The five most popular stories on CNN.com in the past 24 hours, according to NewsPulse:
Americans slain by captors on hijacked yacht:Â A round-the-world boating adventure ended tragically Tuesday for four Americans, whom pirates fatally shot after capturing their yacht in the Indian Ocean last week, U.S. officials said. (Two of the slain Americans, Bob Riggle and Phyllis Macay, are pictured above,)
Interior minister resigns rather than carry out Gadhafi orders:Â Libya's interior minister said Wednesday he has quit the government and is supporting the protesters, who he predicted will achieve victory in "days or hours."
Justin Bieber debuts 'mature' haircut: Justin Bieber fans probably couldn't Belieb their eyes when the teen idol trimmed his signature mop top yesterday.
Not married, not an angry slut: CNN's Jessica Ravitz reacts to a Huffington Post column called, "Why You're Not Married."
Pro-union website blocked in WI state Capitol: A left-leaning website that union supporters used to rally protesters in Wisconsin was partially blocked as demonstrators gathered in the state Capitol over a controversial budget bill.
Across the Middle East and North Africa, CNN's reporters and iReporters are covering protests, many of them inspired by revolts in Tunisia and Egypt that toppled those countries' longtime rulers. Check out our story explaining the roots of the unrest in each country. Have a story to tell from the scene? Click here to send an iReport.
Developments on unrest in the Middle East and North Africa:
[LIBYA, 10:25 p.m. ET, 5:25 a.m. local] Via Twitter, the U.S. State Department's Bureau of Consular AffairsÂ says U.S. citizens wishing to leave Libya should go to As-shahab Port as soon as possible after 9 a.m. and arrive no later than 10 a.m.
"U.S. government chartered ferry will depart for Valletta, Malta no later than 3 p.m. on Wednesday," the bureau said via Twitter.
Earlier, a senior administration official told CNN that the State Department is chartering ferries to take Americans from Tripoli's As-shahab port to Valletta, Malta on Wednesday.
[LIBYA, 10:18 p.m. ET, 5:18 a.m. local] With the United States unable to land any charter aircraft in Tripoli to fly U.S. citizens our of Libya on Tuesday, the U.S. State DepartmentÂ is chartering ferries to take travelers from Tripoli's As-shahab port to Valletta, Malta on Wednesday, according to a senior administration official not authorized to speak for attribution.
"Tomorrow the question will be if they let the ferry dock. If that happens, our people will flow out," the official said, adding that the reason the charter aircraft didn't land was because the Libyan authorities did not give them permission to do so.
Of the several thousand U.S. citizens in Libya, most are dual nationals; those solely with U.S. citizenship number about 600, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said.
The State Department issued a travel alert for non-essential staff to leave the country, an order affecting 35 employees and their families.
Crowley said the airport in Tripoli remained open in "challenging" circumstances. International carriers, he said, were making more seats available for departure.
[LIBYA, 9:32 p.m. ET, 4:32 a.m. local] The video below shows an interview with a Tripoli woman who says security forces there are trying "to not let anyone protest."
"They're trying so hard to show that the country is fine, the country is not falling, the regime is not falling, but that's not happening," she said.
[LIBYA, 8:40 p.m. ET, 3:40 a.m. local] A Libyan government spokesman, speaking on television, said U.S. and Israeli intelligence operatives were behind the unrest. "We will get rid of them, in collaboration with our people in the eastern province," he said.
He said Libyan authorities have asked those tribe members who have attacked barracks and police stations to return the weapons they had taken "because security and safety will return to normal." Referring to reports that the military had attacked civilians, he said, "We have reports and evidence they are not using arms unless against those who
attacked the barracks."
[LIBYA, 7:52 p.m. ET, 2:52 a.m. local] Abdul Fattah Younis al Abidi, who confirmed to CNN that he stepped down as Libya's interior minister, says Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi is "a stubborn man" who will not give up.
"He will either commit suicide or he will get killed," said Abidi, who said he has known him since 1964.
[LIBYA, 6:56 p.m. ET, 1:38 a.m. local] Libya's interior minister has confirmed to CNN that he has quit the government and is supporting the protesters, who he predicted will achieve victory in a matter "of days or hours."
Ex-Interior Minister Abdul Fattah Younis al Abidi told CNN that he resigned Monday after hearing that some 300 unarmed civilians had been killed in Benghazi alone during the prior two to three days, and he accused Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi of planning to attack civilians on a wide scale.
