The five most popular stories on CNN.com in the past 24 hours, according to NewsPulse:
Concerns preceded adopted twin's death:Â Before a 10-year-old girl was found dead in her adoptive father's truck inÂ Florida on Monday,Â blood relatives in Houston wanted to adopt her, a guardian ad litem volunteer had concerns about the adoptive parents, and child investigators were called to the homeÂ on more than one occasion.
David Letterman 'apologizes' to Lindsay Lohan:Â Â Talk-show host David Letterman (pictured) admits he was "duped" into thinking that Lindsay Lohan had agreed to appear on the "Late Show."
State Democrats absent for vote in Wisconsin: The nation's most visible budget battle was light on legislative attendance Thursday as Wisconsin wrangled over a bill that would strip teachers and other public employees of most of their collective bargaining rights and cut their benefits. Sixteen state senators stayed away from the state Capitol on the day a vote was to take place.
Woman claims she was held in NYC as sex slave:Â Â A Wisconsin woman who said she agreed to cook and clean for a New York man she met on the internet in exchange for a free place to stay allegedly ended up as his sex slave, prosecutors said Wednesday.
'Wonder Woman' actress revealed:Â NBC hasÂ announced that a "Friday Night Lights" star will play the Amazing Amazon in David E. Kelley's upcoming "Wonder Woman" pilot.
Jorge Barahona, whose dead daughter and injured son were found in his pest-control truck beside a Florida interstate, has been charged with attempted murder, and police were executing a search warrant on his Miami home Thursday night, police said.
The bizarre series of events involving Barahona and two of his four adoptedÂ children began Monday about 5:30 a.m., when a roadside assistance ranger with the Florida Department of Transportation stopped to check a red Toyota pickup parked on the side of the highway near West Palm Beach and found the 10-year-old boy inside next to an open gas can, according to a probable-cause affidavit filed by detectives.
The boy "appeared to be in respiratory distress and (was) trembling," and his clothing "was soaked with an unknown chemical," the affidavit said.
The ranger then found Barahona on the ground beside the truck and called for help. FULL POSTFULL STORY
Some highlights from the day's business news:
Stocks end at fresh multi-year highs
U.S. stocks ended at fresh multi-year highs Thursday, as investors focused on an upbeat manufacturing report and looked past indications that inflation is heating up.
The Dow Jones industrial average edged up 30 points, or 0.2%, to 12,318.14, with 21 of the Dow's 30 components heading higher. Shares of Intel led the advance, while American Express lagged.
A migraine - not a stroke - caused a Los Angeles television reporter to mangle her words during a live post-Grammy Awards report on Sunday night, according to the UCLA doctors who examined her in the days after the incident.
KCBS reporter Serene Branson (pictured) suffered a migraine with aura - meaning neurological symptoms that in this case included language problems - causing her to speak gibberish during her report, according to Dr. Andrew Charles, migraine expert and UCLA professor of neurology.
"Sheâ€™s completely back to normal," Charles said in a telephone interview Thursday, adding that he cleared Branson to return to all activities with no limitation.
Branson's report outside the Staples Center, widely viewed on YouTube early this week before the video was taken down, sparked concerns that she had suffered a stroke.
A woman suspected of snatching an infant from a New York hospital in 1987 has been indicted on federal kidnapping charges, according to court papers released today.
Ann Pettway was indicted in Manhattan Federal Court and has previously admitted to taking Carlina Renae White from a Harlem hospital after several miscarriages.
White tracked down her birth family in early January, saying she had a nagging feeling all her life that she was brought up by a family she didn't belong to.FULL STORY
A roundup of today's CNNMoney news:
Goodbye to the 59.9% credit card rate: First Premier Bank yanked its fee-laden 59.9% APR MasterCard from its credit card offerings. The card, which had nearly 300,000 active customers, charged more than $100 in fees per year and typically extended a credit line of about $300. Itâ€™s being replaced with a lower-interest secured card.
