Stranger Than Fiction 

Curses, foiled again

Sheriff's investigators reported that Kasey Allan and David Connell warned a gas station clerk in Benzie County, Mich., they would be back to rob her after they got their masks and a gun and asked her to cooperate in exchange for money. Two hours later, the men returned, only to be arrested by deputies and state troopers whom the clerk had alerted.

When a man walked into a Chicago muffler shop just before 9 a.m. brandishing a gun and demanding money, a worker told him there was no cash and that only the manager could open the safe, but he wasn't in yet. The gunman left his cell phone number and said to call him when the manager arrived. Instead, the worker called police, who in turn called the cell phone, told the gunman to return and then arrested the 18-year-old suspect when he did.

Belting in

Traffic police officers all over Iraq have begun enforcing the seatbelt law. Anyone caught not buckling up will be fined 15,000 dinars about $12.50. "It is part of the healing process of this country," Brig. Gen. Zuhair Abada Mraweh, traffic commander for Baghdad's Rusafah district, told the New York Times. Baghdad taxi driver Ahmed Wahayid called seatbelt enforcement "a symbol of civilization."

Holy malfunction!

Metro, the Washington, D.C., transit system, pulled a YouTube video showing a Pope Benedict XVI bobblehead riding the subway after the Archdiocese of Washington complained that the video showed "a misdressed pope." The 7-3/4-inch-tall bobblehead wore a red skullcap, known as a zucchetto, and a red cape. "Popes don't wear red skullcaps," and their capes are white, archdiocese official Susan Gibbs told the Washington Post. The video was intended to encourage people to take the subway to the papal mass at the city's new baseball stadium, according to Lisa Farbstein, Metro's media relations director, who said she bought the bobblehead on eBay for $16.99.

Mom, just prettier

Dr. Michael Salzhauer, a plastic surgeon in Bal Harbour, Fla., has written a picture book aimed at calming children's fears about parents getting tummy tucks, breast enhancements and nose jobs. My Beautiful Mommy discusses patients' recuperation, changing look and desire for plastic surgery. "Many parents don't explain to their kids what's going on," Salzhauer said. "Children are very perceptive. You can't hide a major surgery from them. When mom goes down for two weeks after a tummy tuck, it affects them."

Illustrations show a crook-nosed mom with loose tummy skin under her half-shirt picking up her young daughter early from school and explaining she's going to have operations on her nose and tummy and may have to take it easy awhile. The girl asks if the operations will hurt. "Maybe a little," Mom replies, warning she'll look different after the bandages come off.

"Why are you going to look different?" the girl asks.

"Not just different, my dear," Mom responds, "prettier!"

Fix what was now

The Dutch government began requiring long-term unemployed citizens to come to terms with their past lives or risk losing unemployment benefits. The government-funded mandatory treatment program, called "reincarnation therapy" or "past-life regression," often involves hypnosis to help people "find experiences from past identities that could be negatively affecting them today," according to Klaas Boffcher of the Dutch Ruach Boraka Centre for Complementary Therapy. After De Limburger newspaper reported that the government paid $1,500 for an unemployed woman in Maastrict to attend a 10-week course, members of parliament challenged Piet Hein Donner, the Dutch social affairs minister, to justify funding not only reincarnation therapy, but also tarot card readings and astrology to help get people back to work.

Scheduled arrests

Police in Washington, D.C., will begin searching private residences for illegal guns by appointment. Police Chief Cathy Lanier said police will distribute literature to homes in high-crime neighborhoods asking homeowners to set up times to have officers drop by.

Nearer thy God

Catholic priest Adelir Antonio de Carli, 41, was reported missing after he floated away tied to hundreds of helium balloons while trying to raise money for a spiritual rest stop for truckers in Paranagua, Brazil. Searchers found only pieces of the party balloons after de Carli, who lifted off wearing a helmet, thermal suit and a parachute, was blown out to sea. He was trying to beat the record of 19 hours for the longest time aloft with party balloons. In January, the priest embarked on a similar adventure, using 600 balloons to carry him on a four-hour voyage that reached an altitude of 17,390 feet.

Dressed for the job

Jeremy McIntosh, 27, was arrested in Commerce Township, Mich., after he repeatedly crashed his car into a lingerie shop that refused to hire him. Estimating the damage at $3,000, Oakland County Undersheriff Michael McCabe said deputies found McIntosh outside the Intimate Ideas store wearing "facial makeup, lipstick, blue Capri pants, red "flip-flops,' a flowery blouse and a matching flowery women's bra."

Instant karma

A man who waved a gun in anger at a fellow motorist in Tempe, Ariz., accidentally shot himself in the stomach. Police said David Lopez, 33, tried to flee, but police caught him after he crashed his car into a canal bank. The other driver, who wasn't hurt, also fled but was arrested later for drunk driving.

Stand up for sitting

Thai police charged Chotisak Onsoong, 27, with offending the dignity of the monarch after he refused to stand during the playing of the royal anthem before the start of a movie, as is customary in Thailand. "It's the right of any individual to choose what to do," said Chotisak, who faces 15 years in prison.


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