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7 Things to Know About Sarkozy

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Nicolas Sarkozy is a short, conservative, hard-working Cassanova. He has cracked down on prostitution and negotiated with terrorist bombers to save children. He is an outsider who has worked his way in. Some think he's Napoleon, others say he's Brutus. We're just trying to get a handle on him. Here are 7 things everyone should know about France's President.

1. He Was Mayor by 22

Sarkozy, the son of a Hungarian immigrant, did most of his growing up in Neuilly-sur-Seine, a wealthy community immediately to the west of Paris. His family was not as affluent as those of most of his classmates, a fact he claims was humiliating and largely shaped who he is today. Sarkozy didn't have to wait long to get the last laugh, though. He earned a law degree, which he financed by peddling ice cream and flowers, and quickly jumped into the political arena. At just 22 years old he became a member of Neuilly's city council, and in 1983 he became the city's mayor, a position he held until 2002.

While serving as Neuilly's mayor Sarkozy also made major inroads as a national figure as well, and many Frenchmen thought of Sarkozy as a sort of protégé of Chirac. In 1993 a deranged kidnapper took a group of children hostage at a Neuilly kindergarten, and Sarkozy negotiated for their safe release with the suspect, who called himself "The Human Bomb."Â  (The children all escaped unharmed when police killed the kidnapper.)  Following this incident, Sarkozy became budget minister under Prime Minister Edouard Balladur.

2. He Broke his Mentor's Heart (and Stabbed him in the Back)

Picture 5.pngIn 1995, Balladur ran for the presidency against Chirac. Sarkozy made the surprising decision to turn his back on his mentor Chirac and supported Balladur's candidacy. (The decision was all the more perplexing because Sarkozy had allegedly been romantically involved with Chirac's daughter Claude.) When Chirac bested Balladur, Sarkozy found himself saddled with a powerful enemy and temporarily lost his national position.
Despite this betrayal, Chirac knew that Sarkozy had a certain charisma and drive that made him a political asset. When Chirac won reelection in 2002, he decided to reconcile with Sarkozy, who took on a cabinet position as Minister of the Interior.  France's interior minister is in charge of civil defense and law enforcement, among other responsibilities, which made it the perfect position for Sarkozy to advance his right-wing law-and-order views, including a crackdown on prostitution and a renewed emphasis on road safety. A 2004 reorganization of the cabinet moved Sarkozy to a new position as finance minister, where he helped orchestrate a government bailout of engineering titan Alstom, which had gone bankrupt.

3. He was too Good to Ignore

By this time, Sarkozy was starting to establish himself as France's preeminent conservative. He won the leadership of the Union for a Popular Movement (UPM) in 2004 and left the cabinet to assume this role. From this platform Sarkozy pushed for economic reform, including deficit reduction, a tightening of unemployment benefits for those who turned down work, and tax simplification. During this period Chirac also convinced Sarkozy to return to his previous position as Minister of the Interior.

If Chirac had his eyes on a third term, though, Sarkozy's ambitions quickly laid waste to those plans. As early as 2003 Sarkozy admitted he had his eyes on the presidency; when television station France2 asked him if he thought about being president when he shaved in the morning, he quipped, "I do, and not just when I shave."

4. He's Diminutive

Napoleon established a precedent for French leaders whose ambitions are larger than their inseams, and Sarkozy has picked up this mantle two centuries later.  Reports vary, but most peg Sarkozy's height at 5'5" or 5'6", a marked change from Sarkozy's tall, thin predecessor Chirac.

5. But his Height Doesn't Bother the Ladies

Picture 32.pngSarkozy has been married three times, which in itself isn't all that unusual.  The stories behind his marriages, though, must make French tabloid writers feel like they're getting gifts from the heavens. He first married Marie-Dominique Culioli in 1982; they had two sons before divorcing in 1996.
Although Sarkozy had been plagued by allegations of womanizing, things got juicy well before his divorce. He officiated the wedding of former model Cecilia Ciganer-Albeniz to French TV personally Jacques Martin in 1984 as part of his duties as Neuilly's mayor. According to later interviews, Sarkozy asked himself "Why am I marrying this woman to someone else?  She is for me." Despite these misgivings, Sarkozy and his first wife befriended the Martins, even going so far as to become godparents to each other's children.  Cecilia eventually left her husband to live with Sarkozy in 1988 despite the slight hitch that both of them were still married to other people. (Despite this fact, she requested that she be known as Madame Sarkozy; locals preferred to derisively refer to her as "the mayor's whore.") The two were eventually married in 1996 and divorced in 2007 while Sarkozy was in office, giving him another connection to Napoleon, who divorced wife Josephine in 1809. During the divorce, Cecilia accused Sarkozy of being a stingy philanderer. For his part, he could point to accusations that she didn't vote for him in the second round of the presidential election and had undertaken very public affairs of her own.
Sarkozy wasn't wanting for a first lady for long, though.  By December he'd been spotted canoodling with former model and singer Carla Bruni, who's almost thirteen years Sarkozy's junior and a solid head taller.  He was in good company, at least; Bruni's former romantic links include such luminaries as Mick Jagger, Donald Trump, and Eric Clapton. The pair tied the knot in January 2008.

