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Stranger Than Fiction

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A 20-year-old Canadian man brought a military-style bullet-proof vest to his home in Swan River, Manitoba, then asked his roommate to test it by shooting him in the chest with a .22-caliber rifle. When the vest stopped the bullet, police said the man asked his friend to shoot him in the back with a 12-gauge shotgun. Even though the men decided to stuff a phone book inside the vest as a precaution, the man wearing the vest still suffered cracked ribs and bruises. After investigating the incident, Royal Canadian Mounted Police Sgt. Steve Saunders said, "The biggest question is why, and it's difficult to come up with a logical reason."

A coalition of business groups looking for solutions to traffic congestion in northern Virginia proposed letting corporations pay for the right to put their name on roads and subway stations, the way they do sports arenas. The money could then be used to improve existing roads and build new ones.

The Norwegian Mapping Authority disclosed that Norway has 16,000 more miles of coastline than previously thought. Engineer Tore Tonning explained that a new computer program was able to measure thousands of tiny inlets and islands more precisely than the last survey 30 years ago. He said the mainland is actually about 2,480 miles longer than previously believed, and the distance around islands is roughly 13,670 miles greater.

The German government's property administration office said a giant swastika formed by trees would be chopped down. The 200-by-200-foot russet-colored swastika of larches, which a devoted follower of Adolf Hitler planted near Zernikow in 1937, stands out every autumn amid the green pines. Government spokesperson Reinhardt Bauerschmidt said a 1995 attempt to remove the swastika, which is visible only from the air, by pruning the trees had failed.

Turkish doctors preparing to remove the tonsils of a seven-year-old girl from Eskisehir named Busra, who had suffered throat pain most of her life, discovered the cause was a 1 1/2-inch nail lodged in her esophagus. "According to her family, Busra began complaining of sharp throat pains around the age of two," her doctor told the newspaper Sabah. "It is possible that she swallowed the nail then."

Determined to end their lives, a Croatian couple locked themselves in a car, swallowed handfuls of sleeping pills with alcohol and hooked up a hose to the car's tail pipe. When the attempt failed, the man, who happened to be a police officer, drew his gun and shot himself in the head. When he survived the shot, his girlfriend called an ambulance. The man was taken to the hospital, while the woman was treated and released.

Heddrick Lacy, 42, was killed outside Renton, Wash., when a pickup truck hit him, knocking him into a firetruck that was parked on the shoulder. The firetruck had come to help Lacy earlier after he drove his car off the road.

Carol Vivian Campbell died when her ex-husband, James Wesley Plumm, drove a tractor into the front porch of her Lane County, Ore., home after destroying the yard, knocking over a fence post and ripping down the mailbox. The crash caused a piece of porch railing to fall and hit Campbell on the head.

British police were involved in a low-speed chase after a man in an electric wheelchair inadvertently drove onto the M25 motorway circling London during rush hour. Motorists with cell phones alerted police to the man's plight, and he was intercepted when his wheelchair battery ran down.

Daniel Ryan Blais, 19, was traveling east on I-4 near Longwood, Fla., when he rolled down his window to display a silver badge to another driver, then turned on flashing red-and-blue patrol lights. According to Seminole County sheriff's deputies, when the two cars pulled into a rest area, Blais identified himself as a bond-enforcement agent. He admitted he wasn't when the other driver identified himself as off-duty police Officer David Mixon who took Blais into custody.

Authorities nabbed seven naked drug-runners off Colombia's Pacific coast port of Buenaventura after they dumped millions of dollars worth of cocaine into the ocean, doused themselves with gasoline trying to wash off any traces of the drug and rammed a U.S. Navy vessel with their speedboat. Sailors aboard the USS DeWerth, which had been pursuing the men, recovered the drugs and took the men into custody.

Auburn Mason, 62, was convicted of hijacking an airplane by threatening to blow up the plane, holding a pair of scissors to a flight attendant's neck and demanding to be taken to London Gatwick Airport. The flight was 15 minutes away from its scheduled stop: London Gatwick Airport.

When a 45-year-old Japanese passenger aboard a American Airlines flight from Tokyo to Seattle locked himself in the restroom shortly after takeoff and refused to quit smoking despite pleas by the cabin crew, the plane returned to Tokyo's Narita airport. Kyodo news agency reported that after airport police reprimanded the man, he wrote an apology to the airline promising he would "never do it again."

Two 20-year-old German men who went looking for a restroom at Frankfurt airport found themselves on the tarmac, where they boarded a shuttle bus taking passengers to a flight bound for Russia. When they arrived, Russian police put them on a flight back to Frankfurt, where Federal Border Police charged them with joyriding. "They got in and sat in the back of the airplane, which then flew to Moscow," Frankfurt state prosecutor Job Tilmann told Reuters news agency. "They weren't even at the airport to fly anywhere. They were at a conference and had been walking around, evidently in a drunken stupor."

Gang Sun, a textile chemist at University of California Davis, announced the development of odor-free socks. The fabric is made by attaching chlorine-containing molecules called halamines to textile fibers. The chlorine kills the germs that cause odors. Sun said the socks can be "recharged" by washing them with chlorine bleach. He added he hopes the ultimate use for the fabric will be germ-free hospital garments; meanwhile, the odor-free socks will go on the market this spring.

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