Columns » Stranger Than Fiction

He's fuzzy on disguise basics

Stranger Than Fiction



Curses, foiled again

Leslie Paul Ash, 39, broke into a recycling center in Somerset, England, and stole several scrap items. He remembered to wear a mask at the scene, but he put it on outside, directly in front of a surveillance camera. Investigators easily identified him. After Ash confessed, a magistrate sentenced him to pay 100 pounds ($160): 60 pounds ($96) of which was a "victim surcharge." (Britain's Cheddar Valley Gazette)


Ebola fears caused parents of dozens of students at Mississippi's Hazelhurst Middle School to pull their children from classes after hearing a rumor that Principal Lee Wannik had traveled to Nigeria. International health officials have declared Nigeria Ebola-free, but Wannik actually had been in Zambia, which is on the other side of Africa. Parents told school officials they'd "rather be safe than sorry." (Jackson's WAPT-TV)

Two Rwandan exchange students coming to Howard Yocum Elementary School, in Maple Shade, New Jersey, were voluntarily quarantined for 21 days after parents and teachers expressed concerns they "could be infected with Ebola," one parent told Fox News. Maple Shade is 1,475 miles from the Texas hospital where Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan died, and East Africa's Rwanda is 1,500 miles from the virus's epicenter in West Africa. (AlterNet)

Rwanda's Ministry of Health began requiring all visitors from the United States to report their medical condition by telephone daily for up to 21 days, even if they aren't experiencing symptoms of the Ebola virus. "Rwanda is wasting incredible resources screening for something that doesn't exist: an American traveler with Ebola," said ABC News chief health and medical editor Dr. Richard Besser. (ABC News)

Homeowners complained to police in Scottsdale, Arizona, after vandals spray-painted "Ebola quarantine zone" on their community center. "It's not a joke," homeowners association president John Melling said, noting Ebola is in the forefront of the news. "It goes beyond vandalism." He accused youths, noting, "People pay a lot of money to live in an area like this, and they're destroying it." (Phoenix's Arizona Republic)

Missing the point

To avoid being confined to a prison cell for assault, Benjamin Louis Young, 52, hid out from police in the basement of his home in Onoway, Alberta, for 17 years. While his wife went to work, Young helped raise their two children, did household chores and dealt marijuana. "We had been looking for him for years," RCMP Cpl. Colette Zazulak said after police, who never stopped looking for him, finally decided, for the first time, to visit his house. "I knew someday I'd have to give my pound of flesh," Young said after pleading guilty to the original charge. He received a three-year prison sentence. (Edmonton Journal)

First things first

After a 50-year-old shopper at a Philadelphia supermarket was stabbed in the face and neck in the produce aisle, other shoppers ignored police trying to clear them from the scene. They continued shopping, "standing on the blood, pushing their shopping carts over the blood," police Chief Inspector Scott Small said. "Some people actually asked the police if they could reach on the shelf and grab some dairy products that were where most of the blood was because we had that area cordoned off." (Philadelphia's WTXF-TV)

Crisis of the week

Venezuela faces a breast-implant shortage, according to reports noting women are having to settle for implants that are the wrong size or made in China. Quality imported implants approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration are limited because Venezuela's restrictive currency controls limit spending on foreign goods to $300. Brand-name implants start at $600. Chinese implants cost as little as $200. According to the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, Venezuelan doctors performed 85,000 implants in 2013, ranking fifth worldwide, behind the United States, Brazil, Mexico and Germany. "It's a culture of 'I want to be more beautiful than you,'" plastic surgeon Daniel Slobodianik said. "That's why even people who live in the slums get implants." (Associated Press)

Irony of the week

Tobacco giant Reynolds America Inc. is banning smoking in all its Richmond, Virginia, offices and buildings. Company official David Howard said the new rule takes effect just as soon as the company builds indoor smoking areas for employees who don't want to go outside to smoke. Workers may still use smokeless tobacco products. (Associated Press)

Bad taste

Anti-hazing activists Lianne and Brian Kowiak objected to Ben & Jerry's new ice cream flavor "Hazed & Confused," saying it "frankly just struck a nerve with us." The Florida couple's 19-year-old son died from hazing injuries while rushing a college fraternity six years ago. Since then, they travel to schools around their home state to raise awareness of hazing's hazards. They suggested the Vermont company change the name of its ice cream to honor their son, to which Ben & Jerry's official Sean Greenwood replied, no promises. He explained that the hazelnut-flavored brand's name is a pop reference to the 1990s cult movie Dazed and Confused. (Burlington's WCAX-TV)

A phobic's tale

British magistrates cleared Thomas Clark, 28, of voyeurism, charges, even after he admitted hiding his phone in the unisex toilet where he worked with the intention of filming other workers at their office in Southgate. He denied taking pictures of women for sexual thrills, insisting he has an extreme phobia about diarrhea and vomit, so he wanted to make sure that no one using the toilet ahead of him had diarrhea or had vomited. "I try to keep the phobia to myself," Clark testified, saying it began when he was 8. "It got to such a severe stage where I felt completely trapped, with panic attacks, and could only get reassurance by putting my phone in the toilet." (Britain's Crawley News)

Nature's way

Organic food items may be popular, but the term "organic" has been extended to household cleaners, textiles, cosmetics, hand lotions, gardening products, clothing, sheets and mattresses, even organic dry cleaning — to the tune of $2.8 billion last year, according to the Organic Trade Association. The U.S. Department of Agriculture's "USDA organic" seal covers only food and other agricultural products, Miles McEvoy, head of the department's National Organic Program, said, pointing out, "The areas that are outside of our scope could cause some confusion." (Associated Press)

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