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Stranger than fiction



Curses, foiled again

Barry Cleveland Roberts, 46, was arrested for murder in Norfolk, Va., when he tried to buy a gun. Virginia State Police Sgt. Michelle Cotton said that after Roberts filled out an application at Bob's Guns and Tackle, a background check turned up the outstanding murder warrant. Authorities were waiting for him when he returned to the store to purchase the weapon.

British police arrested three men who robbed a jewelry store in Maidstone, Kent, because they stopped for a red light less than 200 yards from the scene of the crime, allowing officers to catch up to them.

Trevor Agnew, 44, pleaded guilty to burglary after British police caught him using stolen bankcards to try to withdraw money from the same ATM in Timperley. The Manchester Evening News reported Agnew returned to the ATM more than 50 times trying to guess the PINs by entering random sets of four numbers. He failed to guess right before arousing suspicion. Police identified him from his many appearances on the ATM camera.

Election coverage

The day after the presidential election, the Sapulpa Daily Herald reported that the majority of Creek County, Okla., voted for John McCain for president but failed to mention that Barack Obama won the election. "Our main focus is to be a local newspaper," publisher Darren Sumner told Tulsa's KJRH-TV.

The Defense Department nixed election coverage by the military's Stars and Stripes newspaper. Despite Congressional and military policies guaranteeing the paper's First Amendment freedom, officials barred reporters from doing routine color stories reporting reaction to the voting from public areas of military bases to "avoid engaging in activities that could associate the Department with any partisan election." The Washington Post reported that commanders in Japan and South Korea obeyed the order, but commanders in the Middle East and Europe ignored it.

Nowhere, Alaska

Costco announced it was canceling plans to build a 154,000-square-foot store in Wasilla, Alaska. The retail giant said only that it had decided not to pursue the project, giving no specifics, but withdrawing its application to develop the 17.53-acre site after drilling 27 holes to test the soil.

Rough campaigning

While running for governor of Bangkok, underdog Chuvit Kamolvisit reacted to questions during a live television interview by punching and kicking host Visarn Dilokwanich. Visarn commented Chuvit "behaved like a thug." Chuvit, who the Thai press dubbed Bangkok's massage parlor king, told reporters, "I admit I did it. I couldn't stand it when he humiliated me."

Who needs guns?

Accused of attempted homicide, Valentina Grenader, 45, told detectives in Waukesha County, Wis., she hit her husband in the head with a dumbbell. She and Mark Grenader showed up at the New Berlin police station, where he explained she had initiated sex, tied him to the bedposts, blindfolded him and then wrapped his face in plastic wrap. She hit him three or four times with the weight when he started thrashing because he couldn't breathe and yelled for help.

Her story was that she has a gambling problem and waited until she tied him up to tell him she lost $800 at a casino. She hit him because he was yelling so loud that she couldn't talk to him about her problem. She called her husband a "control freak."

Not-so-speedy delivery

New York Police Department Deputy Commissioner Paul J. Browne told the New York Times that FedEx, UPS and DHL trucks "are towed collectively on the average of one or two per day." The most common offenses are blocking lanes and parking in bus stops. "They are typically reclaimed in a matter of hours," Browne added, "after paying a tow fee of $370 twice the $185 fee for towed autos."

Gun goofs

Eight-year-old Christopher Bizilj accidentally shot himself in the head with a machine gun at a weapons show in Westfield, Mass. The boy was being supervised by his father at the "Machine Gun Shoot and Firearms Expo" in Westfield, Mass., when he fired the fully loaded 9mm Micro Uzi weapon. The recoil sent the firearm up and back. "The accident was truly a mystery to me," Charles Bizilj told the Boston Globe, noting his son had been firing handguns and rifles since he was 5.

Desperation pays

Fannie Mae canceled the mortgage of a 90-year-old woman who shot herself when sheriff's deputies tried to evict her from her foreclosed home in Akron, Ohio. "We're going to forgive whatever outstanding balance she had on the loan and give her the house," Fannie Mae official Brian Faith said after Addie Polk was hospitalized for two gunshot wounds to the upper body. "Given the circumstances, we think it's appropriate."

It seemed good

An attempt in Iran to have the world's largest sandwich recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records ended before it could be measured. The moment event organizers unveiled the estimated 4,920-foot-long sandwich at a park in Tehran, a gathering crowd rushed forward and ate it. A Reuters correspondent who witnessed the chaos said the giant snack was gone in minutes. Organizer Parvin Shariatim said he hoped Guinness officials would still count the record based on video footage before the feast.

Atomic fingers

Radioactive elevator buttons in France were traced to contaminated scrap metal at a foundry in western India. Agence France-Presse reported the buttons, containing traces of Cobalt 90, were shipped to France and installed in 500 elevators. Swedish officials also said they found traces of radioactivity in steel products from India. "Exporters have been advised to buy monitors to check their materials before exporting," Satya Pal Agarwal, head of radiological safety at India's Atomic Energy Regulatory Board, said, urging foundries to also monitor all their materials before smelting.

Missing the point

Police in San Anselmo, Calif., arrested a 37-year-old man on the day a jury was to decide whether to convict him of auto theft when he drove to court in a stolen Lexus SUV. He was arraigned after being convicted in the original case.

After police who stopped a 65-year-old Austrian man for drunk driving took away his license and car keys, he went home, got his spare keys and returned to the abandoned car. Then he drove to the police station in Linz to complain about the charge, only to be arrested because officers "detected he was still under the influence of alcohol."

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