Columns » Stranger Than Fiction

Stranger Than Fiction


Curses, foiled again
Two men tried to carjack a vehicle at gunpoint in Reno, Nev., but the driver grabbed the gun, causing it to fire in the air. Both suspects ran off. The Reno-Gazette Journal reported that a police officer responding to the scene spotted one of them and chased him into a building and onto a just-poured concrete floor. Construction workers nabbed Rudy Aguas, 25.

Police investigating a break-in at a tire store in Coquille, Ore., concluded that the burglar tunneled under a wall to access the building but was unable to remove anything because the tires, all for trucks, were too big to fit through the hole.

Revenge for Kudzu
Government officials trying to eradicate bluegill from Japan's largest lake announced a campaign to encourage people to eat them all. Shiga province's Web site shows how to clean and cook the fish. A private company sells bluegill sushi. Declared a nuisance because it feeds on native species, bluegill had been celebrated as "prince fish" after Emperor Akihito introduced it when he was crown prince. Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley gave him some when Akihito visited in 1960. Last fall, Akihito admitted, "My heart aches to see it has turned out like this."

Emperor's clothes
Australian authorities brought proceedings against a businessman who claimed to have invented a spray that acts as an "invisible condom." Ravi Narain faces fines of up to $400,000 for misleading investors.

We are the world
When 10 New York City subway riders yelling "Merry Christmas" attacked four other riders who replied "Happy Hanukkah," Muslim college student Hassan Askari intervened, giving Walter Adler, one of those assaulted, a chance to pull an emergency cord to stop the train and summon police. "I did what I thought was right," said Askari, who was physically and verbally assaulted during the confrontation. The 10 suspects, ages 19 to 20, were taken into custody. "That a random Muslim kid helped some Jewish kid," Adler said, "that's what positive about New York."

Do-Gooder Award
Jay Moore started a Web site ( where women who want breast implants post their photos, and male donors can contribute to the cause. They correspond through anonymous messages. Since 2005, the site has helped 2,500 young women raise more than a quarter of a million dollars. None of the money has gone to any of the founders, Moore told the Chicago Sun-Times. "We're donors just like the other male members. We work full-time jobs and do this as a public service."

Love hurts
Elizabeth Hingston, 24, admitted helping her boyfriend swindle an insurance company by letting him break her leg. Gordon Thomson, 32, an unemployed chef, jumped on her leg after placing it over a concrete block. The pair, from Plymouth, England, intended to sue the city council by claiming that a wall had fallen on top of her. Police thwarted the scheme when they raided Thomson's home on an unrelated matter and found a 20-second video clip on his cell phone of Thomson jumping on her leg "with both feet," said a friend who had seen the footage. "You could hear a cracking sound."

Big-bang theories
When inspectors aboard a commuter train in Russia's South Urals region asked to see a suspicious passenger's ticket, the man, identified as Mikhail Ershov, 43, pulled a hand grenade from his pocket and demanded that the train divert to Vladivostok, several thousand miles away. After passengers had been evacuated, Ershov was negotiating with police when the grenade exploded, killing him. "Ershov had taken the pin out," Liana Ergasheva of the local prosecutor's office, explained. "He then tried to put the pin back in, but instead it exploded."

Missing the point
Fair-skinned people in South Australia will be banned from using tanning salons, according to strict new rules that take effect in February, state Environment Minister Gail Gago announced.

Calling plan from hell
A North Korean firing squad executed a factory boss for making international phone calls. Britain's Daily Mail reported that 150,000 people turned out to a sports stadium in South Pyongan province to watch man gunned down for violating the government's ban on communicating with the outside world using 13 phones he installed in a basement. Six spectators were crushed to death and 34 others injured in a stampede while leaving the execution.

Bar games
Authorities in Western Australia fined a 31-year-old barmaid $900 for violating hotel licensing laws by crushing beer cans between her bare breasts. An off-duty colleague was fined $450 for helping hang spoons from her friend's nipples.

Last best
German men are the world's worst lovers, according to a poll of 10,000 women travelers from 50 countries who responded on the social networking Web site The women labeled the Germans selfish in bed. Second-place Swedes were ruled too quick. Third were the "too rough" Dutch, followed by "too dominant" Americans, "soppy" Welshmen and "too loud" Scots. Englishmen were voted 10th worst for being too chubby. Turks were sweaty, Greeks smelly and Russians hairy. "Who would have thought Welshmen were better lovers than Swedes?" site representative Peter Ward said. "But I would remind girls, it takes two to tango."

Compiled from the nation's press by Roland Sweet. Submit items, citing date and source, to P.O. Box 8130, Alexandria VA 22306.

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