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Library of Congress

Richard Nixon: The Shy Guy

Library of Congress
Library of Congress

Who knew Tricky Dick was such a wallflower? Believe it or not (and we realize trust might be an issue here), Richard Nixon was a shy child—the kind who played the piano and only followed sports so that people would like him more. Sadly, the awkwardness didn't go away with age. Never a ladies' man, Nixon proposed to his wife, Pat, on their first date, and then obsessively pursued her for two years until she said yes. To spend time with her in the interim, Nixon even drove Pat on dates with other men.

Perhaps all Nixon wanted was a little attention—and in 1948, he finally got it. As a young Congressman, he spearheaded the investigation that exposed former State Department official Alger Hiss as a Soviet spy. The act quickly made Nixon the sweetheart of anti-Communist America. Later, he tried a similar tactic when he ran for Senate in 1950. During the race, he accused his opponent, Helen Gahagan Douglas, of being a Commie, calling her "pink right down to her underwear." His supporters mailed out thousands of postcards reading, "Vote for our Helen for Senator. We are with you 100%." It was signed "The Communist League of Negro Women Voters." It was neither the first time nor the last time Nixon (or his cronies) would use dirty tricks to advance his career.

Even after making it all the way to the White House, Nixon remained the socially awkward wallflower he'd been in his youth. As president, he did whatever he could to avoid talking to people, especially strangers. He spent hours alone in his office with a yellow legal pad, jotting down lists of enemies and thinking up ways to comport himself better in public. He usually ate lunch by himself at his desk, almost always nibbling on the same meal of rye crackers, skim milk, a canned Dole pineapple ring, and a scoop of cottage cheese.

As part of his insular world, Nixon's phone had direct connections to only three people—Chief of Staff H.R. Haldeman, National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger, and Domestic Policy Advisor John Ehrlichman. (Lyndon Johnson's phone, by contrast, had been wired to 60 people.) The three men formed a protective shield around Nixon, carefully guarding him from face-time with others, including other members of the Cabinet. Collectively, the trio became known as The Berlin Wall.

Is it any surprise, then, that this shrinking violet began to seethe with paranoia? Nixon wanted every room bugged and every conversation recorded. Of course, he never anticipated those recordings being used against him. Practically every moment of Nixon's presidency was caught on tape—tapes that are filled with off-color remarks about Jews, African Americans, and Italians. Of reporters, he once said, "I wouldn't give them the sweat off my balls."

Throughout his career, Nixon employed spies (called "plumbers" because they fixed leaks) to dig up dirt on his political rivals. And if they couldn't find anything through wiretapping or burglary, they often planted evidence. But in June 1972, five of Nixon's plumbers were arrested after breaking into Democratic Party offices in the Watergate Hotel. Nixon used everything in his power to cover up the connection to the White House, but of course, it was all recorded. When the Supreme Court finally subpoenaed the tapes, Nixon was busted. Feeling pretty stupid, he resigned—and the nation hasn't trusted politicians the same way since.

Watergate will always define Richard Nixon's administration. But to be fair, he also accomplished a great deal that benefited the country. Here's a glimpse of the sunnier side of Nixon's presidency.

Special Ops

Nixon wasn't the only president to tape all of his conversations, but he was the only president to do so using a recording device that never stopped. Notoriously bad with electronics, Tricky Dick had trouble remembering how to turn on the tape recorder, so his chief of staff, H.R. Haldeman, installed a voice-activated system in the Oval Office. It made the president's day-to-day life easier, but it also had one problem: It could never be turned off. Oops!

A Sweet-and-Sour Diplomat

In 1972, a trip to Communist China was a big deal, as America had no formal diplomatic relations with the country. So when Nixon decided to visit Chairman Mao Zedong that February, it shocked the world. But the trip almost ended before it began, when a member of Nixon's advance team—drinking vodka and smoking pot—nearly burned down the hotel where the president was supposed to stay. Nixon was determined, though. It was an election year, and of the 391 people who made up his Chinese entourage, 90 were from the media. Night after night, Americans watched on prime-time television as Nixon and Mao got along famously, and the Cold War began to thaw.

