The five most popular stories on CNN.com in the last 24 hours, according to NewsPulse:
Four bodies found near New York beach: Police officers searching for a missing person found four bodies near a beach in Long Island, New York. The bodies could have been in the area for as long as a month, police said.
Police: California teen home safe after month in shelters with uncle: A California man who spent a month on the run with his 15-year-old niece is now in a San Francisco jail, and the girl is back home with her parents, according to police and relatives.
Bitter cold lingers as storm moves to Canada, strands hundreds: Canadian police and military teams were working Tuesday afternoon to rescue about 300 people stranded after what a local official termed the most brutal storm to hit the Ontario region in 25 years.
'Dexter' stars file for divorce: "Dexter" co-stars Michael C. Hall and Jennifer Carpenter have announced that they've split up.
FIFA president angers gay community: Gay former NBA player John Amaechi has criticized Sepp Blatter (pictured), the head of soccer's international ruling body, for his comments about homosexuals planning to attend the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
A look at highlights from the day's business news:
Stocks pare gains in final hour
U.S. stocks eased off earlier gains but finished higher Tuesday, as investors found little reason to jump into the fray after the Fed kept rates steady and left its bond-buying plan alone.
The Dow Jones industrial average closed up 48 points, or 0.4%, to finish at 11,476.54, the highest closing price since September 2008. Earlier, the blue-chip index gained 86 points and hit a fresh two-year intraday high of 11,514.08.
About two-thirds of the 30 Dow issues advanced, with AT&T, Kraft Foods, Verizon, Johnson & Johnson and Microsoft leading the way. The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq briefly drifted into negative territory during the last hour of trade but also ended with gains. The S&P 500 rose 1 point, or 0.1%, and the tech-heavy Nasdaq added 3 points, or 0.1%.
Stocks had rallied out of the gate Tuesday morning, following a better-than-expected retail sales report from the U.S. Commerce Department, and held onto gains for most of the afternoon.
Police say they’re trying to find a helmet-wearing gunman who robbed one of Las Vegas' most recognizable casinos of $1.5 million in casino chips Tuesday morning – and may also have robbed a different casino last week.
With a helmet and visor hiding his face, the man rode to Bellagio casino (surveillance image, above left) on a motorbike, walked inside and pulled a gun at a craps table where several people were gambling at about 3:50 a.m., said Lt. Clint Nichols of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department .
The gunman told everyone not to move, and then took the casino’s supply of chips "that were … [in] the box they keep on the craps table," Nichols said.
The man then ran back outside to the motorcycle, which he rode away, Nichols said. No injuries were reported.
The man might be the same person who robbed the Suncoast Hotel & Casino on Thursday morning, police said. In that robbery (surveillance image, above right), a man wearing a motorcycle helmet robbed the cage area of a poker tournament room of less than $20,000 in cash at about 12:30 a.m., Nichols said.FULL STORY
New York State Senator Pedro Espada Jr. and his son, Pedro Gautier Espada, have been charged with embezzling funds from non-profit health care centers in the Bronx according to the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York.
Both men are charged with five counts of embezzlement from a non-profit health care network receiving federal funding, and one count of conspiracy.FULL STORY
A shooting took place at a school board meeting in Panama City, Florida, on Tuesday, a school official confirmed.
The incident occurred at the Bay District Schools' Nelson Building, said Tracy Fidler, assistant to the district's deputy superintendent.
"There has been an incident and police are on the scene," she said. "No school board members were injured."
She could provide further details or confirm reports that a person was carried out on a stretcher.
CNN affiliate WJHG reported that the shooting took place at the county's Tuesday school board meeting.FULL STORY
Call it the digital age's John Henry showdown. But this time, it's "Jeopardy!," not a train tunnel, and an IBM computer instead of a steam shovel.
The iconic game show announced Tuesday that it will pit Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter, its all-time most successful contestants, against "Watson," an IBM computing system, in a series of battles next year.
The showdown, to be aired February 14-16, will feature two matches to see if a machine can compete in a contest that will require it to interpret real-language questions (or, in "Jeopardy!" parlance, answers), research them and answer quicker than the flesh-and-blood champs.
"After four years, our scientific team believes that Watson is ready for this challenge based on its ability to rapidly comprehend what the 'Jeopardy!' clue is asking, analyze the information it has access to, come up with precise answers, and develop an accurate confidence in its response," David Ferrucci, the scientist leading the IBM Research team that has created Watson, said in a written release.
"Beyond our excitement for the match itself, our team is very motivated by the possibilities that Watson's breakthrough computing capabilities hold for building a smarter planet and helping people in their business tasks and personal lives."