"Gadhafi told me he was planning on using airplanes against the people in Benghazi and I told him that he will have thousands of people killed if he does that," Abidi said in an Arabic-language telephone interview conducted Wednesday.
[LIBYA, 6:38 p.m. ET, 1:38 a.m. local] Libya's deputy ambassador to the United Nations, Ibrahim Dabbashi, who on Monday accused Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi of genocide, told reporters at the U.N. on Tuesday that he again calls "on the regime to stop killing the Libyan people."FULL STORY ON PROTESTS IN LIBYA
Rahm Emanuel, a former chief of staff to President Barack Obama, won the Chicago mayoral election Tuesday, topping the 50% threshold to avoid a run-off vote, CNN projects.FULL STORY
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 27th case, and it will be shown Tuesday at 9 p.m. on HLN.
Authorities say a missing girl might have been taken by her noncustodial father, whom they accuse of killing her mother.
Allyson Corrales was 3 when her mother was found fatally stabbed in her Kansas City, Missouri, apartment in March 2009. The girl was gone when the body was found.
A roundup of today's CNNMoney news:
'Substantial risk' of 25% drop in home prices: National home prices fell 4.1% during the last three months of 2010, compared with 12 months earlier. And things may get a lot worse.
Should you pay off your house?: An increasing number of homeowners are wondering if it makes sense to hasten the day they can say goodbye to a big monthly expense while earning the equivalent of a decent, guaranteed return.
Texas lawmakers are weighing a bill that would allow professors and students to carry concealed weapons on college campuses. Before the voting begins, a public meeting on the measure will be announced soon on the legislature's site, searchable by #sb354.
"This is about self-defense," said San Antonio Republican Sen. Jeff Wentworth, the legislation's sponsor. "It's about protecting lives of students who are totally vulnerable and defenseless and able to be picked off by a deranged shooter, as was the case in Virginia."
Wentworth is referring to the April 2007 massacre at Virginia Tech when student Seung-Hui Cho shot 32 people to death. All except two were killed in classrooms in a single on-campus building. Cho committed suicide as authorities approached. He had purchased the handguns used in the massacre legally. (See CNN.com's special coverage of the Virginia Tech tragedy.)
Virginia Tech is the deadliest school shooting in U.S. history. The second-deadliest happened in 1966 when Charles Whitman killed 16 people and wounded 31 at the University of Texas at Austin. A student and former U.S. Marine, Whitman picked off some of his victims from his perch in a campus tower. Most recently in Texas, a student fired an assault rifle in September at the University of Texas. He killed himself, but no one else was hurt.
"The Virginia shooter was mentally deranged. The people who would be able to carry weapons on campus, if this passes, would be licensed, and therefore fully trained," he said. "To get a license in Texas, you have to be 21, go through a 10-hour course and pass an exam, and go out on a shooting range with a handgun and pass a test.
One would have to undergo a criminal background check and pay a fee of more than $100, Wentworth said. "People do not lightly apply for licenses," he said. "We would have responsible, trained people there in the classroom."
Opponents of the bill are concerned that more guns would mean more violence. Critics include two Virginia Tech students who barely escaped Cho's rampage.
"I was there that day. It was the craziest day of my life with one person walking around with two guns," Colin Goddard told reporters last week when he spoke out against the bill at the Texas Capitol. "I can't even imagine what it would have been like with multiple students and multiple guns."
Goddard was shot four times and survived by playing dead. He wrote about his opposition to guns on campus for CNN.com in January.
Former Tech student John Woods, whose girlfriend was killed in the shooting, joined Goddard in Texas to say he, too, is against the bill.
The vast majority of Democrats in the Indiana House have stayed away from the statehouse Tuesday, effectivelyÂ blocking a Republican-supported bill that would reduce private-sector union rights.
Republicans - who make up 60 of 100 House seats - lacked the two-thirds majority needed for a quorum. Sixty-three lawmakers attended.
Democratic state senators in Wisconsin similarly boycotted their legislature last week to prevent a quorum from passing a budget bill that would increase the costs of benefits to public employees and curb their collective bargaining rights.FULL STORY
Jurors in Arizona decided Tuesday on the death penalty as the punishment for anti-illegal immigration activist Shawna Forde (pictured), who was convicted of killing a Latino man and his 9-year-old daughter during a vigilante raid, a
court spokeswoman said.
