Some highlights from the day's business news:
Stocks hit fresh highs as dollar weakens
U.S. stocks rose to multi-year highs on Thursday, as investors dismissed a series of mixed earnings reports as well as disappointing economic news.
The Dow Jones industrial average rose 72 points, or 0.6%; to close at 12,763.
Boeing led the Dow higher, with its shares rising more than 3% a day after the company reported its quarterly results. Exxon Mobil was among the biggest drag on the blue-chip index, after it reported sales that fell short of forecasts. Exxon Mobil's stock slid less than 1%.
CBS News correspondent Lara Logan broke her silence in an interview published in The New York Times Thursday about being sexually assaulted in Egypt's Tahrir Square while covering the country's political uprising.
Logan said she thought she was going to die after a group of men ripped her away from her producer and bodyguard on February 11 as she was preparing a story for "60 Minutes." They tore at her clothes and groped her body for about 40 minutes, she told the newspaper.
"For an extended period of time, they raped me with their hands,” Logan said, estimating the attack involved 200 to 300 men. "What really struck me was how merciless they were. They really enjoyed my pain and suffering. It incited them to more violence."
Logan is expected to describe the attack in greater detail on "60 Minutes" Sunday night.
The assault occurred while she and a camera crew traversed Tahrir Square to capture the celebrations after President Hosni Mubarak's announcement that he would resign.
Egyptian colleagues accompanying the camera crew heard men nearby talking about taking off Logan’s pants, the newspaper reported.
"Our local people with us said, 'We've gotta get out of here.' That was literally the moment the mob set on me."
She was separated from her producer and two locally hired drivers, Jeff Fager, the chairman of CBS News and the executive producer of “60 Minutes,” told the Times. Her bodyguard was only able to hold onto her for a brief period.
A group of women and about 20 Egyptian soldiers intervened to rescue the correspondent, the network said. She was flown back to the United States.
The interview marks the first time she has commented publicly about the assault, which the network reported four days after it occurred. There were no reports of arrests made in the incident.
Earlier during the Cairo protests, Logan and her crew were detained overnight and interrogated.
Logan told the Times she decided almost immediately to not keep silent about the attack and chose to speak about sexual violence on behalf of "millions of voiceless women who are subjected to attacks like this and worse."
A tornado tore apart Reba Self's home in a matter of seconds. But, for a while, she thought she had lost much more than just a place to live.
It's an experience Self will never forget, and one that previously only existed in her nightmares.
"My dad kind of had me terrified of storms when I was a little girl, and I would get kind of nervous. But, I just thought go to the lower part of the house, it'll pass. I'm lucky to be here and so is my mom. I don't know how we lived through it, but we did."
She eventually found her mother, but her home in Ringgold, Georgia, was one of many in this small community on the Tennessee border ravaged by severe storms and tornadoes that barreled through the South this week.
Self's home was knocked off its foundation and a tree fell through the roof.
The storm seemed to pick and choose its victims. Some neighbors' homes were virtually unscathed. However, others have vanished into a pile of rubble, a mailbox the only other indication that just hours before, a house had stood there.
"You're either kin to somebody, or somebody knows you. It's a close-knit place," resident Jeff Conaway says.
Listen to the full story here:
Exchange of the Day:
“I'm from New Jersey and I actually never heard anyone blame anything on God there. It was pretty refreshing.” - shanker67
“Apparently you've never visited a story on Texas.” – slimjoe51
Hundreds of people were killed when a storm front swept tornadoes into six southern states. Alabama was hardest hit. Some drew comparisons to the "super outbreak" of tornadoes of 1974, when 148 tornadoes were reported in 13 states and 330 people died.
Exopolitics said, “I've never heard so many tornado sirens in my life! This year has been really bad and yesterday was one of the scariest days of my life.”