6. He Loves Celine Dion

Sarkozy has some highbrow hobbies, including collecting Rolexes (particularly Daytona models), but many of his interests reflect his upbringing as just another normal French guy.  He unabashedly loves reality TV and admits that he enjoys Celine Dion. Lenny Kravitz told reporters that Sarkozy so enjoyed his album It Is A Time For Revolution that the leader penned him a fan letter about his appreciation.

7. He Has Love Handles (and they get edited out)

Picture 42.pngSarkozy enjoys a fairly chummy relationship with the French press.  When the magazine Paris Match ran a photo of a svelte, shirtless Sarkozy paddling a canoe on vacation in 2007, the leader looked like the picture of health.  What he really looked like was the picture of good Photoshopping, though. French magazine L'Express later exposed the photo as a fraud by uncovering the original, which showed Sarkozy with sizable love handles hanging over his shorts. Although the incident cause a minor stir, it's easy to see why Paris Match would be a bit gun-shy about embarrassing Sarkozy; the previous year he supposedly got an editor fired following the publication of pictures of Cecilia and a boyfriend apartment shopping.

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10 Memorable Neil deGrasse Tyson Quotes
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Neil deGrasse Tyson is America's preeminent badass astrophysicist. He's a passionate advocate for science, NASA, and education. He's also well-known for a little incident involving Pluto. And the man holds nearly 20 honorary doctorates (in addition to his real one). In honor of his 59th birthday, here are 10 of our favorite Neil deGrasse Tyson quotes.

1. ON SCIENCE

"The good thing about science is that it's true whether or not you believe in it."
—From Real Time with Bill Maher.

2. ON NASA FUNDING

"As a fraction of your tax dollar today, what is the total cost of all spaceborne telescopes, planetary probes, the rovers on Mars, the International Space Station, the space shuttle, telescopes yet to orbit, and missions yet to fly?' Answer: one-half of one percent of each tax dollar. Half a penny. I’d prefer it were more: perhaps two cents on the dollar. Even during the storied Apollo era, peak NASA spending amounted to little more than four cents on the tax dollar." 
—From Space Chronicles

3. ON GOD AND HURRICANES

"Once upon a time, people identified the god Neptune as the source of storms at sea. Today we call these storms hurricanes ... The only people who still call hurricanes acts of God are the people who write insurance forms."
—From Death by Black Hole

4. ON THE BENEFITS OF TECHNOLOGY INVENTED FOR USE IN SPACE

"Countless women are alive today because of ideas stimulated by a design flaw in the Hubble Space Telescope." (Editor's note: technology used to repair the Hubble Space Telescope's optical problems led to improved technology for breast cancer detection.)
—From Space Chronicles

5. ON THE DEMOTION OF PLUTO FROM PLANET STATUS 

PBS

"I knew Pluto was popular among elementary schoolkids, but I had no idea they would mobilize into a 'Save Pluto' campaign. I now have a drawer full of hate letters from hundreds of elementary schoolchildren (with supportive cover letters from their science teachers) pleading with me to reverse my stance on Pluto. The file includes a photograph of the entire third grade of a school posing on their front steps and holding up a banner proclaiming, 'Dr. Tyson—Pluto is a Planet!'"
—From The Sky Is Not the Limit

6. ON JAMES CAMERON'S TITANIC

"In [Titanic], the stars above the ship bear no correspondence to any constellations in a real sky. Worse yet, while the heroine bobs ... we are treated to her view of this Hollywood sky—one where the stars on the right half of the scene trace the mirror image of the stars in the left half. How lazy can you get?"
—From Death by Black Hole

7. ON DEATH BY ASTEROID

"On Friday the 13th, April 2029, an asteroid large enough to fill the Rose Bowl as though it were an egg cup will fly so close to Earth that it will dip below the altitude of our communication satellites. We did not name this asteroid Bambi. Instead, we named it Apophis, after the Egyptian god of darkness and death."
—From Space Chronicles

8. ON THE MOTIVATIONS BEHIND AMERICA'S MOONSHOT

"[L]et us not fool ourselves into thinking we went to the Moon because we are pioneers, or discoverers, or adventurers. We went to the Moon because it was the militaristically expedient thing to do."
—From The Sky Is Not the Limit

9. ON INTELLIGENT LIFE (OR THE LACK THEREOF)

Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life.
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/n/neildegras615117.html
Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life.
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/n/neildegras615117.html

"Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life."

10. PRACTICAL ADVICE IN THE EVENT OF ALIEN CONTACT 

A still from Steven Spielberg's E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
Universal Studios
"[I]f an alien lands on your front lawn and extends an appendage as a gesture of greeting, before you get friendly, toss it an eightball. If the appendage explodes, then the alien was probably made of antimatter. If not, then you can proceed to take it to your leader."
—From Death by Black Hole
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40 Fun Facts About Sesame Street
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Now in its 47th season, Sesame Street is one of television's most iconic programs—and it's not just for kids. We're big fans of the Street, and to prove it, here are some of our favorite Sesame facts from previous stories and our Amazing Fact Generator.

