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July 12, 2017
Photo by NASA

Star light, star not-so-bright, first star I see two-thirds-of-the-way-across-the-universe tonight? Scientists using the Hubble Space Telescope have spotted the farthest known star, which is located approximately 9 billion light years away from Earth, Science News reports. Previously, the farthest observed star was a mere 55 million light years away.

Patrick Kelly of the University of California, Berkeley, stumbled upon the star when he was observing a galaxy cluster:

In April and May 2016, Kelly and his team saw a mysteriously fluctuating point of light in the galaxy cluster's vicinity.

Follow-up images and analyses, posted June 30 at arXiv.org, showed that light is probably from a single bright blue star that coincidentally was behind the galaxy cluster, aligned along Hubble's line of sight. The star is visible because the galaxy cluster's gravity bent spacetime around the cluster, making it act like a cosmic magnifying glass. [Science News]

With a little more calculation, the researchers realized the light from the star had to zip through a whole 65 percent of the entire universe before it could be seen by eyeballs on Earth, a journey that takes about nine billion years — more than half the age of the universe itself, which is estimated to be 13.8 billion years old, Science News adds. Some additional perspective from Syfy Wire: Nine billion light years is more than a million times farther than any star you can possibly see with your naked eye. Jeva Lange

6:14 a.m. ET
Sean Gallup/Getty Images

In late September, German Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative Christian Democratic Union-Christian Social Union (CDU-CSU) party won a plurality of seats in Germany's parliament, but early Monday, her bid for a fourth term as chancellor hit a significant snag when the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) unexpectedly pulled out of coalition talks. FDP leader Christian Lindner told reporters that in their four weeks of negotiations, the DCU, FDP, and Greens were unable to agree on policy or a direction for Germany. "It is better not to rule than to rule badly," he said. "Goodbye!"

Merkel said Monday morning that a deal had been within reach and that she intended to stay on as chancellor but would inform President Frank-Walter Steinmeier of the failed talks and discuss how to move forward. Steinmeier could call new elections or Merkel could lead a minority government with the Greens — both of which would firsts for post-war Germany — or try to convince the Social Democrats (SDP), her coalition partners in her previous term, to stick around, despite the beating they took after aligning with her. The SDP has ruled out governing with Merkel's party again, though Germany's traditional parties are wary of the far-right, anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD) party gaining strength in new elections.

The FDP had been coalition partners with Merkel from 2009 to 2013, before losing all their seats for four years. After their comeback, it's strange they would walk away from governing with Merkel again, Jackson Janes at the American Institute for Contemporary German Studies at Johns Hopkins University tells Reuters. "And it is also a dangerous game of poker for Germany." The talks reportedly broke down over immigration as well as taxes and environmental policy. Peter Weber

5:29 a.m. ET
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Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe has agreed to step down in a deal with the military that grants him and his wife, Grace, full immunity from prosecution and lets them keep their property, CNN reports, citing a source "with knowledge of negotiations over Mugabe's future." Still, a deadline from the ruling Zanu-PF party passed on Monday and there was no public statement or resignation notice from Mugabe, 93.

On Sunday, the party ousted him as party leader and Mugabe stunned Zimbabweans by refusing to resign in a rambling televised speech. If Mugabe does not step down, the Zanu-PF party said, they will impeach him. Last week, the Zimbabwean military put Mugabe and his wife under house arrest, prompting thousands of Zimbabweans to take to the streets demanding an end to Mugabe's regime. Peter Weber

3:39 a.m. ET

Last week, an Associated Press photographer captured a photo of Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and his wife, Louise Linton, holding up a sheet of freshly printed $1 bills. The photos caused quite a splash. "Some folks," Chris Wallace told Mnuchin on Fox News Sunday, "say that you two look like two villains from a James Bond movie. ... I guess my question is: What were you thinking?" It's unclear what a real (fictional) Bond villain would say, but Mnuchin — who has produced several Hollywood hits — was apparently pleased with the comparison.

"I guess I should take that as a compliment that I look like a villain in a great, successful James Bond movie," Mnuchin said. "But let me just say, I was very excited of having my signature on the money." He actually changed his signature to be legible, he told Wallace. But when it came to the photo, taken by the most famous American wire service at a public event, "I didn't realize that the pictures were public and going on the internet and viral," Mnuchin said. "But people have the right to do that. People can express what they want. That's the great thing about social media today."

The AP photographer, Jacquelyn Martin, wasn't surprised that the photo went viral — but she was surprised Mnuchin and Linton posed for it. "When I got to the assignment, I didn't envision an image quite like this," she wrote. "Once I was there and Mnuchin gestured for Linton to come over and be in the photo op, then I knew for sure this image would get some interest. Based on their history and previous images that have been put out there — I had a feeling that this would take off. There is something about this couple that people are just fascinated by." Something, yes. Peter Weber

2:06 a.m. ET
AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner

Eliahu Pietruszka spent 70 years thinking every member of his immediate family died during the Holocaust. Two weeks ago, he learned that not only did his younger brother survive, but he had one son, and that son wanted nothing more than to meet his uncle in person.