Dano973 said, “ I moved out to southern California for work three months ago. My wife, family and friends are still back in Georgia. Last night was terrifying for everyone, including myself. I'll trade one major earthquake for what they're going through this spring. This is the fourth severe storm in the past month...”
judyblueeyes said, “One of the predicted effects of climate change is more severe weather all over the world. Could this be a factor in these tornado outbreaks?”
Some CNN.com readers called for stronger buildings, such as houses structured for Category-5 resistance. But rhquad said “Those Cat 5 homes are built for 100-mph winds. Even moderate tornadoes can far exceed that. If you wanted a tornado-proof house, you'd have to design for winds over 350 mph.”
mslman71 said, “The probability of being hit by a tornado is so incredibly small that the extra cost is simply not warranted. While the loss is terrific for these people, more will die driving to work in the next week than from the worst outbreak of tornados in however many years."
RadarENG said, “Brick buildings stood no chance in Tuscaloosa. Many of the brick buildings are gone.”
schnuptz said, “Storm shelters are what save lives, not homes.”
GTsxtysix said, “ I think we need to seriously rethink the way we build our homes and offices, even if only to make just one room a survivable shelter. Otherwise, we basically have to learn to live with Mother Nature occasionally coming to town and tearing it to shreds.”
The controversy over President Barack Obama’s citizenship sharply divided America before the White House decided to release his long-form birth certificate Wednesday.
Some remain unconvinced he's a U.S. citizen. To many, the issue had already been settled. A CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll last month indicated that three out of four Americans believe Obama was probably or definitely born in the USA. More than 40 percent of Republicans held opposite sentiments.
Often accompanied by accusations of racism, a common cry among those defending Obama is, “Did past presidents make their birth certificates public?”
An interesting question, for sure, so I decided to have a look back over the past 50 years. The short answer is yes, some indeed did. The long answer? Birth certificates for past presidents are squirrelly things and not the easiest to find.
The man behind the memorable radio and TV jingle "5-8-8, 2-300, Empire!" has passed away.
Elmer Lynn Hauldren died Tuesday at his Evanston, Illinois, home, according to his family, the Chicago Tribune reports.
He was 89.
On Wednesday, the flooring company acknowledged the impact of his nearly 40-year career.
“Lynn was truly passionate about the Empire brand," Steve Silvers, Empire Today's CEO, said in a statement. "He has made an indelible mark on advertising history with his creativity and warmth."
Hauldren started working for Empire in the early 1970s after the company's owner requested him for TV spots, the company said. Soon, Hauldren would provide the voice of the "Empire Man" and become synonymous with the brand. He wrote and performed the jingle with the a capella group the Fabulous 40s.
Hauldren did more than voice-over work. He was also a member of the singing quartet Chordiac Arrest.
Hauldren was humble about his notoriety. According to the Tribune, he downplayed his fame: "People are good-natured," he said, "but once in a while they'll grab at you and say, 'Here's that carpet dude!' or 'Hey! Aren't you somebody?' I always hope folks understand I'm not a celebrity. I'm just a TV pitchman, a glorified salesman."
[Updated at 3:20 p.m. ET] U.S. President Barack Obama on Thursday called the loss of life from storms in the American Southeast "heartbreaking," and said that the "federal government will do everything we can to help (people affected by the deadly storms) recover."
We are "ready to help in any possible way," he said.
[Updated at 3:14 p.m. ET] The death toll from severe weather in Alabama has reached 184, and the death toll in Tennessee has risen to 33, authorities said Thursday. The overall death toll is 272 people in six states.
[Updated at 12:38 p.m. ET] The death toll from severe weather in Alabama has reached 162, Alabama Emergency Management Agency spokeswoman Yasamie August said Thursday. The overall death toll is as many as 247 people in six states.
[Updated at 12:33 p.m. ET] The death toll from severe weather in Georgia is at 14, Gov. Nathan Deal said Thursday. There are now as many as 234 people dead in six states.
