It took more than 90 rounds and a delay of two weeks, after judges ran out of words. But Jackson County, Mo., finally has its spelling bee champion, after two stellar spellers broke a tie Saturday.
Fifth-grader Sophia Hoffman and seventh-grader Kush Sharma became celebrities after they essentially broke the bee in February, as Maria Carter of member station KCUR reported Friday. At that competition, they lasted 66 rounds before organizers said they needed time to gather more words.
Today, the pair dueled for nearly 30 more rounds in a special spell-off held before an overflow crowd. In the end, Sharma prevailed, after Hoffman spelled "stifling" incorrectly, according to the Kansas City Star. Sharma took the win by spelling "definition."
The competition ended after Hoffman's parents unsuccessfully appealed to the judges, believing that the pronunciation of "stifling" might have confused her, KCUR reports. The judges reviewed a recording of the proceedings and found nothing amiss.
The judges might want to start getting some extra words together for next year: As KCUR's Carter reports, Hoffman and Sharma could be back in the same spot next year — they'll both still be eligible for the 2015 bee.
"It took us an hour to find more words," head judge Kaite Stover, a librarian at the Kansas City Public Library Central Branch, told Carter of the competition's first day, on Feb. 22. "And we were looking for words that were not completely archaic and uncommon."
But Hoffman, 11, and Sharma, 13, answered the challenge each time, relying on their knowledge of word origins and prefixes to see them through. After more than five hours, organizers threw up their hands to set up today's event.
The judges brought a fresh batch of 200 words to bear Saturday, from a list provided by the Scripps National Spelling Bee. They also had around 60 backup words just in case they're needed, the library says.
"I was a little nervous," Hoffman told Carter, recalling how she felt about the Jackson County Spelling Bee earlier this week. "I knew that Kush and I had both really prepared."
While they're sometimes portrayed as rivals, Sharma says the contestants don't see it that way.
"I don't think we see at as I beat her or she beats me," he told KCUR this week. "I think it's like the word beat me."
After the delay was declared, the two contestants and their families tried to get officials to agree that both of them should move on to the Scripps National Spelling Bee. But as Carter reported Friday, that idea was rejected.
Local officials tried to take the "sting" out of losing the bee Saturday, posting a photo on Facebook of Sharma and Hoffman clowning around while wearing bee caps.
"We will long 'bee' proud of what both Kush and Sophia did and the grace with which they did it," the caption read.
The Jackson County bee isn't the only one that went to overtime to determine a winner. The spelling contest in DeKalb County, Illinois, was also postponed until today, after two contestants — Matthew Rogers and Keith Mokry — went more than three hours and 74 rounds without a winner being declared, as the DeKalb Daily Chronicle reports.
This post is being updated throughout the day on Saturday.
Vietnamese military planes report seeing two oil slicks off the country's coast that could be a sign of a missing Malaysia Airlines passenger jet Saturday. Officials say the search for the jet continues and that ships are being sent to the location of the sighting.
Citing the head of Vietnam's Civil Aviation Administration, The New York Times says the discovery could be the first hint of the plane's location. According to the newspaper, the official, Lai Xuan Thanh, said one oil slick is 12 miles long.
The military planes are part of an intense international search for a Malaysia Airlines flight that had 227 passengers and 12 crew members aboard when it went missing after taking off from Kuala Lumpur early Saturday on a flight bound for Beijing.
Into Saturday night in Asia, the search focused on waters between Malaysia and Vietnam, where contact was last made with the jet, a Boeing 777. The search effort will include the U.S. Navy, which is sending a ship and a plane to help.
The U.S. State Department has confirmed that at least three U.S. citizens were on board the flight. After the passenger manifest was released Saturday, reports emerged from Italy and Austria that two names on the list belong to people whose passports had been stolen in recent years.
Flight MH370 left Malaysia shortly after midnight, local time. That's late morning Friday on the East Coast of the U.S. It should have landed in Beijing around 6:30 a.m. there — 5:30 p.m. ET Friday.
