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It's Carnaval!

Carnaval starts today in Rio de Janeiro — four days of parades, parties and feathery flamboyance through Mardi Gras on Tuesday before the start of Lent. Look for celebration coverage at usatoday.com/news.

Heavy rains take aim at parched Southern California

Heavy rain and snow are forecast to wallop California today and Saturday, helping a bone-dry state endure a punishing drought but threatening foothills communities with mudslides. The National Weather Service reports that the storm might dump the most rain on Southern California in nearly two years.

Unknown armed men occupy Crimean airports in Ukraine

Unidentified armed men who may belong to the Russian military — though Russia has denied this — are blockading airports in Ukraine's Crimea region. Ukraine's interior minister is calling the blockades an "armed invasion." Separately, Ukraine's ousted fugitive president, Viktor Yanukovych, is said to have scheduled a news conference that will take place near the Ukrainian border.

20th anniversary of the Brady Law

It's been 20 years since the Brady Law was passed requiring background checks before a person can purchase a gun. Today, Sarah Brady and others gather at the U.S. Capitol to urge Congress to extend those background checks to online purchases and gun show sales. See usatoday.com/news.

NSA surveillance hurting tech firms' business

The National Security Agency, and revelations about its extensive surveillance operations — sometimes with the cooperation of tech firms — have undermined the ability of many U.S. companies to sell products in key foreign countries, creating a fissure with the U.S. government and prompting some to scramble to create "NSA-resistant" products.

Contributing: The Associated Press

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