Brian Snyder / Reuters

What We’re Following

Two very, very different ways to prepare for a 2020 run: Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire former mayor of New York City, has flirted with a presidential bid for nearly a quarter century. Though he hasn’t yet announced if he’ll make the plunge, Bloomberg is already pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into a data-centric operation to target and activate voters who could vote out Trump. Beto O’Rourke skyrocketed into a potential Democratic front-runner by raising record-breaking sums of money that brought him close to winning a Senate seat in Texas. But he’s stopped fundraising in recent months, which means he won’t have any cash to jump-start his campaign if he does decide to run.

After an Instagram user posted an image of, simply, a lone brown egg, it quickly became a quirky internet phenomenon and the most liked photo of all time on the site. Since then, the account behind the photo, which has accumulated nearly 10 million followers, has posted a series of photos of the egg with a crack that progressively grows in size. One marketing company is trying to turn the viral post into a branding opportunity, shopping around the idea that the egg could crack and reveal the name of a company, a cause, or even a presidential campaign. Staking claim to the soon-to-crack egg could cost tens of millions of dollars—so while the creator of the egg remains anonymous, it’s clear that the wacky posts will likely make this person very rich.

White Americans can often struggle to understand Black English, and that has consequences far beyond just serving as an impediment to casual conversation. An upcoming study finds that stenographers in Philadelphia, when presented with recordings of Black English, made transcription errors in nearly half of all sentences. Those errors, however innocent in intent, can prove enormously harmful, especially in the courtroom: African Americans are overrepresented in the criminal-justice system, and equality is elusive if they’re routinely misunderstood.

Saahil Desai


Evening Reads

Rob Gronkowski and the Cost of Greatness

(Elise Amendola / AP)

Nothing is certain in life but death and taxes—and, perhaps, that the New England Patriots will make it to the Super Bowl. The team will appear in the big game this weekend for the third year in a row, but one of its perennial stars, the tight end Rob Gronkowski, is finally showing the wear and tear of a long football career:

Gronkowski isn’t quite what he used to be—namely, a four-time All-Pro, Brady’s preferred crunch-time target, and one of the best players at his position of all time. Years of physical play and resultant injuries have piled up; even before this season, the 29-year-old was rumored to be considering leaving the game. So if Gronkowski remains a useful contributor in this diminished state—a smashmouth blocker and an occasional downfield game-breaker—he also gives the Patriots a needed narrative heft, and fans a reason to watch. Brady and Belichick make lasting look easy; Gronk stands as proof that it isn’t.
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Being Trapped Indoors Is the Worst

(MRS / Getty)

Americans who are stuck at home during the polar vortex could soon start feeling the malaise of boredom and restlessness known as cabin fever.

How the body reacts to that stress seems to be key to how cabin fever rears its ugly head. In the years since I saw people pulling random sporting goods out of storage in Atlanta, I’ve also watched people ski down New York City’s streets during snowstorms and concoct ill-conceived makeshift transportation devices involving sheets of cardboard, garbage-can lids, and whatever else is lying around. Granted, some people might just find this fun, but many with cabin fever are very intent on getting out.

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Urban Developments

metra tracks on fire in Chicago

(Kiichiro Sato / AP)

Our partner site CityLab explores the cities of the future and investigates the biggest ideas and issues facing urban dwellers around the world. Gracie McKenzie shares today’s top stories:

Should these train tracks be on fire? Actually, yes. The polar vortex is so cold that Chicago is lighting the Metra commuter-train rails on fire, but even 20 below won’t ward off these Minnesota bike commuters.

How do you incorporate the specific needs of homeless children into the design of a school? You ask them to “dream big”—like the designers of this new building in Oklahoma City.

“The way we plan cities may be undermining the desire of young couples to start families,” Nolan Gray and Lyman Stone write. A former Massachusetts state senator coined a term for this: vasectomy zoning. Here’s how it plays out.

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