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Secrets of Past Elections Revealed! (1996)

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.

This election saw President Bill Clinton "“ on the heels of several big time scandals, including that whole Gennifer Flowers thing "“ soundly trounce former Senator Bob Dole, even after the senator resigned his position to demonstrate his commitment to the campaign. Texas businessman Ross Perot, who once described himself as "an albino monkey," ran again, this time with more sideshow antics than when he tried in 1992. In the end, Clinton became a second-termer "“ and went on to some even bigger scandals!

Unpredictable, that's Bob Dole

From the outset of his campaign, Bob Dole staffers routinely complained that they didn't know what Dole was going to say at a given speech until he said it, even after he had been carefully groomed, rehearsed, and coached. Dole seemed to take a petulant delight in off-the-cuff remarks "“ like accusing President Clinton of cheating at golf "“ or even flubbing his lines. Dole also liked to prepare for speeches while tanning on hotel roofs and eating chocolate ice cream.

The age factor

One of the biggest perceived differences between Bob Dole and President Bill Clinton was their respective ages. Clinton represented a younger generation, someone who could appeal to the recently named "soccer moms," while Bob Dole was from an era before America had even heard of soccer. When the press asked the two candidates what had been their respective favorite TV shows growing up, Clinton named Bonanza. Dole said TV hadn't been invented yet.

Down and on his way out

Bob Dole's campaign was broke "“ so broke that by the spring of 1996, the campaign was holding rallies in outdoor spaces in order to avoid renting a hall. That wasn't the worst of his troubles "“ after he resigned the senate in a bid to focus on his floundering campaign and to divorce himself from his Washington insider image, reporters started calling his campaign plane, "Citizen's Ship," the "Sinking Ship." Incidentally, the press plane had its own great name "“ the "Bullship."

Slogans are always better when they rhyme

One bumper sticker slogan batted around the Dole camp was luckily shot down: "Our goal, your soul, Bob Dole." Catchy.

Oops

By the time election night rolled around, Bob Dole had largely accepted defeat. Still, he wanted to make sure that California's votes were in and counted before he officially conceded the election. Even that was bungled, however, after a campaign staffer accidentally released Dole's concession statement, which was promptly picked up by all the major networks and reported. The campaign issued a retraction, though it might not have mattered at that point.

The dance of winners!

There was much celebrating in the Clinton camp the night before the election, after Clinton ended his final campaign speech of his elected career. Flying Air Force One back to Little Rock, Clinton entertained the troops by dancing the Macarena.

Previously: 1988, 1984, 1992

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Penn Vet Working Dog Center
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Stones, Bones, and Wrecks
New Program Trains Dogs to Sniff Out Art Smugglers
Penn Vet Working Dog Center
Penn Vet Working Dog Center

Soon, the dogs you see sniffing out contraband at airports may not be searching for drugs or smuggled Spanish ham. They might be looking for stolen treasures.

K-9 Artifact Finders, a new collaboration between New Hampshire-based cultural heritage law firm Red Arch and the University of Pennsylvania, is training dogs to root out stolen antiquities looted from archaeological sites and museums. The dogs would be stopping them at borders before the items can be sold elsewhere on the black market.

The illegal antiquities trade nets more than $3 billion per year around the world, and trafficking hits countries dealing with ongoing conflict, like Syria and Iraq today, particularly hard. By one estimate, around half a million artifacts were stolen from museums and archaeological sites throughout Iraq between 2003 and 2005 alone. (Famously, the craft-supply chain Hobby Lobby was fined $3 million in 2017 for buying thousands of ancient artifacts looted from Iraq.) In Syria, the Islamic State has been known to loot and sell ancient artifacts including statues, jewelry, and art to fund its operations.

But the problem spans across the world. Between 2007 and 2016, U.S. Customs and Border Control discovered more than 7800 cultural artifacts in the U.S. looted from 30 different countries.

A yellow Lab sniffs a metal cage designed to train dogs on scent detection.
Penn Vet Working Dog Center

K-9 Artifact Finders is the brainchild of Rick St. Hilaire, the executive director of Red Arch. His non-profit firm researches cultural heritage property law and preservation policy, including studying archaeological site looting and antiquities trafficking. Back in 2015, St. Hilaire was reading an article about a working dog trained to sniff out electronics that was able to find USB drives, SD cards, and other data storage devices. He wondered, if dogs could be trained to identify the scents of inorganic materials that make up electronics, could they be trained to sniff out ancient pottery?

To find out, St. Hilaire tells Mental Floss, he contacted the Penn Vet Working Dog Center, a research and training center for detection dogs. In December 2017, Red Arch, the Working Dog Center, and the Penn Museum (which is providing the artifacts to train the dogs) launched K-9 Artifact Finders, and in late January 2018, the five dogs selected for the project began their training, starting with learning the distinct smell of ancient pottery.

“Our theory is, it is a porous material that’s going to have a lot more odor than, say, a metal,” says Cindy Otto, the executive director of the Penn Vet Working Dog Center and the project’s principal investigator.

As you might imagine, museum curators may not be keen on exposing fragile ancient materials to four Labrador retrievers and a German shepherd, and the Working Dog Center didn’t want to take any risks with the Penn Museum’s priceless artifacts. So instead of letting the dogs have free rein to sniff the materials themselves, the project is using cotton balls. The researchers seal the artifacts (broken shards of Syrian pottery) in airtight bags with a cotton ball for 72 hours, then ask the dogs to find the cotton balls in the lab. They’re being trained to disregard the smell of the cotton ball itself, the smell of the bag it was stored in, and ideally, the smell of modern-day pottery, eventually being able to zero in on the smell that distinguishes ancient pottery specifically.

A dog looks out over the metal "pinhweel" training mechanism.
Penn Vet Working Dog Center

“The dogs are responding well,” Otto tells Mental Floss, explaining that the training program is at the stage of "exposing them to the odor and having them recognize it.”

The dogs involved in the project were chosen for their calm-but-curious demeanors and sensitive noses (one also works as a drug-detection dog when she’s not training on pottery). They had to be motivated enough to want to hunt down the cotton balls, but not aggressive or easily distracted.

Right now, the dogs train three days a week, and will continue to work on their pottery-detection skills for the first stage of the project, which the researchers expect will last for the next nine months. Depending on how the first phase of the training goes, the researchers hope to be able to then take the dogs out into the field to see if they can find the odor of ancient pottery in real-life situations, like in suitcases, rather than in a laboratory setting. Eventually, they also hope to train the dogs on other types of objects, and perhaps even pinpoint the chemical signatures that make artifacts smell distinct.

Pottery-sniffing dogs won’t be showing up at airport customs or on shipping docks soon, but one day, they could be as common as drug-sniffing canines. If dogs can detect low blood sugar or find a tiny USB drive hidden in a house, surely they can figure out if you’re smuggling a sculpture made thousands of years ago in your suitcase.

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