Ear wax almost prevented Katie Aiani from becoming the Greatest Harry Potter Fan in the World. When the Simi Valley Web designer, now 25, was 11, she wandered into the living room as her dad read a book to her younger sister, Kristy, 7. "All I heard as I walked past the couch was, 'Alas, ear wax,' and something about beans. I was disgusted," Aiani said. "EEEEWWWW, what are you reading?" she asked. It was the final chapter of "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone," J.K. Rowling's first book about a boy wizard, in which Albus Dumbledore, headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, responds after tasting an ear wax-flavored piece of Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans, a jelly bean-like candy. Kristy Aiani, offended by words of disdain toward "the best book I've ever read," pushed her older sister into her room with the book and said, "You're not coming out until you read this." Katie Aiani, who hated reading, opened the book to the first page ? and never stopped. The next day, she rushed out to buy the second book, which she read aloud to Kristy. And so began 14 years of Potter passion: midnight book releases, camp-outs at movie premieres, treks to Harry Potter conventions, "fan trips" to England and Scotland, Quidditch matches (she played on Moorpark College's team, the Moorpark Marauders), interviews for documentaries about Potter fans (including an extra feature on the Blu-ray for "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows"), adventures at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter theme park in Florida, and numerous shopping excursions to Whimsic Alley, the Harry Potter store in Los Angeles. If that level of fandom doesn't impress you, consider this: She's visited a zoo to try to talk with snakes, wants to get married at a Harry Potter film location, has tried every flavor of Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans, and studied Latin to better understand Rowling's spells, which have names like "Accio." Her website is www.theharrypotterfan.com. Today, Aiani's license plate frame (next to bumper stickers that say "I'd Rather Be Playing Quidditch" and "I Harry Potter"), reads "#1 Harry Potter Fan in the Whole World!" She's definitely earned the title ? officially. In 2010 Aiani won a contest, "101 Reasons I Am the Greatest Harry Potter Fan in the World," and got her list published in Box Office Magazine. Potter paraphernalia No. 2 on the winning list was "My room is 100 percent covered in Harry Potter." She's not exaggerating. Every spare inch houses a piece of Potter book or movie memorabilia. The Harry hodgepodge includes movie posters, magazine and newspaper articles, pillows, blankets, a stuffed owl, a Voldemort doll, Hogwarts banners, Extendable Ears, a sorting hat, signed pictures (she has autographs from all the actors in the films), 100 T-shirts, 25 wands, Quidditch goggles, a Marauder's Map, a caldron, a Gryffindor sword, stickers, scarves, figurines, buttons, the Horcruxes (diary, cup, locket, ring, diadem, snake), hand-painted tennis shoes, and even a Potter-print sundress with a pocket for a wand. And of course, she has the books ? all seven extremely well-worn and well-loved. She's read the stories (and listened to the audiobooks) countless times. Aiani also collects the first book in the series from different countries; her 14-item worldly stash includes books from the Czech Republic, France, Iceland, Korea, Japan and the U.K. "Some girls buy makeup and clothes; I buy Harry Potter stuff," said Aiani, dressed for an interview with The Star in Gryffindor robes and red-and-yellow striped tie and socks, with a replica of Hermione's Time Turner necklace around her neck. She always wears something Potter-related ? jewelry, socks, a pin ? and has a tattoo of a golden snitch (used in the wizard game of Quidditch) on her wrist. Next year, Aiani said, she wants to try to earn a Guinness World Record as the person with the biggest Potter collection. But Aiani's Pottermania runs deeper than collectibles. Fellow Potter fan Jackie Garrecht, Aiani's best friend from New York (they met on a Harry Potter fan trip in the U.K. in 2007 that included a ride on the train used as the Hogwarts Express in the films), said Aiani is "definitely the most fanatic I've ever met. But that's aside from the merchandise. It really has impacted her life. It IS her life. It means the most to her." Younger sister Kristy said she and Katie, who used to fight, have become close because of their shared passion for the books. "I don't think I could ever put into words what J.K. Rowling did for us," Kristy said. "She gave us purpose, power, strength, friendship, magic and love." Aiani has a simple answer to why Harry Potter has kept her spellbound all these years: "It makes me happy." Plus, she said, "It got me to read. It's given me friends around the world. And Harry Potter has great morals and values for kids and adults. There's just a way for everyone to connect to it." 