June 5, 2015

A pine tree farmer in Denmark was set to plant a new crop when Christmas came early: His brother-in-law discovered a pair of 3,600-year-old axes while surveying one of his fields. Archaeologists who rushed to the scene found three more.

Dating from 1600 BCE, they are twice as large as similar weapons discovered, archaeologist Constanze Rassmann says. Each axe head contains about two pounds of pure metal and is 12 inches across. Rassman suspects they were meant as an offering to the gods.

The discovery is also incredibly rare. Only five such axes have been found to date in all of Northern Europe, Rassmann told Danish TV, "and then we go and [find] five more in one go."

"I'm all electric," she said. Nico Lauricella

8:41 a.m.

You can apparently count Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) among the solid majority of Americans who are unimpressed with President Trump's COVID-19 response. In a brutal Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday, for example, 62 percent of registered voters said Trump is hurting the effort to fight COVID-19, while 67 percent said they don't trust the information he shares about the disease. Unlike most Americans, though, Hogan has a front-row seat to Trump's response, both as a governor and chairman of the National Governors Association.

Hogan published a detailed, withering critique of Trump's response in an op-ed Thursday in Trump's least-favorite newspaper, The Washington Post. He started with the extraordinary effort he and his Korean-born wife, Yumi Hogan, made to fly 500,000 COVID-19 tests in from South Korea in April, sending them into safe hiding under armed guard because "the federal government had recently seized 3 million N95 masks purchased by Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker."

This airlift from Seoul "shouldn't have been necessary," Hogan writes, but "I'd watched as the president downplayed the outbreak's severity and as the White House failed to issue public warnings, draw up a 50-state strategy, or dispatch medical gear or lifesaving ventilators from the national stockpile to American hospitals. Eventually, it was clear that waiting around for the president to run the nation's response was hopeless."

Dr. Anthony Fauci and other federal health experts gave a dire, "unfiltered," and prescient briefing to Americans governors in early February, Hogan writes, and "it was jarring, the huge contrast between the experts' warnings and the president's public dismissals" He detailed things Trump did and said, and more importantly, the things he did not do.

"Governors always do the hard work, make the tough decisions and take the political heat," Hogan writes. "But an undertaking as large as a national testing program required Washington's help. We expected something more than constant heckling from the man who was supposed to be our leader. Trump soon disabused us of that expectation." Read the essay at The Washington Post. Peter Weber

8:13 a.m.

Kanye West's alleged presidential campaign may or may not have already come to an end, but he's now set to actually appear on one state's ballot.

West, who claimed in a tweet earlier this month he was running for president in the 2020 election despite having not yet taken any steps toward doing so, will appear on the ballot in Oklahoma, USA Today reports. His representative paid the $35,000 fee and filed the paperwork required by the Wednesday deadline, according to The Associated Press.

"Kanye West is now qualified as an independent candidate for president of the United States in Oklahoma and will appear on the general election ballot," a Oklahoma State Election Board spokesperson said in a statement, per Fox News.

This is despite the fact that reports emerged this week suggesting West was exiting the race entirely, if he ever actually entered it. In a recent New York magazine report, Steve Kramer, who West had apparently hired to get him on the ballot in Florida and South Carolina, said, "He's out." Entertainment Tonight also quotes a source as saying, "Kanye isn't planning to run in the 2020 election after careful consideration," consideration that apparently wasn't taken prior to his tweet.

Still, West seemingly did recently file paperwork with the Federal Election Commission, TMZ reports, although he hasn't yet filed the Statement of Candidacy form that actually "triggers candidacy status under federal campaign finance law," the report notes. Either way, by the time West had tweeted out his supposed plans to run for president, the deadline to appear on the November ballot had passed in multiple states, meaning West's grand plans to run the White House like Wakanda will probably have to wait another four years. Brendan Morrow

7:18 a.m.

Brad Parscale, President Trump's campaign manager since February 2018, did not find out he was being replaced by his deputy, Bill Stepien, until right before the news became public Wednesday evening — hours earlier than planned, The New York Times reports. Parscale will stay on as senior adviser for data and digital operations, similar to the role he played in Trump's 2016 campaign, but it's not clear how much Trump's campaign shakeup will actually shake up the campaign.

"Trump is often described as his own campaign manager, and his political operation, which is overseen by Jared Kushner, his son-in-law, and a senior White House adviser, has been tailored to his desires," the Times reports. In fact, according to several people involved in the campaign, "Kushner has served as the de facto campaign manager" throughout the 2020 re-election effort, and he was "a key figure in replacing" Parscale, whom he handpicked in 2016.

"Jared Kushner was the campaign manager yesterday, is the campaign manager today, and will be the campaign manager tomorrow," a source close to the White House told NBC News. "Brad took the bullet for Jared."

On the other hand, Parscale's ouster has been rumored for a while, thanks to his unusually high profile — including appearing in Trump's campaign ads — and newly lavish lifestyle. Trump is also dropping to double-digit deficits in national polls, and Parscale "suffered something of a mortal wound" after only 6,000 people showed up to Trump's Tulsa rally three weeks ago, an embarrassment "Trump could not let go of," the Times reports.

Parscale is close with Trump's adult children, though, and his company is the conduit to paying Eric Trump's wife and Donald Trump Jr.'s girlfriend. Several campaign aides emphasized to the Times that "Parscale was being asked to stay on, unlike others who have been let go from the Trump orbit." Peter Weber

6:04 a.m.

