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Stranger Than Fiction

Mistaken Identity


When Thai police arrested Tim Nakponkham, 40, for drug possession, they learned she was already serving time in jail for a similar offense in 1998. Officers investigated and found that her 28-year-old daughter Vasana was there instead, having substituted herself for the four-year sentence "to show her gratitude" to her adoptive mother, according to the Bangkok Post newspaper. Authorities said the mother must serve the original sentence, plus another three years for avoiding imprisonment, while the daughter faces a five-year jail term.

Joseph Pileggi, 69, of Akron, Ohio, thought he was marrying 83-year-old Ducile Palermo three years ago, but he recently came across the marriage license showing he actually married her 61-year-old daughter, Carli Buchanan. What's more, the daughter claims Pileggi knew he was marrying her and that they consummated the wedding the same day. "He truly is in a state of disbelief," said Pileggi's attorney, Russell Pry, explaining that much of the confusion can be traced to Palermo's tendency to use her daughter's name. "I'm not sure what names were used in the wedding ceremony. I'm not even sure Joe knows."

The Guatemalan army has hired Vice-Versa, a small ad agency in Guatemala City, to conduct an extensive campaign to help it regain the confidence of the people after committing numerous atrocities during three decades of civil war that ended in 1996. "We were very surprised and drawn by the challenge," admitted Rodrigo Mendoza, Vice-Versa's creative director. "Thirty-six years of civil war left the army with an image problem."

The once all-powerful army's in-house propaganda previously projected macho images of tanks and marching soldiers. New newspaper and television ads superimpose peace slogan over images of doves bearing olive branches perched on camouflaged-painted combat helmets.

When the computer system crashed at The Columbian newspaper in Vancouver, Wash., a copy editor scrambling to recreate a lost page with the winning Oregon lottery numbers mistakenly picked up that day's winning numbers from Virginia. The next day, when the paper appeared, those same winning numbers were drawn in Oregon. Oregon Lottery spokesperson David Hooper put the odds of the coincidence at "a gazillion to one."

After several leading Brazilian politicians were hit with eggs by demonstrators protesting government austerity measures, security forces responsible for guarding President Fernando Henrique Cardoso spent weeks studying how far away from an egg-thrower Cardoso would have to stand to be safe. They concluded the distance was 150 to 180 feet, from which, the Folha de Sao Paulo newspaper said, the president's head would appear as large as a fly 12 feet away.

F.M. Esfandiary, a leading futurist who legally changed his name to FM2030 because he was certain that he would live to be 100, died at age 69. The self-styled chronic optimist insisted that immortality could be achieved because people might have worn-out body parts replaced throughout their lives by synthetic substitutes. He died of cancer of the pancreas -- one organ for which no substitute has been created.

Instead of talking on his cell phone while driving, a 32-year-old Irvine, Calif., man stopped at the top of a freeway ramp. He stepped out of the car, made the call and fell to his death. "He was on the phone talking to somebody while leaning on a 3-foot-high concrete railing," California Highway Patrol Officer Mark Reeves said. "Apparently he just fell over it. We don't know why. He fell 87 feet into a concrete culvert."

Thomas Giacometti, 36, of New York City was building shelves to store cages for his 12 pet pythons when he fell off a ladder and onto a drill. The drill bit penetrated the right side of his skull, killing him instantly.

Stephen Hyett, 38, of Haverhill, England, survived a pioneering transplant operation six years ago in which his stomach, liver, kidney, pancreas, duodenum and small colon were replaced. In April, he died from head injuries after falling off a chair while changing a light bulb.

An Australian police officer who confiscated an unlicensed ferret from a man at a Brisbane shopping mall was driving the animal to a wildlife refuge when it gnawed its way out of its box and bit the officer on his penis. While wrestling with the ferret, the officer grabbed the parking brake, sending the car into a near-fatal spin. He finally managed to subdue the ferret with his baton.

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