'Thank you Jo' Recently, Aiani hit a delirious peak of happiness by accomplishing what she calls her "life goal": She met Rowling. No. 53 on Aiani's list of reasons she's the greatest Harry Potter fan was "I would turn down $100,000 just to meet J.K. Rowling." "I wanted to meet and thank her in person," Aiani said. "That was so important to me. I think it's different when you say thank you in an email or letter." The goal had eluded her. Rowling doesn't make a lot of public appearances, especially in the United States. So Aiani figured her best chance to meet her idol was to attend the 2011 premiere of the final movie in the blockbuster series, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2," in London. She spent a week in pouring cold rain, without a tent or chair, waiting to be one of the first fans on the red carpet. She was No. 30 in a line of what turned into a crowd of about 10,000. Aiani's devotion ? and a sign that said "We are from California" ? led to interviews for British TV shows and newspapers. After Rowling arrived at the premiere, however, the author was whisked away quickly and bypassed most of the fans. "But I never gave up," Aiani said. "I think that's the best thing I've learned for my entire life: to not give up on your dreams. Because my dream has always been to meet J.K. Rowling. She finally got her chance in October, when she learned Rowling would be in New York City to discuss and sign her first novel for adults, "The Casual Vacancy," at Lincoln Center. Tickets were available for 1,000 fans, but the theater's website was hacked, and 2,000 were sold. Aiani, after calling the box office on three different phones, had nabbed two. "It was chaos; I was so stressed out," she said. "Nobody knew which tickets were real, which ones they would honor." Organizers eventually moved the event to a bigger venue after talking to Rowling, who said, "I'm going to sign for every fan." Aiani, as she wended her way through the book signing line, filmed the whole thing using a GoPro sport camera on her shoulder. With her fingernails painted in the Hogwarts house colors (and "Thank you Jo" printed on them), Aiani approached Rowling. Hyperventilating and sobbing, she handed Rowling a letter and said, in one mashed-together string of breathless words, "I'm your biggest fan. Thank you for giving me a purpose in life." Rowling replied, "That means so much to me," signed Aiani's book and took the letter. "I promise you, I will read this," she said. "I couldn't believe I accomplished my life goal at 25," Aiani said. "Now what do I do?" she said, laughing. But the Pottermania hasn't subsided. Aiani was recently filmed for a college student's documentary about Potter fans, and for a TV show about devotees of the series, although she doesn't know the name of the program "because they were very secretive." Perhaps she can work a little magic on her boyfriend of five years. "He hates Harry Potter," she said, laughing. "But he loves Star Wars. And he loves me, and I love him. And I'll always love Harry Potter."
- Business Insider
'QAnon Shaman' lawyer makes offensive comments about Capitol rioters: 'They're all f---ing short-bus people'
Albert Watkins told Insider he made the "politically incorrect" comments to call attention to the mental health of some defendants.
Kaia Gerber reflects on dating 'older people' as a teenager: 'I'd wake up and be like, How did I get here?'
In her new Vogue profile, the 19-year-old spoke about lacking the necessary "life experience" to handle situations she was thrust into as a model.
- The Independent
Giuliani admits telling Capitol rioters to engage in ‘trial by combat’ but insists it was ‘hyperbole’
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- The Week
Back in February, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the Biden administration considered the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which will transport natural gas from Russia to Germany, "a bad deal" that "exposes Ukraine and Central Europe" to Moscow and "goes against Europe's own stated energy and security goals." Similarly, during his confirmation hearing, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he is "determined to do whatever we can to prevent" the completion of the controversial pipeline. But on Tuesday, Axios reported the Biden administration is set to waive sanctions on the company overseeing its construction, as well its CEO, Matthias Warnig, who is considered a "crony" of Russian President Vladimir Putin. That doesn't mean President Biden now supports Nord Stream 2 — on the contrary, the White House reportedly still hopes it doesn't go into use — but it does suggest his administration feels sanctions are ultimately a bigger risk than safeguard. Per Axios, sources close to the situation said that Biden officials have determined sanctioning the German-end users of the gas is the only way to stop construction, 95 percent of which is already complete, at this point. The administration simply doesn't want to jeopardize its relationship with Berlin over the pipeline. The waivers reportedly could be lifted, and sanctions reinstated, at any moment, so administration sources told Axios the looming threat should still give Washington leverage in the situation. Read more at Axios. More stories from theweek.comThe threat of civil war didn't end with the Trump presidency7 scathingly funny cartoons about Liz Cheney's ousterThis is your brain on pandemic whiplash
- The Independent
‘A sham and a con’: GOP-dominated board says Trump-backed ‘audit’ of votes in Arizona is making them a ‘laughing stock’
The politicians call on the state Senate president to end the recount
- Kansas City Star
“Mark has never before run for political office, but he has now answered the call of public duty and is running for the United States Senate from Missouri to fill the seat of retiring Sen. Roy Blunt,” McCloskey’s campaign website says.
