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Secrets of Past Elections Revealed! (1988)

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 Year of the Handler

There were more than a few candidates littering the field in 1988, but in the end, it came to two men, neither of whom seemed to know exactly why they were running or why they should win. A Newsweek poll around Election Day found that 74 percent of the respondents believed that the candidates were just saying what they had to say to get elected. Not exactly a resounding vote of confidence. Newsweek described the election year as the year of the handler, because it was the candidates' handlers and strategists "“ a breed of professional approaching an apogee of influence in the 1988 election "“ who got them through the campaign more than anything else. It was dull, it was depressing "“ where were our bright lights, our glorious leaders, or even someone who seemed like they actually wanted the job? In the end, we got George Bush.

Bad news is better than no news

George Bush's campaign ran largely on proving a negative: It wasn't that Bush was the best man for the job, it was that he was far better than Governor Michael Dukakis. This strategy was primarily conveyed through television ads that were the very definition of attack campaigning, so much so that Bush himself became uncomfortable. But after some of the more mean-spirited ads were pulled, the evening news stopped reporting on the campaign. The ads were back up and running just four days after they were pulled.

There was one ad, however, that the Bush camp decided not to run (or even produce), one that the campaign called "Bestiality." While Dukakis was still a Massachusetts legislator, he allowed his name to appear on a bill repealing an old law that forbade "unnatural" sex acts. The ad, as the Bush team proposed, would simply feature the words "In 1970, Governor Michael Dukakis introduced legislation in Massachusetts to repeal the ban on sodomy and bestiality." Those last words would be accompanied by frightened mooing and baaing.

While the ad never saw the light of day, it was a constant source of amusement to the Bush campaign. Even Bush himself joked about it: Once, when his pet dog wandered into a strategy meeting, Bush looked at him and said, "You're the reason I'm running. We've got to keep those people away from you."

Inheriting the Reagan Regime

By this time, President Ronald Reagan was absolutely winding down: Aides said that the best way to talk to him about an issue of policy was to open with a joke, or state the problem clearly "“ and loudly "“ up front. At the open of 1988, he sat down with a group of advisors and said, "Say, do you know one of the benefits of having Alzheimer's disease? You get to meet new friends every day." Reagan would regularly fall asleep during meetings with Secretary of State George P. Shultz (whom White House staffers called "Mr. Potato Head"), or over his Monday issues lunch, or in issues briefings. This was the state of the White House during the 1988 election.

Say what, now?

Where George W. Bush is well known for his ability to mangle the English language, it's just possible that he got it from his father. One of George H.W. Bush's most memorable and most public verbal stumbles? The time he tried to say that he and President Reagan had had some "setbacks" and ended up saying "We've had sex."

Then there was the time, straying from his script, when he claimed he was for "anti-bigotry, anti-Semitism, anti-racism." Or when, in a speech, he accidentally moved Pearl Harbor Day from December to September.

Temper tantrum time

Michael Dukakis had mostly traveled from campaign stop to campaign stop aboard the affectionately named "Sky Pig," a slow and decidedly unpresidential jet plane. But when the campaign moved to replace it, bundling Dukakis aboard a faster, bigger jet, he got upset. He got even more upset when he learned that the plan didn't stock his favorite cereal "“ "Where's my Raisin Bran?" he demanded.

The next day, the Sky Pig and its Raisin Bran came back.

The Sky Pig temper tantrum was just one of many, according to Dukakis aides. One aide claimed that Dukakis had only two emotions: Mad and madder.

The search for Spikey

The night before one of the big debates between Bush and Dukakis, the Massachusetts governor was sweating bullets up in Boston and had hit the books hard. Bush, on the other hand, had spent the night looking for Spikey. Spikey was a stuffed toy belonging to one of Bush's granddaughters and, it seemed, had gone missing. The little girl couldn't sleep without Spikey, so Bush gamely dawned a raincoat and spent the night searching for Spikey in the shrubs outside. Spikey didn't materialize until the next morning "“ Bush made up a story about Spikey having a sleepover somewhere else "“ but the search left Bush tired, developing a cold, and unable to prepare for the next day's debate. Even though Dukakis essentially won the debate, Bush surged ahead in the polls.