Boehner: 'Read my lips,' we will cut spending: House Speaker John Boehner said the House wouldn't pass a budget that doesn't cut spending, fueling new speculation of a possible government shutdown when current stop-gap funding measures run out March 4.
Editor's note: Nancy Grace's new show on HLN, "Nancy Grace: America's Missing," is dedicated to finding 50 people in 50 days. As part of the effort, which relies heavily on audience participation, CNN.com's news blog This Just In will feature the stories of the missing.
This is the 24th case, and it will be shown at 9 p.m. ET Thursday on HLN.
Authorities say they believe Chioma Gray, who disappeared from her California high school in December 2007, may have been taken to Mexico by a man who was previously convicted for having an illegal relationship with the teenager.
Chioma, then 14, was dropped off by relatives at her high school in Ventura on the morning of December 13, 2007, but she was nowhere to be found when her mother tried to pick her up in the afternoon.
Egyptian prosecutors have ordered the arrest of a former ruling party chief and three ministers from deposed strongman Hosni Mubarak's government, including its one-time interior minister, the state news agency MENA announced Thursday.Egypt's military government has ordered the arrest of former Interior Minister Habib Al-Adli.
Entire packs of endangered gray wolves may be killed under new directives from Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer.
Schweitzer ordered wildlife officers not to investigate or prosecute ranchers who shoot wolves that attack livestock, and he authorized the killing of entire packs that endanger livestock or elk.
The Democratic governor outlined his initiative Wednesday in a defiant letter to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, a copy of which was published on Schweitzer's website.
Sixteen Wisconsin state senators - 14 of them Democrats - did not appear at the capitol on Thursday for a scheduled vote on a bill that would strip some public employees of most of their collective bargaining rights and increase their contributions for benefits, according to Senate Majority Leader Jeff Fitzgerald and Wisconsin Democratic Party spokesperson Graeme Zielinski.
The bill cleared the Joint Finance Committee Wednesday night on a 12-4 vote and was intended toÂ move onto the state Senate Thursday for a vote, but the absence of so many senators left that vote schedule in question.
It is not clear where the absent lawmakers are.
One of the missing legislators, Senate Minority Leader Mark Miller, declined to say whether the missing group left the state, but said "we are located away from the state capitol in a secure place."
Explaining why he was staying away, Miller said: "It's the governor's job to be a leader of a state and to engage the interested parties in any kind of dramatic legislation. He failed to do that. He failed to ever contact any of the interested parties to work with our party. He's ramming this through in such a short time. It's the governor who failed to do his job."
"This was being fast-tracked. And we said, 'This is too fast.' Citizens won't stand for it. We're going to make sure that this bill has an opportunity for people to understand what's in it," Miller said.FULL STORY
It sounds like a Michael Bay movie - explosions on the sun affecting power grids, airlines, satellites.
But it's real, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says it's about to happen, but it's highly unlikely to cause harm.
Tiny eruptions on the sun called solar flares (a more detailed description here from the BBC) have been happening for a few days, according to the NOAA. The activity signals that the sun, which is relatively quiet, is waking up, doing what one might call more vigorous stretching than it has done in about four years.
The flares could result in a dazzling show of Northern Lights. However, more serious consequences are described in a NOAA release. The flares "can blast Earth with magnetic events that can damage the electrical grid and temporarily damage radio and satellite telecommunications."
"We want people to know this is not, like, the mother of all events," said Joseph Kunches, a space scientist at the Space Weather Prediction Center in Boulder, Colorado. "What it means for the airlines is that they will adjust their routes, they know this is happening. Power grid operators have back-up plans, and they know what's happening."
NOAA has been in close communication with all aspects of industry that could be affected, he said.
