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The Senate’s Sweetest Secret

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Senate.gov

A U.S. senator can pull some pretty long hours on the floor initiating, passing, and enacting the laws that govern our nation, but the lawmakers have a secret that C-SPAN’s live broadcasts don’t reveal. In the farthest back row of the Senate Chamber, near an entrance for easy access, the Senate Candy Desk opens to reveal a drawer full of sweet treats for any legislator seeking a mid-session sugar rush.

The longstanding tradition of keeping a candy stash for snacking Senators began in 1965 with the start of California Senator George Murphy’s term. Though Murphy originally kept candy in his desk for his own benefit, after moving to a new desk in a more highly trafficked area of the Chamber, he opened up his stores to his colleagues. Murphy only stayed in office for a single term, and after his departure, the Senators banded together in one of the few genuinely bipartisan actions in American history to keep the sugar flowing. For the next 12 years, the three successors to the honor and privilege of presiding over the candy drawer stocked only hard candy—but fortunately, sweeter times lay ahead.

Over the succeeding years, the Senate’s secret remained under foil and cellophane wraps, until Slade Gorton(R-WA) outed the collective Congressional sweet tooth in 1985 by announcing to the press his occupancy of the desk, and his intention to “carry on the rich traditions started by Murphy.” We can assume he relished and excelled at the job, since he relinquished the desk to Arizona Senator John McCain for a mere two years before returning for a second tenure and restocking the drawer with “ample quantities” of candies proudly made in the state of Washington.

Current desk-holder Mark Kirk (R-IL) has a theory as to why the candy desk tradition continues to live on, a bipartisan gesture of goodwill even amid contentious two-party debates: “Senators, being older, can get kind of grumpy in the afternoon,” and naturally these elder statesmen of Congress could use a pick-me-up. They’re lucky to have Kirk filling the role of candyman; tradition dictates the desk should contain treats manufactured in the senator’s home state, and Kirk’s Illinois constituents include the Jelly Belly Candy Company, Wrigley’s, and Tootsie Roll Industries.

Worried about taxpayer funds going to keep our senators flush with chocolate? You’ll be pleased to know that the contents of the candy drawer are all donations coordinated by the National Confectioners Association and the Chocolate Manufacturers Association, who sent about 100 pounds of Hershey’s candy every three months to Pennsylvania Republican Rick Santorum during his tenure at the candy desk. How’s that for sweetening the pot?

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25 Benefits of Adopting a Rescue Dog
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According to the ASPCA, 3.3 million dogs enter shelters each year in the United States. Although that number has gone down since 2011 (from 3.9 million) there are still millions of dogs waiting in shelters for a forever home. October is Adopt a Shelter Dog Month; here are 25 benefits of adopting a shelter dog.

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How Urban Legends Like 'The Licked Hand' Are Born
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If you compare the scary stories you heard as a kid with those of your friends—even those who grew up across the country from you—you’ll probably hear some familiar tales. Maybe you tried to summon Bloody Mary by chanting her name in front of the mirror three times in a dark bathroom. Maybe you learned never to wonder what’s under a woman’s neck ribbon. Maybe you heard the one about the girl who feels her dog lick her hand in the middle of the night, only to wake up to find him hanging dead from the shower nozzle, the words “humans can lick too” written on the wall in the dog’s blood.

These ubiquitous, spooky folk tales exist everywhere, and a lot of them take surprisingly similar forms. How does a single story like the one often called “Humans Can Lick Too” or "The Licked Hand" make its way into every slumber party in America? Thrillist recently investigated the question with a few experts, finding that most of these stories have very deep roots.

In the case of The Licked Hand, its origins go back more than a century. In the 1990s, Snopes found that a similar motif dates back to an Englishman’s diary entry from 1871. In it, the diary keeper, Dearman Birchall, retold a story he heard at a party of a man whose wife woke him up in the middle of the night, urging him to go investigate what sounded like burglars in their home. He told his wife that it was only the dog, reaching out his hand. He felt the dog lick his hand … but in the morning, all his valuables were gone: He had clearly been robbed.

A similar theme shows up in the short story “The Diary of Mr. Poynter,” published in 1919 by M.R. James. In it, a character dozes off in an armchair, and thinks that he is petting his dog. It turns out, it’s some kind of hairy human figure that he flees from. The story seems to have evolved from there into its presently popular form, picking up steam in the 1960s. As with any folk tale, its exact form changes depending on the teller: sometimes the main character is an old lady, other times it’s a young girl.

You’ll probably hear these stories in the context of happening to a “friend of a friend,” making you more likely to believe the tale. It practically happened to someone you know! Kind of! The setting, too, is probably somewhere nearby. It might be in your neighborhood, or down by the local railroad tracks.

Thrillist spoke to Dr. Joseph Stubbersfield, a researcher in the UK who studies urban legends, who says the kind of stories that spread widely contain both social information and emotional resonance. Meaning they contain a message—you never know who’s lurking in your house—and are evocative.

If something is super scary or gross, you want to share it. Stories tend to warn against something: A study of English-language urban legends circulating online found that most warned listeners about the hazards of life (poisonous plants, dangerous animals, dangerous humans) rather than any kind of opportunities. We like to warn each other of the dangers that could be lurking around every corner, which makes sense considering our proven propensity to focus on and learn from negative information. And yes, that means telling each other to watch out for who’s licking our hands in the middle of the night.

Just something to keep in mind as you eagerly await Jezebel’s annual scary story contest.

[h/t Thrillist]

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