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Stranger than fiction



Curses, foiled again

Minutes after receiving a report that a convenience store had been robbed, police in Suffolk, Va., found suspect Sean Almond, 43, behind the store, having interrupted his getaway to urinate. He had the stolen cash on him. (The Virginian-Pilot)

When Clair Arthur Smith, 42, received a $10 check from Florida Gulf Bank after closing his account, he altered it to read $269,951, then tried to deposit it to another account using a Bank of America ATM. Lee County sheriff's investigators promptly arrested Smith, who confessed. (Fort Myers News-Press)

Just nuke it

Russia's leading newspaper, Komsomoloskaya Pravda, suggested the best way to handle the Gulf of Mexico oil geyser is to nuke it. It reported the Soviet-era government relied on controlled, underground nuclear blasts to move rock to plug oil leaks. Besides using "this method five times to deal with petrocalamities," the paper said officials tried subterranean nuclear blasts as often as 169 times "to accomplish fairly mundane tasks, like creating underground storage spaces for gas or building canals." Only one detonation failed to accomplish its purpose. (The Raw Story)

Who's *!%^$# now?

When Michael Powell told Home Depot he'd invented a device to keep store employees from slicing off their fingers while cutting wood for customers, instead of paying him $7,000 apiece for his Safe Hands attachment, company executives dispatched workers to copy the safety guards that Powell had allowed Home Depot to test at eight stores. Advised that Powell might have a claim against Home Depot for stealing his invention, one executive declared, "(Expletive) Michael Powell. Let him sue us."

Powell did sue. A Florida jury awarded him $15 million. On top of that, U.S. District Judge Daniel Hurley called Home Depot callous and arrogant for its treatment of Powell and awarded him an additional $3 million in punitive damages, $1 million a year interest on the judgment until it's satisfied and $2.8 million for legal fees, making the total judgment against Home Depot around $25 million. (The Palm Beach Post)

Held to a lower standard

While under investigation for lying about educational claims on her official filing papers, Mayor Patti Galle of West Linn, Ore., bought an associate's degree online and backdated it to support claims that she was "degreed in English" when she ran for office in 2008. State Justice Department officials said that Galle's diploma from Redding University was dated 1973, but the school is a "diploma mill" that wasn't established until 2003. Galle earlier said the FBI probably lost her real college records at San Jose City College while investigating her for being a member of the Animal Liberation Front. (The Oregonian)

Fear of firing

U.S. job growth is being stalled because workers who still have jobs are working harder to keep them. A Washington Post report said that overall domestic business productivity in the past 27 months declined 3 percent while the workforce fell 10 percent. Last year's 3.8 percent rise in productivity was the best in seven years. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernake called the gains "extraordinary" and admitted he hadn't seen them coming. (The Washington Post)

Lawsuit frivolity

After a night out with her husband, Melanie Shaker became angry with him while walking along a Chicago street and tried to kick him. She lost her footing and fell through the plate-glass window of a beauty salon. Citing "severe injuries," she sued the salon, claiming its window violated the city's building code by not being strong enough to "prevent injuries from those coming into contact with it, including pedestrians, intoxicated pedestrians [or] pedestrians on their way to or from a Cubs game" who might trip and fall into the window. (Chicago's WBBM News Radio)

When asked to prune a sycamore tree on the grounds of a luxury hotel in Lancashire, England, handyman Peter Aspinall, 64, climbed a ladder placed against the branch he was removing instead of the tree trunk. He sawed through the branch, which fell to the ground, followed by the ladder and Aspinall. The injured worker sued the hotel. "It is an unusual accident. Laurel and Hardy do that sort of thing," the hotel's attorney, David Walton, told the court, which nonetheless awarded Aspinall $2,977, blaming the hotel for not training him better how to position the ladder. Aspinall had been on the job only two weeks, having worked 24 years for British Aerospace. (Britain's Daily Mail)

The Birds (The Sequel)

Police responding to a report of a domestic disturbance in Middletown, Ohio, found Janice McCoy-Nuttle, 49, laying in bed surrounded by seven Chihuahuas and 10 cages filled with birds. Officers said a white parrot was perched on her forehead, biting her face, while a smaller bird was standing on her chest. She was reportedly intoxicated to the point where she could neither stand up nor remove the bird from her face. (Dayton Daily News)

Social inactivist

A suicidal man complained after he called an emergency helpline and was transferred to a Church of Sweden pastor, who fell asleep while listening to him. "I thought maybe he was taking notes, so I asked, 'Are you taking notes?' I could hear his heavy breathing before he woke up," the 44-year-old man told the Barometern newspaper. The pastor wasn't awake long, and after another five minutes with no answer, the caller hung up. He tried calling back but was placed on hold and hung up after 10 minutes. Monika Eckerdal Kjellström, who coordinates duty pastors for the Church of Sweden, expressed regret but noted this wasn't an isolated incident. "This sort of thing should really not occur," she said, "but it does sometimes happen that people call and report that the pastors have fallen asleep." (Sweden's The Local)

Not-so-great escape

Harry Jackson, 26, an inmate at the Camden County, Fla., jail escaped from his cell to go to the exercise yard to retrieve some contraband. When it wasn't there, he scaled the fence, broke into a convenience store and stole 14 packs of cigarettes. Deputies caught Jackson trying to break back into jail with the cigarettes. Instead of serving two or three years for the drug charges that landed him in jail in the first place, Jackson received a 20-year sentence for burglary and escape. (The Florida Times-Union)

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