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Quick Takes

Issue: "Back to School," Aug. 27, 2011

Family crisis

Bonni Marcus and Jack Zinzi spent Aug. 1 papering their Park Slope neighborhood in Manhattan with fliers offering a substantial reward for the return of their favorite companion, Bongo. The couple said Bongo went missing the day before and they were offering hundreds of dollars for Bongo's return. But Bongo isn't a dog. Or a cat. Or even alive. The pair say they will pay $500 if someone can return their lost monkey Beanie Baby. "Bongo's simply a member of our family," Marcus told the Brooklyn Paper. A search on eBay.com revealed a used replica of Bongo had been sold for $2.

Tooth decay

A tepid economy doesn't just mean high unemployment and concerns about inflation. For children across the United States, deflation-or more accurately falling Tooth Fairy prices-are the real concern. A recent survey conducted by credit giant Visa found that children on average received $2.60 for every tooth left under a pillow at night, down from an average of $3 in 2010. And the percentage of children receiving nothing for pulled teeth rose from 6 percent last year to 10 percent in 2011. Just under 40 percent of children still receive just a dollar or less from the Tooth Fairy and his parental proxies.

Worry-free jeans

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A new product is designed for young men who want to look tough without the risk of looking ridiculous. Sagz Jeans, a New Jersey company, in August unveiled a type of jeans that sag but also clip on to special boxer shorts so that they won't fall all the way down. Brothers Irese and Mark Davenport told the Reuters news service that they came up with the idea when they noticed that sagging jeans hampered their teenage children's mobility. "They're holding their pants up not being able to play sports, basically being unhealthy because of the attire they were wearing," said Mark Davenport. Dwayne Howard, creative director of Sagz, says the company is making the best of a controversial but inevitable style. "Young folks, they will sag no matter what," he said. "What we are trying to do is offer a better alternative."

High ground

If you've seen a 23-foot-wide island floating through the Earth's troposphere, two British art school graduates would like to hear from you. Made with durable polyurethane with fake foliage decorations, the helium-filled island replica was last seen above a British music and arts festival on July 24. Creators of the "Is Land" project Sarah Cockings and Laurence Symonds say security guards saw a pair of youths cut tether lines, allowing the $14,000 sculpture to float skyward. "Due to ignorant vandals, the original Is Land is currently floating at an unknown height somewhere within the atmosphere," the creators wrote on Is Land's website. "However what goes up must come down, so the hunt is on. If what looks like a floating chunk of earth turns up in your Nan's back garden, or if you think you see a new planet intercept your easyJet flight to the Algarve, please don't hesitate to get in touch."

Golden boy

Fashion model Linda Evangelista argued in a New York family court on Aug. 1 that French billionaire Francois Henri-Pinault should be paying her at least $46,000 per month in child support for the 4-year-old son they had out of wedlock. To get to the $46,000 figure, Evangelista argued that the French billionaire should provide little Augustin with 24-hour nanny care, as well as a cadre of armed drivers and even a $7,200 per month vacation allowance. Skeptical Manhattan Family Court Magistrate Matthew Troy noted, "That would probably be the largest support order in the history of the Family Court." Troy is expected to decide on a dollar amount in September.

Message received

A message in a bottle tossed into the Atlantic Ocean more than five decades ago recently made its way into a beachcomber's hands in Turks and Caicos Islands, southeast of the Bahamas. Paula Pierce of Hampton Beach, N.H., said her father tossed the bottle into the Atlantic near their seaside family motel sometime more than 50 years ago with a note inside that read "Return to 419 Ocean Boulevard and receive a $150 reward." Clint Buffington, who combs through beach trash for messages in bottles and posts the findings on his blog, found Pierce's father's erstwhile Coke bottle and made contact with the New Hampshire woman. No word on whether she plans to honor her father's $150 pledge.

Talk is not cheap

There may not be such a thing as a free lunch, but subscribers to programs like Assurance Wireless sure aren't paying for it. Through a little-known effort by a little-known Federal Communications Commission program called the Universal Service Fund, Americans qualifying for government assistance or living with incomes below 135 percent of the federal poverty line qualify for no-cost cell phone service as well as free cell phones. Who pays for the ostensibly free lunch? Regular bill-paying cell phone users. Assurance Wireless, a subsidiary of Sprint, and other service providers like it get $10 per month from the Universal Service Fund for providing 250 minutes of cell service and phones to qualifying participants. In turn, the FCC program gets funding from taxes on paying customers. Supporters of the program call cell phone access a civil-rights issue. But in an interview with the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Robert Rector of the Heritage Foundation called the program "particularly wasteful and unnecessary."

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