The five most popular CNN.com stories during the last 24 hours, according to Newspulse.
Missing Ohio teen found hiding in attic: A missing Ohio teen was found early Wednesday hiding in the attic of an apartment recently leased by her 20-year-old boyfriend, police said.
'Sea monster' fossil found in Peru desert: Researchers scanning the Peruvian desert for whale fossils have stumbled upon the remains of a "sea monster" three times the size of a modern day killer whale.
State approves $20M for Jaycee Dugard: The California Assembly on Thursday passed a bill appropriating $20 million to kidnapping victim Jaycee Dugard to settle her claims against the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
Hurricane Alex disrupts oil disaster cleanup: The House of Representatives on Thursday passed a bill that removes limits on financial damages that can be awarded for accidents off the U.S. coastline, such as the such as the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig that killed 11 workers.
Pending home sales 'fell off a cliff': The experts expected home sales to drop once the homebuyer tax credit lapsed at the end of April, but the depth of the decrease was shocking.
A look at the day's business news:
Stocks at new 2010 lows
Stocks slipped Thursday, but managed to trim bigger losses, after worse-than-expected readings on manufacturing, housing and the labor market fueled fears that the economy is heading for another recession.
The Dow Jones industrial average lost 41 points, or 0.4 percent, for its lowest close since Oct. 30. The Nasdaq composite lost 8 points, or 0.4 percent, closing at its lowest point since Nov. 4.
"Juan Lazaro", one of the suspects in an alleged Russian spy ring, has admitted that he worked for Russia's intelligence service, according to a bail letter provided by the United States Attorney's office in the Southern District of New York.
The document states Lazaro made a "lengthy post-arrest statement on June 27th," after he waived his Miranda rights, in which he allegedly told federal agents that he was not born in Uruguay, that "Juan Lazaro" is not his real name, that his house in Yonkers had been "paid for by the 'Service' and although he loved his son, he would not violate his loyalty to the 'Service' even for his son."
The document also says "Lazaro," who is married to co-defendant Vicky Pelaez, told agents she delivered letters to the "Service" on his behalf, and that he refused to provide his real name to prosecutors.
"Lazaro" is currently appearing at a detention hearing in a New York Federal Courtroom to determine whether he qualifies for bail.
Three explosions erupted Thursday in Lahore, Pakistan, killing 18 people and injuring 45, a senior government official in Lahore told CNN.
Sajjad Ghutta, Lahore district coordinator, said two of the explosions were the work of suicide bombers and the third came from an unknown source.
The explosions occurred at the Data Darbar shrine complex, officials said.
– CNN's Nasir Habib, Thomas Evans and Journalist Fayyaz Addrees contributed to this story.
[Updated at 2:57 p.m.] The California Assembly on Thursday passed a bill appropriating $20 million to kidnapping victim Jaycee Dugard to settle her claims against the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, according to the chief clerk's office.
The bill passed on a 30-1 vote in the Senate and a 62-0 vote in the Assembly, according to CNN affiliate KCRA. Corrections officials entered into the settlement with Dugard, the station said.
Dugard vanished in 1991 at the age of 11. She was found in August 2009, living in a shed in the Antioch, California, backyard of Phillip Garrido, a registered sex offender who had been on parole since January 1988. Investigators say Garrido fathered two children with Dugard during her captivity. He and his wife, Nancy, are charged with 29 felony counts in the case. Both have pleaded not guilty.
The final flight for the space shuttle program has been pushed back to February 2011, NASA said Thursday.
The shuttle Endeavour, which will conduct the program's final mission, STS-134, had been slated to launch in 2010, but a delay in the next-to-last mission resulted in the final launch being pushed back to February 26, 2011.
The shuttle program's second-to-last flight, that of the shuttle Discovery, was moved from September to November 1.
The launch dates were delayed because critical payload hardware for Discovery will not be ready in time for the original launch date, NASA said.
The space shuttles launch from Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Facing mounting pressure from the family of Gilad Shalit, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday that Israel was ready to pay a high price for the captured soldier's release - but there was a limit to that price.
Netanyahu said he would consider the terms of a prisoner swap with the Palestinian militant group Hamas "while resolutely safeguarding the citizens of Israel."