Instead, the airline says, contact was lost about two hours into the flight. Other data, from the online tracking site Flight Radar 24, indicates the plane may have gone missing somewhat earlier.
"Malaysia Airlines is currently working with the authorities who have activated their Search and Rescue team to locate the aircraft," the airline said in a statement posted to its Facebook page.
As happens when news is breaking, some information that's being reported may later turn out to have been incorrect. We'll focus on reports from officials involved in the search and news outlets that have reporters in important locations.
Update at 11:40 a.m. ET, March 8. Two Stolen Passports
It seems that two people on the Malaysian jet might have been traveling with stolen passports, in an unusual development that emerged after the flight's passenger manifest was released Saturday.
Italian newspaper La Repubblica reports that Luigi Maraldi, 37, whose name is on the manifest, is alive and well in Thailand. That's where his passport was stolen last August, the newspaper says, citing the foreign ministry and the man's parents.
According to La Repubblica, officials visited Maraldi's parents' house to inform them of their son's apparent death. But the parents said they'd just spoken to him on the phone — that he had called from Thailand to assure them that he was OK.
Austria's foreign ministry tells CNN that one of its citizens whose name is listed on the manifest reported his passport stolen two years ago, as we reported earlier.
Update at 11 a.m. ET, March 8. U.S. Navy Ship, Aircraft To Aid Search
The U.S. Navy says that the "USS Pinckney (DDG 91), an Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer, is en route to the southern coast of Vietnam to aid in the search efforts of the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370."
The Pinckney had been in international waters of the South China Sea when the alert went out about the jetliner.
"The ship could be in vicinity of the missing jet within 24 hours and carries two MH-60R helicopters equipped for search and rescue," the Navy says. The service is also dispatching a-3C Orion aircraft from a base in Okinawa, Japan, to bring "long-range search, radar and communications capabilities to the efforts."
Update at 10:50 a.m. ET, March 8. Jet's Location Still Uncertain: Malaysian Leader
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak warns against leaping to conclusions based on reports from Vietnam of oil slicks that were found in the search area for the downed jetliner.
"It is too early to come to any conclusion because we are looking at all possibilities," he said, according to the New Straits Times. "Some theories have been put forward but they will remain just that until we have concrete evidence."
Noting that no wreckage has been found, the leader said, "It is too early to make any conclusive remarks."
The prime minister added that the search area was being widened.
Update at 10:35 a.m. ET, March 8. Confusion Over Two Passengers
After Malaysia Airlines released a complete passenger list, two discrepancies have emerged, reports CNN:
"Austria denies that one of the citizens included on the passenger list issued by Malaysia Airlines was on board, Austrian Foreign Ministry spokesman Martin Weiss told CNN Saturday. The Austrian citizen is safe and sound and his passport was stolen two years ago, Weiss said.
"There also was no Italian citizen on board the flight, despite the presence of an Italian name on the passenger list released by the airline, Italian Foreign Ministry spokesman Aldo Amati said Saturday."
Update at 9:05 a.m. ET, March 8. Three Americans On Board
Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370's passengers include three U.S. citizens, a senior State Department official has confirmed.
American embassies in Kuala Lumpur and Beijing are in contact with those citizens' families, the official said, adding that the State Department is also looking into whether any other U.S. citizens might have been on the flight.
Update at 8 a.m. ET, March 8. Oil Slicks Spotted
Vietnamese military planes have spotted two oil slicks off the country's coast that could be a sign of the missing Malaysia Airlines passenger jet, according to several media outlets. Officials say ships are being sent to the location of the sighting.
From the Wall Street Journal:
"'We have sent vessels to the site of the suspected oil spills and they are expected to reach the site tonight. It's very likely that this is the sign of the missing plane,' said Lt. Gen. Vo Van Tuan, deputy chief of staff of Vietnam People's Army, speaking live on Vietnam national television."
