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Stranger Than Fiction

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Curses, foiled again

Police in Troy, Wis., identified Paul Crowell, 22, as the one who stole a Taser from a patrol car after he posted a video online showing him and his father, Paul Dupey, shocking each other with the stolen weapon. Crowell, who pleaded guilty and was sentenced to two years in jail, showed the video to a girl, who reported it to police.

When Agustin De Jesus, 47, heard a prowler in his restaurant in Lutz, Fla., he spotted a pickup truck idling behind the restaurant, hopped in and drove off to find help. Moments later, the Pasco County Sheriff's Office received a call from Leonard Levy, 55, that his pickup truck had been stolen from the restaurant. Then De Jesus called to report the burglary. When he returned to identify the burglar, sheriff's official Doug Tobin said Levy announced, "Well, that's the guy who stole my truck." Deputies ignored De Jesus and arrested Levy.

Police in Kingston, Pa., arrested a 21-year-old woman they said robbed Harry Kopenis after he withdrew $100 from an automated teller machine. Kopenis, 71, thwarted the suspect's getaway when a neighbor in an electric wheelchair, Kevin Lamb, helped him chase her down.

Incendiary devices

Isias Vidal Maceda was spraying for bugs in his apartment in Eatontown, N.J., but blew it up instead. New York's Daily News reported no one was hurt, but the explosion blew out the apartment's front windows and triggered a fire that quickly spread, destroying 80 percent of Maceda's home and causing smoke damage to the apartment above.

Scottish scientist Robert Gailey, 79, was using a mini-blowtorch to kill weeds on his driveway in Renfrewshire, when sparks from the hand-held Weed Wand accidentally started a blaze that destroyed his next-door neighbors' lawn, shrubs and evergreen trees.

Drunk and drunker

Jennifer A. Gehringer, 25, won't be charged in the death of a high school teacher, even though she was drunk when her car struck and killed him as he walked along a dark road around 2 a.m., because he was also drunk. Lehigh County, Pa., District Attorney James Martin said Gehringer could not have avoided hitting John S. Toggas, 50, when he suddenly stepped in front of her, even if she had been sober.

Mainstreaming

When the Council of the Isles of Scilly, located off the southwestern tip of Great Britain, advertised for an air traffic controller to help guide aircraft safely into the hilltop airport on St. Mary's, the application advised applicants, "If you require this document in an alternative language, in larger text, Braille, easy read or in an audio format, please contact the Community Relations Officer." Acknowledging the wording has attracted ridicule, Keri Jones, the controller of Radio Scilly, said, "It would certainly be something for Scilly to have the world's first blind air traffic controller."

A Finnish theater group staged the world's first "deaf opera," where singers use sign language instead of voices. Unlike sung opera where interpreters sign on the side of the stage, performers at Theatre Totti, located on Finland's Aland islands, sign rather than sing and use body language and facial expressions for emphasis and nuance. For this summer's engagement of 19th-century Finnish composer Fredrik Pacius' The Hunt of King Charles, two musicians provided the score for the hearing, and surtitles aided those unable to understand the signed libretto. "Usually when you go to the theater, the show itself is the message," signer Kolbrun Volkudottir, who performed the soprano role of Leonora the fisherwoman, told Reuters news agency. "In this case, the most important message was to show that deaf people can do opera."

End of an error

President George W. Bush ended a summit meeting of leaders of the world's richest nations in July by joking, "Goodbye from the world's biggest polluter." The Telegraph reported that Bush, whom some have condemned for failing to tackle climate change, then punched the air with his fist while grinning widely, "as the rest of those present including Gordon Brown and Nicolas Sarkozy looked on in shock." The British paper added that Bush met more criticism after a White House press kit distributed at the G8 summit in Japan described Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi as one of the "most controversial leaders in the history of a country known for government corruption and vice." The White House apologized for what it called "sloppy work," explaining an official had lifted the characterization from the Internet without reading it.

Irony of the week

Firefighters responding to a vehicle fire in Lancaster Township, Pa., found the engine of a box truck engulfed in flames. The truck was loaded with fire extinguishers and other firefighting equipment. Driver Jerry Lefever told Lancaster's Intelligencer Journal the cab of his truck was a total loss, but the cargo, including at least eight fire extinguishers, was not damaged.

Jaws Jr.

Sam Hawthorne, 14, was bitten in the face by a shark in his own bedroom. Describing the incident in England's West Midlands as "something out of a horror film," Susan Hawthorne told Metro UK her son sleepwalked into a long-dead souvenir shark hanging on the wall of his nautical-themed room. Although the shark was embedded in the boy's cheek for about 15 minutes, causing a lot of pain and blood, he escaped with just a small scar.

It pays to go

Indian authorities began paying residents of Musiri, a remote town in Tamil Nadu state, about a dollar a month to use public urinals instead of going in the street. The Times of India reported the program is aimed at promoting hygiene and research in rural areas, where basic sanitation eludes millions. "In fact," truck cleaner S. Rajasekaran said, "many of us started using toilets for urination only after the ecosan (ecological sanitation) toilets were constructed in the area." The state's agricultural university is also collecting the urine to test its efficacy as a crop fertilizer.

Medical plan from hell

A lawsuit filed by the mother of Tony Grier, who suffered from a rare lung disease and died at age 43 after receiving a lung transplant, accuses the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and several doctors there of giving Grier a smoker's cancerous lungs. The $5 million suit said the donor was a 31-year-old pack-a-day smoker, whose family told the hospital where she died that she drank alcohol and may have used illegal drugs.

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