this is pretty cool
July 11, 2014

It's intergalactic bling: the Hubble Telescope has captured images of two elliptical galaxies coming together to create a "necklace" of young stars that extends for 100,000 light-years.

The two galaxies are both three times wider than the Milky Way, in a cluster known as SDSS J1531+3414. "We were surprised to find this stunning morphology, which must be very short-lived," Grant Tremblay of the European Southern Observatory said. "We've long known that the 'beads on a string' phenomenon is seen in the arms of spiral galaxies and in tidal bridges between interacting galaxies. However, this particular supercluster arrangement has never been seen before in giant merging elliptical galaxies."

Watch a video describing the merging of galaxies below. --Catherine Garcia

Bush 3.0
5:35 p.m. ET
Sean Rayford/Getty Images

Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush published a whopping 33 years of personal tax returns to his campaign website Tuesday, a new record in American politics. The former Florida governor reported an effective rate of 36 percent over the years.

"In my case, I paid the government more than one in three dollars that I earned in my career. Astounding," Bush writes. "I think I speak for everyone, no matter your tax rate: we need to get more money back in your pocket and less in the federal kitty."

The move, which happened weeks after fellow candidate Marco Rubio came under fire for his shaky personal finances, represents Bush's effort to underscore his commitment to transparency. It also stands in stark contrast to Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton's secrecy and silence regarding her use of a private email account during her tenure as secretary of state. Bush's disclosure arrives hours before the State Department is set to publicize thousands of Clinton's emails. Stephanie Talmadge

Say it ain't so
4:49 p.m. ET
Kevin Winter/Getty Images

After 10 years of marriage, Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner are calling it quits, People reports.

"After much thought and careful consideration, we have made the difficult decision to divorce," the pair told People in a joint statement. "We go forward with love and friendship for one another and a commitment to co-parenting our children whose privacy we ask to be respected during this difficult time. This will be our only comment on this private, family matter. Thank you for understanding."

The couple, who have 3 children together, originally met on the set of 2001's Pearl Harbor, and became involved two years later when they were costars in 2003's Daredevil. They were married in 2005 and celebrated their tenth anniversary Monday. Stephanie Talmadge

Freedom of speech
4:05 p.m. ET
Pablo Blazquez Dominguez/Getty Images

Back in March, the conservative Spanish government passed a law sharply limiting the right of public protest. It is set to take effect tomorrow, and groups including Greenpeace are protesting in advance, calling it a "gag law."

The law prescribes, among other things, fines up to 600 euros for not notifying the authorities in advance about a protest, up to €30,000 for disturbing the peace around government buildings, and up to 600,000 euros for spontaneous demonstrations near certain infrastructure, such as power stations or transit hubs.

Human Rights Watch has denounced the measure as a clear infringement of the right of peaceable assembly and protest, and opposition parties have promised to repeal it if elected in elections later this year. Ryan Cooper

ObamaWeek
3:45 p.m. ET

Political pundits have been quick to declare last week President Obama's best week ever. But Obama himself is quick to say that actually, he's had better.

Never mind that his approval rating is now the highest it's been in two years, apparently fueled by last week's successes with marriage equality, the Affordable Care Act, the widely applauded eulogy he delivered in Charleston, the GOP about-face on the Confederate flag, and the success in Congress of his Trans-Pacific Partnership. Nope, to the contrary, last week was not, in fact, Obama's greatest ever.

"In terms of my best week, now my best week, I will tell you, was marrying Michelle. That was a really good week," Obama said when asked by a journalist during a press conference on Tuesday. "Malia and Sasha being born, excellent weeks."

The president paused, thinking.

"There was a game where I scored 27 points," he said. "That was a pretty good week."

Still, Obama went on to agree that his victories last week were indeed "gratifying." "In many ways, last week was simply a culmination of a lot of work we've been doing since I came into office," the president said. Right. No biggie. Watch the video below. Jeva Lange

Abortion Debate
3:42 p.m. ET
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

A new Florida state law mandating that women wait 24 hours before getting an abortion was set to go into effect on Wednesday. But on Tuesday — just one day before — Chief Circuit Judge Charles Francis blocked it. After Florida Gov. Rick Scott signed the bill into law, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Center for Reproductive Rights filed a lawsuit on the grounds that the law interfered with a woman's right to privacy and to have an abortion. In the judge's opinion, state officials didn't exactly have evidence to prove the contrary.

This is the second ruling this week in favor of abortion rights. On Monday, a Supreme Court ruling blocked a lower court ruling that would have closed down all but a few Texas abortion clinics. Becca Stanek

Jailbreak
2:52 p.m. ET
iStock

Clashes in Yemen have led to 1,200 prisoners escaping — and members of al Qaeda are thought to be among them, Reuters reports.

"Groups of al Qaeda supporters... today attacked the central prison in the city of Taiz," the state news agency, Saba, reportedly quoted an official as saying. "More than 1,200 of the dangerous prisoners escaped."

In an apparently similar case in April, 270 prisoners were broken out of a prison in Al Mukallah by al Qaeda militants; among those freed were senior al Qaeda officials.

Yemen remains in the throes of an ongoing power struggle between the forces of former President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi and Houthi rebels. Both Hadi and the Houthis are opposed by al Qaeda. Yemen also has its own Islamic State jihadist group, which is another al Qaeda antagonist. (Learn more about the various power players with this helpful BBC explainer.)

A car bomb yesterday killed 10 at a funeral in Sanaa, the Yemeni capital. ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attack. Jeva Lange

Germanwings Crash
2:48 p.m. ET
Handout/Getty Images

Germanwings announced Tuesday that it will be offering "emotional damage payments" to the relatives of the 150 victims of the March 24 plane crash, Reuters reports. The payments of 25,000 euros, the equivalent of $27,958, are intended as compensation for pain and suffering. This offering, which is outside the norms of German law, is an addition to the 50,000 euros that the airline paid to the families for immediate assistance. Emotional damage payments will be made to parents, spouses, partners, and children of the victims.

Germanwings co-pilot Andreas Lubitz locked the captain out of the cockpit and deliberately crashed the Dusseldorf-bound plane in the Alps on March 24, killing all 150 people on board. Becca Stanek

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