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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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Big Questions
Why Does Turkey Make You Tired?
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iStock

Why do people have such a hard time staying awake after Thanksgiving dinner? Most people blame tryptophan, but that's not really the main culprit. And what is tryptophan, anyway?

Tryptophan is an amino acid that the body uses in the processes of making vitamin B3 and serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps regulate sleep. It can't be produced by our bodies, so we need to get it through our diet. From which foods, exactly? Turkey, of course, but also other meats, chocolate, bananas, mangoes, dairy products, eggs, chickpeas, peanuts, and a slew of other foods. Some of these foods, like cheddar cheese, have more tryptophan per gram than turkey. Tryptophan doesn't have much of an impact unless it's taken on an empty stomach and in an amount larger than what we're getting from our drumstick. So why does turkey get the rap as a one-way ticket to a nap?

The urge to snooze is more the fault of the average Thanksgiving meal and all the food and booze that go with it. Here are a few things that play into the nap factor:

Fats: That turkey skin is delicious, but fats take a lot of energy to digest, so the body redirects blood to the digestive system. Reduced blood flow in the rest of the body means reduced energy.

Alcohol: What Homer Simpson called the cause of—and solution to—all of life's problems is also a central nervous system depressant.

Overeating: Same deal as fats. It takes a lot of energy to digest a big feast (the average Thanksgiving meal contains 3000 calories and 229 grams of fat), so blood is sent to the digestive process system, leaving the brain a little tired.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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Space
More Details Emerge About 'Oumuamua, Earth's First-Recorded Interstellar Visitor
 NASA/JPL-Caltech
NASA/JPL-Caltech

In October, scientists using the University of Hawaii's Pan-STARRS 1 telescope sighted something extraordinary: Earth's first confirmed interstellar visitor. Originally called A/2017 U1, the once-mysterious object has a new name—'Oumuamua, according to Scientific American—and researchers continue to learn more about its physical properties. Now, a team from the University of Hawaii's Institute of Astronomy has published a detailed report of what they know so far in Nature.

Fittingly, "'Oumuamua" is Hawaiian for "a messenger from afar arriving first." 'Oumuamua's astronomical designation is 1I/2017 U1. The "I" in 1I/2017 stands for "interstellar." Until now, objects similar to 'Oumuamua were always given "C" and "A" names, which stand for either comet or asteroid. New observations have researchers concluding that 'Oumuamua is unusual for more than its far-flung origins.

It's a cigar-shaped object 10 times longer than it is wide, stretching to a half-mile long. It's also reddish in color, and is similar in some ways to some asteroids in own solar system, the BBC reports. But it's much faster, zipping through our system, and has a totally different orbit from any of those objects.

After initial indecision about whether the object was a comet or an asteroid, the researchers now believe it's an asteroid. Long ago, it might have hurtled from an unknown star system into our own.

'Oumuamua may provide astronomers with new insights into how stars and planets form. The 750,000 asteroids we know of are leftovers from the formation of our solar system, trapped by the Sun's gravity. But what if, billions of years ago, other objects escaped? 'Oumuamua shows us that it's possible; perhaps there are bits and pieces from the early years of our solar system currently visiting other stars.

The researchers say it's surprising that 'Oumuamua is an asteroid instead of a comet, given that in the Oort Cloud—an icy bubble of debris thought to surround our solar system—comets are predicted to outnumber asteroids 200 to 1 and perhaps even as high as 10,000 to 1. If our own solar system is any indication, it's more likely that a comet would take off before an asteroid would.

So where did 'Oumuamua come from? That's still unknown. It's possible it could've been bumped into our realm by a close encounter with a planet—either a smaller, nearby one, or a larger, farther one. If that's the case, the planet remains to be discovered. They believe it's more likely that 'Oumuamua was ejected from a young stellar system, location unknown. And yet, they write, "the possibility that 'Oumuamua has been orbiting the galaxy for billions of years cannot be ruled out."

As for where it's headed, The Atlantic's Marina Koren notes, "It will pass the orbit of Jupiter next May, then Neptune in 2022, and Pluto in 2024. By 2025, it will coast beyond the outer edge of the Kuiper Belt, a field of icy and rocky objects."

Last week, University of Wisconsin–Madison astronomer Ralf Kotulla and scientists from UCLA and the National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO) used the WIYN Telescope on Kitt Peak, Arizona, to take some of the first pictures of 'Oumuamua. You can check them out below.

Images of an interloper from beyond the solar system — an asteroid or a comet — were captured on Oct. 27 by the 3.5-meter WIYN Telescope on Kitt Peak, Ariz.
Images of 'Oumuamua—an asteroid or a comet—were captured on October 27.
WIYN OBSERVATORY/RALF KOTULLA

U1 spotted whizzing through the Solar System in images taken with the WIYN telescope. The faint streaks are background stars. The green circles highlight the position of U1 in each image. In these images U1 is about 10 million times fainter than the faint
The green circles highlight the position of U1 in each image against faint streaks of background stars. In these images, U1 is about 10 million times fainter than the faintest visible stars.
R. Kotulla (University of Wisconsin) & WIYN/NOAO/AURA/NSF

Color image of U1, compiled from observations taken through filters centered at 4750A, 6250A, and 7500A.
Color image of U1.
R. Kotulla (University of Wisconsin) & WIYN/NOAO/AURA/NSF

Editor's note: This story has been updated.

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