groundhog day
February 2, 2018

Friday is Groundhog Day, meaning the town of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, nudged its resident groundhog folk climatologist, Punxsutawney Phil, out of his burrow to determine if warm weather is nigh. According to tradition, if the groundhog sees his shadow, that means six more weeks of winter; if he does not, it means an early spring. This year, he "saw his shadow" — though in fact, Phil's handlers just had him pick a scroll, and to boos from the crowd, the groundhog picked the scroll that predicted six more weeks of winter.

Unless you're really into winter sports, though, don't worry too much — since 1988, Phil has been right 14 times and wrong 16 times time. Based on weather data, "there is no predictive skill for the groundhog during the most recent years of the analysis," NOAA's National Centers for Environmental Information reminded everyone this week. Spoilsports. Peter Weber

December 13, 2017

On Tuesday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson extended an olive branch — or at least, an olive twig — to North Korea, saying the U.S. was willing to have talks with Pyongyang without preconditions.

Predictably, Tillerson's optimism was undercut just a day later by the White House, in keeping with a year-long pattern of President Trump disregarding statements made by his secretary of state.

"Given North Korea's most recent missile test, clearly right now is not the time [for negotiations]," a White House spokesman said to Reuters on Wednesday. Last month, Trump told South Korea's parliament that he would not negotiate with Kim Jong Un unless North Korean leaders "cease their threats and dismantle their nuclear program."

While Tillerson did say that the U.S. needed "a period of quiet" before coming to the negotiating table, on Tuesday he invited North Korea to "talk anytime" — breaking with longstanding U.S. policy by opening the diplomacy door even if North Korea does not give up its nuclear weapons program.

North Korea's most recent missile test on Nov. 30 showed that it now possesses missiles that are likely capable of hitting the continental United States. Throughout Tillerson's bizarre tenure as secretary of state, Trump has frequently struck a more aggressive tone on North Korea than his top diplomat. Kelly O'Meara Morales

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