The most popular CNN.com stories during the last 24 hours, according to NewsPulse:
2 confirmed dead in Missouri school bus crash: Two people were killed and as many as 50 injured Thursday in a wreck involving two school buses, a semi and an SUV about 40 miles outside of St. Louis, Missouri, authorities said.
Goalie, mistress and wife charged with murder: The man trying to prosecute a Brazilian soccer goalie and eight other people on murder charges in the case of a missing woman said Thursday that even though police have not found a body, he will proceed.
Missing boy, 2, dead near Arizona home: A 2-year-old who disappeared from his home in Dewey, Arizona, on Monday night was found dead Wednesday, according to the Yavapai County Sheriff's Office.
7 dogs dead after American Airlines flight: Authorities were investigating the deaths of seven dogs after an American Airlines flight to Chicago.
Bond denied for father in toddler beating: A Florida man who admitted to the near-fatal beating of his two-year-old son while teaching him how to box remained behind bars Thursday, facing felony charges.
A look at highlights from the day's business news:
Stocks end lower as jobs report looms
Stocks ended a listless session modestly lower Thursday as investors focused on the job market amid signs of a sluggish economic recovery.
The Dow Jones industrial average fell 5 points, or less than 0.1 percent. The S&P 500 index slid 1.5 points, or 0.1 percent, and the Nasdaq composite lost 10 points, or 0.5 percent.
Omar Thornton, minutes after gunning down eight co-workers in Manchester, Connecticut, called state police and told them, "I took it into my hands" because he worked at a "racist place," according to a recording of the call.
Thornton, 34, told police, "I wish I could have got more of the people." He also said, "I'm not going to kill anybody else."
The Hartford Distributors employee fatally shot himself Tuesday after the shooting spree that followed his resignation over theft allegations.
The gripping recording of Thornton's four-minute 911 call was released Thursday, the same day the company said he never filed a complaint alleging racial discrimination, as his girlfriend Kristi Hannah asserted.
BP finished pouring cement down its crippled well in the Gulf of Mexico on Thursday in an operation known as a "static kill," completing the job earlier than expected.
The government official overseeing the effort is sounding increasingly optimistic that the end is in sight in the drive to seal the well once and for all.
BP began pouring cement into its undersea well in the Gulf of Mexico at 9:15 a.m. ET Thursday, and it finished pouring it at 3:15 p.m. That followed 2,300 barrels of heavy drilling mud, poured down from a ship on the surface Tuesday.
Before word came that the cementing had been completed, retired Adm. Thad Allen said the development would amount to a "significant milestone" in the long-running fight against the BP oil spill.
[Update 9:12] Wyclef Jean announced his candidacy for Haiti's presidency Thursday on CNN's "Larry King Live."
[Original post] Hip-hop star Wyclef Jean has resigned as chairman of Yele Haiti, the foundation he started to raise awareness of his homeland, said a statement from the foundation Thursday.
Jean, who was one of the first celebrities to offer aid after the devastating January 12 earthquake, said he will announce his candidacy for Haiti's presidency Thursday on CNN's "Larry King Live."
Update 9:06 p.m.: The National Hurricane Center increased Tropical Storm Colin's top sustained winds to 60 mph Thursday night after a hurricane hunter aircraft took fresh readings from 600 feet above the storm.
Colin's current northwest trajectory - on a speedy 20 mph clip - would bring the storm near Bermuda Saturday after a slow increase in intensity Friday night.
A tropical storm warning was in effect for the British island territory 470 miles to the north, meaning tropical storm force winds are expected in the next 36 hours.
The storm is not forecast to make landfall in the United States.
Solicitor General Elena Kagan was easily confirmed Thursday as the next associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, completing the 50-year-old native New Yorker's climb to the peak of the American legal profession.
The 63-37 vote was more than enough to blunt any possibility of a last-minute Republican delay or filibuster. Opposition during three days of Senate floor debate was relatively subdued.
Kagan is set to begin a lifetime position as the nation's 112th justice. Administration officials anticipate she will sworn into office Saturday, when she takes the traditional constitutional and judicial oaths. She will then assume her court duties immediately.
Her brisk confirmation was a political victory for President Barack Obama - who placed Justice Sonia Sotomayor on the high court last year - and for Senate Democrats.
Kagan was the administration's solicitor general when Obama nominated her on May 10 to replace retired Justice John Paul Stevens. She will become the current court's youngest member and third woman.
The Defense Department has demanded WikiLeaks return all documents belonging to the Pentagon and delete any records of the documents, department spokesman Geoff Morrell said Thursday.
"We are asking them to do the right thing," Morrell said. "This is the appropriate course of action given the damage that has been done."
Morrell denied published claims that WikiLeaks has asked the Pentagon to review some 15,000 documents it has yet to publish from leaked Afghanistan military reports.
