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Robbing banks by the book 

Stranger Than Fiction

Curses, foiled again

Gregory Dike, 38, received 11 years in jail for robbing 10 banks across England. Police arrested him after he booked a taxi for his getaway, but the driver realized what was happening and refused to wait. "He was undoubtedly a beginner," Detective Constable Darren Brown said. "We found robbery 'self-help' downloads on his phone," including one called "How to Rob a Bank." (BBC News)

Randy Gillen Jr., 28, pulled up to a bank drive-through window in Clearfield, Pennsylvania, intending to pass a fraudulent check, police said. When he found $500 that a previous customer had left in the carrier, he took it and drove off. When the customer returned for the money, police identified Gillen from the bank's surveillance video and traced him to his girlfriend's house, where officers found him hiding in a closet. (Johnstown's WJAC-TV)

Bureaucracy follies

The Internal Revenue Service rehired hundreds of employees "with known conduct and performance issues," including 141 who had misfiled their own returns and five known to have intentionally failed to file returns, according to an audit by the agency's inspector general. The report noted that nearly 20 percent of the workers with prior problems continued having problems paying their taxes after they were rehired. (The Washington Times)

Sound effects

America's best-selling cars and trucks rely on fake engine noise to simulate power and performance because today's fuel-efficient engines lack their once-distinctive roar. Ford's 2015 Mustang EcoBoost, for example, amplifies the engine's purr through the car speakers to produce a sound the automaker calls "a low-frequency sense of powerfulness." Porsche's "sound symposer" uses noise-boosting tubes, and BMW plays a recording of its motors through car stereos. Without the artificial noise, proponents say, drivers would hear an unsettling silence or ordinary road noise. Critics, including Kelly Blue Book senior analyst Karl Brauer, want automakers to level with buyers. "Own it," he urged. "You're fabricating the car's sexiness. You're fabricating performance elements of the car that don't actually exist." (The Washington Post)

Gustatory gems

More than 35,000 people entered a lottery for tickets to sip cocktails at London's Annie the Owl pop-up bar while owls fly around and perch on their shoulders. Professional falconers join the patrons, who pay $30 for two cocktails and two hours of "unique owl indulgence," according to Sebastian Lyall, CEO of start-up app company Locappy, which sponsors the weeklong event. He said a maximum of 12 patrons will be allowed to sit around each owl and that background music will be kept to a moderate level so as not to upset the birds. Annie the Owl, which pledged to donate proceeds to a U.K.-based owl charity, resulted from a blog post by the event guide Time Out London that encouraged London to follow Japan, where at least five owl cafes have opened. Tokyo's Fukuro no Miso ("Shop of Owls") cautions customers that its birds are tame but "can't be potty trained." (CNBC and Associated Press)

Andrew McMenamin opened what he claims is the world's first potato-chip sandwich café in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Simply Crispy ("crisps" are what the British call chips, which is their word for fries) offers 35 flavors. The sandwiches are served with soup (topped with crisps croutons) and fries. McMenamin got the idea from a spoof website article by Billy McWilliams and Seamus O'Shea, who observed, "Not only did people believe it, but people wanted to believe it, and the story went viral." (Britain's Daily Mail)

Hjortur Smarason, 28, bought the last McDonald's hamburger and fries to be sold in Iceland before the chain closed there in 2009. "I realized it was a historic occasion," Smarason said. He stored it in a plastic bag in his garage for three years before donating it to the National Museum of Iceland. After a year, the museum returned the "hamborgarinn" to him, following complaints calling it an inappropriate exhibit. "I regard it as a historical item now," he said. "I think it's incredible that it seems to show no signs of decomposition, although apparently the fact that there were fewer chips returned to me was because some museum visitors had eaten some of them." He subsequently donated the souvenir to Reykjavik's Bus Hostel. (Britain's Daily Mail)

When guns are outlawed

A court in Northern Ireland convicted Morrison Wilson, 58, of assaulting a neighbor with his belly. Wilson, described as "heavy-set," told Belfast Magistrate's Court he was trying to get the retired woman off his lawn when he "bounced her back" with his "big belly." (Northern Ireland's Belfast Telegraph)

Hot pants

Michael Bain, the principal of a New Zealand elementary school, was serving as the starter for a swim meet in Havelock North when his shorts burst into flames. "I was just standing there having a sandwich, and then 'boom,'" he recounted. "Basically, the starting-gun caps self-ignited, which set fire to my shorts." Fortunately, Bain was standing next to the pool and jumped in. He was treated at the hospital for "a large burnt patch" on his leg. Fire official Jamie Nichol said that in his 24 years in the Fire Service, "I've never come across anything like this." (The New Zealand Herald)

Guess who?

The University of Michigan announced it will no longer use race descriptions to identify suspects in crime alerts unless absolutely necessary so as not to "reinforce stereotypes of Black men ... that negatively affect their sense of safety." The Minneapolis school's statement said it would continue to identify suspects by gender. (University of Michigan press release)

What gave it away?

After a Swedish educational video aimed at explaining private parts to children became a YouTube hit, Peter Bargee, programming director at public broadcaster SVT, said the clip also drew "unexpected" criticism. Some people complained that portraying the penis with a mustache and the vagina with long eyelashes reinforced gender stereotypes. Bargee responded that the video was meant to be fun and not a "statement on gender politics." (Associated Press)

Funny money

British police reported that a Manchester bar accepted a 20-pound note that was "just two paper photocopies of banknotes stapled together." Inspector Phil Spurgeon called it "probably the worst forgery we have ever seen." (Britain's Manchester Evening News)

  • All the weird news that's fit to print.

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