Stranger Than Fiction 

Curses, foiled again

Authorities who charged Timothy Scott Short, 33, with possessing a stolen Digimarc printer, used by the state of Missouri to make driver's licenses, identified him because he called Digimarc's tech-support line twice trying to obtain software to make the printer work. The caller gave Digimarc the same phone number Short had used in an unrelated identity-theft case, and Secret Service Special Agent John Bush, who listened to recordings of the calls, recognized Short's voice from a prior investigation. Two weeks after his arrest, Scott's Social Security number was accidentally made public on the court's digital records system, putting him at risk of identity theft.

After spending $2.6 billion for 322 European-designed Lakota helicopters for homeland security and disaster relief, the Army admits the choppers aren't safe to fly on hot days because the cockpits overheat, jeopardizing communication, navigation and flight-control systems. The Army will fix the problem by spending millions more to install air conditioning highly unusual for a military helicopter.

China's General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine acknowledged that toy beads, recalled in the U.S. and Australia because they sickened children, contain a substance that can turn into the "date-rape" drug after being ingested. The industrial chemical 1,4-butanediol used to coat the toys metabolizes into gamma hydroxy butyrate, also known as GHB.

After Iowa State Fair officials banned the annual erotic corn-dog eating contest, Steve "Round Guy" Pilchen, one of the Urbandale radio personalities who started the contest, said he wasn't surprised, blaming conservative attitudes and political correctness. He defended the contest's educational value, though, pointing out, "We stress technique."

Alicia Vigil, 33, of East Rockaway, N.Y., was arrested after slamming a metal folding chair across the face of her daughter's soccer coach. Press reports said the woman became angry at the coach for e-mailing what she felt were bad driving directions to a game.

Cindy Osler, 45, who was supposed to serve as the matron of honor at her best friend's wedding, was killed during the rehearsal dinner the night before. She stepped outside the restaurant in Howell, N.J., and was struck by a bolt of lightning. After Yudith Garces, 22, insisted her boyfriend, Paulito Lorenzo, 21, was too drunk to drive, the couple argued until Garces got out of the car and walked away. According to police in Suffolk County, N.Y., Lorenzo began chasing her in the Toyota Corolla and struck her before crashing into a fence, breaking her leg. Police charged Lorenzo with assault and DUI.

A 20-year government effort to restore the population of an endangered native trout in Colorado has showed little progress, according to a three-year study by University of Colorado researchers, because biologists have been stocking some of the waterways with the wrong fish. Intending to restore the greenback cutthroat trout, the scientists instead stocked the more common, now commoner, Colorado River cutthroat trout.

The day after the Defense Department announced its richest-ever single contract, $24 billion to Boeing Co., reporters contacted Boeing, which said it knew nothing about the deal. Eventually, Air Force official Ralph Monson admitted three extra zeroes had been tacked on to the announcement by mistake. "The correct figure was $24 million," he told Reuters, adding he had "no clue how" the error occurred. Commenting on a five-day conference in South Korea to set international standards for condoms, Kim Sung-Hoon, head of South Korea's leading condom maker, Unidus Corp., told Yonhap news agency, "The size of South Korean condoms now meets international standards, helped by an increase in the size of men's penises here."

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


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