Update at 7 a.m. ET, March 8. Search At Sea Continues; Air Searches Suspended Until Daylight:
"An international search and rescue mission was mobilized this morning," Malaysia Airlines says in a statement it just posted. "At this stage, our search and rescue teams from Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam have failed to find evidence of any wreckage."
With night falling in the area, where it's now 8 p.m. Saturday, search aircraft are apparently heading back to their bases. The airline says that "the sea mission will continue while the air mission will recommence at daylight."
Update at 6:30 a.m. ET, March 8. Some Dispute About When It Went Missing:
While the airline's latest statement repeats earlier information indicating the jet disappeared from air traffic controllers' radar screens about two hours into its flight, the online tracking site Flight Radar 24 reports that "Flight #MH370 took off from Kuala Lumpur at 16:41 UTC time and disappeared from www.flightradar24.com at 17:20 UTC time." That would be about 40 minutes into its flight.
"A Malaysia Airlines spokesman said on Saturday evening that the last conversation between the flight crew and air traffic control in Malaysia had been around 1:30 a.m., but he reiterated that the plane had not disappeared from air traffic control systems in Subang [Malaysia] until 2:40 a.m."
Update at 6 a.m. ET, March 8. Jet Has An Impressive Safety Record:
"The Boeing 777 flown by Malaysia Airlines that disappeared Saturday morning over the South China Sea is one of the world's most popular — and safest — jets," The Associated Press points out.
The wire service adds that:
"The long-range jumbo jet has helped connect cities at the far ends of the globe, with flights as long as 16 hours. But more impressive is its safety record: The first fatal crash in its 19-year history only came last July when an Asiana Airlines jet landed short of the runway in San Francisco. Three of the 307 people aboard died."
Much of the focus of investigators looking into that crash in San Francisco has been on the pilots' actions and signs that they approached the airport too low and too slowly.
Update at 5:30 a.m. ET, March 8. Airline's Latest Statement:
"We understand everyone's concern on MH370 pax & crew," Malaysia Airlines just stated on its Twitter page. "We're accelerating every effort with all relevant authorities to locate the aircraft."
The Wall Street Journal writes that "search and rescue crews from across Asia are scrambling to discover the fate" of the missing jet. "Authorities from Malaysia and Vietnam dispatched aircraft to scour the waters between the two countries for signs of flight MH370. The Philippines also said it would mobilize vessels to look for wreckage and survivors."
Update at 4:50 a.m. ET, March 8. No Distress Call:
In its latest statement, Malaysia Airlines says that "so far, we have not received any emergency signals or distress messages from MH370."
Reuters notes that the lack of any emergency signal is "a chilling echo of an Air France flight that crashed into the South Atlantic on June 1, 2009, killing all 228 people on board. It vanished for hours without issuing a distress call."
Update at 4:30 a.m. ET, March 8. Latest Numbers On Passengers' Nationalities:
In the past hour, the airline posted updated information on the nationalities of the 227 passengers. One change: Earlier, there were reports about four U.S. citizens, including an infant, on board. Now, the airline says the passenger manifest shows three U.S. citizens, including an infant.
The breakdown by country, according to the airline:
China/Taiwan; 154 including an infant
U.S.; 3, including an infant
New Zealand; 2
The 12 crew members are all Malaysian citizens, the airline says.
Update at 3:42 a.m. ET, March 8. Search Continues:
The search for the lost plane has now been underway for more than 12 hours in the waters between Vietnam and Malaysia. The Philippine military has dispatched three ships and a surveillance plane to join the search effort.
Boeing issued a statement saying the company is assembling a technical team to assist investigators.
"Boeing offers its deepest concern to the families of those aboard missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370," the statement said.
Malaysia's acting transport minister asked the public to refrain from speculation until evidence of the plane is found, the BBC reports.