Previously: 1984

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13 Fascinating Facts About Nina Simone
Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Nina Simone, who would’ve celebrated her 85th birthday today, was known for using her musical platform to speak out. “I think women play a major part in opening the doors for better understanding around the world,” the “Strange Fruit” songstress once said. Though she chose to keep her personal life shrouded in secrecy, these facts grant VIP access into a life well-lived and the music that still lives on.

1. NINA SIMONE WAS HER STAGE NAME.

The singer was born as Eunice Waymon on February 21, 1933. But by age 21, the North Carolina native was going by a different name at her nightly Atlantic City gig: Nina Simone. She hoped that adopting a different name would keep her mother from finding out about her performances. “Nina” was her boyfriend’s nickname for her at the time. “Simone” was inspired by Simone Signoret, an actress that the singer admired.

2. SHE HAD HUMBLE BEGINNINGS.


Getty Images

There's a reason that much of the singer's music had gospel-like sounds. Simone—the daughter of a Methodist minister and a handyman—was raised in the church and started playing the piano by ear at age 3. She got her start in her hometown of Tryon, North Carolina, where she played gospel hymns and classical music at Old St. Luke’s CME, the church where her mother ministered. After Simone died on April 21, 2003, she was memorialized at the same sanctuary.

3. SHE WAS BOOK SMART...

Simone, who graduated valedictorian of her high school class, studied at the prestigious Julliard School of Music for a brief period of time before applying to Philadelphia’s Curtis Institute of Music. Unfortunately, Simone was denied admission. For years, she maintained that her race was the reason behind the rejection. But a Curtis faculty member, Vladimir Sokoloff, has gone on record to say that her skin color wasn’t a factor. “It had nothing to do with her…background,” he said in 1992. But Simone ended up getting the last laugh: Two days before her death, the school awarded her an honorary degree.

4. ... WITH DEGREES TO PROVE IT.

Simone—who preferred to be called “doctor Nina Simone”—was also awarded two other honorary degrees, from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Malcolm X College.

5. HER CAREER WAS ROOTED IN ACTIVISM.

A photo of Nina Simone circa 1969

Gerrit de Bruin

At the age of 12, Simone refused to play at a church revival because her parents had to sit at the back of the hall. From then on, Simone used her art to take a stand. Many of her songs in the '60s, including “Mississippi Goddamn,” “Why (The King of Love Is Dead),” and “Young, Gifted and Black,” addressed the rampant racial injustices of that era.

Unfortunately, her activism wasn't always welcome. Her popularity diminished; venues didn’t invite her to perform, and radio stations didn’t play her songs. But she pressed on—even after the Civil Rights Movement. In 1997, Simone told Interview Magazine that she addressed her songs to the third world. In her own words: “I’m a real rebel with a cause.”

6. ONE OF HER MOST FAMOUS SONGS WAS BANNED.

Mississippi Goddam,” her 1964 anthem, only took her 20 minutes to an hour to write, according to legend—but it made an impact that still stands the test of time. When she wrote it, Simone had been fed up with the country’s racial unrest. Medger Evers, a Mississippi-born civil rights activist, was assassinated in his home state in 1963. That same year, the Ku Klux Klan bombed a Birmingham Baptist church and as a result, four young black girls were killed. Simone took to her notebook and piano to express her sentiments.

“Alabama's gotten me so upset/Tennessee made me lose my rest/And everybody knows about Mississippi Goddam,” she sang.

Some say that the song was banned in Southern radio stations because “goddam” was in the title. But others argue that the subject matter is what caused the stations to return the records cracked in half.

7. SHE NEVER HAD A NUMBER ONE HIT.

Nina Simone released over 40 albums during her decades-spanning career including studio albums, live versions, and compilations, and scored 15 Grammy nominations. But her highest-charting (and her first) hit, “I Loves You, Porgy,” peaked at #2 on the U.S. R&B charts in 1959. Still, her music would go on to influence legendary singers like Roberta Flack and Aretha Franklin.

