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Secrets of Past Elections Revealed! (1984)

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After every presidential election since 1984, Newsweek has printed the best gossipy stories, revealing all the whining and backbiting of America's greatest spectacle. Linda Rodriguez has gone through Newsweek's archives to pick out some memorable moments from recent elections, and we'll be posting her stories throughout the week.

The 1984 election had all the makings of an historic moment. We had the first candidate of color to go as far as the Rev. Jesse Jackson did, and the first woman to be nominated vice president. But in the end, a recovering economy and a sense that America was entering a kind of golden era of world power and influence kept voters supporting President Ronald Reagan, who, despite being the oldest president in history, offered hope and vision for one more term. In 1984, a Gallup Poll found that roughly 50 percent of Americans felt satisfied with the direction their country was taking "“ and you can't argue with those kinds of numbers. Reagan won 49 states in a 525-13 electoral college thumping.

(As an aside, this was an historic election, but it was not the first time in history that a woman and a black man were part of the quest for the presidency "“ in 1872, a suffragette Victoria Woodhull was nominated by the Equal Rights Party. Her running mate? Frederick Douglass.)

The Gipper was sentimental

Ronald Reagan had become incredibly sentimental in his old age, despite his decidedly unsentimental economic policies: He wrote letters and sometimes checks to strangers whose stories he'd seen on 60 Minutes; while staying at Camp David, he'd gather nuts to bring back to White House squirrels; once, after reading a newspaper article about starving deer in Utah, he sent a $100 check to a fund to save them. He even cried when his team showed him an 18-minute long infomercial about him, specifically the part showing him eulogizing the men who had fallen at Normandy on D-Day.

Mondale wimps out

Walter "Fritz" Mondale was extraordinarily cautious and plagued by the Wimp Factor. Once, during his 1976 campaign, Mondale ate an ice cream cone with a knife and fork rather than risk a shot of him with ice cream on his chin. That kind of an image dogged Mondale throughout his 1984 campaign.

Things didn't tend to go well for Mondale in general. Once, while on the campaign stump in New York, he and running mate Geraldine Ferraro found themselves waving and smiling at an empty avenue in Manhattan. The candidates had shown up early for a Labor Day event "“ a little too early, because no one was there.

It's in the stars

Throughout Reagan's political career, Nancy Reagan's role was a large one. She made decisions about Reagan's workload, vetted his evening briefings, and even controlled his television appearances "“ the last on the advice of her astrologer. Nancy routinely changed the president's television appearances so that they would coincide with more auspicious star and planetary alignments.

Jesse Jackson can cure cancer

A well-worn tale around the Jackson camp was that during a rally in Virginia, a terminal cancer patient had asked to be unplugged from his life support and taken to Rev. Jesse Jackson's rally, so that he could see the candidate once before he died. According to the story, after the rally, the man's cancer had gone into remission. Jackson's run for the Democratic nomination was so historic and had made him something of a star; one of Jackson's advisors claimed that it was as if the candidate were Michael, Reggie and Jesse Jackson all in one. Of course, many Jewish Americans didn't feel this way "“ earlier in his candidacy, Jackson referred to Jews as "Hymies" and to New York as "Hymietown" during a chat with a Washington Post reporter.

The signature moment

Reagan's underwhelming performance in the first debate led some to believe that, at 73, he was too old for the rigors of the presidency. But in the second (and final) debate, Reagan zinged Mondale with the soundbite that will be replayed before every presidential debate for as long as there are presidential debates:

Tomorrow: 1988

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Fisherman Catches Rare Blue Lobster, Donates It to Science
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Live lobsters caught off the New England coast are typically brown, olive-green, or gray—which is why one New Hampshire fisherman was stunned when he snagged a blue one in mid-July.

As The Independent reports, Greg Ward, from Rye, New Hampshire, discovered the unusual lobster while examining his catch near the New Hampshire-Maine border. Ward initially thought the pale crustacean was an albino lobster, which some experts estimate to be a one-in-100-million discovery. However, a closer inspection revealed that the lobster's hard shell was blue and cream.

"This one was not all the way white and not all the way blue," Ward told The Portsmouth Herald. "I've never seen anything like it."

While not as rare as an albino lobster, blue lobsters are still a famously elusive catch: It's said that the odds of their occurrence are an estimated one in two million, although nobody knows the exact numbers.

Instead of eating the blue lobster, Ward decided to donate it to the Seacoast Science Center in Rye. There, it will be studied and displayed in a lobster tank with other unusually colored critters, including a second blue lobster, a bright orange lobster, and a calico-spotted lobster.

[h/t The Telegraph]

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Courtesy Murdoch University
Australian Scientists Discover First New Species of Sunfish in 125 Years
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Courtesy Murdoch University

Scientists have pinpointed a whole new species of the largest bony fish in the world, the massive sunfish, as we learned from Smithsonian magazine. It's the first new species of sunfish proposed in more than 125 years.

As the researchers report in the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, the genetic differences between the newly named hoodwinker sunfish (Mola tecta) and its other sunfish brethren was confirmed by data on 27 different samples of the species collected over the course of three years. Since sunfish are so massive—the biggest can weigh as much as 5000 pounds—they pose a challenge to preserve and store, even for museums with large research collections. Lead author Marianne Nyegaard of Murdoch University in Australia traveled thousands of miles to find and collected genetic data on sunfish stranded on beaches. At one point, she was asked if she would be bringing her own crane to collect one.

Nyegaard also went back through scientific literature dating back to the 1500s, sorting through descriptions of sea monsters and mermen to see if any of the documentation sounded like observations of the hoodwinker. "We retraced the steps of early naturalists and taxonomists to understand how such a large fish could have evaded discovery all this time," she said in a press statement. "Overall, we felt science had been repeatedly tricked by this cheeky species, which is why we named it the 'hoodwinker.'"

Japanese researchers first detected genetic differences between previously known sunfish and a new, unknown species 10 years ago, and this confirms the existence of a whole different type from species like the Mola mola or Mola ramsayi.

Mola tecta looks a little different from other sunfish, with a more slender body. As it grows, it doesn't develop the protruding snout or bumps that other sunfish exhibit. Similarly to the others, though, it can reach a length of 8 feet or more. 

Based on the stomach contents of some of the specimens studied, the hoodwinker likely feeds on salps, a jellyfish-like creature that it probably chomps on (yes, sunfish have teeth) during deep dives. The species has been found near New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, and southern Chile.

[h/t Smithsonian]


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