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Stranger than fiction


Curses, foiled again

British authorities uncovered a terrorist plot to bomb Jewish sites after the couple planning the attacks got into an argument that resulted in police being called to intervene. Prosecutor Bobbie Cheema said Shasta Khan, 38, told officers Mohammed Sajid Khan, 33, was "a home-grown terrorist" and proceeded to "spill the beans" about his terrorist activities while denying any involvement herself. Officers then searched the home and found beheading videos, al-Qaeda propaganda, bomb-making guides and addresses in Manchester's Jewish community. Mohammed Khan pleaded guilty, and Shasta Khan was convicted on three terrorism-related counts. (Associated Press)

Sheriff's investigators accused Zackary Dexter Pace, 24, of robbing the fast-food restaurant where he worked in Jefferson County, Ala., after his co-workers recognized him because his disguise was so bad. "Just about every employee in there called him by name and thought he was joking around," Chief Deputy Randy Christian said, until he showed a gun and grabbed cash. He fled but returned three days later while detectives were interviewing witnesses. "He showed up just to see how everyone was doing, and we arrested him," Christian said. "So obviously, not the smartest man in the world." (The Birmingham News and WBRC-TV)

Monkey see, monkey do

Zookeepers at Indonesia's Taru Jurug Zoo moved a female orangutan out of sight of visitors to stop her from smoking lit cigarettes that people throw into her cage. Zoo official Daniek Hendarto said the orangutan has been smoking for 10 of her 15 years, aping humans by holding cigarettes casually between her fingers and puffing away while visitors watch and photograph her. (Associated Press)

Gun goofs

After his girlfriend refused to shoot a .380-caliber, semiautomatic handgun in his family's backyard in Alamo, Texas, Israel Torres, 17, grabbed the weapon and fired at a butane tank. The bullet ricocheted, fatally hitting him in the head. (Associated Press)

Adaisha Miller, 24, died from a gunshot by an off-duty police officer who was dancing at an outdoor party in Detroit after she hugged the officer from behind, causing the holstered weapon to accidentally discharge and strike her in the chest. (Detroit Free Press)

An unidentified 32-year-old man accidentally shot himself in Teaneck, N.J., when the .45-caliber gun he was carrying in his waistband slipped. Police said that when the man tried to grab the gun, he accidentally pulled the trigger, shooting himself in the leg and rupturing an artery. (Bergen County's The Record)

Charles Robert Kimball, 19, died at a gun range in Livingston County, Mich., while his 19-year-old friend was firing an AK-47 assault rifle. Sheriff Bob Bezotte said the friend was applying lubricant after the weapon jammed when he accidentally engaged a bullet, which fired and struck Kimball, who was standing about 12 feet "down range." (Detroit Free Press)

Federal authorities blamed Craig Shiflet, 23, with starting a wildfire that burned more than 18,000 acres of Arizona's Tonto National Forest by firing a shotgun at a bachelor campout with four other men. The round was an "incendiary shotgun shell" whose packaging promises, "Shoots 100 feet of fire, setting everything in its path ablaze. Warning: Extreme FIRE HAZARD." (The Smoking Gun)

Not-so-great escape

When sheriff's deputies approached a man they found lying in a motel parking lot in Modesto, Calif., he ran behind the motel and disappeared. A deputy noticed a hole in the ground, 18 inches in diameter, leading to a septic tank, where the man was hiding up to his shoulders in liquid. Deputies and fire rescue crews spent 30 minutes trying to coax the man from the tank. He remained "verbally combative," Battalion Chief Bryan Hunt said, until agreeing to leave the tank if his mother told him to. After she spoke with him by phone and sent his stepfather to the scene, he emerged from the hole, lit a cigarette and refused to be hosed off. When deputies asked the unidentified man why he jumped into the tank, he answered he'd seen people make similar moves on TV. (The Modesto Bee and Sacramento's KTXL-TV)

War toys

Thailand paid $30 million for 1,576 GT200 and Alpha 6 handheld bomb detectors issued to a dozen government security forces, including the army and the agency responsible for the security of Thailand's royal family, despite a U.S. warning that the devices are as useless as "a toy" and appear "to be a glorified dowsing rod." British explosives expert Sidney Alford added that he examined one and found that the so-called "detection card," which is supposed to be inserted into the plastic device to identify explosives or drugs, is nothing more than a useless piece of paper. Despite these findings, the government continues to deploy the devices, which top defense officials insist work. Some observers believe the military refuses to admit it was duped into buying useless bomb detectors because doing so "may invite unwanted investigation into suspected corruption," Bangkok Post former editor Veera Prateepchaikul said. (The Washington Times)

Unclear on the concept

Police arrested Shannon White, 36, in Belleville, Ill., for calling 911 six times on a Saturday night to complain that her boyfriend wouldn't give her more beer. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

After Tonya Ann Fowler, 45, spotted her police mugshot on the front page of a local publication that circulates pictures of recently arrested people, she called 911 to complain "about how she looked" in the photo. Police in Winder, Ga., responded by arresting her and taking a new mugshot when she was booked at the Barrow County Detention Center for unlawful use of 911 and disorderly conduct. (The Smoking Gun)

America's footprint

Instead of closing the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the military announced plans to spend $40 million to upgrade communications at the Navy base, whose outdated satellite communications system was overburdened by the military court hearing the cases of the top plotters of the Sept. 11 attacks and other terrorist suspects, and by ongoing detention operations. Army Lt. Col. Todd Breasseale explained that the new underwater fiber optic line from Guantanamo Bay to Florida has more bandwidth, is more reliable than satellites and "will bring the base online with communication technology equal to that of the Department of Defense footprint around the world." (CNN)

Reasonable explanation

When police confronted Flora Burkhart, 58, about leaving the scene of an accident after rear-ending a pickup in Van Burean, Ark., they reported her telling them, "I left because I did not want my ice cream to melt." (The Smoking Gun)

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