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Vol 106 / Issue 20

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F or three weeks starting every March, a national pastime in America turns to predicting the future. At least 1 in 10 people fills out a bracket card in an at- tempt to guess the winning teams of the National Collegiate Athletic Association men's (or women's) basketball tournament. The betting types might also place a "friendly" wager during this March Madness. More money is now bet on the 68-team playoffs than during the Super Bowl. Ex- perts estimate up to $12 billion is bet on a sport that is both amateur and linked to academia. Much of the gambling will take place in of- fice pools, which are illegal in al- most every state. Gambling on March Madness has grown so large that the NCAA is- sued a warning a few years ago about the potential danger of a game being thrown b y p o i n t - s h a v i n g players on the take. "Sports wagering can be a serious crime that threatens the well-being of student-athletes and the integrity of the game," the NCAA stated. The NCAA also tried to have betting on college sports banned in Nevada, but failed. This year, the National Council on Problem Gambling expanded its annual awareness campaign to include the weeks of March Mad- ness. During the games, the num- ber of calls to gambling help lines can shoot up by as much as 80 percent with desperate pleas from people for help in dealing with ad- dictive behavior. For many young people, filling out an NCAA bracket brings their first introduction to gambling. About 4 to 7 percent of college students are considered problem gamblers, a percentage higher than that of other adults. Illusion of control What may be most striking about "harmless" wagering during March Madness is that a bettor's sense of control could be simply an illusion. According to a study last year of gamblers on soccer games, those who follow a sport did no better than those who knew noth- ing about it. "Sports gamblers seem to be- lieve themselves the cleverest of all gamblers," said the study's re- searcher, Pinhas Dannon of Tel Aviv University in Israel. "They think that with experience and knowledge – such as players' sta- tistics, managers' habits, weather conditions, and stadium capac- ity – they can predict the outcome of a game better than the average person." Having fun yet? Although they may feel as if they're in control, sports gamblers may not be having much fun. A 2 0 0 8 r e p o r t published in the Jour- nal of Consumer Re- search found people who try to predict an uncertain event by betting on it experi- ence significantly less enjoyment while observing the event. "Once a person has committed to a pre- dicted outcome, he's set himself up for the possibility of looking like a fool. In other words, the fear of los- ing [known as anticipated regret] may actually feel worse than losing itself," said the study's research- ers, Naomi Mandel and Stephen M. Nowlis. "A consumer playing roulette might actually enjoy that gamble more if the 'house' rather than the consumer chooses the number to be played." 'Friendly' wagers that aren't Viewing a sport such as NCAA basketball as a betting game may seem quite innocent to many people. Yet those who bet on their brackets must also recognize the potential harm to the sport, to a mi- nority of fellow gamblers, and even to their own enjoyment and sense of self-control. Making an idol of luck in a sport that is based on tal- ent, hard work, and teamwork is the real madness. Marching to madness Betting on college basketball makes an idol of luck in a sport based on talent, teamwork. JeddaH, SaudI arabIa / Arab News Saudi women driving: not Obama's business "America and Saudi Arabia have always enjoyed a close and binding relationship and it's only now that there [have] been some disagreements," writes Sabria S. Jawhar on Amnesty International's "breathtaking naiveté" in urging President Obama to push for Saudi women's right to drive on his recent visit there. "Yes, the world needs to know that we want our rights guaranteed in Islam, but having heads of state exert external pressure on domestic issues [smacks] of stupidity." Melbourne, auStralIa / The Age Remember that comment, Kerry? "Not since World War II has anyone in Europe simply taken territory from a sovereign country.... Putin is adopting a decidedly imperial pose...," writes Waleed Aly. "The most tin-eared, self-unaware comment of this episode must still surely be US Secretary of State John Kerry's insistence that 'you just don't in the 21st century behave in 19th-cen- tury fashion by invading another country on completely trumped-up pretext.' Of course, this is perhaps the most eloquent description of America's 21st-century invasion of Iraq that anyone has yet offered." antananarIvo, MadagaScar / A double standard on coups "The true interests of the Ukrainian people, like those of the Malagasy people, do not concern the United States. It always applies double standards," writes Benn. "Washington, for example, promptly recognized the new Ukrainian government even though it arose from a coup d'état; but the US government levied sanctions against Madagas- car after the success of our popular movements and 2009 coup d'état. What really matters to the US government is its own dominance and hegemony, even at the expense of peace. Today, the biggest danger is that the US and its NATO allies could use the Ukrainian crisis to isolate Russia. Then the idea of sovereignty, the world's last hints of self-deter- mination or national interests, will be gone." Translated by the Monitor. FrankFurt / Frankfurter Rundschau Surprising obstacle for the GMO lobby "The US Department of Agriculture has released a surprising study that one would not have expected from the United States. The Ameri- cans have spent years promoting the supposed advantages of genetic crop modification. Now the government admits that its use has led to significant problems...," writes Daniel Baumann, noting that geneti- cally modified foods are a major sticking point in current US-European Union trade negotiations. "With much money, numerous events, and targeted political moves, the US has sought to pave a road for GM technology abroad.... The new study could throw a significant wrench into these efforts." Translated by the Monitor. How the world press sees America T H E V I E W F R O M A B R O A D r c h i n g t o m a d n COMMENTARY T H E M O N I T O R ' S V I E W "First the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear." EDITOR: Marshall Ingwerson SENIOR EDITOR: David Cook CHIEF EDITORIAL WRITER: Clayton Jones EDITOR AT LARGE: John Yemma MANAGING PUBLISHER: Jonathan Wells CHIEF STRATEGY AND MARKETING OFFICER: Susan Hackney Founded in 1908 by Mary Baker Eddy THE CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR WEEklY | April 7, 2014 33

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