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Stranger than fiction



Curses, foiled again

Elbert Lewis Thompson II, 20, was caught after fleeing a traffic stop in Vandergrift, Pa., then sent to a Pittsburgh hospital complaining of feeling sick and losing consciousness. He escaped from the hospital but was promptly arrested when police received a call from a bar that a man had walked in wearing a hospital gown with an intravenous needle still in his arm. (Associated Press)

Scot Davis, 52, spent the evening at a bar in Des Moines, Iowa, then left but returned minutes later, pointed a .22-caliber rifle at the two bartenders and demanded cash. He fled, followed by bartender Gladys York, who found his parked car, retrieved the rifle and the car's registration, and handed them to police back at the bar. Other witnesses turned over business cards that Davis had passed out at the bar to promote his contracting business. "This is not the hardest case our detectives have ever had to investigate," police Sgt. Lori Lavorato said. (Des Moines Register)

Penny arcade

Louise Chavez was playing penny slots at the Fortune Valley Casino in Central City, Colo., when the machine flashed a message that she'd won a $42.9 million jackpot. The casino informed her the message was an error and offered her a free breakfast. (Associated Press)


Artistic depictions of the Last Supper have increased the sizes of plates and portions in the past thousand years, reflecting people's tendency to overeat and gain weight, according to a study by brothers Brian Wansink, a Cornell University professor, and Craig Wansink, who teaches religious studies at Virginia Wesleyan College. After analyzing 52 paintings of the Last Supper, the researchers found that the size of the main meal has progressively grown 69 percent, plate size has increased 66 percent and bread size has increased 23 percent. "The last thousand years have witnessed dramatic increases in the production, availability, safety, abundance and affordability of food," said Brian Wansink, director of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab. "We think that as art imitates life, these changes have been reflected in paintings of history's most famous dinner." (Reuters)

State of the art

Native Union introduced adapters for cell phones that resemble old-fashioned landline handsets: They have handles, you talk into one end, and you can slam them down when you want to hang up in anger. The company's Moshi Moshi handsets, priced from $60 to $200, attach to phones with a standard 3.5-mm plug or to computers using a USB adapter. Two models connect wirelessly by Bluetooth. (Britain's The Sunday Times)

California psychologist Karin Hart has invented a butt bra, a strap device that lifts a woman's derriere like a bra lifts her breasts. Hart said she got the idea for her Biniki butt lifter after using adhesive tape to support her sagging buttocks under clothing and receiving inquiries from women at her gym. Hart said she has also created a version for men, called the Maniki, and a thong version of her Biniki, called the Throng. (New York's Daily News)

Big brother

After Pennsylvania's Lower Merion School District gave 1,800 high-school students laptop computers to "ensure that all students have 24/7 access to school-based resources," the parents of Harriton High student Blake J. Robbins filed a federal class-action lawsuit accusing school authorities of secretly monitoring Web cams embedded in the laptops to spy on teens and their families at home. The family said they learned of the Web cams when Assistant Principal Lindy Matsko reprimanded their son for "improper behavior in his home." Robbins, 15, said Matsko accused him of taking drugs after mistaking a piece of candy in a Web cam photo for a pill.

Because the Web cam can capture anything happening in the room where the laptop is turned on, district personnel could illicitly observe more than a student's online activity, according to the suit, which charges, "Many of the images captured and intercepted may consist of images of minors and their parents or friends in compromising or embarrassing positions, including, but not limited to, in various stages of dress or undress."

The school district acknowledged remotely activating Web cams 42 times but insisted it was merely trying to find missing, lost or stolen computers. As soon as the lawsuit was filed, school district officials promised the spycams had been "completely disabled." (Philadelphia Daily News)

Serious spray

India's military is turning to the world's hottest chili pepper to combat terrorism. Defense officials said the thumb-sized bhut jolokia, or "ghost chili," will be used to make hand grenades to immobilize suspects. The thumb-sized pepper has more than 1 million Scoville units, the measure of a chili's spiciness, compared with 2,500 to 8,000 Scoville units for jalapeno peppers. "This is definitely going to be an effective nontoxic weapon because its pungent smell can choke terrorists and force them out of their hideouts," the Defense Research and Development Organization's R.B. Srivastava said, noting that testing is under way to produce bhut jolokia aerosol sprays for women to use against attackers and for police to control and disperse mobs. (Associated Press)

The name game

The music industry is running out of catchy band names, challenging musicians to invent identities. Rovi Corp., which licenses editorial content to Apple's iTunes and other music services, said its database lists 1.4 million artist names and last year added an average of 6,521 new names a month. It noted the repeats are piling up, led by 18 past and present acts named Bliss.

In the past, identically named acts often worked in separate regions, causing no conflict. Now, thanks to the digital revolution, musicians can create identities, upload music and reach listeners around the world. The result is a jump in trademark disputes. "If 37 people in California logged on to your MySpace page last month, you can argue that you provide goods and services in California," even if you're a Connecticut band who hasn't released an album or toured out of state, said Atlanta lawyer Joel R. Feldman. (The Wall Street Journal)

Disorderly court

When defense attorney Ronald Dolak advised his client, Quentin C. Moore, 28, to stop "mouthing off" during proceedings in Kane County, Ill., Moore attacked Dolak and "had to be taken down by at least four officers," Judge T. Jordan Gallagher said. Dolak added that Moore attacked him again 45 minutes later when the attorney tried to talk to him in a holding cell. (Suburban Chicago's Daily Herald)

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