The five most popular stories on CNN.com in the past 24 hours, according to NewsPulse.
Body of missing Ohio mother found: The mother-in-law of a 25-year-old woman found dead in a septic system provided investigators with details where the corpse was located, police said Wednesday.
Only 14, Bangladeshi girl was lashed to death: Hena Akhter's last words to her mother proclaimed her innocence. But it was too late to save the 14-year-old girl.
Parents sue over photos of slain daughter: The parents of a murder victim are suing Facebook after a paramedic pleaded guilty to photographing their daughter's corpse and posting the image to the social networking site, according to court documents.
High radiation levels near nuclear plant: The chairman of the Japanese company that owns the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant said Wednesday it has no choice but to decommission four of the plant's six reactors.
Leaping sea creatures: Do we need bigger boats? Has Aquaman's telepathic message been scrambled? Are the buddies of "Jaws" seeking revenge? Actually, many ocean animals jump out of the water when either chasing prey or trying to elude a predator.
India celebrated on Wednesday after beating Pakistan in the World Cup of cricket, a match that brought together twoÂ arch-rivalsÂ on the field and the leaders of their countries in the stands for some "cricket diplomacy."
Pakistani Prime Minister Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani arrived in India Wednesday to watch 2011 ICC World Cup second semi-final withÂ his Indian counterpart, Manmohan Singh,Â as the nuclear neighbors try to repair ties wounded by the 2008 terror attacks on Mumbai.
Politics nearly threatened to take the focus off the high-pitched cricket match, which prompted early closures of thousands of businesses in Mohali, the city hosting the game.
Gilani's visit came a day after his country agreed in principle to allow a tour by an Indian commission in connection with the investigations into the Mumbai assault blamed on Pakistani militant groups. In talks Tuesday in New Delhi, Indian and Pakistani home secretaries also pledged to set up a "hotline" on terror threats.
The Times of India noted that Singh had been "jittery" over the possibility that their meeting in the stands of the Punjab Cricket AssociationÂ StadiumÂ would receive "more-than-necessary coverage by an intrusive media."
The CIA is operating in Libya to help the United States increase its "military and political understanding" of the situation, a U.S. intelligence source said.
"But yes, we are gathering intel firsthand and we are in contact with some opposition entities," the source told CNN.
The White House refused to comment on a Reuters report Wednesday that President Barack Obama has signed a secret order authorizing covert U.S. government support for rebel troops.
"I will reiterate what the President said yesterday - no decision has been made about providing arms to the opposition or to any group in Libya," White House press secretary Jay Carney said in a statement. "We're not ruling it out or ruling it in. We're assessing and reviewing options for all types of assistance that we could provide to the Libyan people, and have consulted directly with the opposition and our international partners about these matters."
NASA released on Wednesday more of the first images of Mercury taken by a spacecraft orbiting the planet, including the first color closeups depicting it in all itsÂ pock-markedÂ glory.
The images were taken by NASA's Messenger spacecraft, the first mission to orbit the planet closest to the sun, according to Messenger's website. Mercury has been seen up close before in fly-bys, but this mission marks the first complete long view reconnaissance of the planetâs geochemistry, geophysics, geologic history, atmosphere, magnetosphere, and plasma environment.
The mission also allows NASA and its partner, The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, an opportunity to show off Messenger's impressive Mercury Dual Imaging System, which has two cameras: the Narrow Angle Camera and the Wide Angle Camera, NASA said.
Radiation levels in a Japanese village outside a government-ordered evacuation zone have exceeded one of the criteria for evacuation, the International Atomic Energy Agency said Wednesday.
The agency said it advised Japan "to carefully assess the situation."
Scientists have found an organism that may be eating plastic in the ocean, according to a report in Nature News.
But whether the bug is green or mean remains to be seen, a scientist told CNN on Wednesday.
It has been proven that microbes can degrade plastic, said marine microbiologist Tracy Mincer of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts. What's significant is that the plastic is being degraded in a nutrient-poor area of the sea, an "ocean desert," Mincer said.
The bacteria, found in a region of the North Atlantic Ocean called the Sargasso Sea, is clearly breaking down the plastic, but scientists donât know if the byproduct is environment-friendly waste or a toxin. If the bacteria -Â or its wasteÂ - is consumed by larger organisms, the effects could be detrimental to aquatic life.
Examining items such as a fishing line and plastic bag, Mincer discovered the living cells entrenched in the plastic, seemingly gorging on it, he told Nature News.
In any event, the findings suggest the vast "garbage patches" that have been found in parts of the world's oceans and considered largely devoid of life may be full of living communities.
"We are seeing the plastic particles as a type of artificial reef that certain types of microbes can colonize," Mincer said. "SinceÂ plastic has a much longer residence time in the water column than anyÂ other natural particle in the water column, this could be making aÂ significant impact."
