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News of the Weird 

Take me higher:
Following a religious experience, Michael Braithwaite of the mountain village of Putney, Ky., recently converted his Love World shop (selling vibrators and other porn paraphernalia) to Mike's Place (selling Bibles and other Christian items). (However, according to a December report in the San Francisco Bay Guardian, a 31-year-old government lawyer has developed a side business that may bridge both of Braithwaite's lines: The lawyer manufactures and sells high-quality, silicone sex toys in the shapes of religious icons, such as Moses, Satan and a nun, at prices of $54 to $65 each. One sex shop owner in San Francisco's freewheeling Castro district said he might stock the "Jackhammer Jesus" model, but that his Buddhist customers would be offended at the Buddha model.)

News of the Weird advice:
If you ever run into these people, here's what to do: 1) If you're playing horseshoes with Fred William Leigh, and he says it's a ringer, it's a ringer (The insistent Leigh, 60, was convicted of shooting his disagreeing opponent in the stomach with a .38; Frederick, Md., December). 2) Don't demand fresh bacon with your eggs from Steven Deere, 50, when the rest of his family is having leftover pork (Deere was charged with shooting his stepson with a 9 mm pistol; Pittsburgh, December). 3) Don't insult Amanda Hicks' baby (the 20-year-old and two girlfriends allegedly punched, kicked, kneed, stripped and burned the man, and raped him with two different objects; Panama City, Fla., December).

Recidivist lyricist:
In January, a judge at London's Old Bailey released 31-time recidivist Mark Patterson, 42, after his 32nd conviction, for burglary, because Patterson claimed that he needed drug rehabilitation so he could fulfill his calling as a poet. (His subsequent ode to the judge, in part: "I've now been set free / in a blaze of publicity / so that everyone can see / my great ability.")

Hardee har har:
According to the prosecutor at the Waterloo, Iowa, theft trial of Bradley Steven Bailey, 21, in December, not only did Bailey steal a day's bank deposit for the Hardee's restaurant where he worked and leave town, but after he was arrested and jailed, he wrote a letter to the Hardee's manager saying he was sorry but that he never did get his final paycheck, and could it please be mailed to him.

Creme de la Weird:
Margie Schoendinger of the Houston suburb of Missouri City, Texas, filed a lawsuit in December against George W. Bush for a lengthy series of alleged actions while he was governor, including "watching" her and "having sex" with her and her husband. The rambling and non sequitur-laden complaint, filed in Fort Bend County Court and reported on by the weekly Fort Bend Star, names the Sugar Land (Texas) Police Department as corroborating many of the plaintiff's allegations (example: that "plaintiff had seven dates, which became seven lovers, had told no lies, committed no crimes, gotten two traffic tickets, and dated George W. Bush as a minor"), but a department spokesman said no one had any idea what Schoendinger was talking about.

Wrong place, wrong time:
In the January trial of alleged mobster Billy Rinick in Philadelphia, a narcotics agent described how he came to arrest Rinick at the home of his boss Joey Merlino. The agent had tracked Rinick to the upstairs part of Merlino's house and then, feigning secrecy, playfully whispered to Merlino's 4-year-old daughter, sitting on a bed, "Where's Billy?" The girl innocently pointed to the room across the hall, where Rinick was hiding under a bed.

Product placement:
The Atlanta firm Brighthouse Institute for Thought Sciences regularly runs consumers through MRIs while they look at pictures of products so that researchers can see which parts of the brain are stimulated in order to learn consumers' subconscious thoughts about those products. A Brighthouse spokesman tried to say as little as possible about this "neuromarketing" technology, and told the Canadian public radio program Marketplace: "Right now [our clients] would rather not be exposed. We have been kind of running under the radar with a lot of the breakthrough technology."


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