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Stranger Than Fiction

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The Maltese television program Xarabank decided to stage a mugging in Valletta's busiest street, then interview witnesses about what they had seen to demonstrate the differences in people's perception. After an actor grabbed the pretend-victim's handbag, however, onlookers chased and beat him. When a member of the production staff tried to explain the mugger was an actor, the Times newspaper said bystanders began beating him because they thought he was an accomplice who was trying to invent a story to assist the thief.

Tomaz Humar, 31, Slovenia's top mountain climber, made a climb thought to be impossible: a solo ascent of the south face of 26,795-foot Dhaulagiri Mount in the Himalayas. After returning home, he broke both legs and sustained internal bleeding when he fell into a 10-foot hole in his house, which is under construction. Anton Praprotnik, the doctor who operated on Humar for six hours, said full recovery "might take several months."

When 12 hefty men presented themselves as candidates to reign over Rio de Janeiro's carnival festivities in February as King Momo, instead of being treated to the traditional all-you-can-eat pasta feast, they were served salad and diet soft drinks. Contest coordinator Luiz Moraes explained the city is opting for a "politically correct carnival" after protests from doctors following the recent early deaths of two of Brazil's former King Momos. "We don't want to encourage people to get fatter," he said, even though officials stopped short of eliminating the contest's 240-pound minimum weight requirement.

Burglars broke the front window of a discount department store in Windber, Pa., entered the store and carried away the store's 120-pound safe. Police said the safe was empty.

After a 53-year-old woman in Topeka, Kan., tried to commit suicide but failed, she dialed 911. When rescuers arrived, they found the woman unconscious and, assuming she was dead, left without checking for a pulse. Meanwhile, the woman regained consciousness and called 911 again. This time, the rescuers took the time to provide medical care.

After Charles Bardsley, 76, died from a heart attack while being rushed to the hospital, paramedics decided there was no point in continuing the 50-mile trip. They returned to Bardsley's home in Ashford, Wash., and placed the body in the driveway next to the garbage cans. The paramedics explained they left Bardsley's body outside because his widow has Alzheimer's disease and appeared confused.

Marvin Stewart, 76, walked into a bank in Council Bluffs, Iowa, and handed a teller a note demanding two $50 bills. After bank employees gave him the money, he said he would be waiting outside in his car smoking a cigarette. Police, who found him where he said he would be, said Stewart was a lonely ex-convict who wanted to be returned to prison.

The Immigration and Naturalization Service reported smugglers of illegal aliens from Mexico and Central America have begun kidnapping each other's customers and forcing their families to pay for their release. Typically, professional smugglers charge undocumented immigrants to sneak them across the border, then take them to drop houses to await further payment before sending them to their final destination. The INS said rival smugglers are snatching the immigrants and taking them to their own drop houses, then demanding payment be sent there. "The smuggling trade has become so lucrative," INS spokesperson Sharon Gavin said, "that we're fearful that this kind of activity will escalate."

To celebrate Bangladesh's first official cricket test match, Sri Lanka's cricket board announced it was donating 20 corneas to restore the sight of Bangladeshis. "We asked that the eyes be given to poor cricket lovers," board official Anura Weerasinghe said, explaining the first two corneas were implanted before the match and the two recipients brought to Dhaka to watch Bangladesh play India.

Lisa Reid, 24, who lost her sight 10 years ago after developing a brain tumor, banged her head against a coffee table in November while bending down to kiss her guide dog in her Auckland, New Zealand, home. When she woke the next morning, she could see.

Gladys Wyse, 43, was reaching for a bottle of eyedrops but grabbed a container of superglue instead and wound up sealing one of her eyes shut. "She just grabbed the wrong bottle," Jefferson, N.J., police Sgt. Eric Wilsusen said, noting the woman was treated at the hospital and released without suffering any permanent damage.

When Penn State University's football team got off to its worst start in 36 years, the University Faculty Senate approved a resolution denouncing "negative cheering." The anti-booing measure is read before every home football game.

Aubrey Rust filed a lawsuit against the Potency Recovery Clinic of Northridge, Calif., charging it used his picture in a newspaper ad for impotence without his permission. He is also suing the Los Angeles Times, which ran the center's ad offering impotency therapy, penile injection and treatment for premature ejaculation.

Twins Nick and Rick Batres, 24, filed a lawsuit in Sonoma County, Calif., against a photographer and a magazine aimed at gay youth, which featured prominent pictures of the two hugging with a headline reading "Young and Gay." The brothers insisted the photos were used without their consent, explaining they posed for them when they were 16 hoping to launch their modeling careers.

After police in Canton, Ohio, stopped Richard Nelson, 40, for driving a stolen car, he fled on foot, only to be seized by the arm by a police dog. To make the dog let go Nelson bit the dog's nose. The dog responded by clamping down hard enough that one of its teeth broke off in Nelson's arm.

When a dog belonging to Stephen Maul, 24, jumped out of his truck (OK? Sounds like it's the dog's truck) in San Francisco, Maul forced the 80-pound animal to the ground and bit its neck. Charged with animal cruelty, Maul explained he was simply using "nature's way" of dog training by mimicking the pack behavior of male dominant dogs.

-- Compiled by Roland Sweet from the nation's press. Send clippings, citing source and date, to P.O. Box 8130, Alexandria VA 22306.

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