May 21st – The Day’s Most Fascinating News

Aloha, Mr. Hand

High school students often ask their math teachers: “When am I ever gonna use this in real life?” Well, it turns out that your high school numbers could haunt you for the rest of your life. A new study found a strong correlation between your high school GPA and your future earnings. To paraphrase Jeff Spicoli: All I need are some tasty waves, a cool buzz, an Internet startup, and I’m fine.

+ Vox: Master’s degrees are as common now as bachelor’s degrees were in the ’60s. And some of the fastest growing areas of study might surprise you. (Looking back, I wish I had majored in animated GIFs.)


Leave No One in Line

“I will not stand for it — not as commander in chief but also not as an American.” That was President Obama responding to the growing scandal over treatment delays and preventable deaths at VA hospitals across the country.

+ The failure to treat vets is something to be outraged about. But Slate’s John Dickerson wonders whether this issue will stand out since we’re perpetually outraged.

+ This scandal reminds me of Phil Bronstein’s excellent 2013 article about another vet who couldn’t get decent health care from his former employers. The man who killed Osama bin Laden.


Putin at the Pump

China chose a moment when Putin is facing sanctions from many western countries to finally agree to a deal to purchase Russia’s natural gas. “In the stroke of a pen, the agreement significantly shifted in Russia’s economic relations with its neighbors, creating a new major export market to the east and reducing reliance on European partners.”


Breaking Away from Poverty

Alan Myers is a pediatrician at Boston Medical Center where he often asks his patients an unusual question: “Do you have a bicycle?” If the answer is no, he prescribes them one (and even gets the city to foot the bill). It’s part of a broader effort to treat the consequences of poverty. From The Atlantic’s Olga Khazan: How being poor makes you sick.


Concussions Not Required

We’ve been learning more about the risks associated with concussions and other head traumas that can occur on the football field. But a new study suggests that just playing the game can result in significant changes to the brain. In the study, “the football players had less volume in the hippocampus, a part of the brain involved in memory and emotional processing, than did the nonplayers.”


Your Business Model is Pitchy, Dawg

Spotify is the envy of many other players in the digital music marketplace. The streaming leader just announced its 10 millionth paying subscriber. Now for the hard part. Making a profit. As one analyst explains: “In many ways, the preferred solution [for Spotify] would be to get sold to someone. But they’ve gotten too successful.”

+ Facebook is set to introduce a Shazam-like service that will identify the music or show you have on in the background in an effort reduce the steps it takes to irritate your friends.


The Age of Insecurity

“It’s hard to explain to regular people how much technology barely works, how much the infrastructure of our lives is held together by the IT equivalent of baling wire. The number of people whose job it is to make software secure can practically fit in a large bar, and I’ve watched them drink. It’s not comforting. It isn’t a matter of if you get owned, only a matter of when.” From Quinn Norton: Everything is Broken.

+ And in other news, eBay got hacked.

+ “His blockbuster leaks were still six months away, but the man destined to confront world leaders on a global stage was addressing a much smaller audience that Sunday evening. He was leading a local Crypto Party, teaching less than two dozen Hawaii residents how to encrypt their hard drives and use the internet anonymously.” From Wired: Snowden’s first move against the NSA was a party in Hawaii.

+ “My legal saga started last summer with a knock at the door, behind which stood two federal agents ready to to serve me with a court order requiring the installation of surveillance equipment on my company’s network.” Ladar Levison on secrets, lies, Snowden’s email, and why he was forced to shut down his company.


Good Vibes

Looking for positive people? According to the latest survey from Gallup, you might want to head to Paraguay. They topped the highest positive experience index. (Maybe they don’t have web comments in Paraguay.)

+ In Iran, a group of people were arrested for making a video of themselves dancing to Pharrell’s Happy. Most of those involved were released after being forced to apologize on state television. Needless to say, the video is getting a lot of views.


That Doesn’t Smell Like Adderall

The FBI needs more programmers to fight cybercrime. So it probably needs to bend the rules when it comes to smoking pot.


The Bottom of the News

We love a good comeback story or a tale of someone who bootstrapped themselves to success. But if the Internet has taught us anything, it’s that we love to see people fall on their faces (and maybe even give them a little push) even more. Christine Grimaldi wonders, why does schadenfreude make us feel so good?

+ What will it take for Universal Pictures to complete the Fast and Furious movie that stars the late Paul Walker? Two brothers, face replacement technology, and according to them, about $50 million of insurance money.

+ France’s state-run railway system ordered a new fleet of trains. But they are too wide to fit in many of their stations.

+ Climate debaters finally found something they can agree on: The forecast calls for Sharknado.

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