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Stranger than fiction



Curses, foiled again

A man robbing his elderly victim in San Diego took exception when a bystander interrupted the crime and punched the robber in the face. The robber responded by calling the police to report the assault. When officers showed up, they arrested the 43-year-old caller. (San Diego Union-Tribune)

Police had little trouble finding two men who robbed a convenience store in Catawba County, N.C. The suspects called the police shortly after their getaway to request help with a flat tire. One of the officers recognized the men from a surveillance video of the robbery and arrested Mark Franklin, 46, and James Jennings, 31. (Charlotte Observer)

Rocket man

A 62-year-old man hosting a sledding party in Oakland County, Mich., stuffed a used automobile muffler with gasoline, gunpowder and match heads, strapped it to his back and asked another person to light a fuse, seeking what Undersheriff Mike McCabe called "a rocket-launch effect." As the man headed downhill on an orange plastic sled wearing a motorcycle helmet and a plastic garbage bag as a cape, the device blew up, causing second-degree burns to the man's face and the right side of his body and possible eye injuries. "Apparently, he has this sledding party every year, and he always does outrageous things at it," McCabe said. "But he's never blown himself up before." (Detroit Free Press)

Not so fast

Authorities charged Chamil Guadarrama, 30, with shoplifting after security officers at a mall in Springfield, Mass., found Guadarrama's pants stuffed with 75 8-ounce glass bottles of body lotion. Noting the suspect wore ordinary trousers but had strings tied around each ankle to keep the bottles from slipping out, police Sgt. John M. Delaney said officers "could not fit Mr. Guadarrama into the cruiser because his pants were bursting at the seams, and he could not bend over." Delaney said security officer Jane Colon told him they nabbed Guadarrama after a brief foot chase because he "had a hard time running and was extremely bowlegged." His legs were also "extremely chaffed." (Springfield Republican)

Morality play

A male dance instructor told police in Madison, Wis., that a man phoned for private dance lessons, but when he opened the door to let him in, the man shocked him repeatedly in the neck with a stun gun. According to the criminal complaint, the 59-year-old attacker, who was also carrying a sledgehammer, insisted the instructor was a "sinner" who "defiles married women." He told detectives that his church does not condone touching while dancing and that he intended to scare the instructor "and tell him to leave the women alone." (Wisconsin State Journal)

Still no haggis

Elation among Scots Americans at news reports that the United States was about to lift its 21-year import ban on haggis turned to dismay when the Agriculture Department denied the ban was being relaxed or lifted. A department official acknowledged the ban on beef and lamb products was under review but gave no time frame for its completion. The ban on British beef and lamb took effect during the height of fears over mad cow disease. Haggis is made from the heart, liver and lung of sheep. Even if the ban is overturned, another regulation, dating to 1971, prohibits importing food made with sheep's lung, which makes up 10 to 15 percent of the haggis recipe. "If it hasn't got lamb's lung," Haggis producer Fraser MacGregor of Cockburn's in Dingwall said, "it isn't haggis." (BBC News)

Justifiable homicide

At least half a dozen people have been killed and others injured in the Philippines while singing Frank Sinatra's version of "My Way" at karaoke bars. As a result, many of the clubs have removed the popular song from their playbooks, and karaoke singers have stopped singing it. Most of the "My Way" attacks have reportedly occurred because the singer sang out of tune, causing other patrons to laugh or jeer, sparking an argument. Other incidents, according to Butch Albarracin, owner of a Manila-based singing school that has launched the careers of many famous singers, were provoked by the song's "arrogant" lyrics. (New York Times)

First things first

When police in New Zealand's Counties Manukau District arrived at the scene of a stabbing, the suspect greeted them but showed more concern for the meat pie he was eating than for the victim, his 25-year-old stepson. Expressing regret that the stepson was still alive, the unidentified man asked the arresting officers to let him finish the pie as a reward for turning himself in. "My pie's sitting on the ground," he said. "I just paid for that. I came back here to you guys." Observing that police are always on the alert for unexpected behavior when making arrests, Detective Sgt. Len Leleni said, "You get all kinds of interesting characters in this job." (New Zealand's 3 News)

Senior moments

Chinese officials in Shanghai warned of a "significant increase" in drug use among retired and middle-aged residents. Recreational users are taking ketamine, cocaine and methamphetamine to help them stay awake during marathon mahjong sessions. "The drug-taking mostly occurs among groups in card rooms, a place popular among the elderly," Shanghai anti-drug commission official Zheng Yuqing told China Daily. Noting that drug addiction has increased among people over 35 from 23 to 40 percent in the past decade, the paper reported that rising drug abuse among mahjong players has alarmed sports officials, who've tried to clean up the game's image, going so far as to seek advice from enthusiasts in the United States. (Britain's The Guardian)

Swiss prostitutes are being trained to use defibrillators to revive clients with heart problems. Brothel owners in the Lugano area said electric shock treatment to restart customers' hearts is necessary because so many elderly customers are using their services. "Having customers die on us isn't exactly good publicity," the owner of one sex club told the Italian daily Corriere della Sera. (Britain's Daily Telegraph)

Way to go

Authorities in Oconee County, S.C., concluded that sheriff's Deputy William Frederick Schuck III, 26, died while on patrol after his car got stuck on a dirt road north of Walhalla. When he got out of the car to assess the situation, the car apparently moved forward and pinned him to the tree. (Associated Press)

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