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The 15 Weirdest Wikipedia Pages Edited From Congress

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REUTERS/KEVIN LAMARQUE/LANDOV

Since the beginning of July, Twitter account @congressedits has been cataloging and publicizing edits made to Wikipedia articles from IP addresses linked to the United States House of Representatives and related offices. If a congressperson, staffer, intern, or anyone using a computer affiliated with Congress makes a change to Wikipedia, @congressedits tweets it out.

While many edits made are simple grammatical or factual ones (birth dates, district numbers, etc.), other changes have been downright bizarre. In response to @congressedits, Wikipedia has issued a 10-day ban on anonymous edits made from House IP addresses. Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales said, "There is a belief...that it only provoked someone—some prankster there in the office—to have an audience now for the pranks, and actually encouraged them rather than discouraged them."

The ban means @congressedits has been quiet since last week, but these examples are a taste of what was going on from the esteemed halls of our government.

1. Horse Head Mask

The Edit: Added "President Barack Obama shook hands with a man wearing a horse head mask in Denver."

[Revision Info]

This is true, and a more fleshed-out version of this fact appears on the current Wikipedia page. Good edit, anonymous staffer (or congressperson).

2. It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia

The Edit: "Bon Jovi" and "Ludwig Van Beethoven" added to the list of musical artists featured in the series.

[Revision Info]

Both names still appear on the page, marking some of the most important and lasting work to have ever come out of the U.S. House of Representatives.

3 and 4. Choco Taco

*

The Edits: "In addition, Choco Tacos have been a staple of vending machines in the Rayburn House Office Building of the U.S. House of Representatives honoring former Speaker Samuel Rayburn's devotion to his favorite snack" added, as well as the category "American brands."

[Revision Info]

While the "American brands" category remains, the tidbit about Choco Tacos being former Speaker Samuel Rayburn's favorite snack was removed. While unsubstantiated, it's certainly not a stretch—they are a delicious ice cream snack.

5. Journalism

The Edit: "In 2014, the Wikipedia page on Journalism was used as click-bait to remind reporters that a more important story is the refusal of House Republicans to raise the minimum wage, pass immigration reform, extend unemployment insurance, and improve our roads and bridges" was added.

[Revision Info]

That this change appeared under the section describing how the Internet has affected journalism and that it is being used as an example in various news stories and lists about the Congressional Wikipedia edits means we've formed a Russian nesting doll of self-referentiality with nothing more than questionable source material. And you still had to read about the various refusals of House Republicans, meaning the whole thing worked. The scaffolding holds.

6. Ben Smith

The Edit: "Smirnoff Ice enthusiast" added to the Buzzfeed editor-in-chief's page.

[Revision Info]

Sounds about right.

7. Gender Identity Disorder

The Edit: "This whole article is transphobic. Trans people's identity isn't a disease. Just because I have a penis doesn't make me less of a woman" added at the end of the post.

[Revision Info]

This looks to have been in response to another argument that has since been stricken from the page, which, at varying stages of edits, looks like an Internet comments section.

8. The Atlantic

The Edit: "The Atlantic's Megan Garber broke the story of Wikipedia's Choco-Taco entry being edited anonymously from a U.S. House of Representatives IP address" added.

[Revision Info]

An edit coming from an anonymous congressional IP address about an edit that was made from an anonymous congressional IP address. We have officially crawled up our own posteriors.

9. Moon Landing Conspiracy Theories

The Edit: Added that Moon landing conspiracy theories are "promoted by the Cuban government."

[Revision Info]

This bit of info actually remains, although it is more thoroughly sourced: "James Oberg of ABC News said that the conspiracy theory is taught in Cuban schools and wherever Cuban teachers are sent."

10. Reptilians

The Edit: Added "These allegations are completely unsubstantiated and have no basis in reality" to the page about reptilian shape-shifters ruling the world.

[Revision Info]

Must've been tough typing that with those clawed, scaly hands.

11. Assassination of John F. Kennedy

The Edit: Added that Lee Harvey Oswald acted "on behalf of the regime of Fidel Castro, and that Jack Ruby also acted behalf of the regime of Fidel Castro."

[Revision Info]

Still waiting to confirm Castro's involvement with the Choco Taco.

12. Wendy's

The Edit: Added "french fries" to products.

[Revision Notes]

Good catch.

