The five most popular stories on CNN.com in the past 24 hours, according to NewsPulse:
Japan holds the line in nuclear plant crisis: Efforts to cool one of the reactors at a quake-damaged Japanese nuclear power plant have been "somewhat effective" since authorities turned helicopters, fire trucks and police water cannon on the facility, its owner said Friday.
Japan quake live blog: The latest developments on the aftermath of a magnitude 9.0 earthquake that hit northern Japan a week ago, causing widespread devastation and crippled a nuclear power plant.
U.N. Security Council OKs Libya no-fly zone: Jubilant Libyan rebels in Benghazi erupted with fireworks and gunfire after the U.N. Security Council voted Thursday evening to impose a no-fly zone and permit "all necessary measures" to protect civilians.
'Heartbroken' Obama offers support to Japan: U.S. President Barack Obama said Thursday that he was "heartbroken" over events in Japan but was offering resources to help the Japanese recover as well as to keep U.S. citizens out of harm's way.
The moments that make us fat: If you're trying to lose weight, close your eyes for a minute and imagine the moments that make you fat.
NASA’s MESSENGER spacecraft on Thursday night became the first to achieve orbit around Mercury, the space agency announced.
Engineers at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory confirmed MESSENGER achieved orbit at 9:10 p.m. ET, NASA said.
Aboard the MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging spacecraft are seven science instruments, fortified against the intense heat and cold near the solar system's innermost planet. They will retrieve data on Mercury's geochemistry, geophysics, geologic history, atmosphere, magnetosphere and plasma environment, according to NASA.
According to National Geographic, temperatures on Mercury's surface can reach 800 degrees Fahrenheit (430 Celsius). Because the planet has no atmosphere to retain that heat, nighttime temperatures can drop to minus 280 degrees (minus 170 degrees Celsius).
The instruments will be turned on and checked out beginning March 23 and, on April 4, the primary science phase of the mission will begin, NASA said in a statement.
A magnitude 9.0 earthquake hit northern Japan early Friday, triggering tsunamis that caused widespread devastation and crippled a nuclear power plant. Are you in an affected area? Send an iReport. Read the full report on the quake's aftermath and check out our interactive explainer on Japan's damaged nuclear reactors.
[10:43 p.m. ET Thursday, 11:43 a.m. Friday in Tokyo] Japan's National Police Agency reported at 9 a.m. Friday (8 p.m. ET Thursday) that 6,406 people are confirmed dead and 10,259 have been reported missing following last week's 9.0-magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami.
[9:47 p.m. ET Thursday, 10:47 a.m. Friday in Tokyo] A radiation reading of 20 millisieverts per hour has been recorded at a key annex building at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant – the highest yet recorded there – an official from the Tokyo Electric Power Company said Friday morning. In comparison, a typical chest X-ray exposes a person to about .02 millisieverts of radiation. A typical dose of background radiation in developed countries is about 3 millisieverts over an entire year.
[9:02 p.m. ET Thursday, 10:02 a.m. Friday in Tokyo] Japanese stocks open higher as the United States, United Kingdom, Canada and European Central Bank agree to join Japan to intervene in currency markets.
[8:49 p.m. ET Thursday, 9:49 a.m. Friday in Tokyo] Officials gave contradictory reports about the status of a new cable intended to restore power to reactor Unit No. 2 at the Fukushimi Daiichi nuclear power plant, which was damaged in the earthquake and tsunami has been emitting high levels of radiation. The International Atomic Energy Agency, citing Japanese authorities, said the power cord had reached the unit and that it would be connected once spraying of water on the No. 3 reactor building had been completed. But a spokesman for the Tokyo Electric Power Co., which owns the plant, told CNN the electrical line had not been connected, though officials hoped to get it connected by the end of the day Friday.
[8:30 p.m. ET Thursday, 9:30 a.m. Friday in Tokyo] The U.S. State Department said it is possible there are still Americans inside the 80-kilometer (50-mile) evacuation zone around the troubled nuclear plants, and is sending a fleet of 14 buses to Sendai – north of the evacuation zone – to evacuate as many as 600 Americans who may still be in one of the areas hardest hit by the disaster and having difficulty traveling because of road damage.
[7:50 p.m. ET Thursday, 8:50 a.m. Friday in Tokyo] Australia and South Korea on Thursday urged their citizens living within 80 kilometers of the plant to evacuate. That evacuation zone, like the one recommended by the United States, is much larger than the 20-kilometer (12-mile) radius ordered by the Japanese government
[7:24 p.m. ET Thursday, 8:24 a.m. Friday in Tokyo] The Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency says engineers have gotten an emergency diesel generator for Unit 6 running to supply energy to Units 5 and 6 at the Fukushima Daiichi plant. Water injection to the spent fuel pool is continuing.
