Friday, May 31st, 2019


Bee Best

Auslaut, erysipelas, bougainvillea, aiguillette, pendeloque, palama, cernuous, odylic. All of those words are too easy to spell. Either that, or the kids competing in the Scripps Spelling Bee have just gotten too smart. In recent years, we've seen a few two-way ties at the top of the Spelling Bee leaderboard. But an eight way tie? That's what happened last night. According to the experts and past winners, the words were a little too easy. But kids, with the help of books (and, of course, software), have also become better at preparing for the competition. From The Atlantic: The Youths Have Outsmarted the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

+ "In 2019, there just aren't enough words in the dictionary to throw the competitors off their game. Gone are the days of winning words like luge or milieu—in its place are super spellers who have cracked the code on all things definition, origin, and context." Esquire: Eight Kids Broke the Spelling Bee. No One Should Be Surprised at Its Implosion.

+ Quartz: The champions and winning words from 20 years of spelling bees. (You had me at covfefe...)



"In a couple of dramatic tweets, backed up by a briefing call featuring acting DHS Secretary Kevin McAleenan and acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, the Trump administration rolled out a new policy aimed at coercing Mexico into halting the flow of Central American asylum seekers into the United States — a 5 percent tax on Mexican imports rising steadily to 25 percent unless Mexico cracks down on migration." Vox: Trump's new plan to tax Mexican imports, explained. (Mexico is not going to pay for the wall. But American consumers are going to pay for these tariffs.)

+ Bloomberg: Trump Tariff Vow Roils Markets, Autos as Mexico Urges Talks.

+ "Of course, Mexico isn't Mr. Trump's only target. Far from it. In fact, what he's taking on is broader than any particular country. He is challenging the post-World War II consensus that free trade enriches the world." NYT: How Trump's Trade War Is Being Fought Around the World. (What do you call doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result? Tariffs...)


Weekend Whats

What to Book: While I'm browsing news tabs, watching TV, and proofreading Tweets, my wife Gina is powering through piles of the season's top novels to come up with a list of the best of the best. Here for your reading pleasure is The What's Best Fiction List – Spring 2019. "Many novels fall into our category of Smarter Beach Reads, not too unlike Yacht Rock, which means nothing too depressing or intense. We save those lists for the winter."

+ What to Radiate: If you're the type who prefers your depressing and intense content year round, then check out the excellent miniseries Chernobyl on HBO. It has heaping portions of both, with a side of radiation.

+ What to Watch: Ava DuVernay's much anticipated Netflix series on the Central Park Five is out. When They See Us. If you'd prefer a documentary on the topic, they try Ken Burns: The Central Park Five.


Homeric Garland

William Barr talked to CBS News about the Mueller Report and Trump's role (or lack of one) in destroying norms. "From my perspective, the idea of resisting a democratically elected president and basically throwing everything at him and you know, really changing the norms on the grounds that we have to stop this president, that is where the shredding of our norms and our institutions is occurring." (Editors really need to develop a way to insert a laugh track into articles.) Meanwhile, on his personal reputation: "I am at the end of my career. Everyone dies and I am not, you know, I don't believe in the Homeric idea that you know, immortality comes by, you know, having odes sung about you over the centuries, you know?" (Great, now Americans have to read the Mueller Report and the Iliad and the Odyssey...) Since the Attorney General brought him up, here are a couple of Homeric quotes worth considering. "Hateful to me as the gates of Hades is that man who hides one thing in his heart and speaks another." ... "The difficulty is not so great to die for a friend, as to find a friend worth dying for."


Negotiator Contract

"Kim Hyok Chol, who led working-level negotiations for the February summit in Hanoi, was executed by firing squad after being charged with espionage after allegedly being co-opted by the U.S., the newspaper said Friday, citing an unidentified source. The move was part of an internal purge Kim undertook after the summit broke down without any deal, it said." Bloomberg: North Korea Executed Envoy Over Trump-Kim Summit.

+ BBC: North Korea execution reports - why we should be cautious. (We should be cautious about this report. We should be even more cautious about those who laud a murderous dictator like Kim Jong Un.)


China Trove

"Even as congressional leaders, such as Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, have championed a bill to condemn human rights abuses in Xinjiang, their own states' public employee pension funds are invested in companies building out the Chinese government's system for tracking Uighurs." Buzzfeed: US Universities and Retirees are Funding The Technology Behind China's Surveillance State.


Salesforce Field

"Behind the scenes in recent weeks, the Silicon Valley tech giant has delivered a different message to gun-selling retailers such as Camping World: Stop selling military-style rifles, or stop using our software." WaPo: Tech giant brings software to a gun fight.


Billboard Hit

"After Stephanie Montgomery says she was raped at the strip club where she worked, she went to the manager and the police. Nothing happened. That's when she decided to tell her story as big as she could." California Sunday Magazine: The Billboard.


Sushi Role Models

"After being injected with a 75 percent solution of the yellow, oily substance, seven of the other eight mole rat species licked or shook their paws in discomfort. The highvelds, though, didn't even flinch. So the researchers upped the dose, giving them pure AITC. (The lab member in charge of these injections, Karlein Debus, had to wear a gas mask.) 'They had no reaction whatsoever,' said Dr. Lewin. 'That was astonishing.'" Researchers hope to learn ways to limit human pain by studying critters who feel none. NYT: Mole Rats Felt No Pain, Even From Wasabi's Burn.


Feel Good Friday

"The three younger generations – those ages 18 to 53 in 2018 – reported casting 62.2 million votes, compared with 60.1 million cast by Baby Boomers and older generations. It's not the first time the younger generations outvoted their elders: The same pattern occurred in the 2016 presidential election." Gen Z, Millennials and Gen X outvoted older generations in 2018 midterms.

+ MacKenzie Bezos, worth nearly $37 billion, will give half her fortune to charity. (The other half will be used for shipping.)

+ "Saybie, who was born at just 8.6 ounces, or 254 grams, is the tiniest baby ever to survive."

+ Raptors superfan wants to buy dinner for Bucks fan who wrote racist tweet.

+ Jeopardy Host Alex Trebek Says His Cancer Is In Near Remission.

+ He's a professional dancer, but his stage is the E train. NYT: The Subway Dancer.

+ Missing hiker Amanda Eller has emotional reunion with her rescuers: "You guys are the heroes."

+ "Game of Thrones actress Emilia Clarke sends personal thank you to Redditors who raised over $63,000 for brain injury/stroke rehabilitation." (Just to freak them out, she had her dragon deliver the note...)

+ Psychology Today: Our Love for Dogs May Be Coded in Our DNA. (And their love of us may be coded into their love of treats...)