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Stranger Than Fiction


Curses, foiled again

Police identified Suzanne Gruber, 39, as their shoplifting suspect after she fled from a clothing store in Greenburgh, N.Y., but neglected to take her infant son. "The mother panicked," police Lt. Desmond Martin told the Journal News, explaining that Gruber left her purse and cell phone in the stroller, which also concealed vases, teapots and knives valued at around $180.

Theory of relativity

After Irish police ticketed David Clarke, 31, for driving 180 kilometers per hour in County Donegal, District Judge Denis McLoughlin reduced the charge from driving dangerously to driving carelessly. McLoughlin acknowledged the speed seemed "very excessive" but said it didn't look "as bad" when converted into miles, or 112 mph.

".45" follies

A 47-year-old Texas man was shot by his own handgun while sitting in his cubicle at an insurance office. He had put the .45-caliber gun into his jacket pocket and then draped the jacket over the back of his chair, according to Lake Worth Police Chief Brett McGuire, who explained the gun accidentally fired as the man settled into his chair. The bullet passed through both of the man's legs and a bookcase before lodging in the cubicle wall.

This season's hunter shot by dog is James Harris, 37. He took between 100 and 120 pellets in his leg at close range while crossing a fence outside Grinnell, Iowa. He set the gun down, and the dog tripped the trigger.

A bowl of terror

After people in London's Soho district complained that a noxious chemical was burning their throats, the London Fire Brigade dispatched a chemical response team, which closed off roads, sealed buildings and donned special breathing masks to help locate the source of the acrid smell. Finally, the Times of London reported, firefighters smashed down the door of a Thai restaurant and carried out the suspected source: a pot containing 9 pounds of bird's-eye chilies being roasted for a batch of nam prik pao , a Thai chili paste. There were no arrests, a police official said, explaining, "As far as I'm aware, it's not a criminal offense to cook very strong chili."

Drink up

The City Council in New Ulm, Minn., voted, 4-1, to let volunteer firefighters drink alcohol at fire station buildings after fire calls or other calls of duty. City Council president Dan Beranek said he voted for the measure because people "who put themselves at risk in fighting fires are responsible enough to know when they've had too much."

3-D art

To help blind people enjoy meaningful body alterations, German university student Klara Jirkova came up with the Braille Tattoo. Relying on surgical steel, titanium or medical plastic that's implanted under the skin to raise bumps, the tattoo can then be read by touch. Wired magazine reported that Jirkova, a student at the University of the Arts Berlin, suggested the implants could be placed between thumb and forefinger so people can "read" each other's names and other information when they shake hands.

Finders keepers

A man who bought a meat smoker at an auction of storage facility items in Maiden, N.C., notified authorities after he found a human leg inside. The limb, cut off 2 to 3 inches above the knee, was wrapped in paper. Investigators contacted the woman who had rented the storage locker. She told them the leg belonged to her son, who had needed it amputated after a plane crash and kept it.

Hours gone by

Sheriff's deputies in Pima County, Ariz., rescued cancer patient Elvira Tellez, 67, after she called to report that she had been left alone in a CT scanner after a technician placed her inside the large machine, dimmed the lights so she could relax and told her not to move during the 25-minute procedure. After losing track of time, she said she called out, then screamed for help and spent several hours trying to free herself from the machine, only to find the closed clinic's doors locked. By the time deputies reached her, she had been inside the clinic for five hours.

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