George Clooney: God's gift to women – Celebrities aren't Gods. They're just touched by them. A Cincinnati artist has painted a 4 by 10-foot mural that casts actor George Clooney in the role of Adam in Michelangelo's famous painting "The Creation of Adam." Apparently the actor is in town to film a movie and the artist wants to welcome him with open arms and graphic abs. This package is a crown jewel in the pantheon of local news campiness.
Hero with a plunger – When a Pennsylvania woman dropped her $10,000 wedding ring in her flushing toilet, she was told to forget about it by nearly every plumber in town. But just when she thought all hope was lost, a hero in a windowless van with his name emblazoned on his chest showed up, shop-vacced and saved the day.
Jupiter-sized sun flare – This week the sun decided to blast a solar flare the size of Jupiter. NASA caught these images, which are beautiful, but also slightly frightening considering these flares can disrupt technology here on Earth potentially knocking out power grids.
Watt's the deal with that? – Comedian and musician Reggie Watt's brings his hilarious and genuine talent to the stage at "Conan."
Wave of unrest grows – SinceÂ the ousterÂ of President Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, unprecedented anti-government demonstrationsÂ have swept the Middle East and North Africa. Protests in Libya appeared to be gathering steam Thursday in several cities, with some reportedly turning deadly. In Bahrain, which has been the center of several days of protests, at least three people were killed and nearly 200 injured after security forcesÂ stormed an encampment of demonstrators in the dead of night. An ABC News reporter covering the chaos was beaten. In Yemen, at least 20 people were injured in clashes between stone-throwing pro-and anti-government demonstrators inÂ the capital of Sanaa, an opposition lawmaker said.
Demonstrations close Wisconsin schools – Schools in 15 districts in Wisconsin are closed Thursday as thousands of public workers demonstrate against a bill that seeks to eliminate most of their collective bargaining rights and to make them pay dramatically more for health benefits. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, a Republican,Â said the bill addresses the state's budget crisis.
Blasts kill 20 in Tanzania – A series of blasts killed 20 people and injured dozens in a military camp in Tanzania, authorities said Thursday. At least 184 people were wounded at the army base in the main city of Dar es Salaam, said the assistant director of disaster management.Â The officialÂ declined to discuss the cause of the blasts but said she does not think they are terror-related.
Watson wins – Watson the supercomputer was victorious over "Jeopardy!" champs Ken Kennings and Brad Rutter. No word yet on whether he'll get a Wheaties box. Watson is just the latest machine to show up a human.
For decades, the live oak trees at Auburn's Toomer's Corner have hosted myriad celebrations following wins by the Tigers football team. Police block off the nearby intersection as fans frolic in the street, hurling rolls of toilet paper into the trees until the entire corner looksÂ as if Â it was hit by a snowstorm.
But the tradition may soon end, at least for these particular trees.
Last month, a professed University of Alabama fan – upset after the Tigers' 28-27 comeback victory over the Crimson Tide in November – called a nationally syndicated sports-talk radio show in Birmingham to boast that he had poisoned the trees. He said he used the herbicide Spike 80DF, or tebuthiuron.
Auburn University conducted tests after the January 27 phone call and confirmed Wednesday that lethal doses of Spike 80DF had indeed been applied to the soil around the trees. There is little chance the 130-year-old trees will survive, according to a university statement.Read CNN's full coverage of the poisoning of Auburn's trees at Toomer's Corner.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton planned to call Bahrain's foreign minister on Thursday about the violence there, two State Department officials told CNN.
Security forces in Bahrain's capital, Manama, stormed an encampment of protesters in the dead of nightÂ before dawnÂ Thursday, witnesses said, and the kingdom's health minister reported at least three people were killed and more than 200 others injured.
Bahrain is the headquarters of the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet, and the United States designated Bahrain as a major non-NATO ally in October 2001. Bahrain served as a base for U.S. military operations in the first Gulf War, and the U.S. is guaranteed the right to pre-position materials in Bahrain for use in future crises.