The discovery of environs that encourage plastic-eating bacteria raises larger questions about the organisms'Â toll on other aquatic life, Mincer said.
"One of the questions that I am interested in is: How does this artificially introduced plastic that is heavily colonized by microbes influence the rest of the water column microbialÂ balance?" he asked.
The part of the Sargasso Sea that scientists studied is depleted of phosphorous and other nutrients, Mincer said.
"In other words, are the plastic colonizers stealing awayÂ phosphorous from others that would normally be receiving this share?"
Four days after Eman al-Obeidy publicly accused members of Moammar Gadhafi's militia of raping her, the whereabouts of the 29-year-old woman remain unclear.
The Libyan government said al-Obeidy was freed after being briefly detained.
But she has not been seen publicly since she was dragged away by security men Saturday and bundled into a waiting white car outside the Rixos HotelÂ after revealing her accusations to journalists.
Aisha Ahmad said she has not heard from her daughter and challenged Gadhafi to air video of her on state television as proof of her well-being.FULL STORY
What's up with the leaping sea creatures? Has Aquaman's telepathic message been scrambled? Are the buddies of "Jaws" seeking revenge? Are we going to need bigger boats?
Actually, "many ocean animals do jump out of the water when either chasing prey or trying to elude a predator," Timothy J. Mullican, vice president of zoological operations at the Georgia Aquarium, said in an e-mail to CNN. And the eagle ray and mako shark are both known jumpers, he said.
But plopping on a boat is far from the usual result, he said.
In the Florida case, "the presence of the boat may have spooked the eagle ray, or it may just be a one-in-a-million intersection of boat and animal," Mullican said.
And off Texas, "the shark could have conceivably been accelerating through the cloud of 'chum,' broken the surface and unfortunately found a boat occupying the space where it was going to land," Mullican said.
On landbigfish.com, fishing guide Dennis Dobson also provides a few ideas why free fish - those yet to taste the hook - jump. Females may be trying to loosen eggs for spawning, he says, and both sexes may be trying to rid themselves of parasites. Or, he writes tongue in cheek,Â they may be just "flipping the fin" to fishermen.
If that's the case, then some fishermen have figured them out. TheyÂ count on their catch leaping aboard. The book "Fish Catching Methods of the World" describes how fishermen in several countries rely on fish behavior instead of hooks and nets.
And leaping aquatic creaturesÂ aren't only found on oceans, rivers and lakes. I know this from personal childhood trauma. That goldfish gasping for oxygen on my childhood bedroom floor didn't jump from its bowl with a death wish, my parents assured me. That was just what fish sometimes did.
And while last weekend's two incidents were obvious shockers for those on board the two boats, imagine if a great white shark plopped onto your bow. That's exactly what happened to some German tourists offÂ South AfricaÂ a few years ago. Get their view here.
In South Africa, the great white got away. And the Florida ray was set free. But things didn't end so well for the Texas mako or my goldfish.[cnn-videoÂ url="http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/us/2011/03/30/vo.tx.shark.boat.khou"%5D
Workers at an oil sand site in Canada have found a 110 million-year-old fossil of a dinosaur previously unknown in that area, Alberta's Royal Tyrrell Museum announced.
Employees of Suncor Energy, the parent company of Sunoco and PetroCanada, stopped work last week near Fort McMurray, Alberta, when supervisor Michel Gratton and shovel operator Shawn Funk found a large lump of dirt with an unusual texture and diamond patterns.
The celebrity gossip blogger announced Tuesday that he will write a childrenâs book with Penguin called, âThe Boy with Pink Hair,â the Los Angeles Times reports. Penguin says the book is about âa child born with a shock of fabulous hair that sets him apart from his peers. While some find this difference hard to accept or understand, 'The Boy with Pink Hair' uses the opportunity to find what makes him special and share it with the world.â
The embattled president of Syria acknowledged in a speech Wednesday that his citizens want reform and said that the nation is "now the target of a worldwide conspiracy." He said, "We are for reform, and we are for meeting the peopleâs demands. But we are not in favor of chaos and destruction.â Assad's comments come after anti-government protests in Syria and a day after his Cabinet resigned.
The Ohio native and founder of the Our Time youth organization is launching its F#%K, I Need a Job! campaignÂ Wednesday. The movement, which features a petition, hopes to help young adults fight unemployment. âOur Time is putting names and faces to a group of workers who are being overlooked – our strength is truly in our numbers,â Segal said in a news release. âAmerica needs a wake-up call – we are leaving our next generation behind. Â And young Americans need a reality check – no one is coming to bail us out.â
The 24-year-old from Los Angeles is the creator of Penny Chic, a blog featuring styled looks from clothes bought entirely from Walmart. The site, which is not affiliated with the retailer, was started when Miller could not find a job after graduating from college. On the blog, Miller, who once worked at a Paris fashion house, wrote, "Whatâs more intriguing to me is the challenge of looking chic at a time when this seasonâs must-have Little Black Dress is no longer an option. ... And thatâs when I came up with the idea to put Americaâs cheapest discount department store on a fashion pedestal and ditch the skinny models for me and my friends."
