Rooting for the Underdog, and More

May the Best Team Win?Grantland
“I should say here, in case it’s not obvious, that I’m thinking about this mostly because it’s March, which means college basketball is happening all over the place. And like many people, whenever I’m confronted with an NCAA tournament game between two schools I don’t care about, i.e., most of them, I typically root for the team with the lower seed. Do you do this too? Judging from the gleefully chaos-humping way CBS markets the tournament — It’s March Madness! Brackets are fixing to get busted! These outcomes won’t make any sense! — I assume it’s the default protocol for a lot of us.”

Pastor Fred PhelpsLouis Theroux
“The WBC has tended to be a family affair, overwhelmingly made up of Gramps’ lineal descendants and their spouses. They live in suburban Topeka, in a collection of houses with their gardens all connected, which they call “Zion”. Gramps was the prime mover behind the practices of the church. He founded it at a time and place when the idea of abominating sodomites was mainstream in American Christian circles. In some respects, it was the times that changed, becoming more tolerant of homosexuality, leaving the WBC behind in their dogged adherence to old-style fire-and-brimstone bible thumping. But it’s also the case homosexuality seems to have been an idee fixe with Pastor Phelps: it struck a nerve.”

The Colossal Arrogance of Newsweek’s Bitcoin “Scoop”Ars Technica
“The scoop couldn’t have come at a better time. Bitcoins have exploded in value over the last year, making early investors rich, and the crypto-currency is finally emerging from wonky tech circles to gain traction with a mainstream audience. The idea that Bitcoin founder “Satoshi Nakamoto”—long thought to be a pseudonym—was living in a modest house in a Los Angeles suburb, and under his real name, was irresistible.”

How a Presidential Phone Call Gets MadeYahoo
“It’s easy to wonder why a president needs to “work the phones” in the era of email, texting, Skype and high-definition video chats. The president is famous for his iPad and his tweets; he even sat down for a Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything) as part of his outreach to the American people. But current and former aides to Obama and his two predecessors interviewed by Yahoo News were unanimous: When it comes to communicating with world leaders, it is a technology developed in the 19th century that still rules. The telephone remains a dominant tool of international diplomacy in a world where many nations lack America’s more recent technological advances. And the sound of the human voice — full of nuance and meaning, even without translation — communicates something essential to delicate negotiations, helping forge bonds across oceans and cultural chasms.”

Why Only Half of Venezuelans are on the StreetFive Thirty Eight
“One year after the death of former president Hugo Chávez, these six weeks of protest reveal a country still profoundly split over Chávez’s political project. On one side are those protesting his successor, Nicolás Maduro, who narrowly won last year’s presidential election; on the other are government supporters who see no viable alternative to Chavismo. Asking, “If not this, then what?” Venezuelans cannot find a common answer.”

“Kid, I’m Sorry, But You’re Just Not College Material”Slate
“But what if such a cautionary sermon is exactly what some teenagers need? What if encouraging students to take a shot at the college track—despite very long odds of crossing its finish line—does them more harm than good? What if our own hyper-credentialed life experiences and ideologies are blinding us to alternative pathways to the middle class? Including some that might be a lot more viable for a great many young people? What if we should be following the lead of countries like Germany, where “tracking” isn’t a dirty word but a common-sense way to prepare teenagers for respected, well-paid work?”

What is a Foreign Language Worth?The Economist
“Why do the languages offer such different returns? It has nothing to do with the inherent qualities of Spanish, of course. The obvious answer is the interplay of supply and demand. This chart reckons that Spanish-speakers account for a bit more of world GDP than German-speakers do. But an important factor is economic openness. Germany is a trade powerhouse, so its language will be more economically valuable for an outsider than the language of a relatively more closed economy.”

Photo courtesy of Fatma M

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