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
Saturday Night Live's Cecily Strong spared no one in Washington with her routine at Saturday's White House Correspondents' Association Dinner, but her most poignant barbs focused on race relations in America.
"Your hair is so white now it can talk back to the police," Strong said of President Obama.
Earlier, Strong earned mostly hushed grumbling when she combined into one punchline recent police shootings of unarmed black men and reports of Secret Service incompetence. Calling for applause for Secret Service agents in attendance, Strong called them, "the only law enforcement agency that will get in trouble if a black man gets shot."
You can watch Strong's full routine below. —Jon Terbush
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) on Saturday claimed Christians in America face persecution at the hands of intolerant liberals.
"Today's Democratic Party has decided there is no room for Christians," Cruz warned at Iowa's Faith and Freedom Coalition summit.
"There is a liberal fascism that is going after Christian believers," he added.
Counting Cruz, nine declared or potential Republican presidential candidates attended the event in hopes of wooing evangelical voters. Representing a range of experience and political positions, the presidential hopefuls all tailored their messages to fit the religious tenor of the evening. Jon Terbush
President Obama came to the annual White House Correspondents' Association dinner on Saturday with plenty of barbs about Washington lawmakers and the reporters who cover them.
Noting that host Cecily Strong plays a CNN anchor on Saturday Night Live, Obama quipped that it was "surprising because usually the only people impersonating journalists are journalists on CNN." And addressing Dick Cheney's recent media tour in which the former vice president lambasted Obama, the president said the feeling was mutual.
"He thinks I'm the worst president of his lifetime," Obama said, "which is interesting because I think Dick Cheney is the worst president of my lifetime." —Jon Terbush
At least 2,263 people are dead and nearly 6,000 are injured after Saturday's catastrophic earthquake in Nepal, according to the country's Home Ministry.
A powerful 7.8 magnitude quake and a series of violent aftershocks — one an estimated 6.7 magnitude rumbling on Sunday — rocked the mountain nation, destroying historic buildings, buckling infrastructure, and leaving behind widespread devastation. Thousands of people squatted in the streets after the first seismic activity either because the quake leveled their homes or because it made them too afraid to go back indoors.
The earthquake also triggered a deadly avalanche on Mount Everest that killed at least 18 people while injuring or trapping dozens more.
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
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:
Huge disaster.Helped searched and rescued victims through huge debris area.Many dead.Much more badly injured.More to die if not heli asap.
— Alex Gavan (@AlexGAVAN) April 25, 2015
The U.S. said it would send a disaster response team and pledged $1 million in aid. Jon Terbush
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