"As prime minister, I must weigh all these considerations," Netanyahu said at a news conference. "Acting rashly, acting without discretion, we could repeat the mistakes of the past and bring upon ourselves a very, very great danger."
"The state of Israel is willing to pay a very high price," he said. "But it cannot say any price."
Netanyahu said he had agreed to a proposal put forth by a German mediator and was willing to consider the release of about 1,000 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for Shalit.
Editor's note: Philippe Cousteau Jr. is the grandson of legendary ocean explorer and filmmaker Jacques Yves Cousteau. Philippe heads the nonprofit organization EarthEcho International (www.earthecho.org). Philippe, who has been working in this field for years, is an advocate for the people and the wildlife in the Gulf of Mexico during the oil crisis, visiting the area and learning first hand the impact the disaster has had not only on the ecosystem but on the people who suffer as a result of the catastrophe. Read more about Philippe's background.
I remember my first trip to see the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. A few weeks after the rig exploded I traveled to survey the spill both above and below the surface. Seeing the impact from the shore as well as being the first one to dive and film the oil spill from beneath the waves was a horrifying experience. Wave after wave of oil/chemical dispersant mix washed over us - a chemical soup that is toxic to countless creatures and still spreading through the Gulf, wreaking havoc on the lives of animals and the livelihoods of people.
It was made all the worse because less than 18 months earlier, in partnership with the Ocean Conservancy, I had testified in front of the House Natural Resources Committee to address the deficiencies of the laws that govern oil and gas development in the oceans. The echo of that testimony is still haunting me as I have watched the devastation unfold first-hand over the past 70 days.
One of my favorite writers Mark Twain once wrote, "A man's first duty is to his conscience and his honor." There is no honor in this catastrophe, and its consequences are unconscionable. Nor is there honor in the circumstances that created it.
There is a lot of talk in the media about the moratorium the Obama administration recently put in place; but the truth is that a moratorium would not have prevented this tragedy. What I testified about more than a year ago and what is still needed today is to reform and strengthen the existing laws to ensure that they protect ocean health and coastal economies, and that science - not profit - should guide any oil and gas development.
This spill reminds us we are in desperate need of a policy that recognizes that in our ocean environment, everything is connected - from industrial uses to the health of our ocean and the health of the coastal economy. The BP Deepwater Horizon disaster exposes a fundamental flaw in our nation's approach to oil and gas activities in the ocean.
Al Qaeda has launched this week what it is calling its first English-language online magazine, a move that could be seen as a way to recruit more American-born terrorists.
The magazine was posted on radical Islamist websites Tuesday, said Maryland-based SITE Intelligence Group, an organization that tracks terror groups. FULL POST
The once-ubiquitous Humvee may become a rare sight in some parts of Afghanistan following a decision by the senior U.S. commander in eastern Afghanistan to restrict the use of the vehicles in the field.
Maj. Gen. John Campbell, commander of Joint Task Force-101, ordered this week that the use of Humvee vehicles outside a military base would have to specifically be approved by a colonel - one of the most senior field grade positions in the military.
Prior to this, the use of High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles (HMMWV, or Humvee) had to be approved by a lower-ranking officer, according to Task Force spokesman Maj. Patrick Seiber. FULL POST
On the first full day of the rest of his basketball life, LeBron James, the NBA’s most-sought after free agent has two meetings scheduled, one with the New York Knicks, owned by Cablevision, one of the country’s biggest cable TV companies, and one with the New Jersey Nets, owned by Russia’s richest man, Mikhail Prokhorov.
He’s scheduled to have more meetings in the coming days with teams with really rich owners.
Ironically enough though, the one thing these millionaires and billionaires can’t use to lure James is money.
The reason is the NBA like most major sports leagues in the US has a salary cap, and each year the league sets the amount of money that teams can spend on players for the upcoming season. This year that cap number comes out on July 8, which is why none of these free agents can officially sign a contract until then.
The tally kept by icasualties.org includes all U.S. and allied troops killed in Afghanistan, whether by hostile fire, traffic accident or other noncombat circumstance. It does not include soldiers who may have died from their wounds after returning home, nor the deaths of troops in neighboring countries, such as Pakistan.
The independent website says 102 coalition troops were killed in Afghanistan in June, by far the highest total since the war against the Taliban and al Qaeda began.