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to ravage the U.S., Stephen Colbert said on Wednesday's Late Show. "Now, the CDC reporting all this coronavirus hospital data is making the Trump administration look terrible, but the Trump administration has finally come up with a solution to the crisis," he said: Sending the data to the Trump administration, not the CDC. President Trump "knows he's failed," Colbert said. "He's just like a kid grabbing his report card out of the mailbox before anyone can see it."

Colbert cringed at Trump's bizarre Rose Garden campaign rally and compounded Tuesday's "stunning" and "truly pathetic" political fall of Jeff Sessions by dunking him in a glass of milk and eating him.

Trump's press conference "went pretty off-the-rails," Jimmy Fallon said at The Tonight Show, showing some highlights. "Instead of a press conference, people said it was more like a campaign rally in front of 20 people — in other words, it was just like Tulsa." Meanwhile, "Ivanka Trump decided to show her support" for boycott-threatened Goya with a photo of her and canned beans, Fallon said. "Sadly, after Ivanka tweeted in Spanish, Trump immediately had her deported."

The Late Show went with Ivanka Trump-Goya fart gags.

Ivanka's bean tweet violated ethics laws, so "Donald Trump responded by doing an even more elaborate Goya ad of his own," Trevor Noah said at The Daily Show. "The dude doesn't look like a president, he looks like a local athlete who retired 15 years ago and is desperate for money," or "the end of The Shining if the movie was sponsored by bodegas."

"Speaking of going insane, the president and his political allies are telling you to suck it up and deal with the out-of-control coronavirus outbreak," Seth Meyers said at Late Night. "Scared of getting sick? The White House says too bad, 'We need to live with it.' Lost your job amid the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression? The only advice they have is 'find something new,' courtesy of the new ad campaign rolled out by Ivanka Trump, who famously has found many jobs on her own with now help from her father!" And Rush Limbaugh seriously "cited the Donner Party — you know, the cannibals — as an example of how we should adapt to the pandemic," Meyers said. "Finally, the Republicans have found a message to run on — 'Trump 2020: Your Neighbors Are Delicious.'" Watch below. Peter Weber

3:35 a.m.

The Supreme Court voted 5-4 early Thursday to clear the way for the execution of Wesley Ira Purkey, lifting two injunctions that had temporarily halted the second federal execution in 17 years. Purkey was convicted of the grisly rape and murder of a 16-year-old girl in 1998, and his lawyers had argued his dementia was so advanced now he "no longer has a rational understanding of why the government plans to execute him." The same five conservative justices who had allowed the execution of Daniel Lewis Lee on Tuesday did not find that argument persuasive.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote in her dissent that "proceeding with Purkey's execution now, despite the grave questions and factual findings regarding his mental competency, casts a shroud of constitutional doubt over the most irrevocable of injuries." Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan, and Stephen Breyer joined her dissent. Lee had been strapped to the execution gurney for several hours while the high court weighed his appeal, and when the Supreme Court gave the green light, he was quickly injected with pentobarbital. Purkey's execution will likely take place in a similarly expedited fashion. Peter Weber

3:06 a.m.

President Trump joined his daughter and senior White House adviser Ivanka Trump on Thursday by posting a photo of himself hawking Goya products. Chris Cuomo wondered on CNN Thursday night how "a president in the middle of a pandemic has got time for this bulls--t."

"Are you kidding me?" Cuomo asked repeatedly. "On your dime, in the middle of a pandemic, they're selling beans?" His opening statement wrapped that protestation in with Trump's failed war on Dr. Anthony Fauci, the red state governors "who followed Trump's trail of denial to their own detriment," the White House cutting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention out of COVID-19 data collection, and Trump's demotion of campaign manager Brad Parscale. You can watch below. Peter Weber

2:19 a.m.

There are actually 13 signs of the zodiac, and the Earth's axis has shifted since the Babylonians codified the horoscope dates some 3,000 years ago, so if you are a believer in astrology but also scrupulously exact about your science, you may have to change which star sign you were born under.

NASA wrote about the the 13th zodiac sign, Ophiuchus, four years ago, and it also noted that other traditions recognized up to 24 zodiac constellations — so, options — but the information has been in the public domain for at least 20 years. Why does it pop up again every few years? Maybe it's something in the stars. But whatever the reason, it's always new knowledge to someone, so here is NASA's explanation:

When the Babylonians first invented the 12 signs of zodiac, a birthday between about July 23 and Aug. 22 meant being born under the constellation Leo. Now, 3,000 years later, the sky has shifted because Earth's axis (North Pole) doesn't point in quite the same direction.

Now Mimi's Aug. 4 birthday would mean she was born "under the sign" of Cancer (one constellation "earlier"), not Leo.

The constellations are different sizes and shapes, so the Sun spends different lengths of time lined up with each one. The line from Earth through the Sun points to Virgo for 45 days, but it points to Scorpius for only 7 days. To make a tidy match with their 12-month calendar, the Babylonians ignored the fact that the Sun actually moves through 13 constellations, not 12. Then they assigned each of those 12 constellations equal amounts of time. Besides the 12 familiar constellations of the zodiac, the Sun is also aligned with Ophiuchus for about 18 days each year. [NASA]

So there you have it. Disappointed? Have you considered the enneagram? Peter Weber

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