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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

10:50 p.m. ET
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When WhiteHouse.gov abruptly switched over from the Obama administration to the Trump administration on Friday afternoon, President Trump's biography immediately popped up, with a technically correct and very Trumpian recounting of his business career and presidential victory. First lady Melania Trump's biography touted her modeling career — including her "major layouts" in "the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, Allure, Vogue, Self, Glamour, Vanity Fair, and Elle" — plus her "numerous television commercials and television programs" ("including co-hosting The View with Barbara Walters") and her own business acumen.

"Melania is also a successful entrepreneur," the bio says. "In April 2010, Melania Trump launched her own jewelry collection, ‘Melania™ Timepieces & Jewelry,’ on QVC" — or at least it originally included that plug, according to The Washington Post. By Friday night, Melania Trump's bio just said that "in April 2010, Melania Trump launched her own jewelry collection." The Post gives some context: "It is not uncommon for the White House to note the accomplishments of the first lady in her official biography, but Trump's decision to include a detailed list of her media appearances and branded retail goods is unusual."

In any case, QVC told The Washington Post it no longer carries Trump's jewelry. Trump's biography also notes that her "penchant and passion for the arts, architecture, design, fashion, and beauty... can only be surpassed by her dedication to helping others, and her generosity has been noted." Her focus as first lady will be "issue impacting women and children," the bio concludes, "and she has focused her platform as first lady on the problem of cyber bullying among our youth." You can read more about Melania Trump and her life and work at WhiteHouse.gov. Peter Weber

10:03 p.m. ET

At the Freedom Inaugural Ball in Washington, D.C., on Friday night, President Trump and first lady Melania Trump took the stage for their first dance to the song "My Way," made famous by the late Frank Sinatra and written by Paul Anka based on a French song by Claude François and Jacques Revaux. Trump had refused to rehearse the dance, CNN reports, and he set it up by talking about his victory in the presidential race, promising action and not talk, and marveling that the rain only poured once he was done with his inaugural speech. "My Way" was performed by a trio of vocalists:

Vice President Mike Pence and his wife, Karen, came out halfway through — the Pences looked like they had rehearsed, or like dancing together — and Trump's children came out for the end of the song. Sinatra's daughter, Nancy Sinatra, wasn't necessarily impressed with Trump's selection for his first dance, saying on Twitter, “Just remember the first line of the song." Though, honestly, Anka's opening lyrics — "And now, the end is near, and so I face the final curtain" — is no less inappropriate an inauguration song than The Rolling Stones' "Heart of Stone." Peter Weber

9:01 p.m. ET

Donald Trump played a lot of different songs during his presidential campaign — from the Rolling Stones' "You Can't Always Get What You Want" to the Puccini aria "Nessun Dorma" — but rival Hilary Clinton was known mostly for one song, Rachel Platten's "Fight Song." So of course, at Donald Trump's first inaugural ball, the Freedom Ball, the group The Piano Guys played "Fight Song," as part of a medley with the hymn "Amazing Grace." The ball's other performances were mostly vocal jazz standards and show tunes, starting with the Kurt Weill-Bertolt Brecht song "Mack the Knife," about a serial killer.

Poaching Clinton's trademark campaign anthem could be seen as a fig leaf, or something closer to the presumed message of "You Can't Always Get What You Want." To be fair, the "Fight Song"-"Amazing Grace" mash-up is one of the novelty group's hits. You can watch their video of it below. Peter Weber

8:36 p.m. ET

Washington, D.C., interim Police Chief Peter Newsham said Friday evening that police had arrested 217 people for rioting during a day of Inauguration Day protests throughout the city, demonstrating against President Trump. A "very small percentage" of the thousands of protesters were violent, he said, though that faction caused "significant damage" along a number of blocks. Protesters blocked several security checkpoints, and a group of "black bloc" anticapitalist, antifascist activists threw rocks and bricks at police, smashed windows, set a handful of trash cans and a limousine ablaze. Police responded with chemical spray and flash-bang or stun grenades.

"It's a little jarring when you're in a peaceful march with drumming and chanting and the next thing you know flash bangs are going off around you," Daniel Hultquist, a protester from Rhode Island, told The Washington Post. "People that throw rocks and bricks are undermining the cause." As people got out of work, anti-Trump protesters also gathered in cities around the country, including Nashville, San Francisco, Austin, Atlanta, Portland, and Seattle. You can see the burning limo in the Inauguration Day roundup from The Associated Press' Julie Pace below. Peter Weber

7:18 p.m. ET
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After confirming Defense Secretary James Mattis on Friday evening, 98-1, the Senate approved the nomination of former retired Marine Gen. John F. Kelly as secretary of homeland security, 88-11. Kelly, who retired last year as head of the U.S. Southern Command, will take over a department with more than 240,000 employees who oversee everything from border security to protecting the president and America's electrical grid. Among Kelly's most controversial items on his roster of duties will be carrying out Trump's orders on immigration and building a Mexico-U.S. border wall.

Trump said at a luncheon after his inauguration that Mattis and Kelly were straight from "central casting," pointing specifically to his new defense secretary. "If I'm doing a movie, I'd pick you, Gen. Mattis," he said. Trump reportedly took looks into serious consideration when assembling his Cabinet. Peter Weber

6:47 p.m. ET

Despite a beautiful sunrise over Washington, D.C., on election day, the skies turned cloudy with scattered light rain on Inauguration Day. Maybe that's why President Trump's inaugural crowd was notably smaller than former President Barack Obama's 2009 inauguration — when he was also, to be fair, the first African American to be sworn in as president — and also Obama's crowd after he was re-elected in 2013. Also, maybe the weather is why CNN decided to show video of Obama's 2013 crowd and Trump's 2017 swearing-in side-by-side, without comment:

Other possibilities: Obama had more high-wattage star power at both inaugurations, and home-team advantage — only 4.1 percent of Washington, D.C., voted for Trump in the election (versus 91 percent for Hillary Clinton), versus Obama's 91 percent in 2012 and 92 percent in 2008. Clinton also won neighboring Maryland and Virginia. Trump, of course, won the Electoral College, which is why he is president. Peter Weber

5:38 p.m. ET
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Retired Marine Gen. James Mattis was confirmed as President Donald Trump's secretary of defense late Friday afternoon. The Hill reported the Senate "easily" confirmed Mattis, who is the first of Trump's Cabinet members to be confirmed.

Mattis will be the first recently retired service member to lead the Pentagon since "President [Harry S.] Truman nominated Army Gen. George C. Marshall for the job in 1950," The Washington Post reported. To be confirmed, Mattis had to obtain a waiver from Congress to bypass a law prohibiting members of the military from assuming the position for at least seven years after they leave the service. Trump's first order of business after being sworn into office Friday morning was to sign a waiver allowing Mattis to serve as defense secretary.

Mattis will be in charge of the Defense Department's $580 billion budget and its 1.9 million active-duty service members and reservists. Becca Stanek

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