- The Independent
Two women were killed and five others injured after a party bus shooting in California. Police say that the bus was riddled with bullet holes after it was shot at at least 70 times during two ambushes in Oakland. One victim died on the bus and another at the hospital after the violent scenes unfolded during a 21st birthday party, according to reports.
- The Week
Unlike House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) seems open to a negotiated House bill that would set up a commission to investigate the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. Even though a bipartisan deal was struck in the lower chamber last week, McCarthy slammed the result Tuesday morning, and it was widely assumed the proposal was dead on arrival in the Senate anyway after it presumably passes the Democratic-majority House. But McConnell surprised some analysts Tuesday when he said Senate Republicans were "undecided" about the bill and are "willing to listen" to arguments in favor of it. The senator certainly seems to have his concerns — namely that the commission may be unbalanced in favor of Democrats — but he didn't reiterate his previous suggestion that it needs to expand its scope beyond the riot (which is McCarthy's main gripe). Fascinating. McConnell says Senate GOP is “undecided” about Jan. 6 commission. expresses a bit of pause about Democrats controlling staff hiring. But this is surprising, given what we had been hearing from the rank and file. — Jake Sherman (@JakeSherman) May 18, 2021 Regardless, Brian Rosenwald, a contributer at TheWeek.com, thinks that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) may be able to get to 60 votes without too much haggling. If all seven senators who voted to convict former President Donald Trump in his impeachment trial back the bill, the Senate would need just three more defectors, and Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) has already hinted at his support. This makes me think Schumer can get to 60 votes. Because you had 7 Rs who voted for impeachment and Rounds wasn’t one of them. https://t.co/m3bOA2ShOB — Brian Rosenwald (@brianros1) May 18, 2021 More stories from theweek.comThe threat of civil war didn't end with the Trump presidency7 scathingly funny cartoons about Liz Cheney's ousterThis is your brain on pandemic whiplash
- The Week
Albert Watkins, the attorney for Jacob Chansley (perhaps better known as "QAnon Shaman"), spoke on the record with Talking Points Memo about his client's alleged role in the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. In the interview, published by TPM on Tuesday, Watkins used shockingly offensive language in an attempt to defend Chansley's alleged actions, saying Chansley has Asperger's syndrome, and asserting that other participants in the riot have intellectual disabilities that were to blame. "These are people with brain damage," he said. He also claimed they were subjected to what he described as the most powerful propaganda campaign since Adolf Hitler's. Read the full, graphic passage from the TPM story below. I spoke to the "QAnon Shaman" Jacob Chansley's attorney, Albert Watkins, for this story. Here's what he had to say... https://t.co/6gZ2jzPvSh pic.twitter.com/b4w62dYvLN — Matt Shuham (@mattshuham) May 18, 2021 More stories from theweek.comThe threat of civil war didn't end with the Trump presidency7 scathingly funny cartoons about Liz Cheney's ousterThis is your brain on pandemic whiplash
- The Independent
Fox News host asks military to ‘shut up’ about equality and start defending the country
Sweden, which has shunned lockdowns throughout the pandemic, has seen the number of cases and intensive care patients drop fast in the recent weeks with more than 40% of the adult population now having received at least one dose of vaccine. The Nordic country registered 10,017 new coronavirus cases since Friday, health agency statistics showed on Tuesday, a decline compared to the 13,812 cases reported during the corresponding period last week. Sweden has experienced a powerful third wave of the virus with the number of people testing positive per capita among the highest in Europe for months, in stark contrast to its Nordic neighbours where infections have remained relatively subdued throughout the pandemic.