Watson's software is powered by an IBM Power7 server and, according to developers, is optimized to process complex questions and render answers quickly.FULL STORY
The richest man in Japan is also quite possibly the most powerful man when it comes to the future of Yahoo. You've probably never heard of him, which is why he's even more of a game changer.
He started a joint operation with Yahoo to form Yahoo Japan. And now as the CEO and president of SoftBank, Son is also a majority shareholder in Yahoo's key assets in Asia: Yahoo Japan and Alibaba, one of the biggest Web companies in China. Those assets "along with Yahoo’s cash, represent more than half of Yahoo’s $22 billion value," according to the New York Times. Oh yeah, he also helped bring the iPhone to Japan.
The Times conducted a lengthy interview with Son talking about the future of Yahoo - recently under scrutiny. Any scenario - merging with AOL, splitting, going private - hinges on Son.
“If I were Yahoo’s U.S. CEO, I would have my own view and own approach. But my approach is always riskier. I always take bold moves. So it can have great return, but with great risk,” Son told the New York Times. “I would be more aggressive to acquire companies or start a new business.”
Not that he's ready to talk about plans for Yahoo yet.
“I shouldn’t make a comment on that,” he told the Times. “It’s too delicate a question. Too sensitive right now.”
Winter is getting off to an early start this year as the bitter cold continues after this past weekend’s storm.
Strong northerly winds are ushering in an arctic blast that is setting records across the eastern half of the U.S.
Record lows were set Tuesday morning from Virginia to Florida. High temperatures are 30 degrees below average for this time of year. And to make matters worse, snow and ice are in the forecast, making even day-to-day commutes difficult and dangerous.
Florida farmers continue to take protective measures against freezing temperatures this week. And although it hasn’t been a catastrophic event, long stretches with lows below freezing could have a detrimental impact on strawberries and citrus.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was granted bail Tuesday after a hearing at Westminster Magistrate's Court in London, but a lawyer representing Swedish prosecutors immediately filed an appeal.
That means Assange will remain in jail for another 48 hours, until the next hearing.
The magistrate agreed to grant bail Tuesday after Assange's team of attorneys reported that Vaughan Smith, a former British army officer who founded London's Frontline Club, had offered his mansion in Suffolk to Assange.FULL STORY
A fire killed six people in Baltimore, Maryland, Tuesday morning, authorities said.
The blaze at a two-story home in East Baltimore was reported just before 5 a.m., said Kevin Cartwright, a Baltimore Fire Department spokesman.
Firefighters entered the home but had to evacuate because of the fast-moving fire. After extinguishing the blaze, firefighters entered the home again and found five bodies. A sixth victim was found later, Cartwright said. Some of the victims were children, he said, but did not give a number. The relationship between the victims was unknown.FULL STORY
Angry protesters threw rocks and bottles and police lobbed tear gas canisters Tuesday in Rome's streets after Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi narrowly survived lawmakers' confidence votes.
A crowd of several hundred protesters smashed motorcycles and police vehicles as they erupted in violence and clashed with authorities following the votes. Small fires were burning in various spots, and loud explosions could be heard from firecrackers or flash-bang devices.
Police charging down the Via del Corso - one of Rome's main shopping areas - were pushing back protesters "slowly but surely," said CNN's Dan Rivers, but he noted the protesters were "clearly very angry."FULL STORY
Say what you will about Brett Favre – about his wavering on retirement or his inability to make decisions. But there's one thing no one can take away from him – his dedication to the game.
In a sport where players are battered and bruised nearly every week, Favre took the hits consecutively 297 times.
"Now that it's over, and part of the history books instead of the NFL's week-to-week reality, Brett Favre's 297 consecutive starts streak deservedly will go down as one of the greatest individual accomplishments in sports. And nothing will ever change that, or lessen its impact," SI.com's Don Banks writes, noting the feat perhaps makes Favre the "toughest quarterback who ever suited up."
"To argue otherwise is folly. The beauty of a consecutive-games streak is that it has a quality of perfection to it – and you can't beat perfection," he said. "For almost 19 seasons, the man played every chance he had to play. Case closed. End of story."
The argument, perhaps, is over where that streak deserves to be placed in history. Where does it match up against say Cal Ripken playing 2,632 straight games for the Baltimore Orioles? Or what about Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak? Or "The Great One" Wayne Gretzky, who played 51 consecutive games with a point?
That depends on how you feel about the sports, the differing schedules, and whatever else you can bicker about, though most will argue Favre's streak most closely lines up with Ripken's.