It's partly seasonal. There are always more encounters in the summer months than in the winter. But it's more because there are more NATO troops (especially U.S. forces) in Afghanistan now than at any time since 2001, and because they are on the offensive in the southern provinces of Helmand and Kandahar. It may in part be because of rules of engagement that stress avoiding civilian casualties. (That is the view of some soldiers on the ground.)
The new ISAF commander Gen. David Petraeus told NATO allies on Thursday that he was aware of concerns among field commanders that processes were "too bureaucratic." While the rules would not be changed, he said he would look at their application because he had "a moral imperative to bring all force to bear when our troops are in a tough position." This implies quicker access to air strikes, for example.
"There is no intent to change rules of engagement. It is to look very hard at how the rules in the tactical directives are implemented and to ensure that there is an even implementation across all units, instead of perhaps some unevenness that has crept in," Petraeus said. FULL POST
The number of Americans filing first-time claims for unemployment insurance rose last week, according to a government report released Thursday.
There were 472,000 initial jobless claims filed in the week ended June 26, up 13,000 from an upwardly revised 459,000 in the previous week, the Labor Department said.
The number of claims was higher than expected. A consensus estimate of economists surveyed by Briefing.com expected 458,000 claims.
The number of people filing continuing claims jumped to 4,616,000 in the week ended June 19, the most recent data available. That was up 43,000 from the preceding week's upwardly revised 4,573,000 claims.
Hurricane Alex -- Heavy rains pelting northeastern Mexico left at least one person dead and thousands more in shelters as Hurricane Alex moved inland, Mexican emergency officials said early Thursday. Alex made landfall along the northeast Mexican coastline late Wednesday as a Category 2 storm with maximum sustained winds of about 100 mph, the National Hurricane Center reported. Forecasters downgraded it to a tropical storm early Thursday morning and said it would continue to weaken as it moved inland. Residents on both sides of the border braced for additional flooding and tornadoes as the storm moved west with 85 mph maximum sustained winds. You can follow the storm's path here.
Gulf oil disaster – Even though tropical storm Alex is headed away from the site of the BP oil spill, it is affecting containment and collection efforts on multiple fronts, Coast Guard officials say. A massive oil skimmer, however, has arrived in the Gulf of Mexico. Coast Guard officials will conduct an aerial survey to assess the storm's impact Thursday, Rear Adm. Paul Zukunft said.
The attorney and Republican candidate for the Arizona Corporation Commission says if he’s elected, the commission would require regulated utilities to check the immigration status of customers.
Wong, who was born in Phoenix to Chinese immigrant parents, told CNN on Wednesday, “Illegal immigrants use electricity that puts more demand on the system. If we continue to have the illegal population growing, the rate payers would have to shoulder the burden of the cost."
According to The Arizona Republic, commission members have the constitutional authority to regulate utilities such as the Arizona Public Service Co., Tucson Electric Power Co. and private water companies. Given the national debate over Arizona’s new immigration law, Senate Bill 1070, Wong told CNN he understands that his idea is controversial.
“There will be critics that will say, ‘Barry you’re very close to the immigration system. How can you advocate for this?’ But my parents, they came here under legal cover. They succeeded in America, working long hours in the grocery store and shunned assistance, and we took care of ourselves. Eventually they sent their four kids to college. I’m the last person to attack immigrants as a class in general.”
Ongoing coverage - BP webcam of Gulf oil disaster
9:00 am ET - Financial crisis hearing – Current and former executives for AIG and Goldman Sachs testify before a commission on the causes of the U.S. financial crisis.
9:45 am ET - Remembering Sen. Robert Byrd – Memorial services for Sen. Robert Byrd begin today. His body will lie in repose in the U.S. Senate chamber before being transported to West Virginia.
An update from London on some of the international stories we expect to develop on Thursday:
Hurricane Alex - Heavy rains pelting northeastern Mexico left at least one person dead and thousands more in shelters as Hurricane Alex moved inland, Mexican emergency officials say. Read the full story
L’Oreal trial – The 87-year-old heiress to the L'Oreal cosmetics fortune is at the center of a trial starting Thursday in Paris - a case involving secret recordings, butlers, bank accounts, and billions of dollars in assets.