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September 19, 2015

NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden may be in isolation in Russia, but that didn't stop him from calling into Neil deGrasse Tyson's StarTalk podcast via robot video link Friday. The two science nerds discussed a wide range of topics — including alien life forms.

Snowden described how aliens could be communicating with us this very second, even though we have no clue it's happening:

So if you have an an alien civilization trying to listen for other civilizations, or our civilization trying to listen for aliens, there's only one small period in the development of their society when all of their communication will be sent via the most primitive and most unprotected means. So when we think about everything that we're hearing through our satellites or everything that they're hearing from our civilization (if there are indeed aliens out there), all of their communications are encrypted by default. So what we are hearing, that's actually an alien television show or you know a phone call...is indistinguishable to us from cosmic microwave background radiation. [StarTalk]

Mind. Blown.

Snowden also spoke openly about dropping out of high school, enlisting in the military, and getting skeptical about U.S. programs. Listen to the full interview below. Julie Kliegman

8:09 p.m. ET
Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

The president of the United Auto Workers endorsed Hillary Clinton on Wednesday, saying she "understands our issues on trade, understands the complexities of multinational economies, and supports American workers, their families, and communities."

In a statement, Dennis Williams cited Clinton's backing of paid family leave, equal pay for women, and expanding overtime rules as the reasons for his endorsement. He made his decision after surveying members, the Detroit Free Press reports, one week after he said he would not be throwing his support behind Trump. In an internal survey, 28 percent of UAW members said they plan to vote for the presumptive Republican nominee; last summer, Williams called Trump an "enemy of the middle class."

In his statement, Williams called Bernie Sanders a "great friend of the UAW," but added, "Hillary Clinton has shown under pressure her ability to lead and get elected in November." There are 412,000 active UAW members, and more than one million retirees. Catherine Garcia

7:10 p.m. ET
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If Donald Trump wants the endorsement of New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez (R), he has a funny way of showing it.

During a rally in Albuquerque Tuesday, Trump called out Martinez, the country's first female Hispanic governor and chairwoman of the Republican Governors Association. He told the crowd, "You've got to get your governor to do a better job, she's not doing her job," later adding, "Syrian refugees are being relocated in large numbers to New Mexico. If I was governor, that wouldn't be happening." He also slyly suggested that "maybe" he should run for governor to "get this place going."

Martinez's press secretary, Mike Lonergan, told ABC News the governor "doesn't care about what Donald Trump says about her. She cares about what he says he will do to help New Mexicans. She's disappointed that she didn't hear anything about that last night." Martinez, who did not attend Trump's Albuquerque rally, has not endorsed Trump, and Lonergan said "the governor will not be bullied into supporting a candidate until she is convinced that candidate will fight for New Mexicans." Catherine Garcia

6:35 p.m. ET
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Police in Anaheim, California, arrested several protesters outside of a Donald Trump rally Wednesday afternoon after they pelted officers with objects.

After Trump left, several demonstrators lingered in the area, setting at least one trash can on fire. Supporters of Trump faced off against the protesters, and an Anaheim Police spokesman said a group of five backers were escorted away "in the interest of public safety" after they used racially charged language against the demonstrators. Another group of supporters chanted anti-gay slurs, the Los Angeles Times reports, and two men held up a sign calling for the end of Islam and abortion. Dozens of police officers, including some on horseback, were on the scene, as well as sheriff's deputies in riot gear. Catherine Garcia

4:02 p.m. ET
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Akash Vukoti. Write it down, commit it to memory. You're likely going to be hearing a lot about this 6-year-old in the next 24 hours.

The youngest competitor by grade to ever to participate in the Scripps Spelling Bee, Vukoti was greeted by enthusiastic applause when he managed to spell the word "inviscate" Wednesday morning, and moved on to the next round.

Let's face it: "Inviscate" isn't even recognized by this computer's spell check (it means "to encase in a sticky substance," if you were wondering). This first-grader from San Angelo, Texas, may be pint-sized, but he's all brain. Just check out his favorite word — it's 45 letters long:

Now try saying that three times fast. Jeva Lange

3:07 p.m. ET
Mike Windle/Getty Images For EPIX

The makers of a new Katie Couric documentary on gun violence apparently deceptively edited an interview with gun rights activists to make them appear stumped by her question, The Washington Free Beacon reports. About 20 minutes into the documentary Under the Gun, Couric asks members of the Virginia Citizens Defense League, "If there are no background checks for gun purchasers, how do you prevent felons or terrorists from purchasing a gun?"

The response? Dead silence, for about nine awkward seconds:

That's not how it really went down, though, according to activists who contacted the Free Beacon. In audio provided to the website, Couric's question is actually quickly met with answers, and the back and forth lasts about four minutes:

The gun rights activists have called the segment "unbelievable and extremely unprofessional." "[Couric] intentionally removed their answers and spliced in nine seconds of some prior video of our members sitting quietly and not responding. Viewers are left with the misunderstanding that the members had no answer to her question," Virginia Citizens Defense League president Philip Van Cleave said.

When asked about the edits, Nora Ryan, the chief of staff for EPIX, which is airing the documentary, said that the channel "stands behind Katie Couric, director Stephanie Soechtig, and their creative and editorial judgement." Jeva Lange

2:57 p.m. ET
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What Donald Trump's campaign likely thought was a brilliant plan to take down Hillary Clinton was quickly foiled Wednesday afternoon when a Trump spokeswoman did some errant emailing.

While Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks meant to respond to an email from Trump adviser Michael Caputo requesting that a researcher at the Republican National Committee "work up information on HRC/Whitewater as soon as possible" for "immediate use and for the afternoon talking points process," she ended up replying to Marc Caputo — a reporter at Politico. With the mistaken click of a button, the entire email thread — and, subsequently, the scoop on Trump's next plan of attack — was dropped into Politico's inbox.

RNC chief strategist Sean Spicer has defended the request for information on Whitewater — the Clinton scandal stemming from a failed real estate venture in the 1970s — as nothing more than "just another example of Republican campaigns up and down the ballot looking to us for the best information." Neither Spicer nor Hicks provided any further clues as to when or how Trump will be using that requested information, though it goes without saying his coming attack will involve the word "crooked." Becca Stanek

2:31 p.m. ET
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Eleven states are represented in a federal lawsuit filed Wednesday against the Obama administration, challenging federal guidelines that require schools to allow transgender students to use bathrooms that match their gender identity.

The lawsuit, filed in a federal court in Wichita Falls, Texas, is in response to a directive released earlier in May by the Obama administration, which critics say oversteps the government's bounds. The lawsuit accused the administration of trying to turn schools and workplaces into "laboratories for a massive social experiment."

On Tuesday, the Justice Department and North Carolina filed competing lawsuits concerning a law in the state that bans transgender people from using bathrooms that don't correspond to the gender identified on their birth certificate. Jeva Lange

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