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Stranger than fiction

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Curses, foiled again

When Jarrell Paul Arnold, 34, walked into a credit union in Anchorage, Alaska, and inquired about his account balance, the teller asked for his name, account number and photo identification. After complying, he showed the teller a note that read, "I have a gun. Give me all the money in your drawer." The Anchorage Daily News reported the robber stuffed the cash in his jacket and took off, only to be promptly arrested.

Robbery suspect Thomas James, 24, died after he spray-painted his face to conceal his identity, according to sheriff's deputies in Richland County, S.C.

Size matters

The Port of Seattle will have to pay about $1 million extra for its new cargo terminal because the trench dug to hold the electrical cable for cranes that lift containers from ships was too narrow for the cable. "Clearly, the contractor should've built the trench at 2.52 inches, and it's 2.5," Port Commission President Bill Bryant told the Seattle Times.

A bigger trench would've cost $500,000, so the Port decided to order a smaller 2-inch cable from Italy that cost $200,000. It's also liable for a $1 million rent credit for the tenant whose use of the cable was delayed.

Who needs guns?

Police in Elyria, Ohio, arrested Thomas B. Heffner, 49, and his 18-year-old son, Thomas W., for fighting with swords. "Heffner Jr. stated that he believes he was being treated unfairly and started to argue," the police report said. Amy Heffner explained that when the argument intensified, her husband and son grabbed swords off the wall and continued to swing them at each other until the police arrived.

Keystone Kops

Six motorcycle cops crashed into each other while escorting the family of one of the country's largest Harley-Davidson dealers to his funeral in Ormand Beach, Fla. A Florida Highway Patrol official told the Daytona Beach News-Journal the lead rider slowed down, but the riders near the back of the group didn't, causing the chain-reaction crash.

Hunt & peckers

New York City signed a $982,269 contract with a New Jersey company to buy thousands of new manual and electric typewriters over the next three years and a $99,570 maintenance contract with a Manhattan firm to service existing typewriters. The New York Post reported most of the money was for the New York Police Department, which still uses typewriters to fill out property and evidence vouchers printed on carbon-paper forms.

The reliance on typewriters contributes to the slow pace of processing arrests, according to Edith Linn, a retired NYPD officer and professor of criminal justice at Manhattan's Berkeley College. Of the roughly 500 NYPD officers Linn interviewed for her 2008 book Arrest Decisions, many cited the outdated equipment as a reason for their reluctance to make arrests for less serious crimes.

Horns of a dilemma

Marijuana may protect the brain from the harmful effects of binge drinking, according to researchers at the University of California San Diego. They performed brain scans on 16- to 19-year-olds in three groups: binge drinkers, binge drinkers who also smoke pot and those with very little drug or drinking experience. The study, reported in the journal Neurotoxicology and Teratology, found that subjects who drank and smoke showed less brain damage than binge drinkers and only slightly more brain damage than the control group.

The nose knows

Honolulu city councilors introduced a bill that would make it illegal for bus riders to have "odors that unreasonably disturb others or interfere with their use of the transit system." Passengers convicted of body odor would face a $500 fine and up to six months in jail.

A British amusement park this summer banned rollercoaster riders from raising their arms after receiving complaints about body odor. Signs at Thorpe Park in Chertsey, Surrey, warn visitors to keep their arms down and "Say no to BO." Wardens on the rides also remind people to consider their fellow passengers and will remove anyone ignoring the warnings. "Our rides are really scary, and people tend to sweat more than normal due to the fear and anticipation they experience while queuing up," Mike Vallis, a park director told the Daily Telegraph, "so it can get really pongy."

Litigation nation

A Maryland family wants Honda to pay them $10 million after a tornado picked up their Odyssey van, which, according to their statement, "remained airborne for a few seconds before plummeting to the ground and landing on all four wheels." Upon impact, the driver's side passenger window shattered, and glass flew into the car, injuring five occupants. Although the Achumba family said in Prince George's County Court that the automaker should have used the same laminated glass for side windows that it uses for windshields, the father noted that his wife, a defendant, ignored the tornado warning, choosing to drive her children to school for back-to-school night because she "was upset at the program for not properly caring for her child."

Trina Thompson, 27, is suing her alma mater for a $70,000 tuition refund because she hasn't found a job since earning her bachelor's degree this April. The information-technology student insisted the Office of Career Advancement at New York's Monroe College has "not tried hard enough to help me."

The passenger in a car driven by a drag-racing teenager who seriously injured the driver of a minivan he hit head-on is suing the victim, insisting she "carelessly and negligent (sic) failed to avoid the collision with the other vehicle." Investigators in Salem, Mass., concluded that Timothy Pereira, 19, was going 81 mph in a 30 mph zone when he lost control of his Ford Mustang, veered across the centerline and hit the Honda Odyssey driven by Christine Speliotis, 42. The Salem News reported that Brandon Pereira, 17, Timothy's cousin, was ejected from the vehicle and suffered severe injuries. His lawyer, Roland Hughes, said he's seeking $450,000 from Speliotis, who police said was driving at a reasonable speed and did nothing wrong, because "I'm trying to get compensation for my client anywhere I can."

Fred Hiestand, a leading opponent of frivolous lawsuits in California, is suing the city of Sacramento, the city's police chief, city police officers and a tow truck company for towing his car after he left it in a no-parking zone. "I was concerned this might happen," John Sullivan, president of the Civil Justice Association of California, told the Recorder. "Fred has been fighting against frivolous lawsuits for decades, and like a doctor fighting malaria, he's become infected himself."

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