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 44th case, and it was shown Thursday night on HLN.
Rosemary Diaz, 15, was excited about entering the work force as a clerk at Dane's Country Store just down the road from home in Danevang, a one-traffic-light town south of Houston that is known as the Danish capital of Texas. The small convenience store sold everything from hamburgers to gasoline, and Rosemary was trusted to do the work on her own.
On the night of November 24, 1990, just weeks into the job, Rosemary was waiting for her sister. Elia, to visit her at the store, police say. Rosemary called home at 7:30 p.m. to make sure they were still coming.
Soon afterward, two customers entered the shop, and no clerk was to be found. Office hurried to the store and found Rosemary's car parked outside. Her purse with cash and her paycheck were left behind in the store, police say. No money was missing from the register, and there were no obvious signs of a struggle. Only the soda machine had been moved and the front leg bent.
To this day, there are no strong leads and for Rosemary's family, many nagging 'what ifs'. Elia Diaz says she almost stopped by the store earlier that day to buy a drink. Instead she drove to her mom's house first.
"Maybe I would have saved her."
Immigration enforcement in the United States is plagued by inhumane treatment of detainees, inadequate legal representation and the increasing use of detention as a necessity rather than an alternative, an international human rights group said in a report released Thursday.
The 155-page report by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights is the most comprehensive review by an international organization of American immigration policy since the Department of Homeland Security took over enforcement responsibilities from the former Immigration and Naturalization Service in 2002, leading to the creation of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
"The IACHR is convinced that detention is a disproportionate measure in many if not most cases, and that programs that provide for alternatives to detention would be a more balanced means to serve the State's legitimate interest in ensuring compliance with immigration laws," the report says.
In cases where detention is necessary, the commission found a lack of conditions "commensurate with human dignity and humane treatment." The report also noted that detainees face obstacles to due process, mainly the right to an attorney, especially in cases involving unaccompanied children, immigrants with mental disabilities and others unable to represent themselves.
The report, which focuses on ICE's civil immigrations operations, also criticizes the multiple partnerships between local and state entities to enforce civil immigration laws.
The U.N. Security Council on Thursday evening voted to authorize a no-fly zone over Libya and to “take all necessary measures” - without using an occupation force - to protect civilians and population centers under the threat of attack in Libya.
Diplomats warned that action was needed to halt Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's rapid advances against rebel positions in his country.
The broadly worded resolution would seem to leave open the possibility that air forces implementing the no-fly zone may not only prevent Libyan military aircraft from flying, but also target Gadhafi’s wider ability to wage war.
“We’ve been told by diplomats this could certainly indeed move the door so that you have a more of a robust military approach – by the West, by Arab countries – to help the rebels and stop Col. Gadhafi from reaching Benghazi,” said CNN’s senior U.N. correspondent, Richard Roth.
“The next step is really not here anymore at the U.N. It is going to be decided elsewhere [by U.N. member states] whether there are planes flying and ships moving to counter Col. Gadhafi’s military advance,” Roth said, adding that it wasn’t clear when the establishment of the no-fly zone would happen.
Here is what Thursday’s resolution authorizes:
The authorization establishes a ban on all flights in Libyan airspace to help protect civilians. The exceptions are:
– Flights by U.N. member states for the purpose of enforcing the flight ban
– Humanitarian flights (such as those delivering medical supplies, food and humanitarian workers)
– Any flights “which are deemed necessary” by nations enforcing the no-fly zone.
Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's forces will take up positions around Benghazi on Saturday or Sunday to assist people fleeing the city, said his son, Saadi Gadhafi.
The younger Gadhafi said there will be no large-scale assault. Instead police and anti-terrorism units will be sent into the rebel stronghold to disarm the opposition.
From CNN's Nic Robertson
The U.N. Security Council on Thursday voted to approve a no-fly zone extending over all of Libya to try to halt Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's mounting attacks against rebel positions.
The resolution states that "all necessary means" can be used to enforce the no-fly zone. Flights to provide humanitarian aid, medicine or for evacuations are exempt.
The vote was 10 for, none against and five abstentions.FULL STORY
CNN Senior International Correspondent Nic Robertson gave an account last week of how forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi detained him and his crew, along with the taxi driver who had given them a ride. This is his update on the taxi driver:
The day after government gunmen brutally detained us, we were told our innocent taxi driver had been released.
We'd last seen him being driven away by the same thugs who'd bundled us into their cars and dumped us at our hotel gates. He was shaking, could barely speak, appeared traumatized by the utter bad luck that had befallen him for simply giving us a ride.
In any other country, his behavior would be treated normally. He was a taxi driver stopping to give potential fare-paying passengers a ride.
But not here. Not in Libya.
