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U.S. Senators, as one might surmise, rarely pass up an opportunity to tout their home states – what businesses are based there, what products are made there – and that trait is on display in an unusual place. It's at a spot in the back of the Senate chamber, known as the “candy desk.”
The history of the U.S. Senate’s candy desk goes back to 1965. Donald Ritchie, the head of the Senate Historical Office, says Sen. George Murphy (R-CA), “an old song-and-dance man,” had a sweet tooth.
“Sen. Murphy filled his desk drawer with candies, which he dipped into,” Ritchie says. “And then he invited his colleagues to stop whenever they wanted to.”
Murphy lost his seat in 1970, but the tradition continued. The desk, which is right by the main door to the Senate chamber, currently belongs to Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL). “You have a chance to sell your state’s products there,” he says. “Or talk about stuff.”
Today, it is chock full of candies manufactured in the Land of Lincoln. For Kirk, a fan of Chicago’s Ferrara Candy Company, it’s personal.
“They offered me all of the desks on the Republican side, and I wanted to make sure that those bastards in Hershey, Penn., couldn’t get the candy desk,” he says, laughing.
Kirk is referring, of course, to the Hershey Candy Company, which had a monopoly on senators’ sweets for years. The desk used to belong to Rick Santorum, and the former Republican senator from Pennsylvania filled it with Kit Kats and Kisses.
I asked all 100 senators to name their favorite candies, and they all seem partial to what is manufactured back home. New Hampshire’s Jeanne Shaheen likes dark chocolate salted caramels from Granite State Candy, for instance. Georgia’s Jonny Isakson likes Snickers, which include, he points out, Georgia peanuts.
The desk has suited some senators better than others. George Voinovich represented Ohio, a state not known for its confections. So, his tenure at the candy desk didn’t last long. “I think it was one year,” he recalls. “That was enough.”
George LeMieux used to sit at the desk. “I used to joke that it was an unfunded mandate that I had to provide candy for the rest of my senators,” he says. “But I was happy to do so.”
Kirk, the man currently charged with filling the candy desk’s drawers, likes Jelly Belly-brand jelly beans, and there are plenty of those in the candy desk, but he also stocks it with baby aspirin. He had a stroke in 2012, and a small daily dose of the pain killer, he tells his colleagues and constituents, can prevent strokes and heart attacks.
While this means there is less room for Illinois candy, Kirk is able to draw attention to another constituent: the company that makes the aspirin is based outside of Chicago.
The preferred candies of your elected officials
They may not be in charge of the candy desk, but we wanted to know anyway: What are your senator's favorite sweets? Below, a yearbook of the candies that melt hearts and minds:Tammy Baldwin
D-WisconsinGhiradelli Intense Dark 72% Cacao Twilight Delight Singles Richard Blumenthal
D-ConnecticutWint-O-Green Life Savers Roy Blunt
R-MissouriNo comment John Boozman
R-ArkansasJelly Belly jelly beans Sherrod Brown
D-OhioMilky Way Ben Cardin
D-MarylandGoetze's Original Vanilla Caramel Creams Tom Carper
D-DelawareYork Peppermint Pattie Bob Casey
D-PennsylvaniaHershey's Milk Chocolate Bars Tom Coburn
R-OklahomaHot Tamales Thad Cochran
R-MississippiChocolate covered peanuts Susan Collins
R-MaineMaine maple sugar candy Mike Crapo
R-IdahoSnickers Dick Durbin
D-IllinoisDark Chocolate Snickers Mike Enzi
R-WyomingBig Hunk Dianne Feinstein
D-CaliforniaSee's Candies Dark Chocolate Jeff Flake
R-Arizona3 Musketeers Kirsten Gillibrand
D-New YorkNo candy Tom Harkin
D-IowaBrach's Hard Candy Orrin Hatch
R-UtahJelly beans Martin Heinrich
D-New MexicoDark chocolate with sea salt Dean Heller
R-NevadaCinnamon bears Mazie Hirono
D-HawaiiSnickers John Hoeven
R-North DakotaLife Savers Gummies Johnny Isakson
R-GeorgiaSnickers Ron Johnson
R-WisconsinMilky Way Tim Johnson
D-South DakotaChocolate Tim Kaine
D-VirginiaNo candy, Dr. Pepper Angus King
I-MainePeppermint Mark Kirk
R-IllinoisJelly Belly jelly beans Mary Landrieu
D-LouisianaSnickers Patrick Leahy
D-VermontAnything chocolate Mike Lee
R-UtahJelly beans Joe Manchin
D-West VirginiaPeanuts Ed Markey
D-MassachusettsMilky Way Dark Mitch McConnell
R-KentuckyNo candy Robert Menendez
D-New JerseyDark Chocolate M&M's Barbara Mikulski
D-MarylandNo candy Jerry Moran
R-KansasPeanut M&M's Chris Murphy
D-ConnecticutTwix Patty Murray
D-WashingtonDark chocolate peanut butter cups Bill Nelson
D-FloridaNone Rand Paul
R-KentuckySnickers Jack Reed
D-Rhode IslandBaby Ruth Harry Reid
D-NevadaNuts James Risch
R-IdahoButterfinger Jay Rockefeller
D-West VirginiaBaby Ruth Marco Rubio
R-FloridaNo comment Bernie Sanders
I-VermontNo comment Brian Schatz
D-HawaiiCinnamon hard candy Chuck Schumer
D-New YorkSnickers Jeanne Shaheen
D-New HampshireRed licorice and chocolate salted caramels from Granite State Candy Jon Tester
R-MontanaButterfinger John Thune
R-South DakotaTwin Bing Pat Toomey
R-Pennsylvania3 Musketeers Mark Udall
D-ColoradoToffee from Enstrom Candies (Grand Junction, CO) Tom Udall
D-New MeixcoDark chocolate spiced with New Mexico red chile John Walsh
D-MontanaBaby Ruth and Milky Way Midnight Elizabeth Warren
D-MassachusettsMounds Sheldon Whitehouse
D-Rhode IslandMilky Way Dark Ron Wyden
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