Pietruszka, 102, was 24 when he fled Poland in 1939. His parents and younger brother Zelig were sent to the Warsaw Ghetto and later died in a concentration camp, but Zelig's twin, Volf, was able to escape. Eliahu and Volf briefly communicated before Volf was sent to a Siberian work camp by the Russians, and Eliahu always assumed his brother died there. Believing his entire family had perished, Eliahu moved to Israel in 1949, married, had children, and became a microbiologist.

Two weeks ago, a Canadian woman working on her family tree sent Eliahu's grandson a note, saying she found online a testimony written by a man named Volf Pietruszka. Yad Vashem, a Holocaust memorial, maintains a database filled with the names of those who perished in the Holocaust, and Volf had filled out a testimony for Eliahu, thinking he had died. Volf had survived the Holocaust, moved to the Ural Mountains, and had one son, Alexandre Pietruszka, now 66.

Eliahu's grandson found an address for Volf, which led to him connecting with Alexandre. Volf died in 2011, and wanting to waste no time, Alexandre packed his bags and flew to Israel to meet his uncle last Thursday. It was an emotional moment for Eliahu, meeting the only link to the family he thought he lost so long ago. "It makes me so happy that at least one remnant remains from my brother, and that is his son," he told The Associated Press. "After so many years, I have been granted the privilege to meet him." Alexandre said it was "a miracle" that he found his uncle. "I never thought this would happen." Catherine Garcia

1:36 a.m. ET

On Sunday night, the U.S. military ordered all service members in Okinawa to stay on base or at their off-base residence and banned alcohol consumption by all service members on mainland Japan at all times and in all places, following a fatal crash early Sunday morning. In the crash, an unidentified U.S. Marine and a 61-year-old Japanese man collided in Naha, Okinawa prefecture, killing the Japanese man and leaving the Marine slightly injured. Kazuhiko Miyagi of the Okinawa police told the Voice of America that the Marine's blood alcohol level registered three times the legal limit in a breath test.

About half of the 50,000 U.S. troops stationed in Japan are on Okinawa, and their presence has met with local resistance, especially after U.S. military personnel behave badly off base. Sunday's order mandated training on responsible alcohol consumption, risk management, and other acceptable behaviors not just for military personnel but also U.S. government civilians stationed Japan. Peter Weber

1:01 a.m. ET
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Charles Manson, the cult leader and mastermind behind one of the 20th century's most famous murder sprees, died Sunday, TMZ reports and The Associated Press confirms. He was 83.

Debra Tate, the sister of victim Sharon Tate, told TMZ that the California prison where Manson had been incarcerated called her to say he died at 8:13 p.m. local time. Last week, he was taken to a hospital in Bakersfield. Manson came to Los Angeles in the 1960s, hoping to become a musician, and soon attracted several followers, dubbed the Manson Family. On August 9, 1969, several of his followers murdered Tate, an actress who was nearly nine months pregnant, and four others at her Los Angeles home; the next evening, they killed husband and wife Leno and Rosemary LaBianca.

Manson hoped their murders would start a race war, and for his role in the slayings, he was convicted of conspiracy to commit murder. He received the death penalty, but after the state ruled it unconstitutional, he was given nine consecutive life sentences. Catherine Garcia

12:37 a.m. ET
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Roy Moore's "claim that the Senate race has become a religious war, and a Christian one at that, has put one group in an awkward position: Christians," say Campbell Robertson and Laurie Goodstein at The New York Times. On Sunday, pastors around Alabama refrained from discussing Moore, the Republican nominee in the Dec. 12 U.S. Senate race, but they've been asked about little else since a growing number of women came forward to say Moore initiated a physical relationship or sexually assaulted them when they were teenagers as young as 14 and he was in his 30s.

"It was a known fact: Roy Moore liked young girls," Faye Gary, a retired police officer in Moore's hometown of Gadsden, Alabama, tells the Times. "It was treated like a joke. That's just the way it was." Now it's out in the open, the allegations "have created a dilemma" for many pastors, Robertson and Goodstein write. "They want to denounce what Mr. Moore was accused of doing, but in many cases they want to do so without denouncing Mr. Moore himself," who's still supported by many in their congregations.

Some religious leaders in Alabama have openly denounced Moore, a Southern Baptist, and called him unfit for office. But most pastors "still endorse Moore, underlining the unwavering support he has received from his conservative Christian base," reports Christopher Harress at Al.com. Pastor David Floyd of Marvyn Parkway Baptist Church in Opelika said he doesn't "believe those women" and called the allegations a Democratic smear.

Pastor Franklin Raddish of the nationwide Capitol Hill Independent Baptist Ministries told AL.com from South Carolina home that the accusations against Moore are part of a "war on men" that has ramped up with the national reckoning about sexual misconduct. "More women are sexual predators than men," he added, dubiously. "Women are chasing young boys up and down the road, but we don't hear about that because it's not PC." Peter Weber

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