[Updated at 11:53 a.m. ET] In the DeKalb County, Alabama town of Rainsville, 25 bodies were recovered near one parking lot in the center of town, said Israel Partridge, a local business owner who teaches search and rescue and volunteered to help the Rainsville Fire Department Wednesday night. Rainsville Police Chief Charles Centers confirmed the 25 dead, adding eight were in one trailer park. Many people are unaccounted for, Centers said.
Partridge said one tree that had been uprooted and tossed still had a dog alive, tied to it. Partridge said he freed the dog and gave it to a family to take care of.
[Updated at 10:20 a.m. ET] Thirty people have died in Tennessee as a result of severe weather, according to the Tennessee Emergency Operations Center. The death total from a wave of powerful storms that struck the South is now as many as 231 people in six states.
[Updated at 10:15 a.m. ET] The Tennessee Valley Authority reports that Wednesday's storms knocked out 90 large power transmission lines, only 13 of which were back in service by 10 a.m. Wednesday.
More than 322,000 customers of 49 TVA distributors were without power Wednesday morning, the TVA said in a press release.
That number could rise as crews conduct further assessments of damage, TVA said.
[Updated at 9:15 a.m. ET] Eight people have died in Virginia as a result of severe weather, the governor's office said Thursday, bringing the overall death toll from storms across the South to 202 people in six states.
Were you affected by the tornadoes? Share your images, stories with CNN iReport.
[Updated at 8:34 a.m. ET] The death toll from severe weather in the city of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, is now at 36, Mayor Walter Maddox said Thursday, putting the overall death toll across the South at 194.
Even as the president jokingly proclaimed he was carrying an ID to prove his citizenship, it seems the "birther" movement just won't let up. These are the latest fiery interviews that seem to be fueling the movement.
'Blowhard and a phony' – Those are some strong words for Donald Trump from New York Times journalist Christopher Byron. Last night, Trump continued to question President Obama while sparring with CNN's John King . This is Byron's fierce analysis of the feud.
In 1997, the Peruvian fashion photographer snapped Princess Diana in various gowns at her home in Kensington Palace. The gowns were to be sold at a charity auction, and the photos were to be part of the program. Diana, who did not know Testino personally, was so enchanted by his work that she chose him instead of an official royal photographer for the project.
When the portraits appeared in the July 1997 issue of Vanity Fair, they were praised for their portrayal of the princess as stylish, confident and playful. A month later, Diana was dead and the portraits would become the last enduring images of the most photographed woman in the world.
Buckingham Palace on Thursday released the official portrait of Diana’s son, Prince William, and bride-to-be Kate Middleton, as photographed by Testino. This is the second time Testino has photographed the couple since their engagement. The black-and-white images are fresh, classic and sophisticated. Diana would not have had it any other way.
She enrolled in her first college course in 1992, when her boss said he’d reward her for getting an education. At the time, Vitzhum was a working mom with children ages 6 and 8 years old. As NPR reports, Vitzhum had no intention of getting a degree. Then, her father stepped in and made her promise to finish, even if she didn't finish until she was 50.
After 19 years of college, the 48-year-old will be a marshal Friday at Iowa State University’s graduation ceremony. She’ll graduate summa cum laude with a degree in accounting.
"I've been doing this so long, I don't think I'll know how not to do it," Vitzhum told Iowa State University’s news service. "It almost gives me anxiety to not know what I'm doing this summer."
She lives on a fixed income and cannot travel to Texas to visit her terminally ill son. Yet when Brison, 81, found more than $2,800 in cash in the parking lot of her Chicago-based doctor’s office this month, she didn’t even think of keeping it.
After she turned the money in to local police, a retired city worker named Lester Franklin contacted her. He’d dropped the money, had been contacted by police and wanted to give her a $500 reward.
Brison will use the money to fly to Texas to see her dying son. “I believe in the Book,” Franklin told the Chicago Sun-Times this week. “If you do good, something good happens to you.”
Fans of "The Office" will gather at the set one last time as the buffoonish Michael Scott appears in his final episode Thursday evening. NPR offered a summary Thursday of the actor's greatest lines as the lovable boss from hell:
“Everybody likes new inventions — new technology. People will never be replaced by machines. In the end, life and business are about human connections, and computers are about trying to murder you in a lake.”
