Columns » Stranger Than Fiction

Stranger Than Fiction


Curses, foiled again
After Malaysian police stopped Aw Cheng Fatt at a checkpoint in Kuala Lumpur, he offered an officer $15 to avoid a breath analyzer test. The Star reported the officer administered the test, which Aw passed, but then arrested him for bribery. A court fined him $300.

Gun grievances
A man repairing a Lincoln Continental was unable to remove one of the lug nuts from the right rear wheel, so, according to sheriff's deputies in Kitsap County, Wash., he decided to loosen the lug nut with a 12-gauge shotgun. He shot himself in both legs. The deputies described the man's legs as "peppered" from his feet to his mid-abdomen with pellets, pieces of the wheel and other debris.

Super hospitality
Seeking to replace government signs at six Scottish airports welcoming visitors to "the best small country in the world," the recently elected Scottish National Party took six months and spent more than $250,000 to come up with a new and improved official slogan: "Welcome to Scotland." Insisting the campaign is "not about developing flashy slogans," Scottish Culture Minister Linda Fabiani pointed out that the greeting appears on six posters with images "showing what a modern, vibrant and successful country Scotland is." One of them has a bald man in a raincoat wandering along an Edinburgh alley.

Basic math
Texas education officials approved elementary school math books that contain 109,263 mistakes. "This is an extraordinary number of errors," Anita Givens, director of instructional materials for the Texas Education Agency, told the Dallas Morning News, which pointed out the number of errors was five times the total for last year, largely because one publisher's books contained more than three-fourths of the errors: 86,026. Suggesting that the high number of errors resulted from publishers being given a shorter amount of time to develop the books, Givens said publishers have until spring to correct the mistakes or face fines of up to $5,000 for every error in the final editions, pointing out, "There is a strong incentive for publishers to be diligent about this."

Cashing in on God
Government and congressional investigators have uncovered evidence that federal agencies and individual employees have misused religious-compensation time to pad accrued vacation and retirement cash-outs. The benefit, created in 1978, allows civilian federal employees to bank small amounts of overtime to use for religious observances "in lieu of overtime pay" without using vacation time. The Washington Post reported the Navy determined that three senior civilian managers had accrued hundreds of hours of religious leave, which they used to play golf, gamble, run marathons and travel to Europe, while banking regular vacation so they would be eligible for large cash payouts when they retired, ranging from $195,000 to $250,000. When Navy investigators asked one of the workers whether he considered golf tournaments to be a religious observance, he responded, "They could be for some people."

Slightest provocation
A 15-year-old boy arrested for the shooting death of Michael Price Jr., 18, at a San Francisco shopping center told investigators he opened fire after he got into an argument because the victim was standing on an escalator step rather than walking as the escalator went down.

Seattle police arrested a woman in her late 50s or early 60s who they said grabbed a 6-inch kitchen knife and stabbed her friend because the 66-year-old victim changed the television channel to a religious program. "I don't know what they were originally watching," police official Renee Witt said, "but it must have been something really good."

Not his lucky day
After a man crashed his car into a pole in Memphis, Tenn., police said he started banging on the door of a nearby house and then kicked in a window, whereupon homeowner Leroy Bruce shot him. Leaving his pants and other clothing behind, the bleeding man fled to a nearby McDonald's and, having stripped to his shirt and undershorts, threw a rock through the front window. Witness Lisa Fuqua told WMC-TV that the man "had to be on some high-powered something."

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