The administration is grappling with exactly what to say in response to the crackdown, the officials said. Top officials are "very concerned" about the violence but don't want to say anything that could lead to further violence, the sources said.
White House press secretary Jay Carney tried to walk that line during a press briefing Wednesday.
"Each country is different in how they respond to the expression of the legitimate aspirations of their people," he said. "It is very important and they need to do it in a way that reflects what we believe, what the president has said, are these universal values that each government needs to respect. And those are freedom of expression, freedom of the press, freedom of movement, freedom of assembly, freedom of access to information – the internet in particular – and to respond to those demonstrations in a nonviolent way. ...
"We call on both sides in countries where these demonstrations are taking place to be nonviolent and for the governments to be responsive."
Ten years ago, his legendary father died after a crash at the Daytona 500. His death in the final turn of "NASCARâ€™S Super Bowl" shook the sports world. Since then, according to USA Today, NASCAR and the surviving Earnhardt have struggled. Dale Earnhardt Jr. initially catapulted to fame, yet he feuded with his stepmother and left Earnhardt Racing. Though he was slated to start in pole position at the Daytona 500 this weekend, he wrecked his car in a practice Wednesday and landed at the back of the pack. Still, Sunday will be Earnhardt's 400th race of the Sprint Cup series. The last driver who won on his 400th career start was Earnhardt Sr.
Hackers traced to China penetrated two key Canadian economic ministries, gaining access to highly classified information,Â the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. reports.
The hackers took over computers in the executive offices of the Finance Department and the Treasury Board, unnamed sources told the network. They then sent fake e-mails to government computer techs and other employees to get them to divulge sensitive passwords in a technique known as executive spear-phishing.
Canadian federal officials disabled the two departments' internet connections for a time to halt any loss of data, CBC reported.
It isn't clear whether other departments were breached or how much data was stolen. Government officials aren't talking about the attack, which occurred inÂ January.
The source of the hack was traced to servers in China, but that doesn't mean the hackers were Chinese, the sources told CBC. They could have routed their paths through China to hide their identities, the sources said.
The pattern of the attack mirrors the GhostNet blitz that Â hacked 100 other governmentsÂ in March, according to the tech publication The Register.
Britons' fondness for a spot of tea is legendary. What isn't so well known is that their ancestors sipped their drinks from human skulls.
Scientists working at a site in Somerset, England, have found the first evidence of cannibalism in the British Isles, including the use of skulls for drinking cups, according to a study published Thursday by the Public Library of Science.
"New analyses of human remains from Gough's Cave demonstrate the skilled post-mortem manipulation of human bodies," write researchers Silvia M. Bello, Simon A. Parfitt and Chris B. Stringer with London's Natural History Museum and University College London.
They also found evidence – tool marks and prying damage – that human bodies were methodically butchered 14,000 years ago and bone marrow was removed for eating. The bodies' craniums were carefully separated from the jaw and facial bones and the edges were smoothed out for usefulness and comfort, they wrote.
"This shows us the complexity of human behavior in ancient Britain. ... They treated their dead in many different ways," Stringer told The Australian. "It seems gruesome to us, but there are people in Asia today who aren't even meat eaters, who treasure human skulls and use them as drinking bowls."
CNN.com Live is your home for all the latest developments in the Middle East and North Africa.
Today's programming highlights...
9:30 am ET - Gates, Mullen discuss Pentagon budget - The Defense Department has been a key target for those calling for lower federal spending and less debt.Â Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen discuss the proposed Pentagon budget before a Senate committee.
A magnitude 3.8 earthquake struck central Arkansas on Thursday morning, the U.S. Geological Survey reports.
The agency put the quake's depth at four miles and said it was centered about four miles from the town of Greenbrier.
It was the third quake above magnitude 3.2 in the area in the past 24 hours.
Last October, a 4.0 quake stuck the same area as Thursday's temblor.
At that time, officials said they were investigating what could be behind a series of 500 quakes in under a month.