Burned
March 27, 2014

In this corner: A Nobel Prize-winning economist and New York Times columnist. In the other corner: A statistics whiz and founder of the data journalism site, FiveThirtyEight.

If that matchup sounds like the driest, most staid battle imaginable, well, it kind of is. And it's one that's been playing out ever since Nate Silver left the Times for his own venture. To condense the tiff: Silver said many columnists were "worthless" and predictable; Paul Krugman suggested FiveThirtyEight erred in vaunting numbers as infallible, accusing the site of "sloppy and casual opining." In the latest, weirdest salvo, Silver wrote a tongue-in-cheek analysis categorizing Krugman's references to FiveThirtyEight as either favorable or unfavorable, purportedly to show that Krugman has mysteriously turned on him and his work. There's even a chart.

The headline — "For Columnist, a Change of Tone" — is a nice joke on the Times' stylistic inclinations. But in racing to needle his former colleague with snark and numbers, Silver is exemplifying the exact criticism Krugman and others have made, that the site is cherry-picking data to reach preconceived, sometimes flawed conclusions. (As others have pointed out, Silver's latest broadside misses some key variables.) Worse though, the spat, which started as a couple of mild media critiques, has now completely devolved into a petty, personal slap fight between two very smart people. At this rate, the next round in the imbroglio may well be a Krugman article titled, "I know you are but what am I?" followed by a Silver analysis of metaphorical rubber and glue.

For such respected analysts and writers, is this really the best work they could be doing? Jon Terbush

2016 Watch
11:57 a.m. ET
Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) on Tuesday announced he is running for president.

"As president I promise you will get what you paid for," Huckabee said at a kickoff event in his hometown of Hope, Ark.

In a speech spotlighting his Christian faith, Huckabee took some veiled swipes at Democrats and his rivals for the GOP nomination. He also positioned himself as the strongest candidate on national security, vowing that "hell will freeze over" before Iran acquires a nuclear weapon.

"I promise you that as president, we will no longer try to contain jihadism, we will conquer it," he said.

Huckabee ran for president in 2008, earning a surprise win in the Iowa caucus and for a time threatening to upset more established competitors in Mitt Romney and eventual nominee Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) He considered running again in 2012, but ultimately avoided the race. Jon Terbush

2016 Watch
11:46 a.m. ET

And it's bad news for Ted Cruz. The Washington Post put together a handy infographic based off an NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey that asked respondents to indicate their feelings on a variety of traits in a hypothetical 2016 candidate. Here are the results:

(The Washington Post)

As you can see, of the top five least desirable traits in a candidate, three of them apply to Sen. Cruz (R-Texas). But as the Post points out, the survey polled across party affiliations, so it's possible Cruz isn't as doomed in the Republican primary as it seems he would be in the general election. Kimberly Alters

Gulp
11:30 a.m. ET
iStock

As Charles Stross explains, it's an easy four-step process. First, build a Von Neumann probe — an automated spaceship that can refuel, repair, and make copies of itself. Second, program the probe to hunt out likely solar systems with a good bit of planetary mass, and when it gets there, to build a Matrioshka brain. Essentially, the probe breaks down the local planets into a networked system of solar-powered computers so numerous they capture all the local star's sunlight (as seen in Stross's book Accelerando).

Third, the brain uses radio astronomy to map nearby stars and search for signs of life: oxygen absorption signatures, non-natural radio signals, and so forth. Finally, if any life is detected on a nearby planet, the Matrioshka brain aims a Nicoll-Dyson beam at it — a phased array of lasers powered by all the star's energy. Such a beam would have a range of hundreds of light-years — and could destroy an Earth-sized planet in less than an hour.

That's it! All it would take is one high-tech civilization building one of those probes, and the galaxy would be sterile until all the stars go out in 100 trillion years. Ryan Cooper

Let's get ready to rumble over incomplete medical forms
10:50 a.m. ET
Al Bello/Getty Images

Manny Pacquiao's "fight of the century" against Floyd Mayweather could lead to another fight, this one more boring than the boxing match itself.