WikiLeaks reportedly has 91,000 United States documents about the Afghan conflict. About 76,000 of them were posted on the site last month in what has been called the biggest leak since the Vietnam War's Pentagon Papers.
[Updated at 1:18 p.m.] Thirty-six children are being transported to a hospital Thursday after a crash involving two school buses and a tractor-trailer on Interstate 44 in
Missouri, a hospital spokeswoman said.
"Our understanding is that there are no serious injuries," said Ashley Wiehle, spokeswoman for SSM Cardinal Glennon Children's Medical Center, said regarding the expected patients. The children are being brought in as a precaution, she said.
[Updated at 12:49 p.m.] Nine people have been transported to two hospitals following a crash Thursday involving two school buses and a tractor-trailer that also left two
people dead, officials said. The hospitals are in Washington, Missouri, and St. Louis, Missouri.
[Posted at 12:44 p.m.] Two people have died in a wreck involving two school buses in Missouri Thursday, said Jorma Duran, a spokesman for the Missouri Department of Transportation.
The wreck happened between 10:15 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. at mile marker 250 of I-44, he said.
It involved two school buses, a tractor-trailer and another vehicle, Duran said, and closed about four miles of the interstate.
Video from the scene showed a school bus resting atop the back end of a tractor trailer. It showed another school bus, as well.
About 50 people were hurt, CNN affiliate KMOV reported. The Franklin County Sheriff's Office told CNN that it was helping the Missouri State Highway Patrol respond to the wreck.
A federal judge in California struck down the state's ban on same-sex marriage Wednesday, ruling that voter-approved Proposition 8 violates the U.S. Constitution and handing supporters of gay rights a major victory in a case that both sides say is sure to wind up before the Supreme Court.
As soon as the ruling was handed down, iReporters, celebrities and politicians began to share their thoughts on the potentially landmark decision. Columnists and news and political organizations soon followed with opinions that varied from calling the ruling one of the biggest decisions in our lifetime to seeing it as a completely overreaching attempt at judicial activism.
Here's what they had to say:
"We strenuously hope that [U.S. District Judge Vaughn] Walker's decision will be upheld by the high court. But no matter what happens, the trial in San Francisco delivered an unforgettable lesson in what Proposition 8 and same-sex marriage really mean.
"From now on, it will be harder for opponents of same-sex unions to continue mouthing canards. The public as well as the courts have had an opportunity to hear the facts. The debate over same-sex marriage will never be quite the same again."
– Los Angeles Times editorial
"Proposition 8 was based on discrimination, prejudice and religion. The Constitution protects rights of the individuals that often the majority would take away from the minority. That's why we don't vote on these issues."
– iReporter Cliff Olney of Watertown, New York
'Extreme judicial activism'
"Today's decision by a federal district judge in San Francisco striking down state constitutional protections for marriage and inventing a spurious federal constitutional right to same-sex marriage is an example of extreme judicial activism. Moreover, it is an affront to the millions of California voters who approved Proposition 8 in 2008 after months of vigorous public debate.
"Governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed. The people of California, and the United States, have made clear in numerous ways that they have not consented to the redefinition of marriage. For the past two decades they have considered the arguments advanced by some for overturning marriage as it has been understood in our country. In state after state — 45 in all - they have chosen to reaffirm the meaning of marriage as the union of one man and one woman. They have done so because they understand that establishing same-sex marriage would transform the institution into a set of private interests rather than buttress it as a multi-generational reality binding mothers, fathers and their children biologically, socially and legally."
– Chuck Donovan of the Heritage Foundation
A second attorney representing an Iranian woman whose death by stoning sentence was under review told a human rights activist Thursday that Iranian authorities have decided she will be executed.
Mina Ahadi, spokeswoman for the International Committee against Stoning, said she had spoken to Hotan Kian, an attorney who attended a court session in Tehran Wednesday. He was informed that there would be no more appeals for his client, Sakineh Mohammedie Ashtiani, and that Iran's high court will decide within a week whether she will be stoned or be executed in another way.
Fourteen naturalized U.S. citizens have been indicted on multiple counts in connection with the conflict in Somalia, a law enforcement official told CNN on Thursday.
Most of those charged are believed to be outside the United States, with all of those perhaps in Somalia.
The 14 have been indicted on multiple counts unsealed on Thursday in three federal districts - Minnesota and the southern districts of Alabama and California. Two are under arrest and are believed to be in Minnesota.
The case has been going on for a few years and brings to 19 the total indicted on criminal charges, which include providing material support to a terrorist organization, the official said.
A federal judge on Wednesday ruled that California’s Proposition 8, a voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage, is unconstitutional. Chief U.S District Judge Vaughn Walker in San Francisco granted a temporary stay, which stops his decision from taking immediate effect.
