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News of the Weird


Magic stick: September reports in the New York Post and the Toronto Star, quoting parents' website "reviews" of the Mattel $19.99 Nimbus 2000 plastic-replica broomstick from the latest Harry Potter movie, highlighted its battery-powered special effect: vibration. Wrote a Texas mother: "I was surprised at how long (my daughter and her friends) can just sit in her room and play with this magic broomstick." Another said her daughter fights her son for it but complains that "the batteries drain too fast." A New Jersey mother, sensing a problem, said her daughter could keep playing with it, "but with the batteries removed." Still another mother, age 32, said she enjoyed it as much as her daughter.

The F State: Among the 11 proposed constitutional amendments on the November ballot in Florida is one to make pregnant pigs more comfortable by forbidding farmers to house them in "inhumane" 2-by-7 cages, even though, reportedly, only two farmers in the state still use the cages, and they say the cages prevent injury to the pigs. If it passes, it will likely be the only animal right enshrined in a U.S. constitution. In August, the state attorney in Palm Beach, Fla., began investigating psychic Linda Marks after two former clients accused her of exploiting them. Veronica Lynn Boys admitted that she had paid Marks $1.1 million over a seven-year-period, including $150,000 cash on the spot at their first session, when Marks warned Boys of bad luck as a small snake emerged from an egg Marks had placed on a table. Also, an 88-year-old woman said she signed over her condo to Marks, and paid $22,000 for furniture and improvements to it, under similar circumstances.

Don Bates, 55, running for the school board in Inverness, Fla., as one of the self-proclaimed "God guys" who would beef up religion at board meetings, resigned in August when it came to light that he had been arrested in 1994 for masturbating (while naked from the waist down) in a parking lot in nearby Crystal River. The day before the story broke, he had asked supporters for unusually large campaign contributions, citing "the scriptures."

The Lost Art of Disguises: Hit man Paul Bryan, 41, was sentenced to life in prison in May for three shootings after witnesses were able to identify him under his mask because he had cut the eyeholes so large (Leeds, England). And Michael Steven Pavlich, 48, was charged with trying to rob a Circle K store in September wearing a plastic foam cooler on his head; he was unsuccessful, in part because the cooler made it impossible for the clerk to understand what Pavlich was saying (Augusta, Ga.).

Perils of Second-Hand Smoke: Cats whose guardians smoke are up to three times more likely to develop lymphoma, according to a Tufts University Veterinary School researcher (August). And Yvonne Stubbs told a reporter she was trying hard to quit smoking because her Jack Russell terrier, Patch, has developed a 20-butt-a-day chewing habit from raiding her ashtrays; Stubbs said she was considering nicotine patches (for Patch, not for herself) (Middlesborough, England, July).

Undignified Deaths: A 23-year-old woman and a 22-year-old man were found dead and nude in a car in his family's garage, in a love clench, with the garage door closed and the car's engine running (for the air-conditioner) (Corona, N.Y., June). And a 21-year-old woman, hiding in a closet to surprise her boyfriend, made a noise that provoked him to fearfully grab his pistol, and when she flung open the door, he fired, killing her (Council Bluffs, Iowa, June). And when a 43-year-old man insisted on driving home despite being drunk, his best friend shot out the air in the man's tires, so angering the drunk man that a fight ensued, during which the drunk man was accidentally shot to death (Bastrop, Texas, August).

Also, in the Last Month: The Australian version of AAA (the NRMA) reported that, following a morning headlights tribute to the victims of Sept. 11, "thousands" of forgetful motorists called in with dead batteries. An inebriated man was convicted of firing his handgun down through the floor of his upstairs den (after an argument with his wife of 32 years) and fatally hitting her as she stood in the kitchen, pouring his booze down the sink (Savannah, Ga.).

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