A New Pope, Crazy Kim, and Facebook Math Wars: Interesting Slate Stories

The week's most intriguing stories.
March 16 2013 7:00 AM

A New Pope, Crazy Kim, and Facebook Math Wars

The week’s most interesting Slate stories.

Pope Francis
Pope Francis, Argentina's Jorge Mario Bergoglio, leads a mass at the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican on March 14, a day after his election.

Photo by AFP/Getty Images

Why Pope Francis May Be a Catholic Nightmare: He may seem like a humble reformer, but Cardinal Bergoglio is the last thing the Vatican needs,” by Michael Brendan Dougherty.  Wednesday’s election of Jorge Mario Bergoglio as Pope Francis marked the ascension of the first-ever pontiff from the Americas. Dougherty is wary of the choice, citing the new pope’s age, theological vagueness, and unfamiliarity with the Vatican’s curial offices as reasons why Francis may be a transitional and mediocre Pope.

 “Who’s Afraid of Kim Jong-un?: Maybe we should be. What we don’t know about North Korea’s young leader may be the scariest thing of all,” by Fred Kaplan. North Korea is amplifying its threats against South Korea, and while these kinds of escalations are nothing new, there is a real possibility that Kim Jong-un is making strategic miscalculations and overplaying his hand in a ways that his father and grandfather never did.

Smart, Poor Kids Are Applying to the Wrong Colleges: How an information mismatch is costing America’s best colleges 20,000 low-income students every year,” by Matthew Yglesias. Yglesias sheds light on a new study showing that high-achieving students from low-income families are less likely than those from high-income families to apply to selective colleges. He argues that, by improving outreach to students in often-ignored rural areas, selective colleges can broaden their applicant pool.

No Nuts, No Glory: The perks of having a life-threatening food allergy,” by Elizabeth Weingarten. New treatments that immunize against allergens are helping people overcome food allergies, but at what cost? Weingarten celebrates the positive effects her dangerous tree nut allergy has had on her character. It taught her to be assertive, persistent, and calm in high-stress situations.

What Is the Answer to That Stupid Math Problem on Facebook?: And why are people so riled up about it?” by Tara Haelle. Seemingly simple arithmetic problems are going viral on Facebook—and made a lot of people very upset. Haelle explains that there are different conventions at work and concludes by saying that by expecting “one right answer,” people might be asking too much.

You Say ‘Best.’ I Say No: It’s time to kill the email signoff,” by Matthew J.X. Malady. If you’re thinking of ending an email with “Cheers,” “Regards,” or “XOXO,” think again, writes Malady. While valedictions were logical and necessary in the age of handwritten letters, the sheer volume of modern emails makes formal signoffs unjustifiable.

Regrettable: The troubling things I learned when I re-reported Bob Woodward’s book on John Belushi,” Tanner Colby. Colby, who co-authored a 2005 biography of comedian John Belushi, offers an extensive critique of journalist Bob Woodward’s 1984 book on the same subject. He claims that the many subtle inaccuracies and misinterpretations in Woodward’s work may shed light on the recent controversy over alleged threats made by the White House against the journalist.

Why Did Google Reader Die?: And what free Web service will be next?” by Farhad Manjoo. This week Google announced that it will shut down its decreasingly popular RSS reader—and Manjoo isn’t shedding a tear. Nor is he optimistic about the fate of some other free Google products with fishy business models, explaining that the best way to ensure the survival of your favorite Web app may be actually paying for it.

Who’s No. 1? Who Cares.: The totally pointless debate over where to seed the top teams in the NCAA Tournament,” by Ken Pomeroy. In the run-up to this year’s March Madness tournament, college basketball fans are eagerly anticipating the bracketing and seeding announcements for the 68 teams. Nevertheless, Pomeroy asserts, seeding decisions have a much smaller effect on who will actually win the tournament than regional placement.

David Bowie Taught Me How to Tart Up: And it saved me from losing my mind, by Simon Doonan. In celebration of this week’s release of David Bowie’s latest album, Doonan reflects on the debt he owes to the legendary rock star and “patron saint of marginalized freaks.” For instance, he recounts his discovery that “wearing a striped, twinkle-knit unitard with one leg missing is the opposite of wearing a straitjacket.”

TODAY IN SLATE

Foreigners

The World’s Politest Protesters

The Occupy Central demonstrators are courteous. That’s actually what makes them so dangerous.

The Religious Right Is Not Happy With Republicans  

The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 4:58 PM The Religious Right Is Not Happy With Republicans  

The Feds Have Declared War on Encryption—and the New Privacy Measures From Apple and Google

The One Fact About Ebola That Should Calm You

It spreads slowly.

These “Dark” Lego Masterpieces Are Delightful and Evocative

Crime

Operation Backbone

How White Boy Rick, a legendary Detroit cocaine dealer, helped the FBI uncover brazen police corruption.

Politics

Talking White

Black people’s disdain for “proper English” and academic achievement is a myth.

Activists Are Trying to Save an Iranian Woman Sentenced to Death for Killing Her Alleged Rapist

Piper Kerman on Why She Dressed Like a Hitchcock Heroine for Her Prison Sentencing

  News & Politics
Politics
Oct. 1 2014 7:26 PM Talking White Black people’s disdain for “proper English” and academic achievement is a myth.
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 1 2014 2:16 PM Wall Street Tackles Chat Services, Shies Away From Diversity Issues 
  Life
Outward
Oct. 1 2014 6:02 PM Facebook Relaxes Its “Real Name” Policy; Drag Queens Celebrate
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 5:11 PM Celebrity Feminist Identification Has Reached Peak Meaninglessness
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 1 2014 3:24 PM Revelry (and Business) at Mohonk Photos and highlights from Slate’s annual retreat.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 1 2014 9:39 PM Tom Cruise Dies Over and Over Again in This Edge of Tomorrow Supercut
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 1 2014 6:59 PM EU’s Next Digital Commissioner Thinks Keeping Nude Celeb Photos in the Cloud Is “Stupid”
  Health & Science
Science
Oct. 1 2014 4:03 PM Does the Earth Really Have a “Hum”? Yes, but probably not the one you’re thinking.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 1 2014 5:19 PM Bunt-a-Palooza! How bad was the Kansas City Royals’ bunt-all-the-time strategy in the American League wild-card game?