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Stranger Than Fiction



Curses, foiled again

A man entered a store in South Portland, Maine, at 2:30 p.m., wielded a knife and demanded money. When the clerk refused, the robber vowed to return. The Portland Press Herald reported he showed up at 4:30 and tried to throw a planter through the store window, but it bounced back. He then warned the clerk he would return at 11 p.m. and kill everyone. Alerted, police were waiting and arrested Matthew Peverada, 26.

After a man stole money and a cell phone from a 33-year-old woman in New Smyrna Beach, Fla., the victim's boyfriend called the stolen phone and pretended he was looking for another man. WFTY reported the boyfriend arranged to sell stolen guns to the man who answered, then notified Volusia County sheriff's investigators, who showed up at the meeting place the next day and arrested James L. Smith Jr., 24.

Hard times indeed

During a parliamentary debate in woe-struck Germany, news cameras caught Finance Minister Peer Steinbrueck checking his lottery ticket. "It was a present," he said after a photo of him hopefully eyeing the ticket for a $45 million jackpot appeared on the front page of both the Bild and Handelsblatt newspapers.

Applications from prospective donors at a sperm bank in Loveland, Colo., have risen sharply, according to Betsy Cairo of CryoGam Colorado, who attributed the spike to the economy. Noting that applications usually run about 150 a year, she told Denver's KMGH-TV there were 172 in January alone. Cairo wouldn't say how much sperm donors earn but added it isn't easy money; of the 400 who've applied since September, only four have been accepted.

Hundreds of thousands of people nationwide are waiting longer for unemployment benefits because rising joblessness is overwhelming claims offices, according to the Washington Post, which reported that the problem is compounded in some states by a simultaneous cut in federal funding that has caused claims offices to lay off staffers.

Working at home

Supervisors in Prince William County, Va., disbanded the Gainesville District Volunteer Fire Department after finding financial irregularities and learning that Fire Chief Robert Bird and his family had turned the fire station into their home. "There is a difference between sleeping in the station and living in the station," county board Chairman Corey A. Stewart told the Washington Post.

Bird, his wife, Wanda, and their 19-year-old daughter, Katie, have been camping out in the women's dormitory at the station for as long as any of the firefighters that the Post interviewed can remember. "It got to where we were staying there every night because we didn't want the station to fail," said Wanda Bird, who served as the department's rescue chief.

Twisted justice

Authorities in Jefferson County, Ore., sought to prosecute David Lee Simmons for having sex with his underage girlfriend, but the grand jury declined to indict him. Eugene's Register-Guard reported that the prosecution against Simmons proceeded anyway. Simmons accepted a plea agreement.

Meanwhile, James Greer, who was the foreman of the grand jury that voted not to indict Simmons, read a newspaper account of the plea deal and confronted prosecutor Steven Leriche. Circuit Judge George Nielson vacated the 2006 conviction after Simmons had served his sentence, but lesser charges against him were filed.

Circuit Judge Gary Thompson said the second prosecution was legal because the first one occurred in a court that lacked jurisdiction based on the grand jury's failure to indict Simmons. "How can the government just do this to him and say it's a do-over?" Steven Richkind, Simmons's attorney, said in December after Circuit Judge Karsten Rasmussen vowed to "get to the merits of the case."

Trix are for kids

People who skip breakfast tend to lose their virginity earlier, according to researchers in Japan. The study of 3,000 people found that those who didn't eat breakfast in their early teens lost their virginity at an average age of 17.5, compared with an overall average age of 19 for all Japanese. "Those unhappy with their parents, such as for not preparing breakfast, may tend to find a way to release their frustration by having sex," said Kunio Kitamura, head of the Japan Family Planning Association who led the research. He pointed out that young people who start having sex early tended to miss breakfast because they return home late.

Strange cargo

Transit police in Buffalo, N.Y., reported that when they caught Kychene O. Venable, 36, riding on Metro Rail without a ticket, they discovered 44 stolen containers of deodorant stuffed down his pants. The Buffalo News said the deodorant was believed stolen.

Australian customs officials who spotted two eggs in the luggage of a 23-year-old man arriving from Dubai searched further and found two live pigeons stuffed in the man's pants. According to Richard Janeczko, national investigations manager for the Customs Service, the birds were wrapped in padded envelopes fastened to the man's legs. Officials also seized some seeds found in his money belt and an undeclared eggplant.

Hoping to stop prisoners from smuggling cell phones into jails, British authorities have begun using mobile chairs equipped with scanners to detect metal objects in inmates' rectums. The Body Orifice Security Scanners (BOSS), each costing $9,600, are being sent to 102 jails. They resemble an electric chair and have a metal detector on the seat that activates audio and visual alarms.

Prenups aren't enough

When Dawnell Batista, 44, filed for divorce, her husband countersued and is seeking the return of the kidney he donated to her in 2001 after she had undergone two other failed transplants. "My first priority was to save her life," Dr. Richard Batista, 49, of Ronkonkoma, N.Y., told reporters. "The second bonus was to turn the marriage around." Instead, he said, his wife had an affair with her physical therapist. His attorney, Dominic Barbara, said that if Richard Batista can't get the kidney back, he wants $1.5 million, which he insisted represents the value of the donated organ.

Prosecutors said Thomas Lee Rowley, 28, attacked his ex-girlfriend outside her mother's home in Hesperia, Calif., and used a knife to try to reclaim the breast implants he paid for before the 26-year-old woman broke up with him. Rowley's roommate, Dennis McGill, testified that Rowley told him, "I'm gonna cut 'em out and get 'em back."

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