As if you needed another reason to get up before sunrise, four bright planets will cluster in the predawn sky Wednesday morning so close together they'll probably fit behind your outstretched hand (from where you stand, of course).
Throughout May, the planets Mercury, Venus, Mars and Jupiter will rearrange themselves on a daily basis to form different shapes in the eastern sky. The show ends with a grand finale on May 30, when a crescent moon joins the four planets.
The best view will be about a half hour before sunrise on Wednesday, when Venus and Jupiter will be so bright "you might think you've witnessed a double supernova beaming through the morning twilight," scientist Tony Curtis said on NASA's Science News site.
The whole patch will be less than 10 degrees wide. Venus and Jupiter will be only a half degree apart, Curtis said.
"Keep an eye on Venus in particular. As the sun rises and the sky fills with morning blue, the Goddess of Love does not fade away. You can actually see Venus in broad daylight if you know where to look," he said.
Venus, the brighter of the two, will be to the right of Jupiter, the editors of StarDate magazine said last week. Mercury will be visible to the lower right of Venus, about the same distance from Venus to Jupiter. It won't be as bright but its proximity to Venus will help you find it. To the lower left of Jupiter, you'll find Mars, which may be too low and faint to see without the aid of binoculars.
Mercury, Venus and Jupiter will form a bright celestial triangle in May almost equilateral in appearance. On May 20, a new triangle will appear with Mars, Venus and Mercury forming the vertices.
The swollen Mississippi River on Tuesday was in the process of cresting many feet above flood stage in Memphis, Tennessee, and residents of states to the south are bracing for serious flooding in their communities.
A slow-moving wave of water has been working its way down the river since torrential rains sparked flooding in the Midwest's Ohio and Mississippi river valleys in late April. Hundreds of households were ordered to evacuate in the Memphis area (see pictures), where the river was expected to crest Tuesday around 48 feet - 14 feet above flood stage and less than a foot under the city's record level set in 1937.
The high water is headed for Mississippi and Louisiana, prompting authorities to open one spillway and consider opening another - moves meant to divert some of the water into less populated or unpopulated areas. Up to 5,000 homes will be evacuated in Mississippi, officials there say. In Louisiana, where the river is expected to crest next week, 21 parishes already have issued emergency declarations.
You will hear a lot about crests, spillways and levees over the next couple of weeks. Below you'll find what these mean and what the Army Corps of Engineers and others are doing to mitigate the flooding threat along the Mississippi.
Some highlights from today's business news:
U.S. stocks rose for third straight day on Tuesday, as investors were bolstered by Microsoft's $8.5 billion deal to buy Skype, along with solid corporate earnings reports and economic data.
"There are just a lot of strong numbers, from earnings to economic data, that keep pushing this market higher," said Frank Davis, director of sales and trading at LEK Securities.
The Dow Jones industrial average rose 76 points, or 0.6%, to close at 12,761; the S&P 500 gained 11 points, or 0.8%, to 1,357; and the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite added 29 points, or 1%, to close at 2,872.
As the slow-moving wall of floodwater makes its way down the Mississippi River, residents in areas that have already been affected by the deluge are beginning to take stock of the damage.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers opened a spillway Monday north of New Orleans in an effort to stem flooding from the rising Mississippi River, which has already affected thousands of people in eight Midwestern and Southern states.
The procedure is not a cure-all. Last week, the Corps intentionally breached a levee in Missouri to reduce pressure on other levees, flooding 130,000 acres of agricultural land, over the objection of state officials and some farmers. People in those areas are still struggling in the aftermath of the breach.
They levy was blown up to save the small town of Cairo, Illinois, from rising floodwaters. Now, farm families in nearby Charleston, Missouri, are awash in misery.
Marilyn Nally, a 73-year-old widow, looked at her flooded farmhouse a quarter mile in the distance.
"I’m very sad. At my age, I just don’t know how much I can fix up,” she said.
Many Charleston residents felt that the Corps should have waited longer before blowing the levy that flooded their fields. Farmers Roy and Ray Dennison looked out across the muddy water and could not see the tops of their wheat crop. The brothers estimate they lost $350,000 in the wheat crop alone.
Vickie Caldwell, hair white with experience and heartache, ignored an evacuation order and stayed in Cairo, which is between the Mississippi and Ohio rivers. Caldwell was born and raised in the town and raised a daughter and a son here.
Some people joked that Cairo, with a decayed downtown and fewer than 2,500 residents, was not worth saving. Caldwell bristled at such comments.
“I hear it a lot. It makes me feel sad you know. They don’t live here; they don’t know the people here. We’ve got good people here."
Comment of the day: Not just anyone would be able to carry a baby to term and hand him over after birth. You are truly amazing people. –Summer819
In a CNN.com "Belief Blog" post, Sean Savage explains why he believes the Catholic Church should reverse its opposition to in vitro fertilization, challenging the church’s stance that the only moral route to conceiving a child is through sexual intercourse. Savage, a lifelong Catholic, is the co-author of a book about the subject. He and his wife pursued IVF but accidentally received an embryo belonging to another couple. The mistake generated an intense media storm, and the day the child was born, the Catholic Diocese of Toledo, Ohio, publicly condemned IVF as "morally unacceptable.”
