox News, and ABC News.

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