"We are doing everything in our power to locate the plane. We are doing everything we can to ensure every possible angle has been addressed," Seri Hishammuddin told reporters in Kuala Lumpur.
Grieving relatives are being cared for in a room in the Kuala Lumpur airport, where media have been barred from entering, BBC reporter Jennifer Pak tweeted earlier this morning.
In Beijing, friends and relatives were instructed to go to a nearby hotel.
Update at 12:28 a.m. ET, March 8: Last Contact
As the search continues, China's Xinhua news agency says the airplane lost contact in Vietnam's air space. An airline executive told CNN that the airliner's last communication was over the South China Sea, between Malaysia and Vietnam.
China's CCTV tweeted that China has sent two ships to the South China Sea for rescue operations.
Update at 10:36 p.m. ET. 4 Americans?
Malaysia Airlines CEO Ahmad Jauhari Yahya said during a televised press conference that four Americans, including an infant, were on flight MH370. (Note at 4:30 a.m. ET Saturday: the airline now says there were three U.S. citizens on board, including an infant.)
Yahya said the man piloting the plane was Capt. Zaharie Ahmad Shah, a 53-year-old Malaysian, who joined the airline in 1981.
Yahya said that that they were working to verify the authenticity of a report that claimed the aircraft had landed at Nanming in China.
"Our focus now is to work with the emergency responders and authorities and mobilize its full support," he said.
Yahya also clarified that the passengers on the plane are from 14 different countries — 153 of them are Chinese nationals.
Update at 10:10 p.m. ET. Anomalies In Radar:
The industry publication The Aviation Herald has looked at some of radar information that's available:
"According to The Aviation Herald's radar data the aircraft was last regularly seen at 17:22Z (01:22L) about half way between Kuala Lumpur and Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam) at FL350 over the Gulf of Thailand about 260nm northnortheast of Kuala Lumpur 40 minutes into the flight, followed by anomalies in the radar data of the aircraft over the next minute (the anomalies may be related to the aircraft but could also be caused by the aircraft leaving the range of the receiver).
"Aviation sources in China report that radar data suggest a steep and sudden descent of the aircraft, during which the track of the aircraft changed from 024 degrees to 333 degrees. The aircraft was estimated to contact Ho Chi Minh Control Center (Vietnam) at 01:20L, but contact was never established."
This matches with the reporting of the Chinese news agency Xinhua, which says contact and radar signal was lost near the Ho Chi Minh zone.
Update at 9:30 p.m. ET. Emergency Response Activated:
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi opened a previously scheduled press conference by saying the news coming out of Kuala Lumpur is "very disturbing."
Wang said that "the related departments have activated emergency response mechanism."
Update at 8:55 p.m. ET. Notifying Relatives:
In a new statement, Malaysia Airlines CEO Ahmad Jauhari Yahya said the airline is notifying the families of those on board the plane.
The passengers on the plane are from 14 different nationalities.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with all affected passengers and crew and their family members," Yahya said.
Boeing, meanwhile, tweeted that that the company is monitoring reports.
"Our thoughts are with everyone on board," Boeing said.
Every week I hear something amazing, see something inspiring and want to pass it on. These events are sometimes fleeting, sometimes iconic, but they stop me in my tracks. Bob's Rainbows is the place where I'll highlight the very best of my weekly music intake. [Editor's note: Why rainbows? They're the only naturally occurring phenomenon that can make Bob take his headphones off.]
You might see some of it pop up on the All Songs Considered Twitter account (@allsongs), my Instagram feed or our Facebook page in real time, but this will be a permanent home for the amazing rainbows in my life.
SHOW OF THE WEEK
St. Vincent at 9:30 Club, March 1 & 2
Oh my! These two shows are among the top five best I've seen in my concert-going life! So good I went to see it twice! St. Vincent's show is marriage of great songs played brilliantly and amazing visuals. You won't see projections or pyrotechnics, simply Annie Clark in performance with simple lights, choreography and a single prop — a small set of stairs for Annie to climb and later slink down. Her movements were well thought out and didn't feel superfluous, as a lot of choreography can feel. It was stunning and any moment could have been a fabulous still frame (I know, I took a few pictures, one of which you can see above). In the end it was the songs, the words, the guitar, the sounds and the place that made this ingrained forever as a truly memorable show.
