Tickle me Harry

September reports in the New York Post and the Toronto Star, quoting parents' website reviews of the "Nimbus 2000" plastic-replica broomstick (Mattel, $19.99) from the latest Harry Potter movie, highlighted its battery-powered special effect: vibration. A Texas mother wrote: "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 said she enjoyed it as much as her daughter.

Seize the pay

This September in Perth, Scotland, 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 a politically incorrect twist, almost $6,000 worth of the compensation was to pay Rennie for her post-trauma stress, including having to endure watching Young while the seizure continued.

Campaign trails

In the June debate between Republican candidates for Alabama secretary of state, Dave Thomas heatedly challenged Dean Young to a fistfight.

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.

In 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.

Bribes for boobs

Four of the five county commissioners in Pensacola, Fla., were indicted for land-sales corruption in April. By September, two had agreed to testify against the alleged leader, 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; a man who needed the bribe money to buy breast implants for his son's wife; 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, because one of them was always careful to remain silent.

Fortune rookies

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 in cash on the spot at their first session, during which Marks warned Boys of bad luck as a small snake emerged from an egg Marks had placed on a table. Under similar circumstances, an 88-year-old woman said she signed her condo over to Marks and paid $22,000 for furniture and improvements to it.

Meat-beater's manifesto

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."

Psychotic hotline

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 Georgia spiritual adviser "The Root Man" and "Miss Cleo's" psychic hotline to find out who scammed him. 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.

Turkey days

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, for example 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 age 97).

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