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July 25, 2014
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In spite of what fantasists, conspiracy theorists, incompetent interpreters of the Mayan calendar and Roland Emmerich suggested, the world did not end on the 21st of December 2012. But earlier that year, on the 23rd of July, the world really did come extremely close to what NASA estimates would have been a $2 trillion economic and technological disaster.

A coronal mass ejection — a huge burst of hot plasma — from the surface of the sun exploded into space. And if it had hit the Earth, the burst of charged particles would have severely damaged Earth's infrastructure of satellites, computers, the electrical grid, medical equipment, and smartphones. Unshielded electric circuits would be fried.

"If it had hit, we would still be picking up the pieces," Daniel Baker, of the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at the University of Colorado, told The Guardian. He adds that "[i]f the eruption had occurred only one week earlier, Earth would have been in the line of fire."

The sun periodically blows off huge quantities of plasma. The last time Earth was struck was 1859, an event referred to in astronomy as The Carrington Event for its discoverer Sir Richard Carrington. That was before we came to rely on electrical equipment and computers for our modern way of life. But even then, it caused telegraph lines to spark enough to set fire to some telegraph offices. And the Northern Lights, were visible as far south as Cuba.

Nobody knows when such an event will occur again, but FEMA warns Americans should be prepared for the possibility, and recommends a series of steps for preparation, including making back-up copies of important digital data and information, keeping your car's gas tank at least half full, and filling plastic containers with water and placing them in your refrigerator or freezer. John Aziz

11:55 a.m. ET

If you saw Deadpool this weekend, you're not alone. Marvel's X-Men spinoff has brought in an estimated $135 million at the box office since its Thursday night release, The Wall Street Journal reports.

This was by no means a guaranteed hit — Fox budgeted the Ryan Reynolds flick at just $58 million, which is less than a third of what most other superhero movies cost.

The previous President's Day weekend box office record belonged to Fifty Shades of Grey, at $93 million in 2015. By weekend's end, Deadpool will likely surpass $150 million. Julie Kliegman

11:41 a.m. ET

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) vowed Sunday on ABC's This Week to filibuster any nominee President Obama puts forth to replace Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court bench.

"This is a 5-4 court — the next election needs to be a referendum on the court," Cruz said. "People need to decide."

Other Republicans in the Senate have made similar calls, including Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Meanwhile, Obama said Saturday he'll name a nominee soon, and Democrats like Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid and Sen. Elizabeth Warren are urging their colleagues to approve him or her before Obama leaves office.

"I don't think the American people want a court that will strip our religious liberties," Cruz said. "I don't think the American people want a court that will mandate unlimited abortions on demand, partial birth abortion with taxpayer funding and no parental notification, and I don't think the American people want a court that will write the Second Amendment out of the Constitution."

Watch Cruz's interview here. Julie Kliegman

11:03 a.m. ET

Saturday night's Republican presidential debate in South Carolina may have been the rowdiest yet, and not just on the part of the candidates. Here are some of the people and things the crowd deemed worthy of booing:

Facts: When Ted Cruz falsely claimed no Supreme Court justices have been appointed during election years in the last 80 years, moderator John Dickerson pointed out Anthony Kennedy. "I just want to get the facts straight for the audience," Dickerson said.

Donald Trump: In another tiff with Bush, Trump criticized his brother, former President George W. Bush, saying "How did he keep us safe? The World Trade Center came down."

Donald Trump, again: In a tiff with Bush (surprise, surprise), Trump said he was wrong about the billionaire's close ties to Russia.

Donald Trump, for a change: In the same exchange, Trump responded to the booing by claiming the jeers came from lobbyists supporting Bush.

Viewers were understandably a little perplexed by all of the booing.

If you missed out, here's a nice supercut of the most memorable sound from Saturday night. Julie Kliegman

10:01 a.m. ET

Minnesota Timberwolves guard Zach LaVine topped the Orlando Magic's Aaron Gordon in Saturday's Verizon Slam Dunk Contest. It's the second year in a row LaVine has won the All-Star weekend event, a feat only three other players in history — including Michael Jordan — have managed.

"There was some stuff that's never been done before. I don't want to get into the greats — Mike, they're in a different breath," LaVine said. "If you really look at it as a whole, we were doing dunks that professional dunkers take four or five tries to do, and we were doing it on the first try. It was ridiculous, man."

In the second tiebreaker, LaVine sealed his victory with a between-the-legs dunk from the free-throw line. Watch below. Julie Kliegman

9:25 a.m. ET

After years of delay, Twitter feuds, and technical difficulties, Kanye West has finally bestowed upon us his seventh album, The Life of Pablo. You can stream it through Tidal, buy it from his website, or just watch a couple of his Saturday Night Live performances below. Here's "Highlights":

And this is "Ultralight Beam." Enjoy. Julie Kliegman

8:07 a.m. ET
Ronaldo Schemidt/AFP/Getty Images

In his first full day in Mexico, Pope Francis spoke directly to the issues facing the nation Saturday, the Los Angeles Times reports.

"I beg that you not underestimate the moral and antisocial challenge which the drug trade represents for Mexican society as a whole, as well as for the church," he told church leaders at a Mexico City cathedral.

The pope also delivered a speech to politicians alongside President Enrique Peña Nieto. Francis stressed the need to care about the common good, not just those who are privileged.

"Each time we seek the path of privileges or benefits for a few, to the detriment of the good of all, the life of society becomes a fertile soil for corruption, drug trade, exclusion of different cultures, violence, and also human trafficking, kidnapping, and death, bringing suffering and slowing down development," Francis said. Julie Kliegman

7:39 a.m. ET
Noorullah Shirzada/AFP/Getty Images

In 2015, 3,545 civilians were killed due to war in Afghanistan, while 7,457 were injured, the United Nations said in a report released Sunday, The Associated Press reports.

That's a 4-percent decrease in deaths, but a 9-percent increase in injuries. The majority of the violence can be attributed to civilians caught in the ongoing crossfire between the Afghan government and the Taliban. Julie Kliegman

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