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5 Famous Filibusters

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Getty Images

On Wednesday, after a mere 13 hours, Senator Rand Paul ended his filibuster against the nomination of John Brennan for CIA director. While the thought of more than half a day of nonstop speaking may make the glossophobes among us (consider my hand raised) blanch, it’s just a drop in the bucket for filibusterers. Here are five of the most famous filibusters in history—all of which are hours longer than Paul’s baker's dozen.

1. Strom Thurmond, 1957

Mother Jones

At 24 hours and 18 minutes, Sen. Strom Thurmond still holds the record for the longest uninterrupted filibuster, and for good reason: he came prepared. See, the filibusterer can’t leave the floor for any reason, not even a bathroom break. So to thwart his bladder, Thurmond took advance steam baths to sweat out all excess fluids, and then made an intern stand by with a bucket during the filibuster, just in case.

So what was the offending bill that Strom felt so strongly about? The Civil Rights Act of 1957. It passed anyway.

2. Huey Long, 1935

Huey Long of Louisiana was the master of the filibuster, reading everything from Shakespeare to recipes just to hear the sound of his own voice. His most famous oratory came in 1935, a ploy to require Senate confirmation for the National Recovery Administration’s senior employees. For 15.5 hours, Long analyzed every section of the Constitution, then noticed that a good chunk of the room was either asleep or totally zoned out. Long then suggested to Vice President John Nance Garner that everyone should be forced to pay attention, but Garner was unmoved, replying, “That would be unusual cruelty under the Bill of Rights.” The same night, Long started reading recipes for fried oysters and potlikkers. Finally, around 4 a.m., he could no longer ignore the call of nature and ended the filibuster.

3. Alfonse D'Amato, 1992

Senator Alfonse D’Amato of New York is no stranger to a lengthy filibuster—he falls just shy of Strom Thurmond when it comes to long-windedness, once talking for 23 hours and 30 minutes to delay debate on a 1986 military spending bill. He started reading the phone book during that one. But it’s D’Amato’s 15-hour filibuster in 1992 that kept his fellow lawmakers entertained: He broke into “South of the Border (Down Mexico Way)” as part of his talkathon to stop 800-plus jobs from being moved from New York to Mexico.

4. Bob La Follette, 1917

Library of Congress

Wisconsin Senator Robert “Fighting Bob” La Follette nearly incited a riot with his filibuster in 1917. With just 26 hours left of the 64th Congress, La Follette decided to filibuster to stop legislation that would arm merchant ships against the Germans. When the presiding officer opted to recognize only those who had opposed the filibuster, LaFollette lost his temper and came close to throwing a brass spittoon. As some senators circled around Fighting Bob to calm him down, Senator Harry Lane noticed that Senator Ollie James of Kentucky  was packing a pistol. He decided that if James tried to draw it, he would use his own smuggled weapon, a steel file, and stab James in the neck with its sharp point. Luckily, it didn’t come to that. After declaring that he would have to be removed from the floor—"I will continue on this floor until I complete my statement unless somebody carries me off, and I should like to see the man who will do it"—La Follette was finally convinced to take his seat. He was one of just six senators to vote against a declaration of war a few weeks later.

5. Bob La Follette, 1908

You'd think La Follette would have avoided the stall tactic entirely after flirting with a fatal filibuster in '08. As we saw earlier this week, filibustering requires food. So sometime around 1 a.m. on May 30, La Follette asked a page to get him a turkey sandwich and a glass of milk mixed with raw eggs for fortification. Though perhaps it was an honest mistake, the Senate website suggests that the kitchen staff, annoyed at having to work around the clock for the filibuster, purposely used eggs that had gone over. La Follette noticed that the drink tasted suspect after taking a big gulp, but the damage had been done: Shortly thereafter, the senator began feeling sick and started sweating profusely. He stepped down from filibustering around 7 a.m. after 18 hours and 23 minutes at the pulpit. Tests on the drink showed that its contents were so toxic that they would have killed anyone who drank the entire glass.

Courtesy of October Films
This Scientist's Idea of the 'Perfect' Human Body Is Kind of Terrifying
Courtesy of October Films
Courtesy of October Films

The perfect human body has the legs of an ostrich, the heart of a dog, and the eyes of an octopus, according to anatomist Alice Roberts. And it’s utterly terrifying.