CNN.com readers who had either conceived or were conceived via IVF appreciated the column.
Jamie said, “Thank you for sharing your educated, well-expressed opinion. In a perfect world, couples won't have to choose between their church and their desire to build a family.” Charlie said, “I also want to thank you for your article. As the Catholic parents of a beautiful boy conceived through IVF we also feel blessed by God and in no way do we feel that we did anything wrong. The Catholic Church should understand that it is not only science involved in the process, but the blessing of God.” Amy said, “What a great article. I am a Catholic mother and we conceived our daughter using IVF. My husband had cancer as a child, which gave us little chance of ever naturally creating a child. God truly blessed us with our daughter and how she became is still a gift from God.” Tova said, “I am a woman conceived by IVF. My parents are Catholic – I left the church as a teenager, almost entirely because of this issue. I am here because I am meant to be here. It is not that my parents 'were not meant to have children' (though that's what my priest cousin told them, and that they should repent when they became pregnant with me).”
Others without an apparent connection to IVF shared their thoughts about the controversy.
BigQuestions said, “If you believe that life begins at conception, IVF essentially results in the creation of many children, most of which will die before they even reach the womb (IE, many embryos do not survive thawing). If you believe that life begins at some other point along the path of pregnancy, you have started down a slippery slope that is used to rationalize abortion, etc. My wife and I have compassion for everyone else who is faced with these decisions. Ultimately we decided that we cannot set an arbitrary point when life begins and as such, couldn't go through with IVF.” Mario said, “Human life begins when an embryo is properly attached to the womb. Until this happens, the embryo is not a human being. This is the current approach in science. Moreover, Jesus Christ was not the product of a conjugal act.” Eric said, “If you check the scientific research, you will see that most ‘naturally’ conceived embryos do not survive either. Most of the time, a failure to properly implant in the uterine wall or an error in early cell division results in a spontaneous miscarriage, often before the woman has any idea that she is pregnant.”
Other readers either shared their support for the Catholic Church or condemned their stance on IVF.
David said, “I pray that we all look into our hearts to follow not what we want, or what we think is right, but what is right. We must be careful not to let what we say lead others astray. The church is our mother, who leads and guides us. It is not easy, but in the end it will be so comforting. May we all pray for God's mercy, guidance and understanding.” Dan responded, “David is somehow assuming that the Catholic Church is always right and people shouldn't think for themselves. David is wrong and that is a very dangerous position to take.” *SIGH* said, “If you are Catholic, you must accept the pope as the hand of God. In other words, the pope is your God. Live with it happily or find a church that is in line with your beliefs if you are not going to accept Catholicism in full and just piecemeal.” Michael said, “Sean: You and your family certainly deserve compassion here. As a fellow Catholic, I hope the lord gives you his grace to bear the cross of infertility. Also know that I am sure many have prayed for you and your family and perhaps even your bishop, who was likely well-intentioned to avoid confusion on the issue but missed the mark on compassion.”
A mystery virus has sickened at least eight people in South Korea, including a pregnant woman who died in a Seoul hospital, according to numerous reports.
The woman, 36 years old and nine months pregnant, died Monday of pneumonia related to the unidentified virus, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Yonhap news agency reports. Labor was induced for the mother, and the baby survived, the Korea Times said.
Including the woman who died, seven of the eight patients were pregnant when they arrived at the Seoul hospital. The other is a 40-year-old man, the Korea JoonAng Daily reported.
Each patient is from different parts of the country, and the KCDC said that they had initially undergone treatment at different clinics for various conditions suspected to be caused by the same unidentified virus. They were all later transferred to the Seoul hospital, likely ruling out the possibility that the root of the problem can be traced back to the same facility.
A man committed suicide Tuesday by jumping off the 147th floor of the world's tallest building, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai.
The man landed on a deck on the 108th floor of the 160-story structure, according to news reports from Dubai.
Dubai police confirmed the suicide, according to a report posted by The Gulf Today.
The man was described as an Asian in his mid-30s.
"The deceased works at one of the companies located at Burj Khalifa itself. We also came to know that the man decided to commit suicide as his company refused to grant leave," a police official told The Gulf Today.
The Burj Khalifa is 2,716.5 feet tall and is the tallest free-standing structure in the world. It officially opened in 2010.
Some of the people who lost money in the Bernard Madoff Ponzi scheme, but had been shut out of any recovery of their funds, are a step closer to getting at least something back.
The court-appointed trustee in the recovery of assets lost to Madoff has announced a settlement with the liquidators of Fairfield Greenwich Group funds. Those funds had more than 95% of their investors' cash deposited with Madoff's investment firm, which was a front for the largest-ever Ponzi scheme, according to the trustee, Irving Picard.
As part of the settlement, Picard and Fairfield liquidators Kenneth Krys and Joanna Lau agreed to drop their multibillion-dollar claims against each other. Read CNNMoney's full report.
On May 10, 1996, eight climbers on Mount Everest disappeared when a huge storm hit. Their tragic story was chronicled in Jon Krakauer's bestselling novel "Into Thin Air"
Neil Beidleman, a guide to one of the climbers who died, told the New York Times earlier this year that he planned to return to Katmandu, Nepal, and take on the world's highest peak again. The 51-year-old father of two said he hoped to retrace his steps from 1996 which would take him from Katmandu to Everest's South Side base camp.
Beidleman told the newspaper that he wants the trip to be a "closing chapter" to what happened in 1996. "The story doesn't have to be about the past," he said.
On Tuesday, Beidleman's wife Amy told CNN.com that her husband's trek up Mount Everest has so far gone smoothly. Posts about his adventure can be found on the Twitter page of his co-climber Chris Davenport.
"We'd rather have him here. Mama Bear is not happy because we have two children who miss their dad," she said. "But they know they have a cool dad and this is what he wanted, so we're supporting him."
The 61-year old retired construction supervisor lives in Bogota, Tennessee, a small farming community about seven miles from the Mississippi River. Hayes isn't budging from the flooding, even as his two-room trailer is more than 5 feet off the ground. "There's the possibility the trailer could shift, could turn. Could flip over," Hayes tells CNN's Patrick Oppmann, standing on the small porch to the trailer. "Then again, I am not worried about that because I will get out."
The half-American, half-Syrian journalist who lives in Damascus has been gaining attention internationally for her blog "A Gay Girl in Damascus." Abdullah says her blog is an "out Syrian lesbian's thoughts on life, the universe and so on."
After repeated threats by the Syrian government, Abdullah has gone underground. "I have no desire to be a martyr, even to my own cause so I will do what I can to stay free," she posted last week.
Abdullah is still blogging from her new location. Her most recent post appeared Tuesday morning.
A Taiwanese man is predicting that a massive earthquake will strike Taiwan on Wednesday morning, killing more than a million people, but an official with the country's National Science Council says there's no indication of any seismic movements.
The self-proclaimed prophet, a blogger who calls himself Teacher Wang, has predicted that a 14-magnitude quake will strike the island at 10:42:37 a.m. local time Wednesday. It will be followed by a massive tsunami more than 550 feet (170 meters) high on May 17, Wang has said, according to news reports from Taiwan.
"The final countdown has started," the prophet, whose real name is Wang Chao-hung, told Agence France-Presse on Tuesday, according to a report in the Straits Times.
The dual catastrophes will "rip the island in half," Wang has said, according to a report on Focus Taiwan.
Catherine Middleton may be a duchess and future queen of England now, but it's her sister who's been stealing the spotlight. It began at the royal wedding when Pippa Middleton donned a figure-hugging dress that netted global attention. Now racy pictures of her in a purple push-up bra have some wondering if Pippa's stealing her sister's limelight. In today's Gotta Watch, we're focusing on the siblings whose actions have eclipsed their famous family members.
GM jobs: General Motors will announce Tuesday a plan to add or preserve 4,200 jobs, the Detroit Free Press reports, citing "people familiar with the planning."
Up to 2,000 of the jobs will be in the metro Detroit area, the paper reported, with many of those going to the plant that produces the Chevy Volt, GM's extended range electric car.
GM is now planning on building 25,000 Volts this year, up from an earlier estimate of 10,000, the Free Press reported. It is considering building 120,000 Volts a year beginning in 2012, the paper said.
Immigration speech: President Barack Obama heads to El Paso, Texas, on Tuesday to give a speech on the need for comprehensive immigration reform.
White House press secretary Jay Carney said the president's speech is likely to highlight border security improvements and the economic costs stemming from a failure to change course. And senior administration officials said the speech will kick off a campaign-style effort to rally support for an overhaul.
Obama wants to create "a sense of urgency around the country that matches his sense of urgency," one administration official said.
Mississippi River flooding: The Mississippi River level stood at 47.8 feet in Memphis, Tennessee, on Monday evening and is expected to crest at 48 feet today, forecasters said.
The Mississippi is the highest it's been at Memphis since 1937, when it crested at 48.7 feet – 14.7 feet above flood stage. That flood killed 500 people and inundated 20 million acres of land, said Col. Vernie Reichling, the Army Corps of Engineers' Memphis District commander.
The United States will be given access to Osama bin Laden's wives for questioning, Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik told CNN Tuesday. He did not give a timeline.
Innit. Thang. Grrl. Fiqh.
Incorporate those words into your Scrabble arsenal because they are fair game to win at the word game.
Game staffers based in Glasgow, Scotland, have compiled 3,000 extra words that are now officially allowed, according to the Scotsman. Webzine, Facebook and blingy were added, the paper reports.
Oh, and for players who always wind up with that impossible 'Q' and want to spell Fiqh, know that the word means an expansion of Islamic law and involves the observance of Islamic rituals and customs.