Cooper, an attorney who represented proponents of the measure, argued that the plaintiffs were attempting to override the wishes of California voters, and that the issue is a state matter that shouldn’t be decided in a federal courtroom.
Cooper said at trial that marriage should be a union between a man and a woman, and it is essential to the “survival of the species,” according to a report in the San Francisco Public Press.
"Moral disapproval alone is an improper basis on which to deny rights to gay men and lesbians," Walker wrote in a 136-page decision. "The evidence shows conclusively that Proposition 8 enacts, without reason, a private moral view that same-sex couples are inferior to opposite sex couples."
Intense heat continued to suffocate the South and other parts of the U.S. on Thursday, where 19 states are under heat advisories - and seven of those also are under excessive heat warnings.
The advisories stretch from Texas to New York City. The heat index, which is what the body perceives the temperature to be, is expected to reach 115° F again Thursday in some locations, with actual temperatures soaring into the triple digits.
A combination of sweltering temperatures and high humidity could cause heat-related illnesses, the National Weather Service said.
Record high temperatures from Wednesday include:
– Hot Springs, Arkansas: 108 degrees
– Pine Bluff, Arkansas: 107 degrees
– Greenwood, Mississippi: 104 degrees
– Memphis, Tennessee: 104 degrees
The Northeast will have a brief episode of heat Thursday, when some areas could see temperatures 10 degrees above the average for this time of year, but highs are expected to drop back into the upper 80s for the weekend. The extreme heat and humidity could stick around this weekend in the South, however.
Elena Kagan is expected to be confirmed as the 112th justice to the Supreme Court Thursday - and could be sworn into her judicial
post by week's end.
On Wednesday, the influential Mexican American Legal Defense Fund decided not to endorse the 50-year-old solicitor general and to remain "neutral."
"This rare decision comes because Kagan's record as an attorney is too ambiguous for MALDEF to make an informed determination about her current knowledge and potential understanding of Latino legal concerns," the group's president, Thomas Saenz, wrote in a commentary written for the online news site the Huffington Post.
Frantic 911 calls placed Tuesday from a business in Manchester, Connecticut, vividly capture dispatchers' efforts to calm employees, including a crying woman in a storage closet, during a shooting spree that left nine dead, including the shooter.
The recordings were released Wednesday by police, who are investigating the shootings at a beverage distributor by employee Omar Thornton, 34, who had just signed a letter of resignation over a theft allegation.
Some residents along the Gulf coast are expressing guarded optimism Thursday as BP plans to start pouring cement into its crippled well and the government reports that about 74 percent of the oil spilled into the Gulf since April has been cleaned up.
"We're cautiously optimistic that this is the beginning of the end," Deano Bonano, the director of Homeland Security for Jefferson Parish, Louisiana, told CNN's "American Morning." But he added a note of skepticism, saying it's "certainly not the end."
There are still several steps to go to permanently kill the well. The cementing set to begin Thursday will be the next phase of the "static kill," a process designed to drive oil back into the well reservoir. In the first phase of that procedure Tuesday, BP sent 2,300 barrels of heavy drilling mud down the well.
Ongoing coverage - BP webcam of Gulf oil disaster
9:30 am ET - Senate floor – Senate lawmakers consider the nomination of Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court, as well as other issues of the day.
11:45 am ET - Obama tours auto plant – President Obama visits a Ford manufacturing facility in Chicago and makes remarks.
12:00 pm ET - Gulf oil disaster briefing – Retired Coast Guard admiral and National Incident Commander Thad Allen speaks with reporters in Washington on the Gulf oil disaster.
1:00 pm ET - Pentagon briefing – Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell holds a briefing with reporters.
4:00 pm ET - Iman visits Wall Street – Supermodel Iman and Essence Communications President Michelle Ebanks ring the closing bell on Wall Street.
CNN.com Live is your home for breaking news as it happens.
Zimbabwe update: An incident originally reported as a plane accident Thursday at the Harare International Airport in Zimbabwe was a drill, British and Zimbabwean officials now say. Officials in Zimbabwe originally said the incident involved a Boeing-767 out of London.
An update from the CNN newsdesk in London on stories we're following on Thursday:
Zimbabwe plane - We are checking out reports from officials that a Boeing 767 flying from London, England, has been involved in an accident while trying to land at Harare International Airport in Zimbabwe.
Campbell testifies - Supermodel Naomi Campbell gave testimony at the Special Court for Sierra Leone at The Hague, Netherlands. She stated that two men gave her “dirty-looking stones” following a dinner hosted by Nelson Mandela in South Africa. She was subsequently told that the stones “probably came from Charles Taylor.”
Russia wildfires - Russian state media says the smog over Moscow has eased but the numbers of fires burning across the country has increased. President Medvedev reprimanded the commander of Russia's naval forces and his first deputy for incompetence and fired a number of senior Defense Ministry officials over a fire at a naval base near Moscow, according to the president's website.