SONG OF THE WEEK
"The Satellites" by Brian Eno and Karl Hyde
There's new music from Brian Eno. It's a collaboration with Karl Hyde, a painter, singer and longtime musician with the electronic duo Underworld. I've only heard this one song, but it's a majestic pop tune with a good sense of mystery. Instrumental Eno is wonderful, but my hope here was that there would be singing, and at just about the two minute mark we hear Eno and Hyde singing in harmony. Eno is working with electronic drums here; Hyde plays guitar. Both of them wrote the words and sing. And in that big pulsing sound, amongst others playing piano, drums and more, you can also hear Eno's former Roxy Music bandmate Andy Mackay on alto sax. A new album called Someday World will be out on May 6 on Warp Records.
VIDEO OF THE WEEK
Almost Home: Live At The Fonda by Moby and Friends
A new Moby DVD was released this week, a concert video from his last tour with Innocents, his best record in years. The songs have this epic "Hey Jude" feel and feature Damien Jurado, Mark Lanegan, Inyang Bassey, Cold Specks and more. Here's a long sample, nearly 50 minutes. Big fun!
FLASHBACK OF THE WEEK
Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
The last Elton John record I could fully embrace was Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. On March 25, there'll be a new edition of that album. Back when it was originally released, 40 years ago, I felt like it was filled with everything that was right and wrong with pop music at the time. What was right was the songwriting — a brilliant maker of melody meets a perfect wordsmith. Elton John and Bernie Taupin's songs managed to move from poignancy ("Candle in the Wind") to silliness ("Benny and the Jets") within just a few turns of the record. What was amazing is how big it got and production-wise how clear and distinct all the instruments were. This was a great record to put on the hi-fi.
What was wrong about this record wasn't their fault. It paved the way for grandiosity in rock 'n' roll made by too many pop musicians without the songs or words to match the size of the music. A few years later we had punk. It's no coincidence.
The multilple new editions of Elton John's monumental 1973 pop record include a yellow vinyl version, a concert recording, a film called Elton John and Bernie Taupin Say Goodbye to Norma Jean and Other Things, a book of rare photos and other goodies including remakes by Ed Sheeran, John Grant, Fall Out Boy and more.
MUSICAL MOMENT OF THE WEEK
Public Service Broadcasting Live
Had I not seen those two brilliant St. Vincent shows, seeing Public Service Broadcasting would have been my number one show of the week. The English duo of drums, electronics, guitar and banjo mix imagery and sounds from British public information films from the '40s and '50s with hard-driving, droning noise and rhythms. Their debut album is aptly titled Inform - Educate - Entertain; I'll just call it thrilling. We'll have a Tiny Desk Concert online in early spring.
HOMEWORK OF THE WEEK
Listening to 1,500 songs by the bands who are going to be at SXSW next week
In prepping for SXSW, the quirkiest parts of my personality shine. I'm not alone in listening to over 1,500 songs — Robin Hilton and Stephen Thompson do that as well (and Stephen culls from that list to make The Austin 100, a bundle of songs you can download). But I also star rate every single song — the goal is to figure out who I like based solely on what I hear. One major goal of going to SXSW is to see bands that I've never seen and mostly never heard of. What I'm trying to do when I listen is to find a nugget in a song, something that stands out it says to me, "This band could be interesting." I don't have to love the song, I just need to know that something is going on that I'm curious about.
From those 1,500 songs, I made a list of about 40 artists I found intriguing that I'd never heard of. Here it is if you want to listen along.