“To run an office, you need men and women. You know why? Because you need to have that crazy sexual tension to keep things interesting.”
“There is honor in losing, which is, we all know, completely ridiculous. But there is, however, honor in making a loser feel better.”
“Would I rather be feared or loved? Easy — both. I want people to be afraid of how much they love me.”
Watch CNN.com Live for continuing coverage of the devastating storms that struck the Southeast United States.
Today's programming highlights...
Continuing coverage - Severe weather hits Southeast
11:00 am ET - NASA spaceflight briefing - What will human spaceflight consist of in a post-shuttle environment? NASA hopes to answer those questions when it unveils the four companies selected for the next round of the Commercial Crew Development initiative.
NFL draft: The National Football League holds its draft of college players Thursday night, with Auburn quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton the favorite to be picked No. 1 overall by the Carolina Panthers.
In his mock draft, SI.com's Don Banks says the Panthers, who earned the top pick with a league-worst 2-14 record in 2010, would trade out of the top spot if they could, but that is unlikely.
"They will pick Newton, but they'll do so with a queasy feeling in the pit of their stomachs. They know he carries risk, but they also feel they have to roll the dice and take the quarterback who has the potential to make the biggest possible impact," he writes.
The draft comes amid an off-season of labor strife in the league. A federal judge this week ruled league owners must resume business and end a lockout of players from team facilities. Owner appeals of that ruling are ongoing.
So when their names are called at Radio City Music Hall in New York City Thursday night, the collegiate stars won't know when they might first don the uniform of their NFL team or even if there will be an NFL season in 2011.
The first round of the draft begins at 8 p.m. and can be seen on the NFL Network. Second and third rounds are Friday at 6 p.m. and the fourth through seventh rounds are Saturday at noon.
Earthquake drill: Residents of 10 states from Oklahoma to South Carolina will practice earthquake safety drills as part of the Great Central U.S. Shakeout.
Organizers say more than 3 million people will participate in the event, scheduled to begin at 10:15 a.m. local time. Participants will practice the "drop, cover and hold on" technique to protect themselves in the event of an earthquake.
Government agencies, schools and universities, hospitals and businesses in Iowa, Illinois, Arkansas, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, Georgia and Kentucky join Oklahoma and South Carolina in Thursday's event. Indiana did its drills last week.
Voyager update: NASA updates the mission of its twin Voyager spacecraft on Thursday morning.
Since their launch 33 years ago, the spacecraft have traveled 10 billion miles to the edge of our solar system and are now heading toward interstellar space.
Besides sending information on their journey back to Earth, the spacecraft carry "a collection of images and sounds from Earth as a message to possible life elsewhere in the galaxy," NASA says.
[Updated at 9:57 p.m. ET] More than 280 people have been killed by the wave of violent weather that has swept across the South the past two days.
Survivors told of entire neighborhoods reduced to rubble and the terror of tornadoes ripping through their homes and businesses.
Here are the voices of some survivors:
Shortly before a massive tornado tore through her Tuscaloosa, Alabama, neighborhood on Wednesday, Lucy Arnold Sykes decided the weather was ominous enough to shelter her 3-year-old and 6-year-old children in a bathtub.
"I ran in with the kids and kind of joked (to my husband), 'Don't make fun of me for putting the kids in the bathtub, but I think this is serious,' " she told CNN's "The Situation Room" on Thursday. "He went out for one last look, and … he came back in with kind of a strange look on his face, and he said, 'It's right outside the door.' "
The edge of the tornado passed across the street, but the wind tore apart a corner of the house, sent a tree crashing onto the roof, broke nearly all the windows and flipped her vehicle from the curb onto her front lawn.
The family is OK and stayed with friends on Wednesday night.
"(The kids) want to know when they’re going to go back home. I don't think that will be anytime soon. We're going to be looking for a new house," she said.