A Patron of the Arts

nixon-elvis.jpgNixon abhorred modern art, and even forbade its presence in the White House. But you'd never know it, because his advisors told him that publicly supporting the arts would boost his image. As a result, Nixon oversaw a six-fold increase in funding for the National Endowment for the Arts and the Public Broadcasting System (PBS). To Nixon's horror, however, some of that money went to Erica Jong's novel of sexual liberation, Fear of Flying. He also cringed at PBS' liberal programming and tried to slash its budget in 1972. But because the cuts might have hurt Sesame Street instead of left-wing commentators, the matter was dropped. Not even Nixon could stomach being known as the man who murdered Big Bird.

Champion of Mother Earth

OK, so Nixon didn't really care about the environment. But after the publication of Rachel Carson's Silent Spring, public outcry over the destruction of the environment became too great to ignore. How great? The first Earth Day took place on April 22, 1970, and millions of Americans participated. In New York, no cars ran down Fifth Avenue. And in Washington, folksingers Pete Seeger and Phil Ochs sang at the Washington Monument. It was the largest single protest in American history, and Nixon paid attention. During his years in office, he signed the Endangered Species Act, strengthened the Clean Air Act, and created the Environmental Protection Agency.

The Mary Poppins of Smack

Sometimes a spoonful of methadone helps the crime rate go down. In 1968, Nixon campaigned to fight crime by any means necessary. So the following year, after a study found that 44 percent of people entering Washington, D.C., jails were using heroin, Nixon agreed to fund methadone clinics across the city. Within one year, the burglary rate dropped by 41 percent. This should have been a major win for the president, but critics argued that the clinics only substituted one drug for another. The policy never caught on, and to this day, Nixon is still the only president in the war on drugs to have spent more money on treatment than enforcement.

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10 Things We Know About The Handmaid’s Tale Season 2
Hulu
Hulu

Though Hulu has been producing original content for more than five years now, 2017 turned out to be a banner year for the streaming network with the debut of The Handmaid’s Tale on April 26, 2017. The dystopian drama, based on Margaret Atwood’s 1985 book, imagines a future in which a theocratic regime known as Gilead has taken over the United States and enslaved fertile women so that the group’s most powerful couples can procreate.

If it all sounds rather bleak, that’s because it is—but it’s also one of the most impressive new series to arrive in years (as evidenced by the slew of awards it has won, including eight Emmy and two Golden Globe Awards). Fortunately, fans left wanting more don’t have that much longer to wait, as season two will premiere on Hulu in April. In the meantime, here’s everything we know about The Handmaid’s Tale’s second season.

1. IT WILL PREMIERE WITH TWO EPISODES.

When The Handmaid’s Tale returns on April 25, 2018, Hulu will release the first two of its 13 new episodes on premiere night, then drop another new episode every Wednesday.

2. MARGARET ATWOOD WILL CONTINUE TO HELP SHAPE THE NARRATIVE.

Fans of Atwood’s novel who didn’t like that season one went beyond the original source material are in for some more disappointment in season two, as the narrative will again go beyond the scope of what Atwood covered. But creator/showrunner Bruce Miller doesn’t necessarily agree with the criticism they received in season one.

“People talk about how we're beyond the book, but we're not really," Miller told Newsweek. "The book starts, then jumps 200 years with an academic discussion at the end of it, about what's happened in those intervening 200 years. We're not going beyond the novel. We're just covering territory [Atwood] covered quickly, a bit more slowly.”

Even more importantly, Miller's got Atwood on his side. The author serves as a consulting producer on the show, and the title isn’t an honorary one. For Miller, Atwood’s input is essential to shaping the show, particularly as it veers off into new territories. And they were already thinking about season two while shooting season one. “Margaret and I had started to talk about the shape of season two halfway through the first [season],” he told Entertainment Weekly.

In fact, Miller said that when he first began working on the show, he sketched out a full 10 seasons worth of storylines. “That’s what you have to do when you’re taking on a project like this,” he said.

3. MOTHERHOOD WILL BE A CENTRAL THEME.

As with season one, motherhood is a key theme in the series. And June/Offred’s pregnancy will be one of the main plotlines. “So much of [Season 2] is about motherhood,” Elisabeth Moss said during the Television Critics Association press tour. “Bruce and I always talked about the impending birth of this child that’s growing inside her as a bit of a ticking time bomb, and the complications of that are really wonderful to explore. It’s a wonderful thing to have a baby, but she’s having it potentially in this world that she may not want to bring it into. And then, you know, if she does have the baby, the baby gets taken away from her and she can’t be its mother. So, obviously, it’s very complicated and makes for good drama. But, it’s a very big part of this season, and it gets bigger and bigger as the show goes on.”

