Curses, foiled again
Yafait Tadesse went to prison for stealing names and Social Security numbers of a dozen people and using the stolen identities to claim tax refunds. The bogus returns instructed the IRS to load the refunds onto debit cards and mail them to the same address in Georgia that led authorities to Tadesse. Among his victims was Attorney General Eric Holder. (Fox News)
Police named Travis Devonte Rice, 21, as one of their suspects who stole four cars from a car dealership in Plantation, Fla., because he dropped his photo-identification card at the scene. Rice was on probation for armed robbery. Surveillance video confirmed his identity and showed him and another man leaving the scene through a broken window, even though the door right next to it was unlocked, dealership owner Adnan "Eddie" Radoncic said. (South Florida Sun Sentinel)
The smarter crook
Police reported that a man walked into a liquor store in Bradenton, Fla., and told the clerk he and a friend were having a disagreement about the new $50 bills and needed a picture of one. He asked the clerk to hold one up while he took a photo, but when the clerk did, the man snatched it and ran away. (Sarasota's WWSB-TV)
Faced with declining memberships, Baptist churches in Kentucky hired Chuck McAlister, the former host of an outdoor TV show, to recruit new members by raffling off guns. "If simply offering them an opportunity to win a gun allows them to come into the doors of the church and to hear that the church has a message that's relevant to their lives, there's absolutely nothing wrong with that," he said. Tom Jackson, one of 1,300 people at a church dinner in Paducah raffling off 25 guns, said he wanted to win a gun because although he believes in turning the other cheek, if "somebody kicks your door down, means to hurt your wife, your kids, you — how do you turn the other cheek to that?" (NPR)
As the number of guns sold in America rises, gun safes are enjoying record sales and becoming centerpieces of home decor. "Because they are so pretty, people are putting them in their front rooms," said Brandon Payne of Liberty Safe, which sells 500 safes a day, most of them big ones costing more than $1,000 and able to withstand hours of exposure to fires and being dropped from 200 feet. Its Fatboy model can hold 64 long guns and several pistols. Competitors such as Fort Knox and Browning offer customized safes with wood-paneled interiors, dehumidifiers and lighting kits on the inside, and biometric locks and artwork on the outside. (The Economist)
Fire officials blamed two fires in Medford, Ore., on the lithium batteries that power vaporizers in electronic cigarettes. In the first incident, an overcharged battery caused a mattress to catch fire, but a resident put it out in time. In the second incident, Fire Marshal Greg Kleinberg said an e-cigarette exploded while being charged, sending bits of burning battery flying into the ceiling and walls of a house. One hot piece of battery landed on a pillow, causing it to smolder and filling the house with smoke. (Associated Press)
Poison centers across the country report a surge in calls involving e-cigarettes, from one per month in September 2010 to 215 per month this February, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than half the calls involve children younger than 6 who swallow liquid nicotine, which is heated to create vapors. The highly toxic substance is readily available on store shelves in flavors that include bubble gum, chocolate mint and cherry. Urging against "a knee-jerk reaction" to the numbers, Cynthia Cabrera, executive director of the Smoke-Free Alternative Trade Association, said the benefits many consumers claimed to get from using e-cigarettes must be weighed against the relatively small number of accidental incidents linked to them. (The Washington Post)
Poutine for potholes
Saskatchewan's Prairie Energy has discovered that used cooking oil from restaurants is an effective topping for dusty rural roads. "It basically penetrates about an inch and a half," explained the company's Mark Hryniuk, who came up with the idea. "As you drive on it, it gets harder and harder. And it looks like poor man's pavement. We've done complete villages already." (CBC News)
Tin-foil hat brigade
Forty-nine percent of American adults believe the federal government, corporations or both are involved in one or more conspiracies to cover up health information, according to an online survey reported in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine. Among the findings:
• 37 percent believe the Food and Drug Administration is concealing natural cures for cancer because of "pressure from drug companies."
• 20 percent believe health officials are hiding evidence that cellphones cause cancer.
• 20 percent believe doctors and health officials push child vaccines, even though they "know these vaccines cause autism and other psychological disorders."
Study co-author Eric Oliver, a political science professor at the University of Chicago, explained that a lot of these beliefs come from friends, family, celebrity TV and online doctors, and reflect a human tendency to explain the unknown as the work of "malevolent forces." (USA Today)
Mark Adams was charged with a felony after he spoke too long at a township board meeting in Saginaw County, Mich., and several police officers had to pull him from the podium. Township supervisor Augie Tausend pointed out that Adams has been asked on previous occasions to curtail his remarks after exceeding the posted public comment time limit of three minutes, but Adams declared, "Freedom of speech doesn't have a time limitation." (Grand Rapids' WXMI-TV)
When Christopher Viatafa, 27, searched his name on Google, he found a picture of himself on the "Northern California Most Wanted" website and immediately surrendered to San Leandro police. Viatafa had been unaware he was being sought for allegedly firing a semiautomatic at a private party at the San Leandro Senior Center. (San Francisco Chronicle)