It's water, water everywhere. From a plane's incredible crash water landing to a 300-pound eagle ray that smacked a woman during a tourist boat trip, today's Gotta Watch videos are all about water. And just when you thought it couldn't get any wackier, there's a fisherman's dream: a 400-pound shark.
Plane's plunges into ocean – A plane tries to land in St. Petersburg, Florida, but hits the ocean and flips over just short of the runway. The spectacular sight is all caught on tape by two friends just trying to enjoyÂ the day at a nearby racetrack.[cnn-videoÂ url="http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/us/2011/03/30/plane.crash.water.landing.wfts"%5D
At its peak this winter, Arctic Ocean ice covered the smallest area since satellites started measuring it in 1979, researchers report.
Arctic sea ice probably reached its maximum extent for the year on March 7, at 5.65 million square miles, according to the University of Colorado-Boulderâs National Snow and Ice Data Center.
That figure was 463,000 square miles (about the size of South Africa) less than the 1979-2000 average of 6.12 million square miles, and was about the same as in the winter of 2006, the center reported.
At its end-of-summer minimum in September, Arctic sea ice extent was the third-lowest since 1979.
Sea ice extent is the primary measure for assessing the condition of the ice cover, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
The NOAA website has a time-lapse video showing how sea ice fluctuates and moves during winter.
âIâm not surprised by the new data because weâve seen a downward trend in winter sea ice extent for some time now,â National Snow and Ice Data Center scientist Walt Meier told Science Daily.
The seven lowest measurements of end-of-winter sea ice have been recorded in the last seven years, he told Science Daily.
On his second visit to Cleveland Tuesday since he took his talents to South Beach, the Miami Heat's LeBron James found no place to park and no victory on the court.
The former Cavaliers star and reigning NBA MVP was booed every time he touched the ball in Quicken Loans Arena, and though he posted a triple-double - 27 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds - it was not enough to bring down the Cavs, who posted a 102-90 win.
Cavaliers' owner Dan Gilbert, who pilloried James for deserting the Cavs and Cleveland last summer, saluted the hometown fans after Tuesday's game.
"I'm in awe of the fans of Cleveland," The Plain Dealer quoted Gilbert as saying on his way out of the building. "They stood behind this team all year."
While the Cavs game James' team fits on the court, Gilbert's staff gave James fits on his way into the arena Tuesday, ESPN.com reported.
Watch CNN.com Live for continuing coverage of the conflict in Libya and the nuclear crisis in Japan.
Today's programming highlights...
10:00 am ET - Nuclear safety hearing - The nuclear crisis in Japan is making some in the United States concerned about nuclear safety in this country.Â A Senate appropriations subcommittee discusses that issue today.
In a televised speech Wednesday, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad blamed unrest in his country on "enemies... working daily and scientifically to undermine the stability of Syria," but said they were "stupid in choosing to target Syria."
He called the anti-government demonstrations "a test of our unity."
On Tuesday, tens of thousands of pro-government demonstrators poured onto the streets of Damascus, although state media reported a much higher national turnout.
"Millions of people around Syria rallied in the cities' main squares to express loyalty to homeland and underline its national unity," SANA reported. "Syrian people gathered on Tuesday to stress the importance of maintaining security and stability and to support the massive reform program led by President Bashar al-Assad."
Tuesday's pro-government rally followed violent clashes between protesters and security forces in the cities of Daraa and Latakia in recent days. At least 37 people have been killed since last week, according to the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Killer whale's return: The SeaWorld killer whale involved in the death of a trainer more than a year ago returns to the park's "Believe" show Wednesday for the first time since the death, according to media reports.
In February 2010, Tilikum, a 12,000-pound killer whale, pulled senior trainer Dawn Brancheau, 40, underwater and killed her as horrified visitors watched at SeaWorld of Orlando's Shamu Stadium.
An autopsy showed Brancheau died of drowning and traumatic injuries to her body, including her spine, ribs and head.
The incident occurred at the conclusion of the park's "Dine With Shamu" event. Those shows resumed earlier this year.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration fined SeaWorld $75,000 for three safety violations, including one classified as willful.
SeaWorld has made safety upgrades to the killer whale stadium since Brancheau's death, CNN affiliate WESH reports.
And a park official says Tilikum is ready to return to shows.
"Participating in shows is just a portion of Tilikumâs day, but we feel it is an important component of his physical, social and mental enrichment," SeaWorld Animal Training Curator Kelly Flaherty Clark told WESH. "He has been regularly interacting with his trainers and the other whales for purposes of training, exercise and social and mental stimulation, and has enjoyed access to all of the pools in the Shamu Stadium complex."