8. SHE USED HER STYLE TO MAKE A STATEMENT.

Head wraps, bold jewelry, and floor-skimming sheaths were all part of Simone’s stylish rotation. In 1967, she wore the same black crochet fishnet jumpsuit with flesh-colored lining for the entire year. Not only did it give off the illusion of her being naked, but “I wanted people to remember me looking a certain way,” she said. “It made it easier for me.”

9. SHE HAD MANY HOMES.

New York City, Liberia, Barbados, England, Belgium, France, Switzerland, and the Netherlands were all places that Simone called home. She died at her home in Southern France, and her ashes were scattered in several African countries.

10. SHE HAD A FAMOUS INNER CIRCLE.

During the late '60s, Simone and her second husband Andrew Stroud lived next to Malcolm X and his family in Mount Vernon, New York. He wasn't her only famous pal. Simone was very close with playwright Lorraine Hansberry. After Hansberry’s death, Simone penned “To Be Young, Gifted and Black” in her honor, a tribute to Hansberry's play of the same title. Simone even struck up a brief friendship with David Bowie in the mid-1970s, who called her every night for a month to offer his advice and support.

11. YOU CAN STILL VISIT SIMONE IN HER HOMETOWN.

Photo of Nina Simone
Amazing Nina Documentary Film, LLC, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

In 2010, an 8-foot sculpture of Eunice Waymon was erected in her hometown of Tryon, North Carolina. Her likeness stands tall in Nina Simone Plaza, where she’s seated and playing an eternal song on a keyboard that floats in midair. Her daughter, Lisa Simone Kelly, gave sculptor Zenos Frudakis some of Simone’s ashes to weld into the sculpture’s bronze heart. "It's not something very often done, but I thought it was part of the idea of bringing her home," Frudakis said.

12. YOU'VE PROBABLY HEARD HER MUSIC IN RECENT HITS.

Rihanna sang a few verses of Simone’s “Do What You Gotta Do” on Kanye West’s The Life of Pablo. He’s clearly a superfan: “Blood on the Leaves” and his duet with Jay Z, “New Day,” feature Simone samples as well, along with Lil’ Wayne’s “Dontgetit,” Common’s “Misunderstood” and a host of other tracks.

13. HER MUSIC IS STILL BEING PERFORMED.

Nina Revisited… A Tribute to Nina Simone was released along with the Netflix documentary in 2015. On the album, Lauryn Hill, Jazmine Sullivan, Usher, Alice Smith, and more paid tribute to the legend by performing covers of 16 of her most famous tracks.

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Animals
Watch the First-Ever Footage of a Baby Dumbo Octopus
NOAA, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
NOAA, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Dumbo octopuses are named for the elephant-ear-like fins they use to navigate the deep sea, but until recently, when and how they developed those floppy appendages were a mystery. Now, for the first time, researchers have caught a newborn Dumbo octopus on tape. As reported in the journal Current Biology, they discovered that the creatures are equipped with the fins from the moment they hatch.

Study co-author Tim Shank, a researcher at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts, spotted the octopus in 2005. During a research expedition in the North Atlantic, one of the remotely operated vehicles he was working with collected several coral branches with something strange attached to them. It looked like a bunch of sandy-colored golf balls at first, but then he realized it was an egg sac.

He and his fellow researchers eventually classified the hatchling that emerged as a member of the genus Grimpoteuthis. In other words, it was a Dumbo octopus, though they couldn't determine the exact species. But you wouldn't need a biology degree to spot its resemblance to Disney's famous elephant, as you can see in the video below.

The octopus hatched with a set of functional fins that allowed it to swim around and hunt right away, and an MRI scan revealed fully-developed internal organs and a complex nervous system. As the researchers wrote in their study, Dumbo octopuses enter the world as "competent juveniles" ready to jump straight into adult life.

Grimpoteuthis spends its life in the deep ocean, which makes it difficult to study. Scientists hope the newly-reported findings will make it easier to identify Grimpoteuthis eggs and hatchlings for future research.

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