4. THE RESISTANCE IS COMING.

Just because June is pregnant, don’t expect her to sit on the sidelines as the resistance to Gilead continues. “There is more than one way to resist," Moss said. “There is resistance within [June], and that is a big part of this season.”

5. WE’LL GET TO SEE THE COLONIES.

A scene from 'The Handmaid's Tale'
Hulu

Miller, understandably, isn’t eager to share too many details about the new season. “I’m not being cagey!” he swore to Entertainment Weekly. “I just want the viewers to experience it for themselves!” What he did confirm is that the new season will bring us to the colonies—reportedly in episode two—and show what life is like for those who have been sent there.

It will also delve further into what life is like for the refugees who managed to escape Gilead, like Luke and Moira.

6. MARISA TOMEI WILL APPEAR IN AN EPISODE.

Though she won’t be a regular cast member, Miller recently announced that Oscar winner Marisa Tomei will make a guest appearance in the new season’s second episode. Yes, the one that will show us the Colonies. In fact, that’s where we’ll meet her; Tomei is playing the wife of a Commander.

7. WE’LL LEARN MORE ABOUT THE ORIGINS OF GILEAD.

As a group shrouded in secrecy, we still don’t know much about how and where Gilead began. That will change a bit in season two. When discussing some of the questions viewers will have answered, executive producer Warren Littlefield promised that, "How did Gilead come about? How did this happen?” would be two of them. “We get to follow the historical creation of this world,” he said.

8. THERE WILL BE AT LEAST ONE HANDMAID FUNERAL.

A scene from 'The Handmaid's Tale'
Hulu

While Miller wouldn’t talk about who the handmaids are mourning in a teaser shot from season two that shows a handmaid’s funeral, he was excited to talk about creating the look for the scene. “Everything from the design of their costumes to the way they look is so chilling,” Miller told Entertainment Weekly. “These scenes that are so beautiful, while set in such a terrible place, provide the kind of contrast that makes me happy.”

9. ELISABETH MOSS SAYS THE TONE WILL BE DARKER.

Like season one, Miller says that The Handmaid’s Tale's second season will again balance its darker, dystopian themes with glimpses of hopefulness. “I think the first season had very difficult things, and very hopeful things, and I think this season is exactly the same way,” he told the Los Angeles Times. “There come some surprising moments of real hope and victory, and strength, that come from surprising places.”

Moss, however, has a different opinion. “It's a dark season,” she told reporters at TCA. “I would say arguably it's darker than Season 1—if that's possible.”

10. IT WILL ALSO BE BLOODIER.

A scene from 'The Handmaid's Tale'
Hulu

When pressed about how the teaser images for the new season seemed to feature a lot of blood, Miller conceded: “Oh gosh, yeah. There may be a little more blood this season.”

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NUS Environmental Research Institute, Subnero
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Researchers in Singapore Deploy Robot Swans to Test Water Quality
NUS Environmental Research Institute, Subnero
NUS Environmental Research Institute, Subnero

There's something peculiar about the new swans floating around reservoirs in Singapore. They drift across the water like normal birds, but upon closer inspection, onlookers will find they're not birds at all: They're cleverly disguised robots designed to test the quality of the city's water.

As Dezeen reports, the high-tech waterfowl, dubbed NUSwan (New Smart Water Assessment Network), are the work of researchers at the National University of Singapore [PDF]. The team invented the devices as a way to tackle the challenges of maintaining an urban water source. "Water bodies are exposed to varying sources of pollutants from urban run-offs and industries," they write in a statement. "Several methods and protocols in monitoring pollutants are already in place. However, the boundaries of extensive assessment for the water bodies are limited by labor intensive and resource exhaustive methods."

By building water assessment technology into a plastic swan, they're able to analyze the quality of the reservoirs cheaply and discreetly. Sensors on the robots' undersides measure factors like dissolved oxygen and chlorophyll levels. The swans wirelessly transmit whatever data they collect to the command center on land, and based on what they send, human pilots can remotely tweak the robots' performance in real time. The hope is that the simple, adaptable technology will allow researchers to take smarter samples and better understand the impact of the reservoir's micro-ecosystem on water quality.

Man placing robotic swan in water.
NUS Environmental Research Institute, Subnero

This isn't the first time humans have used robots disguised as animals as tools for studying nature. Check out this clip from the BBC series Spy in the Wild for an idea of just how realistic these robots can get.

[h/t Dezeen]

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