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Curses, foiled again

In debt for drugs he bought, Jahnathan Antonio Cox, 20, offered to pay the money owed and buy more drugs, but then hired Curtis Pounds Jr., 20, to rob him and dealer Samson Elijah Kaleioka Kapana, 23, of both the cash and drugs, which Cox and Pounds would then split. Antioch, Calif., police Lt. Leonard Orman told the Contra Costa Times that Pounds showed up at the arranged meeting "holding what appears to be an AK-47, but it's plastic. Pounds points it at (Kapana) and demands money. Kapana pulls out a real gun and shoots Pounds." Police charged Cox with the murder but didn't arrest Kapana because police said he acted in self-defense.

Need a bailout?

Zimbabwe's state media reported the country's inflation rate rose from an annual rate of 11 million percent in June to 231 million percent in July.

Eternal vigilance

The Environmental Protection Agency ruled that an underground nuclear-waste dump the government intends building 90 miles from Las Vegas must protect nearby residents from excessive radiation exposure for a million years. For the first 10,000 years, the Yucca Mountain facility must limit exposure to 15 millirems a year, about the amount from an average X-ray. For the next 990,000 years, exposure must be limited to 100 millirems.

Fruits of research

Overweight people sit closer to the food at Chinese buffets than people of normal weight, according to Cornell University researchers. They observed 213 diners at 11 all-you-can-eat restaurants around the country and found that, besides sitting an average of 16 feet nearer to the buffet, obese people prefer facing it, generally chew less and are less likely than normal-weight diners to use chopsticks.

Faith in God can relieve pain, according to a team of scientists, philosophers and theologians at Oxford University's Centre for the Science of the Mind. The researchers put 12 Roman Catholics and 12 atheists in an MRI scanner for 30 minutes and showed them a painting of the Virgin Mary while administering a total of 80 electric shocks. The scanner indicated the Catholics engaged the neural mechanisms of pain modulation, whereas pain and anxiety levels among the atheists remained steady.

Low-sodium diet

Municipalities across the country face a shortage of road salt and skyrocketing prices this winter. The Associated Press reported that because of last year's above-average snowfalls in the Northeast and Midwest, the United States used 20.3 million tons of road salt, a near record, leaving salt storage barns virtually empty. Besides increased demand, Dick Hanneman, president of the Salt Institute, blamed higher fuel costs for prices triple those of last year.

I see dead people

British authorities foiled an attempt by Anne Akhtary, 43, to cash in her husband's $550,000 life insurance policy by discovering that the husband, Ahmad Akhtary, 34, visited a doctor six months after his reported death. Investigators for the Norwich Union insurance company were tipped off about Ahmad Akhtary's medical appointment and subsequently learned he had continued living openly at his home after his supposed death, working and paying taxes. Judge Mark Horton sentenced the couple to community service but suspended prison sentences, pointing out they had been less than sophisticated in their attempt to defraud.

Five years after John Delaney was cremated, he turned up on television, the subject of a show about missing people that appealed for help identifying him. "I sat down in shock," Delaney's son, John Renehan, 42, said. "It was like looking in a mirror." DNA tests confirmed the man on TV was Delaney, 71. Three years after his family reported him missing from a hostel in Manchester, England, police identified a decomposed body as Delaney's without carrying out DNA tests. Renehan claimed the body and had it cremated. Meanwhile, Delaney had been found, a month after he disappeared, wandering in a daze. Diagnosed with amnesia resulting from a brain injury, he spent the next eight years in a care home.

Uneasy rider

Although Congress approved a tax credit for bicycle commuters after years of rejecting one, long-time advocate and Congressional Bike Caucus founder Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., voted against it. The measure was attached to the $700 billion financial rescue bill, which Blumenauer aide Lucia Graves said thousands of his constituents contacted his office to oppose. "He was looking at the big picture," Graves told the New York Times.

Celebration follies

Authorities charged Matthew J. Willi, 46, with stabbing a 17-year-old boy after getting drunk at his wedding reception in Chippewa Falls, Wis. According to the criminal complaint, friends wrapped the victim in duct tape as a joke. When someone mentioned the boy looked like a piata, Willi wanted to hit the boy with a wooden sword blade he and his son had been playing with, but the son said no. Willi went into the house and returned with a handful of knives, one of which he threw at the victim's chest from a distance of 8 to 10 feet.

After a fight broke out between Salt Lake City neighbors attending a baby shower, police charged a 40-year-old woman with using a shovel to knock another woman unconscious and her 35-year-old husband for threatening guests with a shotgun.

Book it

The authors of a new book, Jewish Wisdom for Business Success, told the New York Times that they are getting the most attention from Christian radio stations. The book, by Rabbi Levi Brackman and Sam Jaffe, offers business advice from the Torah. After Brackman appeared on a Christian talk show on Pittsburgh's WORD-FM, host Stephanie Fraschetti told the Times, "He had a lot of insight, and as Christians we definitely take the Old Testament for all it's worth. These are tried and true principles, inspired by the highest authority, in my opinion."

Role model

Maryland state Delegate Herman Taylor Jr., who advocated mandatory "DUI" license plates for people with multiple drunk-driving convictions, was charged with driving under the influence.

Anybody home?

Two airliners intending to land on the Greek island of Lesbos were forced to circle above the Aegean Sea for 40 minutes because an air traffic controller failed to report for work. "They were calling the tower to get directions, but no one would answer," a police official told Reuters. "The woman later said she overslept." The airport's secondary control service finally helped the Olympic Airlines and Slovakian Airlines pilots land, and the controller was suspended for a few days.

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

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