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KNOW IT ALL: Wednesday’s Top 5 Stories at NBC News

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John Slasell wades through waist-deep snow as he snow blows the sidewalk along Slater St. in Webster, Mass. A blizzard slammed New England on Tuesday, piling up more than 2 feet of snow. Dan Gould / AP

Good morning. Here are some of the stories we’re following today:

1. New England begins digging out as snowstorm winds down

From Massachusetts to Maine, the hard-hit region began digging out Wednesday from the monster snowstorm that knocked out power to thousands and flooded coastal communities. But in other parts of the Northeast that had braced for record snowfall — including New York City — the "historic" storm didn't quite deliver but still caused a travel nightmare. That left the National Weather Service to admit Tuesday that the agency had failed to adequately explain the challenge of predicting snowfall in a large storm system — and ordered employees to improve how they communicate with the public. Read more in NEWS.

New England digs out from massive blizzard 2:50

2. Japan slams ISIS’ latest hostage demand as deadline looms

Japan's prime minister responded angrily Wednesday to a new audio message saying ISIS hostage Kenji Goto will be killed in 24 hours if certain demands aren't met. That deadline was expected to pass Wednesday. "It's an extremely despicable act and I feel strong anger," Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said. Goto, a Japanese journalist, remains a captive of ISIS, along with a Jordanian pilot. Japan said it is working with Jordan to secure the release of the men as ISIS demands a prisoner swap for one of its own. In Jordan, the pilot's father urged the government "to meet the demands" of the Islamist extremists. Read more in NEWS.

'I Am Kenji' - Vigil For Japanese Hostage Held by ISIS 0:29

3. One American killed as terrorists storm Libyan hotel

Armed terrorists stormed the Corinthia Hotel in Tripoli on Tuesday, killing several people, including at least one American. A car bomb later exploded outside, sending black smoke into the sky. Five foreigners were killed inside the hotel, The Associated Press quoted a Libyan military official as saying. NBC News could not immediately confirm that report, but later Tuesday, a Virginia-based security training and operation firm said one of its employees, David Berry, died in the attack. "Our company mourns this extraordinary loss with his family and friends," Cliff Taylor, chief operating officer of Team Crucible LLC, said in a statement. Read more in NEWS.

4. ‘Friendship Nine’ convictions to be overturned five decades later

Justice will finally be served after a group of black student protesters — the "Friendship Nine" — have their convictions overturned Wednesday. The men were arrested 54 years ago and sentenced to hard labor for sitting in a whites-only lunch counter in South Carolina. "What these men did wasn't wrong, in fact it was right. And what they did wasn't illegal, it was an act of principled courage," said Kevin Brackett, the York and Union County solicitor who has agreed to have the guilty verdicts vacated. All eight surviving members of the "Friendship Nine" were invited to attend the morning hearing in a municipal courtroom in Rock Hill, South Carolina. Read more in NBCBLK.

5. Georgia executes killer despite low IQ

Convicted two-time murderer Warren Lee Hill, 54, was executed in Georgia on Tuesday despite his lawyers arguing that his intellect of a child should exempt him from the death penalty. "Today, the Court has unconscionably allowed a grotesque miscarriage of justice to occur in Georgia," Hill's lawyer, Brian Kammer said. Lee did not make a final statement. His lawyers were hoping that a Supreme Court ruling last year — that Florida's strict IQ cutoff for disability was illegal — could also influence Georgia. Read more in NEWS.

And now this ...

It's a dazzling display — from a safe distance, that is. A volcano on Mexico's west coast has been shooting off plumes of smoke.

Volcano in Mexico Shoots Off Ash 0:31