Columns » Stranger Than Fiction

Thief drops his pants, then the loot

Stranger Than Fiction

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Curses, foiled again

British police released surveillance video of a hooded man who entered a Manchester store armed with a machete and demanded cash. As the robber emptied the register, his pants kept slipping down so that when he began his escape, he tripped, dropping the money. While stuffing it back in his pockets, his hood fell off, exposing his face and "potentially identifying himself," Detective Constable Andrea Holden-Cullum said, adding, "Watching this CCTV is like watching a comedy of errors." (Manchester Evening News)

Police responding to the theft of $2,748 from a bank in Merced County, Calif., spotted Shawn Lee Canfield, 25, outside the bank shoving money down his pants. When officers took him to the police station, $2,414 fell out of his pants. During questioning, the remaining $334 dropped from Canfield's pants when he was asked to stand up. (Fresno's KFSN-TV)

Muted message

The women's advocacy group UltraViolet responded to the National Football League's handling of recent domestic violence cases by having an airplane fly a banner during an Atlanta Falcons home game calling for the resignation of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell: "ULTRAVIOLET: GOODEL MUST GO." Besides misspelling Goodell's name, the message was delivered above Atlanta's new Georgia Dome, whose roof prevented spectators from seeing the banner. (Atlanta's WXIA-TV)

Bad timing

After William Lopez, 55, was released from prison, having served 23 years for a crime he didn't commit, he sued New York City for $124 million for false imprisonment. Three days before the proceedings were set to begin, Lopez died from an asthma attack. (Associated Press)

Breaking news

India's state television channel Doordarshan fired a news anchor who referred to Chinese President Xi Jinping as "Eleven Jinping," confusing Xi's name with the Roman numerals XI. "It is an unpardonable mistake," a Doordarshan senior official said. (Reuters)

Law and order: DIY

Police forces in England and Wales have begun asking crime victims to carry out their own investigations after having their car stolen or property damaged, according to a report by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary. The watchdog agency found that police instructed victims to look out for potential fingerprint evidence, check for witnesses and search second-hand websites for their stolen property. The HMIC also said that 37 of the 43 forces investigated dealt with cases over the phone without victims ever meeting a police officer. (Britain's The Independent)

Casting the first stone

While Doug Wilkey, 61, spent two years asking the city of Dunedin, Fla., to shut down the lemonade stand run by his 12-year-old neighbor, T.J. Guerrero, news reports of Wilkey's efforts brought an outpouring of donations for the boy from as far away as Canada, ranging from $5 to $250. Meanwhile, acting on an anonymous tip, city officials began investigating Wilkey for possibly running a business out of his home without a license, subjecting him to daily fines of $250 until he complies with ordinances. (Tampa Bay Times)

Y'all talk

The Oak Ridge National Laboratory canceled plans for a six-week course in "Southern Accent Reduction" after workers complained. The east Tennessee facility employs more than 4,000 people. The class promised to give employees "a more-neutral American accent, and be remembered for what you say and not how you say it." The class was canceled within hours of its announcement, according to the lab's communications director, David Keim. "Given the number of staff here who have Southern accents, this was clearly not received well," Keim said. "We've offered accent reduction training to foreign nationals for years, but this one obviously surprised some folks." (Knoxville News Sentinel)

Show or go

Eleutherios Spirou, who has worked at a pizzeria in Quincy, Mass., since 1989, risks deportation because of exaggerated claims made on his visa application. The owners of Copeland Pizza declared that Spirou was able to "exercise showmanship in preparation of food, such as tossing pizza in the air to lighten the texture." Spirou later admitted to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services that he doesn't actually throw the dough and was denied his visa. "Even accepting Copeland's definition of the term 'showmanship' would require Spirou to perform his duties in a dramatic manner," U.S. District Court judge Denise Casper ruled, upholding the federal agency's deportation order. (Boston Herald)

Gender inclusivity

Wesleyan University's two on-campus fraternities must start accepting women, according to a ruling by the Connecticut school's Board of Trustees. The decision was made "with equality and inclusion in mind," school President Michael Roth and Trustee Chairman Joshua Boger told students. "Our residential Greek organizations inspire loyalty, community and independence. That's why all our students should be eligible to join them." (The Washington Times)

Mills College became the first all-female college to admit men, provided they were "assigned to the female sex at birth" and have legally changed their gender to male. The California school's admission policy on "transgender or gender questioning applicants" is believed to be the first of its kind among the nation's 119 single-sex colleges. (The Washington Times)

Ill wind blows good

Stormy weather this summer resulted in record production for Britain's wind farms. Hurricane Bertha especially helped drive wind energy to its highest portion of the United Kingdom's energy mix ever: 17 percent. That compares with 11 percent for coal power and 30 percent for gas and nuclear energy combined. As a result of the 53 percent growth of offshore wind energy this year, energy secretary Ed Davey approved a $3.5 billion wind farm off the Sussex coast, featuring 175 turbines built nine miles out to sea. Critics, including the National Trust, insist that the wind farm will "unacceptably spoil" the views from the coast. (International Business Times)

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