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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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Big Questions
What Are Curlers Yelling About?
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WANG ZHAO/AFP/Getty Images

Curling is a sport that prides itself on civility—in fact, one of its key tenets is known as the “Spirit of Curling,” a term that illustrates the respect that the athletes have for both their own teammates and their opponents. But if you’re one of the millions of people who get absorbed by the sport once every four years, you probably noticed one quirk that is decidedly uncivilized: the yelling.

Watch any curling match and you’ll hear skips—or captains—on both sides barking and shouting as the 42-pound stone rumbles down the ice. This isn’t trash talk; it’s strategy. And, of course, curlers have their own jargon, so while their screams won’t make a whole lot of sense to the uninitiated, they could decide whether or not a team will have a spot on the podium once these Olympics are over.

For instance, when you hear a skip shouting “Whoa!” it means he or she needs their teammates to stop sweeping. Shouting “Hard!” means the others need to start sweeping faster. If that’s still not getting the job done, yelling “Hurry hard!” will likely drive the point home: pick up the intensity and sweep with downward pressure. A "Clean!" yell means put a brush on the ice but apply no pressure. This will clear the ice so the stone can glide more easily.

There's no regulation for the shouts, though—curler Erika Brown says she shouts “Right off!” and “Whoa!” to get her teammates to stop sweeping. And when it's time for the team to start sweeping, you might hear "Yes!" or "Sweep!" or "Get on it!" The actual terminology isn't as important as how the phrase is shouted. Curling is a sport predicated on feel, and it’s often the volume and urgency in the skip’s voice (and what shade of red they’re turning) that’s the most important aspect of the shouting.

If you need any more reason to make curling your favorite winter sport, once all that yelling is over and a winner is declared, it's not uncommon for both teams to go out for a round of drinks afterwards (with the winners picking up the tab, obviously). Find out how you can pick up a brush and learn the ins and outs of curling with our beginner's guide.

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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Why You Should Never Take Your Shoes Off On an Airplane
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What should be worn during takeoff?

Tony Luna:

If you are a frequent flyer, you may often notice that some passengers like to kick off their shoes the moment they've settled down into their seats.

As an ex-flight attendant, I'm here to tell you that it is a dangerous thing to do. Why?

Besides stinking up the whole cabin, footwear is essential during an airplane emergency, even though it is not part of the flight safety information.

During an emergency, all sorts of debris and unpleasant ground surfaces will block your way toward the exit, as well as outside the aircraft. If your feet aren't properly covered, you'll have a hard time making your way to safety.

Imagine destroying your bare feet as you run down the aisle covered with broken glass, fires, and metal shards. Kind of like John McClane in Die Hard, but worse. Ouch!

Bruce Willis stars in 'Die Hard' (1988)
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

A mere couple of seconds delay during an emergency evacuation can be a matter of life and death, especially in an enclosed environment. Not to mention the entire aircraft will likely be engulfed in panic and chaos.

So, the next time you go on a plane trip, please keep your shoes on during takeoff, even if it is uncomfortable.

You can slip on a pair of bathroom slippers if you really need to let your toes breathe. They're pretty useless in a real emergency evacuation, but at least they're better than going barefoot.

This post originally appeared on Quora. Click here to view.

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