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Here the top six stories we are following on NBC News on Wednesday:

1. Deep freeze begins to thaw: While temperatures remain about 10 to 20 degrees lower than normal, forecasters say the polar vortex that plunged much of the country into a bitter cold for the past few days has begun to yield. Read more in US NEWS.

2. Polar vortex a money suck: The nation’s deep freeze, which has hampered travel plans, consumer spending and spurred higher heating bills, could cost the economy up to $5 billion. Read more in BUSINESS.

3. How NBC News exposed 1971 FBI scandal: Former "Nightly News" reporter Carl Stern describes breaking the story of the FBI’s most notorious secret domestic surveillance program. And it started with stolen files. Read more in INVESTIGATIONS.

4. Ex-Defense chief slams Obama, Biden: Former Defense Secretary William Gates new book has some stinging criticism for his former bosses, slamming President Obama's leadership skills and Vice President Joe Biden's judgment. Read more in US NEWS

5. Here comes the sunspot: Look out below! The sun blasted off a powerful solar flare that sparked a radio blackout Tuesday and flung electrically charged particles toward Earth. And the blasts aren’t over yet. Read more in TECH & SCIENCE.

6. Mindy Kaling defends magazine cover: The funny girl graces the cover of Elle for the glossy’s Women in TV issue, but some aren’t happy that she’s covered up, questioning whether her size and race played a part. She used humor to deflect her critics. Read more in POP CULTURE.