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Why Would Ecuador Appeal to Edward Snowden?

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On Sunday it was reported that Edward Snowden, the whistleblower and former National Security Agency contractor, would seek asylum in Ecuador. (This morning things were a little more cloudy.) Since coming forward last month with documents related to massive dragnet surveillance of American citizens by the U.S. government, Snowden has put on his best Carmen Sandiego impression. Clearly U.S. officials don’t have a copy of the World Almanac available, because so far Snowden has been successful.

On its face, Ecuador doesn’t seem like the best choice for Snowden to relocate, as they have an extradition treaty with the United States. But so far the international community has enjoyed playing Alderaan to America’s Galactic Empire. (President Obama is probably regretting his foolish decision to pass on building a Death Star.) Hong Kong answered the president’s demand for Snowden by booking him (i.e. Snowden) on a one-way flight to Moscow. Everyone knows Hoth is the coolest planet (ha!) in the galaxy, so of course Russia wasn’t going to miss playing the part.

And it turns out that Ecuador is the perfect Yavin IV. In 1872, when the U.S. government signed that extradition treaty [pdf], we were still serious about the Fourth Amendment. So our ambassadors didn’t think much about the clause that reads: “The stipulations of this treaty shall not be applicable to crimes or offenses of a political character.” Today, it’s hard to think of anything more politicized than our sprawling secrecy apparatus.

The Wikileaks Connection

If he does make it to Ecuador, Snowden will be in good company. (Technically.) Since the WikiLeaks release of 350,000 U.S. diplomatic cables and war logs, Julian Assange, the sunlight organization’s founder, has been holed up in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, where he has diplomatic asylum. (Indeed, it was WikiLeaks that facilitated Snowden’s passage from Moscow to Ecuador.) President Rafael Correa of Ecuador is a big fan of Assange. "Your WikiLeaks has made us stronger!" he told the activist last year.

"I love and admire the American people a great deal," said Correa. "The last thing I'd be is anti-American, but I will always call a spade a spade."

And let’s face it: The U.S. intelligence community is spadier than ever. So unless Delta Force is sent in to snatch Snowden (which would be an act of war) or all this Ecuador business was a big misdirection, the NSA whistleblower could look forward to long, sunny days of snorkeling in the Galápagos Islands.

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Why Does the Queen Have Two Birthdays?
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CHRIS JACKSON, AFP/Getty Images

On April 21, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II will turn 92 years old. To mark the occasion, there are usually a series of gun salutes around London: a 41 gun salute in Hyde Park, a 21 gun salute in Windsor Great Park, and a 62 gun salute at the Tower of London. For the most part, the monarch celebrates her big day privately. But on June 9, 2018, Her Majesty will parade through London as part of an opulent birthday celebration known as Trooping the Colour.

Queen Elizabeth, like many British monarchs before her, has two birthdays: the actual anniversary of the day she was born, and a separate day that is labeled her "official" birthday (usually the second Saturday in June). Why? Because April 21 is usually too cold for a proper parade.

The tradition started in 1748, with King George II, who had the misfortune of being born in chilly November. Rather than have his subjects risk catching colds, he combined his birthday celebration with the Trooping the Colour.

The parade itself had been part of British culture for almost a century by that time. At first it was strictly a military event, at which regiments displayed their flags—or "colours"—so that soldiers could familiarize themselves. But George was known as a formidable general after having led troops at the Battle of Dettingen in 1743, so the military celebration seemed a fitting occasion onto which to graft his warm-weather birthday. Edward VII, who also had a November birthday, was the first to standardize the June Trooping the Colour and launched a tradition of a monarchical review of the troops that drew crowds of onlookers.

Even now, the date of the "official" birthday varies year to year. For the first seven years of her reign, Elizabeth II held her official birthday on a Thursday but has since switched over to Saturdays. And while the date is tied to the Trooping the Colour in the UK, Commonwealth nations around the world have their own criteria, which generally involve recognizing it as a public holiday.

Australia started recognizing an official birthday back in 1788, and all the provinces (save one) observe the Queen's Birthday on the second Monday in June, with Western Australia holding its celebrations on the last Monday of September or the first Monday of October.

In Canada, the official birthday has been set to align with the actual birth date of Queen Victoria—May 24, 1819—since 1845, and as such they celebrate so-called Victoria Day on May 24 or the Monday before.

In New Zealand, it's the first Monday in June, and in the Falkland Islands the actual day of the Queen's birth is celebrated publicly.

All in all, just another reason it's great to be Queen.

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What Is the Meaning Behind "420"?
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Whether or not you’re a marijuana enthusiast, you’re probably aware that today is an unofficial holiday for those who are. April 20—4/20—is a day when pot smokers around the world come together to, well, smoke pot. Others use the day to push for legalization, holding marches and rallies.

But why the code 420? There are a lot of theories as to why that particular number was chosen, but most of them are wrong. You may have heard that 420 is police code for possession, or maybe it’s the penal code for marijuana use. Both are false. There is a California Senate Bill 420 that refers to the use of medical marijuana, but the bill was named for the code, not the other way around.

As far as anyone can tell, the phrase started with a bunch of high school students. Back in 1971, a group of kids at San Rafael High School in San Rafael, California, got in the habit of meeting at 4:20 to smoke after school. When they’d see each other in the hallways during the day, their shorthand was “420 Louis,” meaning, “Let’s meet at the Louis Pasteur statue at 4:20 to smoke.”

Somehow, the phrase caught on—and when the Grateful Dead eventually picked it up, "420" spread through the greater community like wildfire. What began as a silly code passed between classes is now a worldwide event for smokers and legalization activists everywhere—not a bad accomplishment for a bunch of high school stoners.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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