RANDOM RAINBOW OF THE WEEK
Sam Dance: Future Islands On TV
This week on The Late Show With David Letterman, a much poppier than usual Future Islands performed "Seasons (Waiting on You)," the opening track to their new album, Singles. This is a band that can feel a bit serious, but on that night it was just plain serious fun. Watch Samuel Herring move. And here's a Tiny Desk Concert with Future Islands from 2011.
It's just past midnight on a freezing Saturday night in Washington, D.C.
In the last hour, five ambulances have arrived at the emergency room where I work. A sixth pulls up.
The paramedics wheel out a stretcher carrying a man, 73, strapped to a hard board, a precaution in case his spine is fractured. There's blood around his neck brace and a strong smell of urine.
"We found him by his bed," a paramedic tells me. The patient told the paramedics he slipped. "Reports back pain and some cuts and bruises," one of them adds.
Medical history? None the paramedics could find. Same goes for whatever medications the patient might be taking. The only thing they know is his name and address. Nobody else was at home.
Two nurses undress the patient to rid him of his soiled clothes. They wrap a blood pressure cuff around one arm and start an IV line in the other. A tech shaves his chest before attaching sticky electrodes to check the man's heart.
He swats at us, saying that none of this is necessary. He slipped in the shower. "I was only out for a little while," he says. The paramedics mumble that they found him in the bedroom — not the bathroom.
The patient tells us his full name and says that the year is 1843. "It's 2014," I say, as my medical student looks for his records on a nearby computer.
She shakes her head. He's never been in our hospital. He gives us two phone numbers for his son, but neither works. The patient says his doctor lives in Kansas.
We examine him and find a 1-inch laceration over his eyebrow, a bruise over his right wrist, and scrapes on both knees. He winces when I touch his back. He has good strength in his arms and legs.
I send him for X-rays and a CT scan of his head and spine. There's no bleeding inside his brain and nothing is broken. His laboratory tests come back and show that he has anemia and kidney trouble.
He wants to go home. He pleads with us, saying he hates hospitals. He promises he'll be OK. I try his home phone and his son's numbers again. The resident calls two local hospitals on the chance they've seen him before. No luck.
The year is now 1914, the patient declares. Everyone sighs. We have to admit him. It's the last hospital bed we've got, and the patients who come after him will have to wait through the night in the ER.
The next day, I get a call from the patient's son and daughter-in-law. They're irate. The patient has dementia and frequently falls. That's why the family has arranged for live-in help 18 hours a day.
The man has had anemia and kidney problems for years. His longtime doctor (here in town, not in Kansas) monitors these issues closely. The internist taking care of him say that the man never should have been hospitalized.
My first reaction is defensiveness. Where was his family last night? What would the man's usual doctor have done in my position?
We emergency physicians frequently hear complaints from other doctors about how we order too many tests and admit too many patients. While medical overuse is a problem — and fear of malpractice and financial conflicts of interest sometimes play a role — it's easy to make harsh judgments after the fact.
When caring for patients we don't know and who could have life-threatening illnesses, emergency physicians have to do what is safest and best with the information at hand, sparse as it may be.
In this case, I made the choice to admit the patient. He was confused and had several abnormal test results. We couldn't be sure he'd be safe at home.
As I listen to his family, I also see the other side. I can see how unhappy they are that he was stripped, poked and kept against his wishes. I understand their frustration at our system of sick care: Why don't we have unified electronic medical records? Why aren't there better interventions for coordinating care and keeping people out of hospitals?
I tell them that I'm sorry. Knowing what I know now, I would have made a different decision. I gently suggest that it would be helpful to make sure he carries a document in his wallet with updated phone numbers, medical conditions and wishes for his care.
That day, I'm back in the ER. It's another busy shift, and I see him again. Well, not the same 73-year-old, but another elderly gentleman who also fell. Again, he's confused, and we can't reach his family. He doesn't want to stay, but again we hospitalize him. This time, too, I'm filled with doubt and a desire for a better system to care for my patients.