The Oscar-winning actor may be attending Sunday night's ceremonies, but a lead story in Newsweek this week is not about his next movie, but his work in the war-torn country of Sudan. Clooney, who was in Sudan a month ago, tells the magazine, which called him a 21st-century celebrity statesman: "Celebrity can help focus news media where they have abdicated their responsibility. We can't make policy, but we can 'encourage' politicians more than ever before."
The dean of Christchurch Cathedral in Christchurch, New Zealand, was in his office when the earthquake hit. The cathedral was heavily damaged, and Beck has called for unity, asking people to help each other out after the tragedy. Sixty-five people have died, and rescue operations are under way for the scores ofÂ people who are still trapped.
The mayor of Milwaukee, who ran in the governor's race last fall against now-Gov. Scott Walker, has accused the governor of creating "an ideological war." Barrett gave his "state of the city" speech at the Milwaukee Job Corps Center on Monday, and during the speech defended the Democratic senators who left the state to prevent a vote on Walker's drastic budget-cutting proposal that includes gutting collective bargaining rights for many public employees.
Musician Rufus Wainwright and his partner, Jorn Weisbrodt, have announced the birth of their baby daughter, Viva Katherine Wainwright Cohen. Lorca Cohen, the daughter of musician and songwriter Leonard Cohen, gave birth to baby Viva in Los Angeles on February 2. Wainwright's website outlines how his new four-part family came to be. "In many of the articles announcing the birth of Viva Katherine Wainwright Cohen, Lorca Cohen is characterized as 'the surrogate.' Of course, she is no such thing. She did not carry the child for someone else. Lorca Cohen is the mother of the baby and Rufus Wainwright is the father." Rufus Wainwright is the son of singers Kate McGarrigle and Loudon Wainwright III.
The program director of Toronto's 105.3 KISS FM has banned Carrie Underwood music from the station ... for life. Zarbatany did so because Underwood's hockey player husband Mike Fisher was traded from Ottawa to Nashville recently. Zarbatany called Underwood hockey's Yoko Ono.
Wayward snowboarder - This video looks like it could be pulled right from a major Hollywood action flick. But it's an actual rescue by the National Guard of a snowboarder who lost his way. And as you might expect, this snowboarder has a pretty chill attitude about the whole ordeal.
Libya - Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi may be losing control of the country. There appears to be no government control in eastern Libya. CNN's Ben Wedeman, who is reporting exclusively from inside Libya where other reporters have not been allowed, says the unrest is threatening oil supplies. Tripoli residents say they are running out of food and facing gunfire from Libyan security forces. Gadhafi went on TV to deny reports that he had fled the country, and state television has reported he will speak again. Who is Gadhafi, and who is his son, who also addressed the nation?
Other international protests - Across the Middle East and North Africa, dozens of protests in several countries continue to rage. Stay up to date with CNN.com's live blog from the region. In Bahrain, at least 30,000 protesters have marched through the center of Manama, the capital. It's the biggest anti-government rally since protests there began last week.
New Zealand earthquake - A 6.3-magnitude quake rocked Christchurch, New Zealand, one of the country's largest cities. The quake killed 65 people, but the death toll is expected to increase. Several people are trapped in the rubble of buildings that were flattened. Tour the devastation with CNN's Anna Coren, and listen to the mayor describe the earthquake.
[Updated at 9:24 a.m.] Negotiations were under way to free the hostages when gunfire erupted aboard the pirated vessel, a statement from U.S. Central Command said.
"As they responded to the gunfire, reaching and boarding the Quest, the forces discovered all four hostages had been shot by their captors.Â Despite immediate steps to provide life-saving care, all four hostages ultimately died of their wounds," the statement said.
A reaction force boarding the S/V Quest "was engaged by pirates," two of whom died during the confrontation. Thirteen other pirates were captured, along with two who were already in the custody of U.S. forces, according to central command.
Two other pirates were already dead when U.S. forces boarded the S/V Quest, the statement said. In all, 19 pirates are believed to have been involved in the hijacking.Read CNN's full coverage of 4 Americans killed by pirates
Watch CNN.com Live for continuing coverage of the turmoil in the Middle East and North Africa.
Today's programming highlights...
Ongoing coverage - Conflict inÂ Middle East/North Africa
9:00 am ET - U.N. debates Libya - The crisis in Libya is the focal point of talks at the United Nations Security Council.