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Curses, foiled again

Max D. Hinton, 21, was interviewing for a job with the Montgomery, Ala., police when he volunteered that he possessed child pornography and had sex with an underage girl. An investigation led to a trial, a conviction and a 30-year prison sentence but no explanation why Hinton mentioned the pornography.

When a sheriff's deputy in Dodge County, Neb., tried to pull over a drunk-driving suspect, the car sped up. Then the driver lost control, drove into a ditch and wound up on train tracks. The Fremont Tribune reported that when the 21-year-old driver abandoned the car and hid from the deputy, a passing train rammed his car.

Mitchell Deslatte, 25, drove up to a state trooper station in Baton Rouge, La., and asked the trooper at the front desk if he was in a hotel. WAFB-TV News said Deslatte was promptly booked for DWI.

Homeland insecurity

U.S. border authorities ordered the removal of a glossy yellow sign spelling out "United States" in 21-foot-high letters on the side facing Canada at a new border station in Massena, N.Y. "There were security concerns," Customs and Border Protection Agency official Kelly Ivahnenko told the New York Times. "The sign could be a huge target and attract undue attention."

The agency approved the sign, proposed four years ago by the federal General Services Administration as part of that agency's campaign to raise the standards of government architecture but, less than a month after the new station opened, began dismantling it. "At the end of the day, I think they were somewhat surprised at how bold and how bright it was," said Les Shepherd, the GSA's chief architect.

Render unto Caesar

After Chicago banker George Michael claimed his $3 million mansion was really a church, the Illinois Department of Revenue exempted him from his $80,000 yearly property-tax bill. The Chicago Tribune reported that Michael's evidence for tax-exempt status consisted of a copy of the identification card he received from the Internet-based Church of Spiritual Humanism by clicking a button on the outfit's web site that read "ORDAIN ME" and a photograph of his church home depicting a cross on the exterior wall. The village of Lake Bluff, where Michael's mansion is located, contested the exemption. Kenneth Galvin, an independent state administrative law judge working for the revenue department, reversed the exemption, calling Michael's application "a sham." He observed that the cross "was drawn on the photograph with a marker and did not physically exist."

Hawaii's new law requires residents to pay taxes on any gambling winnings without being able to deduct losses. Even gamblers who wind up net losers will still be taxed on any pre-loss winnings, according to State Rep. Pono Chong, who sponsored the measure to bring in additional revenue during "a significant and possibly protracted economic downturn." According to the Honolulu Advertiser, the Department of Taxation, which supported the bill, estimated the yearly revenue gain at $300,000.

After Jeanette Jamieson of Toccoa, Ga., paid off a lien for $45,000 in state taxes owed for 1998 to 2005, Georgia authorities filed charges of tax evasion for the years 2006 and 2007. During all those years, Jamieson served in the state House of Representatives and, the Toccoa Record reported, ran a tax return preparation business.

Mensa rejects

Two people declined to evacuate Big Tujunga Canyon during the wildfire in the mountains north of Los Angeles and decided to ride out the firestorm in a backyard hot tub. They wound up critically burned and had to be airlifted for treatment, according to Los Angeles County Sheriff's official Steve Whitmore, who told the Associated Press the pair "completely underestimated the fire" and that the hot tub provided "no protection whatsoever."

Police in Charleston, W.Va., told WSAZ News that a 57-year-old man seriously injured his left hand when he tried to drill through a live round to make a keychain ornament, and the ammunition exploded.

Avoirdupois follies

Texas authorities charged George Vera, 25, with possession of a firearm in a correctional facility after the nearly 600-pound inmate told a guard at the Harris County jail that he had an unloaded 9mm pistol. The gun and two clips were hidden under folds of fat and overlooked by police officers who searched him during his arrest and guards who searched him when he entered the jail. "Obviously, the system broke down," former Detention Maj. Mark Kellar told KPRC News, which reported Vera hid the weapon for more than a day while in custody.

An increasing number of British soldiers have become so fat that they cannot be deployed to conflict zones because doing so puts lives at risk, according to an emergency memo sent to all army units. The Sunday Observer quoted the memo as saying the army needs to "reinvigorate a warrior ethos and a culture of being fit."

Churches should try harder to make overweight people welcome, according to a new Church of England book that says they should be regarded as "special needs" worshippers, alongside the blind, the deaf, the bald, breast-feeding mothers, very short people and readers of tabloid newspapers. "Some pew spaces and chairs are embarrassingly inadequate for what is known in church circles as 'the wider community,'" says the book, which is titled Everybody Welcome.

An app for that

A new Web site recommends convenient points in movies currently showing in theaters to go to the bathroom without missing anything substantial. Dan Florio, the creator of the site, runpee.com, told the Los Angeles Times he has also developed a Runpee application for iPhones.

Hong Kong's largest political party has compiled a list of escalators where women are vulnerable to unwittingly exposing themselves to peeping Toms. The South China Morning Post reported the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong released the study in response to the sharp increase in people using cell phones to take indecent photos of women. Party members went to the locations and took wide-angle pictures of escalators with glass walls, reflective floors and railings with glass walls. Elizabeth Quat, chair of the committee that led the research, told reporters she wasn't concerned the list would turn the areas into hot spots for phone snappers because "those who want to peep would have discovered them already."

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