13. Internship

The Edit: Added the adjective "great" to describe internships.

[Revision Notes]

Anonymously editorializing Wikipedia pages is the future of brown-nosing.

14. Mediaite

The Edit: Mentions that the website is a "sexist transphobic" blog "that automatically assumes that someone is male without any evidence."

This is a reference to a story about a previous anonymous congressional edit that was written with gendered pronouns.

[Revision Info]

And the thrilling game of cat-and-mouse being played in cyberspace continues.

15. Phish

The Edit: Added "modes" as something Phish blends besides genres.

[Revision Info]

Good thing these are anonymous, because that is very embarrassing.

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Big Questions
What Does the Sergeant at Arms Do?
House Sergeant at Arms Paul Irving and Donald Trump arrive for a meeting with the House Republican conference.
House Sergeant at Arms Paul Irving and Donald Trump arrive for a meeting with the House Republican conference.
Chip Somodevilla, Getty Images

In 1981, shortly after Howard Liebengood was elected the 27th Sergeant at Arms of the United States Senate, he realized he had no idea how to address incoming president-elect Ronald Reagan on a visit. “The thought struck me that I didn't know what to call the President-elect,'' Liebengood told The New York Times in November of that year. ''Do you call him 'President-elect,' 'Governor,' or what?” (He went with “Sir.”)

It would not be the first—or last—time someone wondered what, exactly, a Sergeant at Arms (SAA) should be doing. Both the House and the Senate have their own Sergeant at Arms, and their visibility is highest during the State of the Union address. For Donald Trump’s State of the Union on January 30, the 40th Senate SAA, Frank Larkin, will escort the senators to the House Chamber, while the 36th House of Representatives SAA, Paul Irving, will introduce the president (“Mister [or Madam] Speaker, the President of the United States!”). But the job's responsibilities extend far beyond being an emcee.

The Sergeants at Arms are also their respective houses’ chief law enforcement officers. Obliging law enforcement duties means supervising their respective wings of the Capitol and making sure security is tight. The SAA has the authority to find and retrieve errant senators and representatives, to arrest or detain anyone causing disruptions (even for crimes such as bribing representatives), and to control who accesses chambers.

In a sense, they act as the government’s bouncers.

Sergeant at Arms Frank Larkin escorts China's president Xi Jinping
Senat Sergeant at Arms Frank Larkin (L) escorts China's president Xi Jinping during a visit to Capitol Hill.
Astrid Riecken, Getty Images

This is not a ceremonial task. In 1988, Senate SAA Henry Giugni led a posse of Capitol police to find, arrest, and corral Republicans missing for a Senate vote. One of them, Republican Senator Bob Packwood of Oregon, had to be carried to the Senate floor to break the filibustering over a vote on senatorial campaign finance reform.

While manhandling wayward politicians sounds fun, it’s more likely the SAAs will be spending their time on administrative tasks. As protocol officer, visits to Congress by the president or other dignitaries have to be coordinated and escorts provided; as executive officer, they provide assistance to their houses of Congress, with the Senate SAA assisting Senate offices with computers, furniture, mail processing, and other logistical support. The two SAAs also alternate serving as chairman of the Capitol Police board.

Perhaps a better question than asking what they do is pondering how they have time to do it all.

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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Animals
France Hires Two Cats to Get Rid of Rats in Government Offices
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iStock

The French government just hired two new employees, but instead of making policy decisions, the civil servants will be responsible for keeping offices rat-free. As The Telegraph reports, the cats are the first official mousers to France.

The secretary to the prime minister, Christophe Castaner, brought in the cats after he saw that the mouse problem at the offices near the Elysee Palace was getting out of hand. They're named Nomi and Noé after the early duke of Brittany Nominoé.

Paris is home to about 4 million rats—nearly two for every citizen—and the capital's offices are just as vulnerable to infestation as other old buildings. Until now, government employees had been setting out traps to solve the vermin problem. With Nomi and Noé now living on site, the hope is that the pets will double as pest control.

The new hires aren't unprecedented: The British government employs over 100,000 cats to chase down rodents. Official mouser may sound like a cushy job, but the UK holds its felines to a high standard. Larry, the official Chief Mouser to the Cabinet Office to two prime ministers, was nearly fired in 2012 for failing to react to a mouse in plain sight.

[h/t The Telegraph]

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