As Time.com's Sean Gregory asks: "What's harder: standing on a baseball field for an hour or two, everyday, playing shortstop, or lining up under center once a week in football, where very large men are paid very large sums of money to knock you out of the game?"
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was granted bail on Tuesday by a British magistrate after a court hearing.
The 39-year-old Australian handed himself over London police last week to answer a European arrest warrant over alleged sex crimes in Sweden.
The judge denied Assange's first request for bail at a hearing on December 7 on the grounds that there was a risk he would fail to surrender.
Hugh Jackman stunt gone wrong - Wildlife officials say wolverines are moving closer to becoming candidates for the endangered species list. This video may explain why. "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" star Hugh Jackman cut and bruised his eye yesterday when he rode a zipline to the stage from atop the Sydney Opera House during a live taping of "The Oprah Winfrey Show."
Susan Boyle nails it on 'Larry King Live' – Even the grouchiest of bah-humbuggers will be moved by Susan Boyle's rendition of "O Holy Night."
'Morning Cup of Conan' redux – In case you skipped your "Morning Cup of Conan," we've got you covered. Monday night's monologue covered Chernobyl, TIME magazine's best Tweets, and a baby's taped reaction to Conan's show.
Reaction to diplomat's death – Richard Holbrooke, 69, who spearheaded the 1995 Dayton Peace Accords that ended the Bosnian war, died three days after surgery to repair a torn aorta.
Assange in court – WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange will reapply for bail at a court hearing Tuesday in London as protesters gathered outside the court demanding his release.
Retail sales were solidly higher in November, the government reported Tuesday, fueled in part by deep discounting on holiday merchandise.
The Commerce Department said total retail sales rose 0.8% last month.
Economists surveyed by Briefing.com on average had forecast an increase of 0.5% for November, compared to a revised 1.7% jump in sales the prior month. October sales were originally reported to have increased 1.2%.FULL STORY
[Updated at 9:06 a.m. ET] Angry protesters threw rocks and bottles and police lobbed tear gas canisters Tuesday in Rome's streets in the wake of lawmakers' confidence votes, narrowly in favor of Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.
[Posted at 8:27 a.m. ET] Embattled Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi retained his position by a narrow margin Tuesday after the nation's upper and lower houses of parliament voted in favor of him in a confidence vote.
The vote in the upper house, or Senate, was 162-135 with 11 abstentions. The lower house, or Chamber of Deputies, turned in a much narrower margin - 314-311, with two abstentions. The vote was the latest in a series on his leadership.FULL STORY
A federal judge on Monday upheld a constitutional challenge to the health care law brought by Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli. U.S. District Judge Henry Hudson ruled Congress had placed an unconstitutional requirement on Americans to get health insurance. Cuccinelli cites the health care law as an extension of unwarranted government control and maintains this choice should be left up to citizens.
This strikes a serious legal blow to the law thus far and moves the case toward an expected battle in the U.S. Supreme Court, perhaps in 2012. Republicans using the ruling as a victory to set in motion steps to repealing the reform once they have a House majority in January. Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli spoke to CNN's John Roberts about the case.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange will reapply for bail at a court hearing Tuesday, as protesters gathered outside the court demanding his release.
The 39-year-old Australian handed himself over London police last week to answer a European arrest warrant over alleged sex crimes in Sweden. The judge denied Assange's first request for bail at a hearing on December 7 on the grounds that there was a risk he would fail to surrender.
Assange is facing accusations of rape, sexual molestation and illegal use of force in separate incidents in August in Stockholm. He could be sentenced to two years in prison if convicted. His lawyers deny the charges and have vowed to fight any attempts at extradition.
WikiLeaks' release of thousands of secret U.S. diplomatic and military documents is also under criminal review in the United States. Last week, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said he had authorized "significant" actions related to a criminal investigation into WikiLeaks' publication of the materials but has declined to elaborate.
An attorney for the WikiLeaks founder, citing Swedish authorities, has said a secret grand jury is meeting in Alexandria, Virginia, to consider charges in the release of the documents.FULL STORY
Final Senate approval could come as early as Tuesday on the hotly contested tax deal negotiated by President Barack Obama and Republican leaders.
The deal cleared a key procedural hurdle Monday, with an 83-15 vote to end Senate debate on the measure, which includes a two-year extension of the Bush-era tax cuts set to expire December 31.
The plan would also extend unemployment benefits for 13 months, cut the payroll tax by 2 percentage points for a year and continue a series of other tax breaks.FULL STORY