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Franklin Pierce

Franklin Pierce (1804–1869) was the 14th President of the United States (1853–57), whose inability to calm tensions over slavery kept the country on the path to the Civil War. A northern Democrat from New Hampshire, Pierce served in the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate and took part in the Mexican–American War as a brigadier general before becoming the Democrats' compromise candidate in the 1852 presidential election. He saw the abolitionist movement as a fundamental threat to the unity of the nation. He was a Young America expansionist who signed the Gadsden Purchase of land from Mexico and led a failed attempt to acquire Cuba from Spain. His polarizing actions in signing the Kansas–Nebraska Act and enforcing the Fugitive Slave Act failed to stem intersectional conflict. Although Pierce expected to be renominated by the Democrats, he was abandoned by his party and failed in his bid to be re-elected. His wife Jane suffered from illness and depression for much of her life, and all of their children died young. Pierce, a heavy drinker for much of his life, died of cirrhosis of the liver. Today he is widely regarded as one of the worst presidents in U.S. history. (Full article...)

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Musk duck

The musk duck (Biziura lobata) is a duck native to southern Australia and the only extant member of its genus. Named for the peculiar musky odour that it gives off during breeding season, this duck is highly aquatic, preferring deep, still lakes and wetlands with areas of both open water and reed beds. The musk duck feeds primarily on water beetles, yabbies, water snails, and freshwater shellfish, supplemented with a variety of aquatic plants and a few fish.

Photograph: JJ Harrison

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