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Stranger than fiction



Curses, foiled again

After authorities investigating a store robbery in Chula Vista, Calif., identified Romeo Montillano, 40, as their suspect, they learned he was in Las Vegas, unaware he was wanted. They were able to arrest him, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported, because he returned to take an examination to become a police officer. Police official Bernard Gonzales said that as Montillano was being taken into custody, he asked whether he would still be able to take the exam.

While Shawn Thomas Lester, 33, pretended he was buying a soft drink at a convenience store in Kanawha County, W.Va., he told the clerk he had a gun and wanted money. WCHS-TV reported that Lester got flustered when a customer entered the store, and the clerk told Lester to pay for the soft drink. Police said Lester used his debit card, signed the receipt "John Doe" and left empty-handed. Police quickly arrested him by simply tracing the card.

Mellow yellow

A Hindu organization known for its opposition to "corrupting" Western food imports, notably Pepsi and Coca Cola, announced plans to launch a new soft drink made from cow's urine. The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) told Reuters the yet-to-be-named drink mixes urine with aloe vera and gooseberry. "Cow urine offers a cure for around 70 to 80 incurable diseases, like diabetes," said Om Prakash, the head of the RSS Cow Protection Department.

Food fight

The Rhode Island Supreme Court ordered a new trial for competing restaurants at a Providence shopping mall food court to decide whether both can serve white rice. Plaintiff David Chu, 52, owner of Cathay Cathay, which opened at Providence Place in 2001, said his lease lists 19 foods, including white rice, that only he can sell. "We're the most expensive lease," Chu told the Boston Globe. "We don't want competition."

Defendant Yogi Sood opened Gourmet India in 2005 after negotiating a lease that lets him sell basmati rice, which is white rice with yellow food color added. "Without basmati rice, I would not have signed," said Sood, 59. "There's not an Indian restaurant that can survive without rice."

In 2006, Superior Court Judge Stephen J. Fortunato Jr. dismissed the case against Gourmet India, while ruling against Japan Cafe, which Chu also sued for selling white rice. Japan Cafe closed. Chu did not sue Taco Bell, which serves side dishes of Mexican-style white rice.

The high court said Fortunato didn't adequately address whether Sood's lease improperly interferes with Chu's contract. Meanwhile, Chu, who claimed he has spent $250,000 in legal fees, said he'd drop his case if Gourmet India agreed to serve only brown rice.

Plush tush

American consumers' preference for soft toilet tissue requires harvesting millions of trees in North America and in Latin American countries, including from rare old-growth forests in Canada, because fluffiness requires the fiber from standing trees. James Malone of Georgia Pacific, maker of Quilted Northern, told the New York Times that customers "demand soft and comfortable. Recycled fiber cannot do it."

Tissue from recycled fibers makes up less than 2 percent of sales for home use among conventional and premium brands of tissue in the United States, according to the Times, which noted that it takes the pulp from one eucalyptus tree, a commonly used species, to make 1,000 rolls of toilet paper. The average American uses 23.6 rolls a year.

Love hurts

New Zealand authorities said Damon Ra Sturmey, 39, died after an argument with his fiance by shooting himself three times in the chest with a nail gun. The Taranaki Daily News reported that New Plymouth coroner Timothy Scott concluded Sturmey apparently was trying to frighten Sarah-Lee Harlow, not commit suicide. "I don't think he meant the wounds to be fatal," Scott said.


When four teenagers forced their way into a house in Elyria, Ohio, and demanded money, homeowner Ellen Basinski, 70, defended herself by using an Emeril Lagasse 5-quart saucepan against one of the intruders. "I picked up the saucepan and smacked him right on the head," Basinski told the Cleveland Plain Dealer. "He looked at me and said, 'Lady, why did you do that?' And I hit him again." The four fled but were quickly arrested.

After Emeril Lagasse heard the news about Basinski, the TV chef said he was sending her a whole new set of cookware.

Too little too late

Fire officials blamed a fire that burned down a mobile home in San Luis Obispo, Calif., on a smoldering cigarette, which homeowner Bill Lewis, 68, said his mother, Chessie Lewis, 87, left on a table in an enclosed porch when he took her to a smoking-cessation meeting. The San Luis Obispo Tribune reported the loss at $200,000, plus another $15,000 in damage to a neighboring home.

Costume justice

Trahan Pires, 34, was fined $500 for assaulting a man in a Chuck E. Cheese mouse suit in Dartmouth, Mass. Pires told authorities he ripped off the mascot's headpiece because he thought the victim had grabbed his son. The 19-year-old mouse man said he was just putting out his arms to get through a crowd of children trying to knock him over.

Shawn Brim, 38, lost his job as a bus driver in Washington, D.C., after he climbed off a bus and punched a police officer dressed as McGruff the crime dog. Brim told a supervisor he was just trying to be funny.

Avoirdupois justice

When Stephen Turo, 56, was ordered to appear in court in Auburn, N.Y., to answer charges of selling drugs, he couldn't fit into a car because he weighs more than 550 pounds. The Syracuse Post-Standard reported Turo was loaded into the back of a rented U-Haul truck and unloaded onto a loading dock, where Cayuga County Judge Thomas G. Leone conducted the arraignment.


Dean Grose announced his resignation as mayor of Los Alamitos, Calif., after local businesswoman Keyanus Price complained that an e-mail he sent her was racist and offensive. The Orange County Register said the e-mail, which Grose forwarded to a small group of people from his personal account after the inauguration of President Obama, showed the White House yard with a watermelon patch. Price is African American. "I recognize that I've made a mistake," Grose said, "and have taken steps to make sure this is never repeated." His announcement didn't specify what those steps are.

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