President Barack Obama announced on Thursday – St. Patrick's Day – that he will stop in Ireland in May as a side trip from his state visit to the United Kingdom, and that he hopes to visit the birthplace there of his great-great-great-great-great grandfather.
He made the announcement as he met with the Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny in the Oval Office. The birthplace is in Moneygall, he said, adding that he also plans to visit "famous sites" in the country.
Obama – clad in a light green tie and sporting shamrocks emerging from his suit pocket – stressed the "incredible bond" between the two countries. Beyond the customary comments on his guest's leadership, the president thanked Ireland for its assistance with the U.S. effort in Afghanistan and on issues such as food security, and hailed progress and stability in Northern Ireland.FULL STORY
The House of Representatives passed legislation Thursday that would bar federal funding for National Public Radio.
While the measure was expected to pass the GOP-controlled House, it is believed to have little chance of clearing the Democratic-controlled Senate.
The U.S. Senate has passed a bill extending funding for the federal government through April 8.
The legislation, which cleared the House on Tuesday, now advances to the president, who is expected to sign the measure.
Enactment of the measure would avert a government shutdown at midnight Friday.
In a telephone address televised on Libyan state TV, leader Moammar Gadhafi criticized residents of opposition-held Benghazi on Thursday, calling them "traitors" for seeking help from outsiders.
Gadhafi said his forces will enter Benghazi to rid the city of those "traitors" and that his forces
will search everyone for weapons. He added that his forces gave amnesty to those who gave up their weapons in Ajdabiya.
Gadhafi's ground forces have been fighting their way toward Benghazi, in eastern Libya, for several days.
State TV claimed Thursday that Gadhafi's forces were in control of the city of Ajdabiya, on the road to Benghazi. But opposition leaders said they maintained control. Gadhafi's forces have taken control of the eastern and western gates to the city and are trying to get inside, while the opposition controls the southern entrance, opposition leaders said.
Some Americans are worried that radiation from the damaged nuclear reactors in Japan could cause harm on the U.S. West Coast, prompting a run on potassium iodide pills. But the scientific consensus is that the fear is unfounded.
Greg Evans, a professor of chemical engineering at the University of Toronto, said there is no danger to people on the west coast of the United States and Canada.
"There's really no need to be worried about any sort of radiation release from Japan reaching across the Pacific to people on the West Coast," Evans told CNN International's Hala Gorani.
A U.S. agency director agrees. Gregory Jaczko, the head of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, said Thursday there is little concern about harmful radiation levels in the United States as a result of the damaged Japanese plant.
The federal government's recommendation that U.S. citizens stay at least 50 miles away from the plant remains "prudent and precautionary," he told reporters at the White House.
The last time the world was threatened by nuclear disaster was in 1986. The world was brought to its knees when a reactor at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant exploded. This brought to light the extreme dangers of modern science and caused scientists and lawmakers to re-evaluate the use of nuclear energy.
Experts cannot agree on how dangerous Japan's nuclear crisis is.
The International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale ranks incidents from Level 1, which indicates very little danger to the general population, to Level 7, a "major accident" with a large release of radioactive material and widespread health and environmental effects.
"It's clear we are at Level 6, that's to say we're at a level in between what happened at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl," Andre-Claude Lacoste, president of France's nuclear safety authority, told reporters Tuesday.
To Irish Catholics, St. Patrick's Day is not just a day for green beer and ridiculous hats. It's the feast day of their nation's patron saint.
According to Catholic.org, Patrick was born to Roman parents in occupied Scotland in the year 387. He was kidnapped and taken to pagan Ireland as a slave at age 14 but escaped and returned to Great Britain at age 20. He entered the Catholic priesthood and eventually became a bishop. In 433 he was dispatched back to Ireland, where he used a shamrock to illustrate the concept of the Holy Trinity. Virtually the entire population of the island converted to Catholicism.
He died on March 17, 461 (some sources say 493).
It's St. Patrick's Day, and everyone is feeling a little Irish today. CNN.com Live is there as we cover the Irish prime minister's trip to Washington. We're also your home for the latest news from Japan.
Today's programming highlights...
Ongoing coverage - Japan earthquake/tsunami aftermath
8:30 am ET - Irish PM meets with Biden – He's only been in office a few days, but Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny is already being treated like a VIP. He begins his day at Vice President Biden's Naval Observatory home for a breakfast in his honor.
Sophisticated recording equipment on the floor of the Pacific Ocean recorded the sound of the earthquake that hit Japan on Friday, as well as two aftershocks.
Spain's Polytechnic University of Catalonia, through its Laboratory of Applied Bioacoustics, made the recordings. The low-frequency sounds had to be accelerated by a factor of 16 to make them audible to humans, the lab's website says.
Listen to the audio from the Laboratory of Applied Bioacoustics: