[Updated at 11:41 p.m. ET] Three deaths have been confirmed in Ringgold, Georgia, after severe storms moved through late Wednesday, bringing the five-state death toll from Tuesday night's and Wednesday's storms in the South to 42, according to authorities.
In Ringgold, eight people were taken to a hospital, according to Gary Sisk with the Catoosa County Sheriff's Department. There was no word on the severity of the injuries, he said.
The town in northwest Georgia was hit particularly hard. One tornado appeared to remain on the ground for at least a mile, said Sisk, adding that some buildings were completely demolished.
At least 25 people have been killed in Alabama, including 15 in Tuscaloosa; at least 11 were killed in Mississippi; one was killed in Arkansas; and one other person was killed in Georgia, according to authorities.
[Updated at 11:23 p.m. ET] An apparent tornado struck the northern Georgia community of Ringgold in Catoosa County, damaging multiple structures including a hotel, which has collapsed, Georgia Emergency Management Agency spokeswoman Crystal Paulk-Buchanan said. Information on injuries in Ringgold wasn't immediately available.
An apparent tornado also was reported in southern Georgia's Walker County, where 30 homes were destroyed, Paulk-Buchanan said.
[Updated at 11:02 p.m. ET] Storm-related deaths have now been reported in Tennessee and Georgia, bringing the five-state death toll from Tuesday night's and Wednesday's storms in the South to 39, according to authorities.
One person was killed in Trenton in Georgia's Dade County, and at least one person was killed in Tennessee, officials in those state said.
At least 25 people have been killed in Alabama, including 15 in Tuscaloosa; at least 11 were killed in Mississippi; and one was killed in Arkansas, according to authorities.
[Updated at 10:28 p.m. ET] At least 15 people were killed in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, on Wednesday as severe storms swept through the city, Mayor Walter Maddox told reporters.
Statewide in Alabama, at least 25 people in died as a result of storms and tornadoes, the state's emergency management director told CNN Wednesday. At least 11 people were killed in Mississippi and one was killed in Arkansas as a result of the storms.
In Tuscaloosa, hundreds of homes and businesses were destroyed, and hundreds more were damaged, Maddox said. Dozens of roads are impassable, he said. Maddox said the city's infrastructure had been "decimated," noting that thousands of residents were without power.
Video from CNN affiliates there showed a massive whirling cloud darkening the sky as it approached Tuscaloosa shortly after 5 p.m. CT.
The University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa has canceled classes and suspended normal operations for Thursday, the university said on its website.
[Updated at 10:17 p.m. ET] At least 11 people were killed in Tuesday night's and Wednesday's severe storms in Mississippi, the state's emergency management agency reported Wednesday. This brings the three-state death toll from the Tuesday-Wednesday storms in the South to 37.
In Mississippi, more than 40 injuries have been reported by local officials as a result of the storms, the agency said, and the number of deaths could rise.
At least 25 people have been killed in Alabama, and one was killed in Arkansas, according to authorities.
The widow of the doctor whose signature is on President Obama's birth certificate was honored to learn of her husband's role in bringing the future president into the world and hoped the document would end debate over his citizenship.
"It is a great thrill and a great honor and I had no idea," Ivalee Sinclair, an Obama supporter, said Wednesday in a phone interview from her home in Honolulu, Hawaii.
"I was just overwhelmed with the news."
David Sinclair's name appears as the attending physician on the live birth certificate that the White House released Wednesday in response to doubts over his citizenship. The "birther debate" has waxed and waned since Obama's presidential campaign, returning with renewed vigor last week due in large part to the efforts of billionaire entrepreneur Donald Trump.
The CIA director will be President Barack Obama's nominee to succeed Robert Gates as defense secretary, a senior defense official and another U.S. official said Wednesday.
Panetta will be named as a nominee for U.S. defense secretary, CNN has confirmed. Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, will be tapped as Panetta's replacement at the CIA, a senior defense official said.
Panetta is a prolific public servant. For 14 years, he was a U.S. congressman from California, ultimately becoming chairman of the House Budget committee. He later was director of the Office of Management and Budget and then President Bill Clinton's chief of staff. Early in his career, the Santa Clara University alum was an aide to a U.S. senator and an assistant in the government’s civil rights unit in the 1960s. Panetta won a an Army Commendation Medal while serving as an Army intelligence officer from 1964-1966.
There could be as many as 700,000 people gathered to witness space shuttle Endeavour's final mission in Central Florida on Friday afternoon.
"I'm thinking this is like the world's largest tailgate party," said Rob Varley, the executive director of the Space Coast Office of Tourism.
The launch will come at 3:47 p.m. ET.
Crowds are already pouring into the beachside towns surrounding the Kennedy Space Center, Varley said. Tickets for specialized tours of the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex are sold out, but general tours are still available.
One of the most high-profile spectators will be U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, wife of Endeavour commander Mark Kelly. Giffords is recovering from a gunshot to her head after a man attacked her and killed several others at a January political event in Arizona. She departed a Houston, Texas, rehabilitation facility Wednesday on her way to Florida.
President Obama is also expected to attend the launch.
By comparison, February's launch of the shuttle Discovery on its final mission drew about 450,000 spectators.
Anyone still toying with the idea of traveling to the area to see the event should know roadways will be crowded. Come and camp out early, Varley suggested.
Though Friday will mark the last time Endeavor flies, there will be one more shuttle flight scheduled before the program ends this summer.
Comment of the morning: "(President Barack) Obama just pulled out his Trump card." - Cavemullah
Doubters that President Barack Obama was born in the United States, led recently by possible Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, got their answer Wednesday when the White House released Obama's original birth certificate. "Birthers" have insisted that Obama was born overseas - possibly in his father's home country of Kenya - and therefore may be constitutionally ineligible to serve as president. Obama said Wednesday that he released his original birth certificate because the country does not "have time for this kind of silliness."
Many CNN.com readers expressed frustration that the president was put in the position of having to show his birth certificate at all.
CrunkSwaggaG said, "I think Donald Trump and about half of the Republican Party owe President Obama a sincere apology." flatbushfred said, "Obama shouldn't have had to do this. It's blatant racism." LPLove said, "No president in history has ever been treated this way. The birthers are nothing more than racists wrapping themselves in the flag. Disgusting." harryball said, "I feel bad for this guy. When was the last time a president was forced to show his birth certificate two years into his presidency? Oh that's right, never. Even as president, black people are still being treated as second-class citizens."
About Trump’s role in the controversy, CNN.com readers had plenty to say:
icecold12 said, "Now Trump has to live up to his end of the deal and deliver his income tax information and net worth. Obama called his bluff and I bet he folds." BobSacamano said, "I'd like to know how much debt Trump has discharged throughout his life by claiming bankruptcy. How many millions has he stiffed his investors and creditors for?"
USAlegend said, OBAMA: "On Your Face Sucker, Here is my Birth Certificate.’ TRUMP: "Well......huh.....hmmmm....But this doesn't prove that you are not a Muslim."
And now that the original certificate has been released, many CNN.com readers said it still won’t be enough for birthers.
W2ATL said, "This really won't matter. These clowns will have some new madness to cry about in three hours." livingston1 responded, “Really, do you think it will take that long? That kind of hate blinds them to any sense of reason.” Nagaina said, “Countdown to someone claiming the long form birth certificate is an 'obvious forgery'...3...2...1.” BubbaSponge said, “Now hopefully the birthers will give it a rest once and for all!!” TikiGawd said, “Nah, they'll start a movement saying Hawaii isn't really part of the United States because it's 'overseas.' " iroshi said, “It's a shame the ‘birthers’ can't focus on an issue that is actually important. For instance, the national debt, unemployment, taxes, etc. What an incredible waste of time and money this has been.”
Do you feel your views align with these commenters' thoughts? Post a comment below or sound off on video.
Compiled by the CNN.com moderation staff. Some comments edited for length or clarity.
After years of speculation and several major media outlets debunking claims, President Obama moved to put rumors about his birth certificate to bed by releasing the long-form document. While this may quiet some of the noise from some so-called "birther" conspiracy theorists, it may not be enough for others. In today's gotta watch we take a look at some of the most vocal "birthers" and their years-long quest to see Obama's birth certificate. And if you're still not sure what all the stink is all about, we've got a cheat sheet here.
The born conspiracy? – "Birther" movement leader Orly Taitz has been very vocal about her doubts concerning the president's birth place. She even took the issue to a California court. She said her goal was to find out if Obama was U.S. citizen and to hold a special presidential election if he wasn't.
A plane believed to be carrying U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords departed Houston on Wednesday morning. Giffords is scheduled to attend the Friday launch of the space shuttle Endeavour, commanded by her husband, Mark Kelly, from Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Her staffers put a picture taken from the plane on Twitter, saying she "is looking forward to some time away" from TIRR Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston.
Kelly and Endeavour’s five other crew members arrived at the center’s shuttle landing facility on Wednesday afternoon in T-38 training jets, two days ahead of the shuttle's launch. Giffords, his wife, has been recovering from a January gunshot to the brain but was cleared by doctors to attend Friday's liftoff.FULL STORY
The White House released copies of President Barack Obama's original long-form birth certificate Wednesday, seeking to put an end to persistent rumors that he was not born in the United States.
The certificate states, as Obama's advisers have repeatedly said, that the president was born at Honolulu's Kapiolani Hospital on August 4, 1961. Doubters insist Obama was born overseas - possibly in his father's home country of Kenya - and may be constitutionally ineligible to serve as president.
"We do not have time for this kind of silliness," Obama told reporters at the White House. "I've been puzzled at the degree to which this (story) just kept on going."
"Normally I would not comment on something like this," the president said. But the country has "some enormous challenges out there" and that it will not be able to effectively meet "if we're distracted."FULL STORY
Storms slam South - Another round of severe weather is expected to slam the eastern third of the country Wednesday, hours after a series of tornadoes, baseball-size hail and flooding left a trail of destruction.
People were reported trapped in homes in Marshall County, Alabama, after a possible twister struck there Wednesday morning, said Lee Rosser, a logistics specialist for the county Emergency Management Agency. There were also reports of people trapped at a nearby campground, he said.
In Mississippi, three people died overnight as severe weather swept the state, the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency said Wednesday.
The storm system claimed at least one life Tuesday night in Sharp County, Arkansas, bringing the death toll to 11 in that state since Monday.
The Storm Prediction Center said there's a high chance of severe weather on Wednesday across portions of northern Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia and in southern Tennessee.
"The storms are just amazingly explosive, and they're covering a very large area," said Greg Carbin with the storm center in Norman, Oklahoma.
President Barack Obama plans to announce Thursday he is nominating CIA Director Leon Panetta as defense secretary, Gen. David Petraeus to head the CIA and Ryan Crocker as the new U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan in what will be the most extensive reshaping of the Obama national security team to date, sources tell CNN.FULL STORY
Donald Trump holds a news briefing today. Will he discuss a possible run for the presidency? Will he address his "birther" claim that President Obama may not have been born in the United States? Watch CNN.com Live for coverage.
9 am ET - Aviation Summit - The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and National Chamber Foundation host today's forum where experts and aviation sector leaders will discuss critical issues facing the industry. The FAA will display its new NextGen Data Communications Boeing B737NG cockpit flight simulator and Air Traffic Control simulator.
9 am ET - Donald Trump news conference - The possible GOP presidential candidate will speak to reporters from Portsmouth, New Hampshire, as speculation grows over his President Obama "birther" investigation and whether Trump will actually campaign for the presidency.
11:30 am ET - James Ray trial - The so-called "sweat lodge trial" of James Ray continues in Campe Verde, Arizona.
2:15 pm ET - Federal Reserve Chairman remarks - Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke holds a briefing. There's much speculation over what he may say about interest rates.
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