At issue is a shoulder injury Pacquiao suffered before the match. The boxer's camp says it notified the proper regulatory body, the United States Anti-Doping Agency, of the injury and received clearance for a treatment regimen involving anti-inflammatory shots. But boxing oversight is notoriously Byzantine, so the Nevada State Athletic Commission on Saturday refused to allow Pacquiao to take a last-minute shot, claiming it only learned of the injury hours before the fight. Specifically, the NSAC said Pacquiao did not disclose the injury on a pre-fight medical form.

Whether intentional or not, the omission could lead to a fine or a suspension for Pacquiao, according to The Associated Press.

"We will gather all the facts and follow the circumstances," NSAC Chairman Francisco Aguilar told the AP. "At some point we will have some discussion. As a licensee of the commission, you want to make sure fighters are giving you up-to-date information." Jon Terbush

Thanks Obama!
10:48 a.m. ET
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Need a raise? Don't ask your boss; ask Obama. On Tuesday, the White House initiated motions to reform overtime pay laws via executive action, which, if successful, could result in a sizable pay bump for millions of Americans.

As overtime laws stand now, certain categories of workers are excluded from the monetary benefits of working long hours, such as highly compensated executives and professionals. Additionally, there exists a "threshold" salary for receiving overtime — anyone who makes less than the predetermined annual income (currently $23,660) is automatically entitled to overtime, regardless of management status. In these conditions, many companies are able to skirt paying their low-salaried employees by calling them a manager, even if they are stocking groceries for $24,000 a year for 80 hours a week.

This salary threshold is the center of Obama's reform. The administration certainly plans to raise it — the question is how high. Some House Democrats have suggested raising the magic number quite substantially, up to $69,000, which would "cover about two-thirds of salaried workers," as The Huffington Post reports. Now, only 11 percent of salary earners qualify for overtime pay.

"President Obama believes that if you work hard, you should be rewarded for your effort," said a Department of Labor official. Stephanie Talmadge

Discoveries
10:32 a.m. ET

You might be able to walk like an Egyptian, but have you heard of King Sahure?

Historians don't know much about Sahure, a pharaoh who ruled almost 4,500 years ago, during the Old Kingdom's Fifth Dynasty. Before an incredible new discovery, there were only two known statues of Sahure in the world.

Now, Belgian archaeologists have made what Egypt's Ministry of Antiquities is calling a find "of great significance and importance." The team discovered a broken statue, which they believe represents Sahure, in Aswan, about 360 miles south of Cairo. Aswan was once the ancient city of Swenett, a "frontier town" of ancient Egypt, explains Ancient Origins.

The ministry believes that the newly discovered base, which is inscribed with Sahure's name, is the bottom half of a statue depicting Sahure seated on a throne. The team will continue excavating the site to see if the area holds more clues and artifacts about the mysterious king. Meghan DeMaria

Controversy
10:17 a.m. ET
Paul Morigi/Getty Images

In the midst of a very bumpy press tour for Avengers: Age of Ultron last month, stars Chris Evans and Jeremy Renner drew criticism for an interview in which they called Black Widow, the character played by Scarlett Johansson, a "slut" and a "complete whore." As the controversy bubbled over, Chris Evans issued a genuine-sounding apology, Jeremy Renner issued a not-so-genuine-sounding apology, and everyone pretty much moved on.

Except, apparently, Jeremy Renner. In a Monday interview on Conan, Renner doubled down on his original comment. "Yeah, it was a joke. Off-color. Whatever. I'm unapologetic about a lot of things," said Renner. "But, yeah, I got in a lot of trouble. Internet trouble. I guess that's a thing now you can get in."

"Now, mind you, I was talking about a fictional character, and fictional behavior. But, Conan: If you slept with four of the six Avengers — no matter how much fun you had — you'd be a slut. Just saying. I'd be a slut."

Of course, the original controversy stemmed from the double standard about how a man with multiple partners isn't generally labeled a "slut" or a "whore" — so yeah, still kind of missing the point, Renner. Scott Meslow

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