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Stranger than fiction



Curses, foiled again

People noticed Dennis Hawkins, 48, when he showed up at a shopping center supermarket wearing a woman's blonde wig, a sweater with fake breasts under it and clown pants. Police in Swissvale, Pa., said Hawkins proceeded to a Kmart store, where surveillance cameras caught him shoplifting a BB gun. He then went to a nearby bank, showed a teller the gun and demanded money. Bank cameras recorded him stopping behind the bank to open the money envelope as a dye pack explodes, causing him to drop some of the money. He ran to a nearby service station, hopped into the parked car of a woman and asked for a ride. The woman got out, taking her keys with her, and called police, who arrested Hawkins while he waited in her car, covered with red dye, the wig stuffed in his clown pants and still wearing the fake breasts. "He'd be my candidate for America's dumbest criminal," police Chief Greg Geppert said. (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

Authorities in Greene County, Ind., arrested Justin S. Johnson, 21, after a bank reported he was trying to cash a check for $1 million at the drive-through window. Sheriff's Lt. Bryan Woodall said Johnson left without any money, but he had presented identification to prove he was the payee, and the teller photocopied his driver's license before informing him the check wasn't valid. (Greene County Daily World)

Please, no squatting

After attending a cultural awareness course run by a Muslim community activist in England, managers of a Rochdale shopping mall installed two squat toilets. A familiar sight in parts of the Middle East and Asia, the toilets require users to squat over a hole in the ground and are favored over flush toilets because they don't need expensive plumbing and allow users to assume a natural posture that proponents claim offers health benefits. The installation at the Exchange mall followed a class by Ghulam Rasul Shahzad, who received the Order of the British Empire from Queen Elizabeth II in June. The change didn't sit well with Conservative MP Philip Davies, however. "We in Britain are rightly proud of our toilets," he declared, "and the onus is on people who come to this country to appreciate them for what they are" (Britain's Daily Mail)

Inconvenient truth

Hotter-than-usual weather in Germany this year caused a disappointing potato harvest, resulting in potatoes used of make french fries that are only 1.8 inches long instead of the usual 2.2 inches. "The french fries industry and consumers will have to brace themselves for shorter fries," said Verena Telaar of the German Farmers' Association. (Reuters)

Instant cowma

Authorities who charged Christopher Newton, 21, and another man with trying to push over two 4-foot-tall fiberglass cow sculptures in Burlington, Vt., noted that Newton's foot was broken when one of the 150-pound cows fell on it. (Associated Press)

Flaming idiots

Instead of covering baseball diamonds with a tarp to keep them dry, Alberta's St. Albert Minor Baseball Association dries rain-soaked playing fields by setting them on fire. The tradition could cost the non-profit association $20,000 after an official poured six liters of diesel fuel on one field and lit it. Within minutes, St. Albert firefighters arrived and extinguished the blaze, and a city hazmat team dug up the field to check for contamination. The city also forced the association to dig up one of the pitching mounds found to be contaminated with fuel. Association officials accused the city of overreacting, but city official Chris Jardine insisted the quick-dry practice puts both players and the environment at risk. (CBC News)

First things first

A Utah judge sentenced Adam Manning, 31, to six months in jail for fondling a maternity nurse while she was wheeling the man's pregnant girlfriend to the delivery room at an Ogden hospital. Because he was promptly arrested after the nurse reported the incident, Manning missed his child's birth. (Ogden's Standard-Examiner)

Follow the leader

Firefighters who rescued two men from an industrial clothes dryer in Charlotte, N.C., said the first man crawled into the dryer to free an item that was jammed but was overcome by the heat. A second man went in to rescue him, but the heat overcame him, too. A third worker called for help. Thirty firefighters needed a half-hour to free the two victims. (The Charlotte Observer)

Four men and five young children were in a boat on Idaho's American Falls reservoir when one of the men thought it would be funny to push another man overboard. "But apparently, he couldn't swim, so he was immediately in distress," Power County Sheriff Jim Jeffries said. "The second man jumped in, and so then there were two of them in distress in the water, so the third jumped in, and there were three in distress." The last man grabbed a life jacket but just held it instead of putting it on when he jumped in to save the other three, Jeffries said, noting that breezy weather caused the boat to drift away from the struggling men. Meanwhile, one of the children found a cell phone and called for help, but rescuers couldn't find any of the men or their bodies. (Associated Press)

Homeland insecurity

Tourists will no longer be able to watch maple syrup production from the factory floor of Maple Grove Farms' processing facility in St. Johnsbury, Vt. General Manager Steve Jones said Maple Grove can't afford to comply with post-9/11 security guidelines requiring visitors to be physically separated from production equipment. (Barre-Montpelier Times Argus)

Attracting the worst

Montenegro, population 600,000, began offering citizenship to everyone who invests more than $662,650 in the country. The government said its "economic citizenship program" is designed to encourage businesses to move to the tiny Balkan nation, but opposition leader Nebojsa Medojevic argued it would "only attract tycoons and corrupt politicians on the run." (Reuters)

Dutch swingers

A Dutch zoo invited Olympic gymnast Epke Zonderland to teach its orangutans how to swing through the trees. Ouwehands Dierenpark Rhenen recently renovated its orangutan enclosure so the primates can swing from tree to tree as they do in the wild, but they apparently have been caged so long that they've lost the knack. "It is said that we can learn from apes how to climb, but this time they've asked me to get the apes back into the trees," Zonderland, who competed in the high-bar event at the Beijing Olympics, told Dutch radio station BNR. (Reuters)

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