With the help of anatomical artist Scott Eaton and special effects designer Sangeet Prabhaker, Roberts created a life-size replica of herself that fixes many design flaws inherent to the human body, Motherboard reports. Roberts unveiled the sculpture on April 23 at the Science Museum in London. On June 13, the BBC released a documentary about the project.

Among the flaws Roberts’s sculpture corrects are humans’ inferior ears, spine, and lungs. Roberts borrowed anatomy from reptiles, birds, and other mammals to create a Frankenstein-esque creature straight from the island of Dr. Moreau.

The sculpture of Alice 2.0, left, with Alice Roberts, right
Courtesy of October Films

The sculpture has legs like an ostrich because, as Roberts says on her website, the human knee is complex and prone to failure. Like humans, ostriches are bipedal, but they are far better runners. Bird-like lungs that keep air flowing in one direction, not two, make running and other aerobic activities easier for the perfect human to manage. And a chimpanzee’s sturdier spine and a dog’s heart (which has more connected arteries, leading to lower heart attack risk) make Roberts’s alternate self more resistant to injury and disease.

Roberts’s ideal human body also has skin like a frog that can change shades based on the environment, and large, bat-like ears that amplify sound. Roberts also fixed humans’ backwards retina, which produces a natural blind spot, by borrowing from octopus eye anatomy.

Perhaps most disturbing of all is the baby head poking out of the sculpture’s marsupial pouch. Roberts says marsupial pregnancy would be far easier on the human body and more convenient for parents on the go.

“This could be a human fit for the future,” Roberts says at the end of a trailer for her BBC documentary.

[h/t Motherboard]

Employees at Antarctica's McMurdo Station Are Throwing a Party for Pride Month

Employees at Antarctica's McMurdo Station are gearing up to celebrate Pride month in one of the world's harshest environments. On Saturday, June 9, the station will host what Hannah Valian, who deals with the center's recycling efforts, calls "one of the larger parties ever thrown" at the station.

McMurdo Station is an Antarctic research facility owned and operated by the United States. The station is more sparsely populated during Antarctica's colder autumn and winter seasons (which run from March to September), but employees tell us there's still a decent-sized LGBTQ scene to celebrate this June.

About 10 of the 133 people currently at McMurdo identify as LGBTQ, says Rachel Bowens-Rubin, a station laboratory assistant. Valian said the idea for a Pride celebration came up in May at one of the station's regular LGBTQ socials.

"Everyone got really excited about it," she tells Mental Floss via email. "So we ran with it."

Ten individuals are wearing coats while holding a rainbow-colored Pride flag. They are standing in snow with mountains in the distance.
"I hope when people see this photo they'll be reminded that LGBTQ people aren't limited to a place, a culture, or a climate," McMurdo's Evan Townsend tells Mental Floss. "We are important and valuable members of every community, even at the bottom of the world."
Courtesy of Shawn Waldron

Despite reports that this is the continent's first Pride party, none of the event's organizers are convinced this is the first Pride celebration Antarctica has seen. Sous chef Zach Morgan tells us he's been attending LGBTQ socials at McMurdo since 2009.

"The notion is certainly not new here," he says.

To Evan Townsend, a steward at the station, this weekend's Pride event is less a milestone and more a reflection of the history of queer acceptance in Antarctica.

"If anything," Townsend says, "recognition belongs to those who came to Antarctica as open members of the LGBTQ community during much less welcoming times in the recent past."

This week, though, McMurdo's employees only had positive things to say about the station's acceptance of LGBTQ people.

"I have always felt like a valued member of the community here," Morgan tells us in an email. "Most people I've met here have been open and supportive. I've never felt the need to hide myself here, and that's one of the reasons I love working here."

Saturday's celebration will feature a dance floor, photo booth, lip sync battles, live music, and a short skit explaining the history of Pride, Valian says.

"At the very least, I hope the attention our Pride celebration has garnered has inspired someone to go out and explore the world, even if they might feel different or afraid they might not fit in," Morgan says. "'Cause even on the most inhospitable place on Earth, there's still people who will love and respect you no matter who you are."


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