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Stranger Than Fiction


Curses, foiled again
A man broke into a condo in Clinton Township, Mich., only to be confronted by the owner, who had just returned from a hunting trip and greeted the intruder with a 12-gauge shotgun. According to police Capt. Richard Maierle, the 29-year-old suspect "said something to the effect of "Hey, wrong apartment. Sorry. Hey, I'm outta here.' He ran down the stairs. The homeowner went down the stairs after him."

The suspect escaped but soon returned and, Maierle said, "screamed at the homeowner, "Hey, I got a gun now. I'm gonna kill you.' He charged the homeowner. They started wrestling over the gun." The gun fired, shooting the suspect in the leg.

Four men who tried to rob a bank in Gainesville, Fla., arrived after the bank had locked its doors for the day. While fleeing, they hit a parked car and continued, only by then witnesses had noted the license number. They got snarled by rush-hour traffic and drove onto the median, then ditched the car and ran, chased by at least 20 officers and two K-9 units twice as many as usual because the incident occurred during shift change. "They were pretty clumsy since they made three huge errors," police Lt. Keith Kameg said after the suspects were arrested. "The bank was closed, there was a double shift of GPD officers on duty, and they tried to get away along Newberry Road at 5 p.m."

Out in force
Police in Derbyshire, England, began using cardboard cutouts to combat crime. Ten life-size color reproductions of constable Anna Gaskell, sporting a fluorescent jacket, police hat and radio, have been placed in towns to deter shoplifting. Authorities credited an earlier cutout of constable Bob Molloy with reducing shoplifting in Belper from 36 a month to just one, although the effort suffered a setback when a thief stole the cardboard cutout.

Police in Lacey, Wash., reported that someone broke the driver's-side window of a patrol car and stole a uniformed mannequin that was regularly placed in the parked car for several hours at a time to slow passing motorists.

The Mansiere?
Nearly half of all men will experience enlarged breasts sometime in their lives, according to a report in the New England Journal of Medicine. The condition, called gynecomastia, can result from hormonal changes during puberty or obesity and low testosterone levels in older men. Other causes are hyperthyroidism, testicular tumors, kidney disease, alcoholism and marijuana use. Gynecomastia can affect one or both breasts.

Raising awareness could reassure boys and men "they are not alone in experiencing this," said Dr. Glenn Braunstein of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, author of the journal article. Last year, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, nearly 20,000 men underwent breast-reduction surgery.

Ruffle alert
A shortage of feathers is driving up the price of luxury Hungarian down pillows. Owing to a bird-flu epidemic and higher feed prices blamed on stricter farming methods after Hungary joined the European Union, the number of geese raised in the country has dropped from 4.9 million in 2003 to 2.59 million. Hungarian goose-down duvets sell for as much as four times the price of equivalent Chinese products.

Bad hair today
In the latest example of potentially harmful Chinese-made products, used condoms are being recycled into hair bands in southern China. Noting the rubber hair bands could still contain bacteria and viruses, state media reported they have been found in local markets and beauty salons in Dongguan and Guangzhou in southern Guangdong province. "These cheap and colorful rubber bands and hair ties sell well," the China Daily newspaper said, noting that a bag of 10 of the recycled bands sells for just 25 fen (3 cents), much cheaper than others on the market, accounting for their popularity.

It's a rough life
Israeli judge Irit Cohen ordered the country's prison authority to pay Mordechai Yehudai $1,000 after the inmate complained of having to share a cell with cockroaches and of second-hand smoke.

Holy moley
Two Indian men attacked an 80-year-old holy man and cut off his right leg to benefit from its magical powers, police in Chittor district said. Yanadi Kondaiah, who claimed that touching his leg would cure illness or grant wishes, said that two men got him drunk, then chopped off the leg below the knee and left him to die. "We are looking for the miscreants," senior police officer R. Ravindranath Reddy said, "as well as the leg."

Mister big mouth
An out-of-state man was "assaulted en masse" for questioning the toughness of Utah gangs, according to Salt Lake City police. The group took offense when the victim, who police said is from either California or Texas, declared something to the effect that Utah gang members weren't as tough as those in other states. The beating victim fled to a neighboring house, where police found him bleeding from multiple wounds and crying inside a bathtub.

Grand theft
Managers of a recreational park in Mindszentas, Hungary, reported that someone stole an entire beach, including beach huts, lounge chairs, playground equipment and 211,800 cubic feet of sand that had been shipped to the landlocked country. "It is crazy," said Etelka Repas, head of the local council. "I would have thought it was impossible to steal an entire beach. It was cleaned up and covered for the winter, and then suddenly this week we saw that it had totally disappeared."

Hop to it
Australian scientists hoping to reduce the emission of greenhouse gasses blamed for global warming are working to develop kangaroo-style stomachs for cattle and sheep. Kangaroo flatulence contains no methane, thanks to special bacteria in the marsupials' stomachs. "Fourteen percent of emissions from all sources in Australia is from enteric methane from cattle and sheep," said Athol Klieve, a senior research scientist with the Queensland state government.

Other scientists, meanwhile, have suggested Australians should farm fewer cattle and sheep and just eat more kangaroos. Agence France-Presse reported that about one in five Australians already eat kangaroo meat. "It's low in fat, it's got high protein levels and it's very clean in the sense that basically it's the ultimate free-range animal," said Peter Ampt of the University of New South Wales.

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