Amy Coney Barrett took speaking fees from a group that pushed Mississippi's abortion ban. A constitutional law expert says that won't stop her ruling on the case.
Justices regularly speak to groups that might have an interest in a case before the Supreme Court, a constitutional law expert told Insider.
'Bachelorette' star Rachel Lindsay says she cried over the 'selection of men of color' on her season and learned several didn't date Black women
Lindsay told the comedian Ziwe Fumudoh the producers edited her tears into an unrelated scene and they found the race disparity "interesting."
China is resisting bilateral talks with the United States on nuclear weapons, the U.S. disarmament ambassador told a U.N. conference on Tuesday, as Washington seeks to advance efforts to reduce nuclear arms stockpiles. "Despite the PRC's dramatic build-up of its nuclear arsenal, unfortunately it continues to resist discussing nuclear risk reduction bilaterally with the United States," said Robert Wood, referring to the People's Republic of China.
Malaysian police said on Tuesday five suspected members of the Abu Sayyaf militant group were killed in a shootout in the state of Sabah on the Malaysian portion of Borneo, state news agency Bernama reported. The Abu Sayyaf group, whose members pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in 2014, is based in the southern Philippines and is notorious for bombings, beheadings, extortions and kidnap-for-ransom activities. Authorities in Malaysia have stepped up efforts to crack down on militant activity in recent years after an attack linked to Islamic State in the capital Kuala Lumpur in 2016 and others in neighbouring countries.
Parenting is not the right path for everyone. These celebrities have opened up about their decisions not to have children for various reasons.
- The Telegraph
He has film-star good looks, has been hailed as Prince “Harry lite”, and has hung out with Nicki Minaj. Our hero is also nephew to one of the most famous women in the world, and set to inherit a 13,500-acre estate that has been in his family for 19 generations, a family arguably loftier than the Windsors. Despite this, no one – seasoned royal watchers included – appears to know much about Louis Spencer, Viscount Althorp. And that’s just the way this concertedly private young man wants it. So who is Princess Diana’s 27-year-old nephew, and how did he become the latest symbol of a system that many see as a sexist anachronism requiring change? Louis Spencer was born on March 14 1994, fourth child to Diana’s brother, Charles, 9th Earl Spencer, and his first wife Victoria Lockwood (Prince Harry was a page boy at their wedding). One reason for his below-the-radar presence was that young Louis was not brought up in Britain. Instead, a year after he was born, his parents moved Louis, oldest sister Kitty, and twins Eliza and Amelia to Cape Town, seeking privacy. His mother remained there after the pair divorced, meaning that – instead of being educated at Eton or Harrow, until then traditional for Spencer heirs – Louis attended Diocesan College, known as “Bishops”, Cape Town’s most expensive private school. It was founded in 1849 on British educational principles, and is celebrated for its string of sporting alumni. Only afterwards did Louis return to Britain as a student at Edinburgh University. He and his Spencer siblings came to public attention at Prince William’s wedding in April 2011 – Louis a shy-looking 17-year-old, somewhat dwarfed by his three beauteous sisters. His next public “appearance” was four years later, when a photo of him popped up on rapper Nicki Minaj’s social media feed, of all places. Underneath a picture of them backstage at one of her concerts, she joked: “Check out our wedding photo”. Viscount Althorp looked as chiselled as a male model.
- The Independent
Rashida Tlaib says Democrats tell her they support Palestine in secret because they’re scared of ‘intimidation’
Progressive wing of party increasingly challenges traditional US stance towards Israel
- Business Insider
Kamala Harris and her husband Doug Emhoff made nearly $1.7 million last year - $1 million more than the Bidens, new tax returns show
Most of Harris and Emhoff's income came from Emhoff's work at a law firm. Their income was substantially down on 2019, when they earned $3 million.
- Associated Press
An Arizona woman accused of killing her two children with a meat cleaver became the subject of a child services investigation two months ago and at one point had been taken to a psychiatric hospital, child welfare officials said Tuesday. The Arizona Department of Child Safety said in a statement that the agency was alerted on March 2 about a case of neglect in suburban Phoenix involving Yui Inoue, 40, after she and her 7-year-old son Kai went missing from the family's apartment in Tempe. Inoue was taken to a psychiatric hospital and the boy was returned to his father.