save the date
July 14, 2014

After traveling three billion miles over the course of almost a decade, the New Horizons spacecraft will finally make it to Pluto on July 14, 2015.

"It's Bastille Day," Alan Stern, principal investigator for NASA's Pluto-Kuiper Belt Mission, told NPR. "To celebrate, we're storming the gates of Pluto." New Horizons isn't actually going to land on Pluto, but will fly within 6,000 miles of the dwarf planet. The mission has been calculated so the spacecraft — which is unmanned and the size and shape of a baby grand piano — doesn't get caught in Pluto's orbit, but can still get close enough to take photographs that are not too blurry.

The closest any spacecraft has been to Pluto is one billion miles, and the best images have come from the Hubble Telescope. When New Horizons left Earth in January 2006, it was prior to Pluto's demotion to a dwarf planet, and Stern is excited to see what will be discovered in 365 days. "When we first sent missions to Jupiter, no one expected to find moons that would have active volcanoes," he said. "And I could go down a long list of how often I've been surprised by the richness of nature." --Catherine Garcia

ancient burials
2:31 p.m. ET
Khaled Desouki/AFP/Getty Image

Researchers are now 90 percent sure there's a hidden chamber behind the tomb of King Tutankhamun, Egyptian Antiquities Minister Mamdouh el-Damaty said at a news conference Saturday.

British Egyptologist Nicholas Reeves published a paper earlier in 2015 with his findings from examining detailed scans of King Tut's tomb, suggesting there are two secret doorways that have gone untouched since the 14th century B.C. One might lead to a storeroom, and the other to the tomb of Queen Nefertiti, whose burial site has long been a mystery for researchers.

Though Reeves' theory isn't a sure thing, researchers are more confident they'll at least find something behind Tut's tomb, Reuters reports, so long as they can avoid damaging the structure.

"The key is to excavate slowly and carefully and record well. The fact is this isn't a race," Reeves said at the news conference. "All archaeology is disruption." Julie Kliegman

make elephants great again
1:39 p.m. ET

Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump is speaking not once, but twice in Sarasota, Florida, on Saturday to accommodate the 14,000 people who want to see him, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune reports.

But he isn't the only star there:

Trump supporter Frank Murray of Gainesville lent the campaign his elephant for free Saturday.

"The man knows how to make money," Murray told the Herald-Tribune. "He knows what America is all about and he can get America back on track."

The term "political circus" has never felt quite so literal. Julie Kliegman

Gun Violence
1:04 p.m. ET

Robert Lewis Dear, 57, is being held without bond in connection with Friday's fatal shooting at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Dear, who authorities say has an address in Hartsel, about an hour away from Colorado Springs, is reportedly well-known to law enforcement officials in South Carolina, where BuzzFeed News reports he used to live.

Authorities in North and South Carolina have investigated Dear as many as nine times, according to BuzzFeed's public records search.

In 1997, Dear's wife alleged he hit her and pushed her out of a window in Walterboro, South Carolina, but did not file charges against him. He was twice found not guilty of cruelty to animals, and an allegation that he was a peeping tom was dismissed at a preliminary hearing, BuzzFeed reports.

Read more about the incidents here. Julie Kliegman

12:30 p.m. ET
Joshua Lott/Getty Images

Three days after the city of Chicago released video footage of the 2014 fatal shooting of black teenager Laquan McDonald by a police officer, protesters took to the Magnificent Mile to disrupt Black Friday shopping.

Some shoppers, blocked from entering big-name stores like Apple, Ralph Lauren, Burberry, and Brooks Brothers, told the Chicago Tribune they supported protesters, who are calling for the resignation of Chicago's police superintendent and increased awareness of police brutality against black people. But others didn't take kindly to being barred from shopping by lines of protesters, as the newspaper reports:

At Zara, a Schaumburg man who gave his name only as Scott, 31, violently burst through the line and then through a revolving door like a running back looking to make a first down.

"I'm looking for a sports jacket," he said as he got his breath back. "Compared to what's happening in Syria, what's happening here is nothing much.

"The only thing new is that there's a video of this shooting," Scott said. "It's been going on forever. None of these people could even tell you why they're protesting." [Chicago Tribune]

Nilo Khan, another shopper turned away from Zara, told the Tribune, "We're not trying to stop them from protesting, so why should they stop us from shopping?"

Three people were arrested during the Black Friday protests, The Associated Press reports. Read more about the scene at the Magnificent Mile here. Julie Kliegman

you're fired
11:21 a.m. ET
Ty Wright/Getty Images

More than 100 black religious leaders signed an op-ed published on Ebony's website Friday strongly discouraging their colleagues from supporting or endorsing Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump. The real estate mogul had announced he'll receive endorsements from a group of prominent black ministers Monday.

"By siding with a presidential candidate whose rhetoric pathologizes Black people, what message are you sending to the world about the Black lives in and outside of your congregations?" the op-ed read. "Which Black lives do you claim to be liberating?"

After several white people allegedly physically attacked a black protester at a Trump campaign rally in Birmingham, Alabama, on Nov. 21, the presidential hopeful said, "Maybe he should've been roughed up."

Some attending Monday's meeting have disputed Trump's endorsement claim, The Daily Beast reports. Read the full op-ed on Ebony here. Julie Kliegman

you used to watch me on my cell phone
10:52 a.m. ET
iStock/Getty Images

The National Security Agency will end its program to collect Americans' phone records in bulk Sunday, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence said Friday, The Washington Post reports.

The secret Patriot Act program was brought to light by whistleblower Edward Snowden in 2013. Congress ordered it shut in June. Some Republican senators, including Marco Rubio (Fla.) and Tom Cotton (Ark.), had tried to delay the surveillance program's end in light of the Nov. 13 terrorist attacks in Paris, Politico reports.

The government has been testing a new system, which reportedly only allows intelligence officials to collect information on people and phones linked to foreign powers and terrorist groups. Julie Kliegman

POTUS speaks
10:34 a.m. ET
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

President Obama condemned Friday's deadly shooting at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, Colorado, in a statement Saturday.

"This is not normal. We can't let it become normal," he said. "If we truly care about this — if we're going to offer up our thoughts and prayers again, for God knows how many times, with a truly clean conscience — then we have to do something about the easy accessibility of weapons of war on our streets to people who have no business wielding them. Period. Enough is enough."

Three people — one police officer and two civilians — died in the attack. Nine others were reportedly injured. Authorities took the suspected gunman, Robert Lewis Dear, into custody Friday night after an hours-long standoff with police.

"The last thing Americans should have to do, over the holidays or any day, is comfort the families of people killed by gun violence—people who woke up in the morning and bid their loved ones goodbye with no idea it would be for the last time," Obama said.

Read Obama's full statement on the shooting here. Julie Kliegman

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