The end of the world
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

No justice no peace
7:55 a.m. ET
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Baltimore police on Saturday arrested 12 people after a dwindling protest over the police custody death of Freddie Gray descended into violence.

An estimated 2,000 people marched peacefully for hours hours before a small splinter group began hurling rocks, smashing windows, and scuffling with police. Protesters also tangled with bystanders and police outside Camden Yards during a game between the Orioles and Red Sox, prompting the city to ask fans to remain inside the venue until authorities cleared the scene.

"I am profoundly disappointed to see the violence in our city this evening," Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said.

The city has suspended six officers while investigating how Gray suffered a fatal spinal injury while in police custody. Jon Terbush

Develop
April 25, 2015
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A massive 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck Nepal Saturday, leveling historic structures, causing widespread damage, and killing at least 1,457.

The quake struck around noon about 50 miles from the capital, Kathmandu. The death toll is expected to rise as rescuers pick through the rubble in search of survivors.

"We never imagined that we would face such devastation," Minister of Information and Communications Minendra Rijal said.

The quake also triggered a fatal avalanche on Mount Everest that killed at least a dozen climbers while injuring or trapping several more. From Romanian climber Alex Gavan:

The U.S. said it would send a disaster response team and pledged $1 million in aid. Jon Terbush

Ongoing investigation
April 25, 2015
Monica Schipper / Getty Images

An internal review of NBC anchorman Brian Williams' reporting has found several more alleged exaggerations, according to multiple reports. The New York Times on Friday reported NBC found a half-dozen such instances; CNN and The Washington Post later upped the tally to 10 and 11, respectively.

In February, NBC suspended Williams as it launched an investigation following his apology for embellishing details of his wartime reporting from Iraq. When completed, the investigation is expected to form the basis of NBC's decision to keep or cut ties with Williams. Jon Terbush

Watch this
April 25, 2015
Screenshot / White House

President Obama and Bill Nye sat down Friday for an Earth Day chat in the Everglades where they discussed America's lagging interest in, and understanding of, science.

After discussing ways to get American kids excited about science again, the conversation turned to Washington's inability to reach a consensus on climate change. And on that front, Obama lamented the way some lawmakers are "being part of the climate-denier clubs and basically stiff-arming what we know are facts — and not rebutting them with other facts, but rebutting them with anecdote or just being dismissive."

'"Oh, I'm not a scientist,'" Nye chimed in, mocking the standard defense climate change skeptics employ when pressed on their beliefs. —Jon Terbush

Watch this
April 25, 2015

A massive 7.8 magnitude earthquake rocked Nepal on Saturday, causing substantial damage and killing at least 1,000 people, according to government estimates. Via the BBC, here's some footage of the quake and the immediate aftermath. —Jon Terbush

Smoke if you've got em
April 25, 2015
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Hawaii on Friday passed a bill that would raise the legal smoking age to 21 while also banning the sale and purchase of electronic cigarettes for anyone under that age limit. If Democratic Gov. David Ige signs the bill — he has yet to indicate whether he will — Hawaii would become the first state in the nation to raise its smoking age to 21.

"The activities we've engaged in over the years to manage smoking — our additional efforts in education, the raising of cigarette taxes — this is a continuation of those policies," Democratic state Senator Rosalyn Baker told Reuters. Jon Terbush

No justice no peace
April 25, 2015
Alex Wong / Getty Images

Baltimore's police commissioner on Friday conceded that officers made mistakes in their handling of Freddie Gray, the unarmed black man who died last weekend of a severe spinal injury while in custody.

"We know that police employees failed to get him medical attention in a timely manner," Commissioner Anthony Batts said, adding that 30 investigators are probing the incident.

"If someone harmed Freddie Gray, we will have to prosecute him," Batts said.

As they have all week, demonstrators took to Baltimore's streets Friday to protest the incident. Jon Terbush

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