CRANFORD - When kids at Brookside Elementary School ace a test, they can thank a pig. Specifically, it's "Norman the Pig," who is the official pet therapy animal for a fifth-grade class. No hogwash:  CBS reports Norman was recruited when the kids had a candid talk about test-taking stress. Their very willing teacher decided to adopt Norman when he was just a two-pound piglet, and brings him in to class every week when it is test time. How philanthropig. The teacher noted the students are doing better on math tests since having Norman around for moral support. With pigs living up to 15 years or so, it looks like many, many more Brookside kids will also enjoy his comforts. Norman is also potty trained; a real added benefit for the school custodian.

TRENTON - The story saga of New Jersey's controversial business tax incentives has more twists than Norman the Pig's tail. The latest is that Democratic Party leaders, who have the sulks over revelations of potential, shall we say, laxity in the awarding of the incentives (as reported by a state comptroller's audit and a gubernatorial task force). They are now going to conduct their own investigations. So there. This is not surprising given they helped former Gov. Chris Christie ramp up the incentive programs a few years ago. Senate President Steve Sweeney - whose ally George Norcross has come under the task force's microscope - says that body's work has been "slanted" and lawmakers need a much more rounded picture of the incentives, NJ Spotlight reports.

 TRENTON - All we can say is: It's about damn time. Finally, New Jersey finally has its very own official germ.  Gov. Phil Murphy signed a bill giving the lofty designation to Streptomyces (strep-toh-MY'-seez) griseus (GREE'-say-us), a microbe discovered on New Jersey soil 103 years ago. Then, in 1943, Rutgers researchers famously used it to create the antibiotic known as streptomycin. That saved countless people from tuberculosis, earning Rutgers researcher Selman Waksman the 1952 Nobel Prize for Medicine.  We continue to celebrate the germ.

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 STATEWIDE - In other germ news, bring plenty of hand sanitizer the next time you call an Uber. Why? The back seat has 35,000 times more germs than the average toilet seat and 219 times many as the average taxi. Ick. That is the claim of insurance company Netquote, which looked at nine particularly gross cars, swabbing surfaces to discover the number of colony-forming units. The most revolting area of the rideshare? Window buttons and seat belts. Germ-o-phobes be alarmed: a common germ found causes skin infections and food poisoning. The even more alarming question: How disgusting is your car?

 STATEWIDE - Amazing what can be accomplished at cocktail parties,steak dinners and golf outings. Apparently, according to a federal complaint involving 43 states, including New Jersey, the leaders of 20 pharma companies got together and conspired to hike generic drug prices. "Ha-Ha," said these pharma leaders, as they clinked their third glass of 25-year, single-malt scotch. New Jersey joined in the lawsuit on Saturday, saying the wealthy execs together boosted drug prices by more than 10 times, speaking in person or on cell phone so there was no written record of the big plan to reap billions off the backs of sick people. Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal calls it all an "illegal conspiracy," with 11 of these companies based in the Garden State. Thieves are thieves, no matter how impressive the credentials.

 WOODBRIDGE - If the spirit moves you, head over to New Jersey's biggest paranormal event at Woodbridge High School on Saturday. New Jersey Paranormal will host its sixth-annual NJ ParaUnity Expo, featuring mediums, psychics and celebrities from spooky TV shows. (Sorry, the VIP party is already sold-out.) There will be free exhibit rooms, with the "History of the Paranormal" and a new edition, "The UFO/Crypto Room." Tickets are $20 for adults; $5 for kids under 12. Casper gets in for free; like organizers have a choice.

IN OTHER IMPORTANT NEWS

LONDON - Why are you working today? You should be applying for a jobwith HushHush, a London-based concierge service seeking to hire someone to test out luxury yachts. UPI reports the right applicant just needs to be "flexible" and ready to jump on a yacht when he or she gets the call. You would need to spend a week on the high waters, evaluating "every plug socket, door, bed, shower, tap -- everything to make sure that the yacht is up to our standards," the ad states.  You actually get paid for this - $1,300 - and the right candidate could spend 50 weeks a year sailing around on yachts, earning $65,000. No experience necessary.

THIS DAY IN HISTORY

So much for travelling the world as a celebrated international diplomat, as demonstrators battered Vice President Richard Nixon's limo with rocks and spit on him, as he travelled the streets of Caracas, Venezuela on this day in 1958.

WORD OF THE DAY

Paraskevidekatriaphobia - [pa-rə-ske-vee-deck-ə-TRY-ə-sko-vee-ə] - noun

Definition: An irrational fear of Friday the 13th

Example: If a real therapist can't cure your paraskevidekatriaphobia, head on down to the N.J. ParaUnity Expo this Saturday for a nice potion or magical incantation. 

WIT OF THE DAY

"If you wait to do everything until you're sure it's right, you'll probably never do much of anything."

 

- Win Borden

WEATHER IN A WORD

Bleh 

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