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Scientists discover 18 new planets

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by Sarah Harper

Caltech scientists have uncovered 18 Jupiter-sized planets in distant solar systems, they wrote in a scientific journal Saturday.

The 18 new planets are orbiting around stars larger than the sun, reported KTLA News.

KESQ Pasadena reported that the scientists used the twin telescopes at the Keck Observatory on the Big Island of Hawaii.

According to KESQ, this discovery is the first such observation to be made from Earth.

Caltech announced that the discovery was published in the December issue of The Astrophysical Journal Supplement, according to KTLA.

Conservatives win in Spain

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by Sarah Harper

Spaniards showed their support for the conservative Popular Party in Sunday's elections, ending eight years of Socialist government.

The New York Times reported that according to the official results, the Socialists lost 59 seats to the Popular Party, which appeared to have won a governing majority. The Popular party won 186 seats of the 350-seat lower house of Parliament.

Spaniards hope that the Popular Party, led by Mariano Rajoy, will help them face problems caused by Europe's debt crisis. These problems include falling property values, unbearable debt and the collapse of the construction sector, according to the New York Times.

Reuters reported that Spain is experiencing the European Union's highest unemployment rate, with 5 million people out of work.

The Popular Party won the biggest majority of any party in 30 years, according to Reuters.

Australians bust cocaine operation

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by Sarah Harper

After a nine month investigation, the Australian Federal Police have seized 660 pounds of cocaine from a yacht in Bundaberg, Australis and upward of $3.5 million in cash in Sydney on Friday.

Police arrested four Spanish nationals on the charge of running the drug operation, reported the Washington Post.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, the cocaine seized would have sold for more than $78 million.

This was the fifth-largest cocaine seizure in Australian history, according to the Washington Post.

Kevin Zuccato, AFP's assistant commissioner, said one of the people arrested may be a kingpin in the international crime operation.

Graduation rates fall in Illinois

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by Sarah Harper

Graduation rates have fallen in Illinois, according to annual report cards released Monday.

This is due to a change in how Illinois calculates its graduation rate. The new formula follows federal guidelines, according to WBEZ.

The Annual School Report Card data showed that about 75 percent of high schools in the state experienced drops in graduation rates, reported the Chicago Tribune.

Where almost 100 high schools experienced graduation rates of 100 percent last year, only 18 high schools - including Chicago's Northside College Preparatory High School - experienced graduation rates of 100 percent this year.

The new testing formula is more honest, said U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan. WBEZ reported that last year some high schools had let low-performing juniors skip testing. The state has closed that loophole.

Man broke into an Oregon house to watch TV

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by Sarah Harper

A man broke into a home in Oregon Sunday to watch TV and was punched in the head by a resident when he refused to leave, police said.

The Associated Press reported that Jason Leon Bastrom, 32, was charged with criminal trespass.

Bastrom let himself into the house through an unlocked front door, according to the Portland Tribune. Then he sat on the couch to watch TV.

A resident of the house called the police and a family member who lived nearby.

Police said the family member confronted Bastrom and then punched him in the head, according to the AP.

The punch knocked Bastrom unconscious. Authorities brought him to the hospital before taking him to the Multnomah County Jail.

by Sarah Harper

Thousands of people came together Sunday to dedicate and celebrate the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial on the National Mall in Washington D.C.

The memorial is the first on the Mall to honor an African American, according to the Washington Post.

"Nearly 50 years after the March on Washington, our work, King's work, is not complete" said President Obama, reported NPR.

The Washington Post reported that King's 1963 "I Have A Dream" speech was telecast to the crowd.

Singe Aretha Franklin sang the gospel hymn she said was one of King's favorites - "Precious Lord."

According to the Washington Post, the dedication had originally been scheduled for Aug. 28 but was delayed seven weeks because of Hurricane Irene and the Aug. 23 earthquake.

Three women's rights activists win Nobel Peace Prize

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by Sarah Harper

The Nobel Peace Prize was awarded Friday to two women from Liberia and one woman from Yemen in London.

All three women are leaders of their nations' nonviolent women's rights struggles, according to the Los Angeles Times.

CNN reported that the award went to Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, Liberian activist Leymah Gbowee and Yemeni rights activist Twakkul Karman.

Johnson-Sirleaf is Africa's first female head of state to be elected democratically, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Gbowee is known as a peace "warrior" for her work challenging warlords.

According to CNN, Karman was demonstrating in the Yemeni capital when she heard the news - Karman is the first Arab woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize.

Listeria outbreak leads to lettuce recall

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by Sarah Harper

A California lettuce farm recalled 2,498 cartons of romaine lettuce Thursday over concerns that they may be contaminated with listeria.

According to CNN, True Leaf Farms and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration first recalled 90 cartons of shredded and chopped romaine lettuce on Thursday.

Eating food contaminated with listeria can cause fever, aching muscles and gastrointestinal problems. The FDA said that no illnesses have been reported.

A random sample of the cartons of shredded and chopped romaine lettuce contained listeria monocytogenes.

The Walla Walla Union-Bulletin reported that listeria contamination can cause miscarriages and stillbirths for pregnant women.

Women will have more political rights in Saudi Arabia

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by Sarah Harper

Saudi Arabia's king said Sunday that women will be given the right to vote and the right to run for local office in 2015, according to the Associated Press.

According to BBC News, King Abdullah gave the historic speech in front of the Shura Council, which will soon be composed of females as well as males.

Many feel that this move is a step forward, but some are skeptical that women's freedoms will still be limited by restrictions such as the guardianship system - a system in which women cannot participate in public life without permission from a male relative, according to BBC News.

In addition, many women are irritated by the prospect of waiting four years for rights when the next local election will be held Thursday, reports the Associated Press.

The Associated Press reports that Saudi feminist Wajeha al-Hawaidar said, "Why not tomorrow?"

Birth control pills recalled due to packaging error

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by Sarah Harper

Alabama company Qualitest Pharmaceuticals recalled "multiple lots" of birth-control pills because of a packaging error, reported CBS News.

The error, a reversal of the weekly tablet orientation, obscured lot numbers and expiration dates on packages.

A spokesman for the Huntsville-based company said that "there are no immediate health issues currently," reported

However, the company is concerned that women may become pregnant after unintentionally misusing the birth control pills.

According to CNN, 1.4 million distributed packages are involved in the nationwide voluntary recall.

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