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5 of History's Worst Perpetrators of Corruption

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This week, Alaska Senator Ted Stevens was convicted of seven corruption charges, which complicates his bid for reelection next week. But as this list of crooked leaders proves, power and corruption are old friends.

1. Good Ol' Boss Tweed

The undisputed poster child for graft and greed in American politics, Boss William Tweed raised corruption to an art form. As a member of New York's Tammany Hall, Tweed and his cronies, including Mayor Fernando Wood, ran New York in the Civil War era as their own private money factory. Tweed once bought 300 benches for $5 each, then sold them to the city for $600 a pop. And that's just the tip of it.


The building of City Hall was a clinic in graft: the city was charged $7,500 for every thermometer, $41,190 for each broom, and $5.7 million for furniture and carpets. One carpenter even received almost $361,000 for a single month's work. And although he was crooked as a dog's hind leg, Tweed does get a bit of credit from some historians for under­ taking many important projects that improved life in New York (albeit at enormous financial gain to himself). Tweed's illicit profits were said to be in the range of $200 million, and that was in the 1860s! The law eventually caught up with the Boss, though, and he died in prison in 1878.

2. President Grant's Cronies

US-Grant.jpgThe 18th president of the United States was a great war general. But he was less skilled at avoiding scandal. To be fair, it wasn't so much Grant himself as the cast of characters around him that caused all the trouble. Grant's period in office (1869"“1877) was marred by four ma­jor scandals: Crédit Mobilier, a railroad construction scandal during which the federal government and Union Pacific stockholders were bilked out of some $20 million; the Whis­key Ring, wherein over 100 Treasury Depart­ment officials were convicted of taking bribes and cutting deals for distillers; the Indian Ring, another scandal of bribes from compa­nies licensed to trade on Indian reservations; and Black Friday, a scheme involving Grant's brother­-in­-law that attempted to artificially inflate the price of gold. So, what's buried in Grant's Tomb? Let's just say a lot of dirty laundry.

3. The Entire Nation of Bangladesh?

bang.jpgWell, you have to be the best at something. The non-government watchdog group Trans­parency International repeatedly ranks Ban­gladesh near the top of the list of the world's most corrupt nations. You can barely walk a block in the capital of Dhakar without coming face-­to­-face with graft: you have to pay the postman to get your mail; bus drivers pay cops to let them drive their routes; victims of crime have to pay the cops to have someone arrested; doctors take bribes to dis­pense medicine; even meter readers get their palms greased for keeping energy bills low. It's estimated that 6% of the nation's GNP is spent on corruption. Not surprising in a place where the unemployment rate hovers around 70%.

4. The Less-Than-Honorable Judge Maloney

the-gavel.jpgIn the 1970s and '80s, the Cook County Circuit Court system based in Chicago was so corrupt and dirty that two federal investigations, Op­erations Greylord and Gambat, were under­taken to expose it. Lots of judges went to jail for their underhanded dealings, but the worst of the worst was the not-­so­-honorable Thomas J. Maloney. During the 13 years he spent on the bench (1977 to 1990), Maloney "fixed" as many as six murder trials, taking bribes from $10,000 to $100,000 from gangs to con­vict members of other gangs of murder or manslaughter. Eventually, the justice got his own justice as he was indicted and sentenced to 15 years and 9 months in prison. The fact is he's the only judge in Illinois history to be convicted of fixing a trial. Of course, there would have been another in the same Greylord operation, Judge Frank J. Wilson, but he blew his own brains out just before the Feds came a­-knocking.

5. Alexander the Waste

alex-vi.jpgSure, there have been some bad popes. With a list numbering 262 and counting, there are bound to be a few bad apples, right? But Alex­ander VI (reigned 1492"“1503) was the baddest apple of 'em all. A member of the Spanish branch of the powerful and corrupt Borgia family, Alexander bought and bribed his way onto the papal throne, and used it to gather wealth and women for himself and influence for his children. By some accounts he had as many as seven illegitimate children and car­ried on with numerous mistresses while he was pope. Alexander also made a fortune sell­ing indulgences, and married off his beautiful fair­haired daughter Lucrezia three times, each time to someone richer and more powerful. When the pope finally checked out, he was left to rot and turn purple in the Sistine Chapel, until his bloated corpse had to be stuffed and crammed into his coffin—a suit­ably rotten ending for a very rotten man.

This article was excerpted from Forbidden Knowledge: A Wickedly Smart Guide to History's Naughtiest Bits. You can pick up a copy in the mental_floss store.

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Little Baby's Ice Cream
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Food
Pizza and Cricket Cake Are Just Some of the Odd Flavors You'll Find at This Philadelphia Ice Cream Shop
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Little Baby's Ice Cream

Ice cream flavors can get pretty out-there, thanks to the growing number of creative scoop shops willing to take risks and broaden their customers’ horizons beyond chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry. Intrepid foodies can cool off with frozen treats that taste like horseradish, foie gras, and avocado, while Philadelphia's Little Baby’s Ice Cream is pushing the boundaries of taste with chilly offerings like everything bagel, Maryland BBQ, ranch, and cricket cake.

Cricket-flavored ice cream, created by Philadelphia-based Little Baby's Ice Cream
Little Baby's Ice Cream

Everything Bagel-flavored ice cream, created by Philadelphia-based Little Baby's Ice Cream
Little Baby's Ice Cream

As Lonely Planet News reports, Little Baby’s Ice Cream launched its first signature “oddball” ice cream—Earl Grey sriracha—in 2011. Since then, its rotating menu has only gotten quirkier. In addition to the aforementioned flavors, customers who swing by Little Baby’s this summer can even try pizza ice cream.

The store created the savory flavor in 2011, to celebrate neighborhood eatery Pizza Brain’s inclusion into Guinness World Records for its vast collection of pizza memorabilia. The savory, Italian-esque snack is made from ingredients like tomato, basil, oregano, salt, and garlic—and yes, it actually tastes like pizza, Little Baby’s co-owner Pete Angevine told Lonely Planet News.

Pizza-flavored ice cream, made by Philadelphia-based Little Baby's Ice Cream
Little Baby's Ice Cream

“Frequently, folks will see it on the menu and be incredulous, then be convinced to taste it, giggle, talk about how surprised they are that it really tastes just like pizza … and then order something else,” Angevine said. “That’s just fine. Just as often though, they’ll end up getting a pizza milkshake!”

Little Baby’s flagship location is in Philadelphia's East Kensington neighborhood, but customers can also sample their unconventional goods at additional outposts in West Philadelphia, Baltimore, and a pop-up stand in Washington, D.C.’s Union Market. Just make sure to bring along a sense of adventure, and to leave your preconceived notions of what ice cream should taste like at home.

[h/t Lonely Planet]

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Warby Parker
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Space
Warby Parker Is Giving Away Free Eclipse Glasses in August
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Warby Parker

When this year’s rare “all-American” total solar eclipse comes around on August 21, you’ll want to be prepared. Whether you’re chasing the eclipse to Kentucky or viewing it from your backyard, you’ll need a way to watch it safely. That means an eclipse filter over your telescope, or specially designed eclipse glasses.

For the latter, you can just show up at your nearest Warby Parker, and their eye experts will hand over a pair of eclipse glasses. The stores are giving out the free eye protectors throughout August. The company’s Nashville store is also having an eclipse party to view the celestial event on the day-of.

Get your glasses early, because you don’t want to miss out on this eclipse, which will cross the continental U.S. from Oregon to South Carolina. There are only so many total solar eclipses you’ll get to see in your lifetime, after all.

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