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April 17, 2014

It was only a matter of time.

[NASA Ames/SETI Institute/JPL-CalTech]

Today, researchers at NASA pinpointed the best candidate for life elsewhere in the universe: an Earth-sized planet — Kepler-186f, orbiting a dwarf star. The star, Kepler 18, is 6,500 lightyears from Earth in the constellation Cygnus.

The planet is closer to its star than Earth is to the Sun, but because Kepler 186 is a smaller star, the habitable zone — where water on its surface would be liquid — is closer in.

[NASA Ames/SETI Institute/JPL-CalTech]

Scientists don't yet know its composition, and so can't answer key questions like whether its surface is rocky, or whether it possesses liquid water— and, of course, the big question of whether or not it harbors any form of life.

This is likely to be the first of many. The planet was discovered using the Kepler space telescope, launched in 2009 with the specific aim of seeking out extrasolar planets. Kepler has found dozens of exoplanets, most of them gaseous giants like Jupiter, Saturn and Uranus. Large planets — particularly ones very close to their star — are easier to identify, because of the larger gravitational and dimming effects they have on their stars' light emissions. Smaller Earth-sized planets — and particularly ones relatively further away from their star, like Earth — have smaller effects, making them harder for scientists to detect.

So this is a pretty historic day in the history of astronomy, and the history of human civilization. Whether or not the planet contains life at present, at the very least that we have detected a good candidate outside our solar system to visit, and maybe one day colonize. John Aziz

12:47 p.m. ET
Pete Marovich/Getty Images

The Alaska Supreme Court on Friday voted 4-1 to strike down a 2010 state law requiring doctors to notify the parents of girls under the age of 18 if their daughters seek an abortion.

The ruling is a win for Planned Parenthood and Alaskan abortion rights advocates, who made the case that the mandate was a violation of teens' privacy and a danger to girls living in abusive situations. In the majority opinion, Justice Daniel Winfree agreed, writing that the law posed a "discriminatory barrier to those minors seeking to exercise their fundamental privacy right to terminate a pregnancy."

Justice Craig Stowers, the sole dissenter, argued that where a minor is concerned, the state and her parents retain a "legitimate interest" in the situation and, in the parents' case, should be afforded the opportunity to discuss with their child the ramifications of the decision to abort. Parents are required to be notified and give consent where most other significant medical procedures are concerned. Bonnie Kristian

12:00 p.m. ET

Some 3.7 million Syrian children have been born into war in their native land, but activists are using Pokémon Go to draw international attention to their plight.

The Revolutionary Forces of Syria Media Office (RFS) is sharing images of Syrian kids surrounded by chaos and violence — plus Pokémon. The images allude to the fact that you have to physically go to a new location to capture each monster, urging viewers to likewise come help.

"People on social media talk about Pokémon all the time, so I created these images to draw attention to suffering during the war and what Syrians are really searching for," said Saif Aldeen Tahhan, a graphic designer who has shared mockups of Syria Go, in which users would search for basic necessities like food and shelter instead of fantastic creatures. "I can tell you, the Syrian people are not looking for Pokémon." Bonnie Kristian

11:38 a.m. ET
Alex Wong/Getty Images

Presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and her new running mate, Sen. Tim Kaine, held a rally at Florida International University (FIU) in Miami Saturday, marking their official debut as a complete 2016 ticket.

Kaine is perceived as a cautious choice whom Clinton hopes will boost her fortunes among moderate Democrats and independents who might otherwise be attracted to Republican Donald Trump. Florida Democrats traveled from around the state to attend the campaign event, lining up by the hundreds outside the doors hours before it began.

Watch a live stream of the rally below. Bonnie Kristian

11:00 a.m. ET

Former Daily Show correspondent and host of TBS' Full Frontal Samantha Bee sent out a series of cheeky tweets Friday night mocking presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton's selection of Sen. Tim Kaine as her running mate. Kaine is widely perceived as a cautious choice, to put nicely — which Bee did not. Take a look at a few of her tweets below, and see the rest on her feed. Bonnie Kristian

10:50 a.m. ET
Mark Wilson/Getty Images

In just the 11th veto of his time in office, President Obama on Friday rejected the "Presidential Allowance Modernization Act of 2016," a bill which would have capped former presidents' expense accounts at $200,000 a year and phased out presidential pensions for former executives who independently make at least $400,000 annually.

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said the veto was issued out of concern that the bill would "immediately terminate salaries and all benefits to staffers carrying out the official duties of former Presidents" and require the government to "immediately terminate leases, and remove furniture."

Earnest indicated that Obama, who will himself be an ex-president in six months, would consider signing a revised version of the legislation. Bonnie Kristian

10:40 a.m. ET
Massoud Hossaini/Associated Press

The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for a deadly suicide bombing at a protest in Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, on Saturday. At least 80 people were killed in the attack and about 230 more were wounded, officials said.

The demonstration was primarily composed of the Shia Hazara minority; ISIS represents an extreme variant of Afghanistan's Sunni majority. The two sects have historically not experienced internecine strife in Afghanistan as they have elsewhere in the Mideast, including Iraq.

The Taliban condemned the incident, calling it an "act of making enmity among Afghan ethnicities" and denying all participation. If ISIS involvement is confirmed, it will be the first time the group has made a major strike in Afghanistan outside Nangarhar province.

This post has been updated throughout. Bonnie Kristian

10:11 a.m. ET
Paul Kane/Getty Images

A 64-year-old Russian adventurer and Orthodox priest named Fedor Konyukhov landed in Australia Saturday and in doing so completed his record-setting hot air balloon circumnavigation. Konyukhov began his journey July 12 and traveled around the globe in just 11 days, 6 hours, living in a gondola measuring around 6 feet in each direction.

"He's landed, he's safe, he's sound, he's happy," said Konyukhov 's flight coordinator, John Wallington. "It's just amazing. It's fantastic — the record's broken, everyone's safe." Konyukhov landed cold and bruised but otherwise in good condition.

The previous record, held by an American named Steve Fossett, was 13 days, 8 hours. Bonnie Kristian

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