Scott Simon

Some of the best minds of our times, including Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk, have warned that human beings may invent intelligent machines that could wind up destroying humankind. But a small incident this week might make you wonder: Will intelligent machines become so smart that they'll grow depressed as they learn they're brilliant but lifeless and decide they can't go on?

Will those machines begin to wonder: Is that all there is?

This week President Trump said of China's president Xi Jinping, "Well, he's a friend of mine. I have great respect for him. We've gotten to know each other very well. A great leader ... I like being with him a lot. And he's a very special person."

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I read my first New York Times when I was 12 and my summer camp counselor woke me up to put the paper in my hands. "The competition," he said with a smile. I was editor of the Camp Indianola Totem Pole, a small sheet on which we printed the scores of camp games, silly jokes and gripes about bugs in the bathrooms.

For parents, the thought of a child being sick or hurt can be a heart-stopper. Fortunately, for those who do confront such realities, there are doctors like Kurt Newman.

Newman is president and CEO of Children's National Health System, known as Children's National, in Washington, D.C. He started there as a surgeon more than 30 years ago.

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I wait all week to say time for sports.

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Weekend Edition's broadcast this Saturday is not the first live radio show from the stage of the Lyric Theatre in Birmingham, Ala. But it's probably the first in 77 years. On Jan. 5, 1940, a variety show called Coleman Sachs and the Utopians was broadcast from this stage. I don't know what the show was like, but I'll bet they didn't interrupt it with a pledge drive.

The Lyric opened in 1914 as a vaudeville house, and I find that fitting. My father worked in vaudeville from the age of 13; I'd like to think he played the Lyric at some point.

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The word of the week is covfefe.

Ask your doctor about covfefe. Say it loud and there's music playing; say it soft and it's almost like praying — covfefe.

At 12:06 a.m. Wednesday, President Trump tweeted, "Despite the constant negative press covfefe" — and nothing more. Twitter runnethed over with questions, speculation, GIFs and jokes, which we won't repeat because if there's anything worse than fake news in the news business, it's old jokes.

Most American reporters don't live in fear for their lives, like colleagues in Mexico, Russia, China, Turkey or Iran, where journalists have been imprisoned or killed. But there have been a few recent incidents of reporters being roughed up or arrested in America as they've tried just to report a story.

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Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf is a brilliant, scalding and essential play that is often revived. But the Complete Works Project in Oregon won't present the play this fall because the estate of the playwright, Edward Albee, won't give permission for them to cast an African-American actor in the featured role of Nick, a young professor.

The play's director, Michael Streeter, refuses to fire an actor for the color of his skin.

"I am furious and dumbfounded," he wrote on Facebook.

The official portrait of Pat Quinn, the former governor of Illinois, was unveiled this week at the state Capitol in Springfield. There was a little more attention to the ritual this time because Pat Quinn is the first governor of Illinois in a while who hasn't left office and gone to prison.

Four of the state's last nine governors have been sent to prison. Illinois' unofficial motto may be, "A State So Great, The Governor Makes Your License Plate."

Harold Evans sees a lot of fog all around us: Murky words, qualifiers, and subordinate clauses that clog a sentence and route expression into obscurity. Puffed up phrases, passive voices, misused words and words with no meaning, verbs twisted into nouns, buzzwords and hackneyed terms that make the language we use to deliver news, exchange opinions, trade stories, give direction, and declare love into a pea-souper of imprecision and cliche.

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A lot of politicians used to strive to sound at least a little like JFK or Ronald Reagan. Do they really now want to sound like Howard Stern?

A few politicians, on both sides of the aisle, have begun to season their speeches with words their parents probably told them not to use, and that we still can't on the air.

Not off-the-record comments, or bloopers muttered over an open mic, but deliberate statements delivered from podiums before cheering crowds, or uttered in interviews.

A Meditation On 'Evil'

Apr 8, 2017

I watched some of the wrenching, sickening images from the chemical weapons attack in the Idlib province of Syria this week that killed scores of people, many of them children, with our daughters. I'd reached for a remote control to roll past the pictures of innocent people, including so many children — foaming, writhing and gasping to breathe. But then I thought: No, this is our world. They should see some of this.

An artist is sitting on a chair in a Paris art museum over a dozen chicken eggs until they hatch. This is not an April Fools' joke.

"I will, broadly speaking, become a chicken," says Abraham Poincheval, a French performance artist who has recently also had himself encased inside a bear, where he ate worms and beetles, and then inside a limestone rock, where he thought, slept and slurped soup.

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There were plenty of disagreements at the Senate confirmation hearings for, of course, President Trump's Supreme Court nominee, but Senator Thom Tillis of North Carolina tried to get Committee consensus on at least one point.

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Twitter and other social media platforms often seem anti-social: mean, ugly avenues where people bash, blame and fulminate. But this week, just a couple of hours after the terrorist in front of the British Parliament killed four people and wounded scores of others from all over the world, the official U.K. Parliament Twitter account posted a short note of simple nobility:

It was a quiet message of defiance; an understated, eloquent way to say: We're still here. Business as usual. The show of democracy goes on.

It's hardly unusual for athletes, both amateur and professional, to have pregame rituals. But the NBA's peculiar commitment to one grade-school snack goes deep: ESPN Magazine calls the PB&J sandwich the league's "secret addiction."

"In every NBA locker room, you'll see a variety of different foods on the table, but PB&J — if there's a locker room that doesn't have it, I haven't seen it," ESPN reporter Baxter Holmes tells Scott Simon.

There is a photograph that's been seen around the world this week. It seems to hold both civilization and destruction in the same frame.

The photo shows a white-haired man sitting on a bed in the midst of rubble. He sits in front of broad windows, which have been shattered; and gauzy white curtains, which flap like wounded white birds.

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And the winner is, La La Land!

Oh, sorry. Someone handed me the wrong script.

Gary Alan Coe — Gary from Chicago, as he introduced himself — enjoyed four minutes and 40 seconds of fame this week when he was first in a line of Hollywood tourists ushered into the Dolby Theater during the Oscars ceremonies.

Most of the tourists seemed flabbergasted to be paraded, in their shorts and fanny-packs, in front of cinema stars in silk and glitter.

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We keep on learning from great lives.

On Oct. 16, 1939, just weeks after Germany invaded Poland and Britain was at war, Winston Churchill, who had warned of Germany's wicked and avaricious ambitions, was called out of political isolation to become First Lord of the Admiralty and drafted an essay in which he asked, perhaps himself as much as anyone who would read it, "Are We Alone in the Universe?"

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