News of the Weird by the Editors at Andrews McMeel Syndication



-- September reports in the New York Post and the Toronto Star, quoting parents' Web site "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.

-- In Perth, Scotland, in September, Edwin Young was ordered to pay Yvonne Rennie the equivalent of $10,000 for a 1998 accident that was caused when Young had an epileptic seizure while driving and lost control of his car. In an un-politically correct twist, almost $6,000 worth of the compensation was to pay Rennie for the post-trauma stress, including having to endure watching Young while the seizure continued.

Democracy in Action (Part I)

In the June debate between Republican candidates for Alabama secretary of state, Dave Thomas heatedly challenged Dean Young to a fistfight. And immediately after a June Democratic Party meeting in Atlantic City, N.J., the head of a challenging faction and the head of the eventually victorious incumbent faction pulled knives on each other. And East Palo Alto, Calif., school board candidate Leland Francois said he would remain on the November ballot despite disclosure that his only legal residence in the district was a vacant lot that housed his van, sleeping bag and portable stove. And disbarred lawyer Mike Schaefer announced he was running simultaneously (and legally) for a county office in Las Vegas, Nev., and the GOP nomination for an Arizona congressional seat.

The F State (Florida)

-- 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-foot-by-7-foot 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."

-- In Gainesville, Fla., in August, accused drug dealer Marcus Isom, 26, was convicted of ordering the murder of Lemuel Larkin, who he believed stole from him. According to testimony, Isom had consulted both Georgia spiritual adviser "The Root Man" and "Miss Cleo's" psychic hotline to find out who scammed him, and both gave descriptions that led Isom to finger Larkin. Investigators believe a man named Truth Miller was the hit man, killing Larkin as he emerged from Boobie's Bar in Archer, Fla.

-- Four of the five county commissioners in Pensacola, Fla., were indicted for land-sales corruption in April, and by September, two had agreed to testify against a third (the alleged leader, the former dean of the state senate, C.D. Childers). Among the principals are a commissioner who owns a funeral home with a drive-through window (and who, as a payoff, arranged for bedroom furniture for his paramour, who rejected it as too cheap); a man who needed the bribe money to buy his son's wife breast implants because she said she was "tired of wearing a training bra"; a huge, cigar-chomping car salesman who always carries thousands of dollars in cash; and two commissioners who denied they violated the state open-meetings law during their private scam sessions, in that one of them was always careful to remain silent.

Megalomaniacs on Parade

Turkmenistan's president Saparmurat Niyazov made two decrees five days apart in August, first changing the names of the seven days of the week and the 12 months of the year, e.g., April became "Gurbansoltan-edzhe" (the name of Niyazov's mother), and Tuesday became "Young Day." In the second decree, 12-year life cycles were created, beginning with "childhood," "adolescence" (up to age 25), on up to "wise" (age 73 to 85) and "old" (to 97).

Least Competent Criminals

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.).

Further 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.). A 24-year-old man was cited for littering after he allegedly shaved his head and tossed the clippings over a fence into his neighbor's yard (Cedar City, Utah). A female official of Sweden's conservative Christian Democratic party publicly advocated more freedom for pornography, on the ground that it might improve the birth rate.

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