Sesame Workshop

1. Oscar the Grouch used to be orange. Jim Henson decided to make him green before season two.

2. How did Oscar explain the color change? He said he went on vacation to the very damp Swamp Mushy Muddy and turned green overnight.

3. During a 2004 episode, Cookie Monster said that before he started eating cookies, his name was Sid.

4. In 1980, C-3PO and R2-D2 visited Sesame Street. They played games, sang songs, and R2-D2 fell in love with a fire hydrant.

5. Mr. Snuffleupagus has a first name—Aloysius

6. Ralph Nader stopped by in 1988 and sang "a consumer advocate is a person in your neighborhood."

7. Caroll Spinney said he based Oscar's voice on a cab driver from the Bronx who brought him to the audition.

8. In 1970, Ernie reached #16 on the Billboard Hot 100 with the timeless hit "Rubber Duckie."

9. One of Count von Count's lady friends is Countess von Backwards, who's also obsessed with counting but likes to do it backwards.

10. Sesame Street made its Afghanistan debut in 2011 with Baghch-e-Simsim (Sesame Garden). Big Bird, Grover and Elmo are involved.

11. According to Muppet Wiki, Oscar the Grouch and Count von Count were minimized on Baghch-e-Simsim "due to cultural taboos against trash and vampirism."

12. Before Giancarlo Esposito was Breaking Bad's super intense Gus Fring, he played Big Bird's camp counselor Mickey in 1982.

13. Thankfully, those episodes are available on YouTube.

14. How big is Big Bird? 8'2". (Pictured with First Lady Pat Nixon.)

15. In 2002, the South African version (Takalani Sesame) added an HIV-positive Muppet named Kami.

16. Six Republicans on the House Commerce Committee wrote a letter to PBS president Pat Mitchell warning that Kami was not appropriate for American children, and reminded Mitchell that their committee controlled PBS' funding.

17. Sesame Street's resident game show host Guy Smiley was using a pseudonym. His real name was Bernie Liederkrantz.

18. Bert and Ernie have been getting questioned about their sexuality for years. Ernie himself, as performed by Steve Whitmere, has weighed in: “All that stuff about me and Bert? It’s not true. We’re both very happy, but we’re not gay,”

19. A few years later, Bert (as performed by Eric Jacobson) answered the same question by saying, “No, no. In fact, sometimes we are not even friends; he can be a pain in the neck.”

20. In the first season, both Superman and Batman appeared in short cartoons produced by Filmation. In one clip, Batman told Bert and Ernie to stop arguing and take turns choosing what’s on TV.

21. In another segment, Superman battled a giant chimp.

22. Telly was originally "Television Monster," a TV-obsessed Muppet whose eyes whirled around as he watched.

23. According to Sesame Workshop, Elmo is the only non-human to testify before Congress.

24. He lobbied for more funding for music education, so that "when Elmo goes to school, there will be the instruments to play."

25. In the early 1990s, soon after Jim Henson’s passing, a rumor circulated that Ernie would be killed off in order to teach children about death, as they'd done with Mr. Hooper.

26. According to Snopes, the rumor may have spread thanks to New Hampshire college student, Michael Tabor, who convinced his graduating class to wear “Save Ernie” beanies and sign a petition to persuade Sesame Workshop to let Ernie live.

27. By the time Tabor was corrected, the newspapers had already picked up the story.

28. Sesame Street’s Executive Producer Carol-Lynn Parente joined Sesame Workshop as a production assistant and has worked her way to the top.

29. Originally, Count von Count was more sinister. He could hypnotize and stun people.

30. According to Sesame Workshop, all Sesame Street's main Muppets have four fingers except Cookie Monster, who has five.

31. The episode with Mr. Hooper's funeral aired on Thanksgiving Day in 1983. That date was chosen because families were more likely to be together at that time, in case kids had questions or needed emotional support.

32. Mr. Hooper’s first name was Harold.

33. Big Bird sang "Bein' Green" at Jim Henson's memorial service.

34. As Chris Higgins put it, the performance was "devastating."

35. Oscar's Israeli counterpart is Moishe Oofnik, whose last name means “grouch” in Hebrew.

36. Nigeria's version of Cookie Monster eats yams. His catchphrase: "ME WANT YAM!"

37. Sesame's Roosevelt Franklin ran a school, where he spoke in scat and taught about Africa. Some parents hated him, so in 1975 he got the boot, only to inspire Gob Bluth’s racist puppet Franklin on Arrested Development 28 years later.

38. Our good friend and contributor Eddie Deezen was the voice of Donnie Dodo in the 1985 classic Follow That Bird.

39. Cookie Monster evolved from The Wheel-Stealer—a snack-pilfering puppet Jim Henson created to promote Wheels, Crowns and Flutes in the 1960s.

40. This puppet later was seen eating a computer in an IBM training film and on The Ed Sullivan Show.

Thanks to Stacy Conradt, Joe Hennes, Drew Toal, and Chris Higgins for their previous Sesame coverage!

An earlier version of this article appeared in 2012.

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