Stranger Than Fiction 

Curses, foiled again

John Opperman-Green reported to police in Kissimmee, Fla., that when he asked some men he didn't know for a ride outside a 7-Eleven store, they robbed him. While being questioned, Opperman-Green told police that the money the men stole came from the 7-Eleven, which he had just robbed.

Police in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, were helping a woman who locked her keys in her car when Willie Vickers, 46, offered assistance. "He told the officers that he had a lot of experience getting into locked cars," police Chief Marty Lentz said. The officers checked and found Vickers was wanted in connection with several burglaries and for breaking out of a halfway house the week before. "I think he wanted to be the Good Samaritan," Lentz said, "because he put up a fuss when they told him he was under arrest."

Linguistic follies

South Africa's Chinese citizens should be classified as black, according to a Pretoria court ruling that entitles them to the same benefits as others discriminated against under apartheid. Arguing that Chinese South Africans "were officially classified as colored during the apartheid era," the Chinese Association of South Africa had challenged the exclusion of Chinese from laws aimed at redressing economic imbalances under white-minority rule, which ended in 1994. These laws benefit black, Indian and mixed-race citizens.

A British borough council banned the expression "brainstorming" to avoid offending epileptics. Although the term has meant a meeting to produce new ideas since the 1940s, psychiatrists coined it in the 1890s to refer to severe nervous attacks. Despite a survey by the National Society for Epilepsy asking if members found the term offensive that resulted in "a resounding no," diversity officers at Tunbridge Wells Council are standing firm. "It is important to us not to offend people, and we are sorry if through trying to avoid this, we have indeed caused offense to the very people we are trying not to offend," personnel chief Val Green said, announcing the new term for thinking up ideas is "thought shower."

Litigation nation

Matt Lincoln, 57, said he is suing Lakewood Church in Knoxville, Tenn., for $2.5 million because he was so consumed by the spirit of God while praying that he fell and hit his head. Explaining he asked God to have "a real experience" while praying, Lincoln said he has fallen from the force of the spirit before, but someone always caught him. This time, no one did, and he needed two surgeries and still feels pain in his back and legs.

Just what we need

A Japanese toy maker plans to sell a portable, personal karaoke machine. Takara Tomy's "Hi-kara" machine is a 3-inch cube weighing less than a pound with headphones and speakers attached. The "singer" downloads songs from the Internet or a special music cartridge, and the lyrics appear on a 2.4-inch screen. Shigekazu Mihashi, Takara Tomy's marketing director, said the machine, which will cost about $100 when it goes on sale this October, is intended for youngsters who cannot go to karaoke parlors where liquor is served.

A Russian spa in Zheleznovodsk unveiled a monument to the enema, consisting of three angels modeled after those by Renaissance painter Alessandro Botticelli holding an 800-pound bronze syringe bulb. "There is no kitsch or obscenity. It is a successful work of art," Alexander Kharchenko, director of the Mashuk-Akva Term spa, told the Associated Press. "An enema is almost a symbol of our region." The spa paid $42,000 for the monument, which it installed next to a banner declaring, "Let's beat constipation and sloppiness with enemas."

Fat's in the fire

After firefighters rescued Manuel Douglas, 56, from the living room of his burning house in Columbia, Mo., he told investigators he fell asleep while cooking a pork steak in the deep-fat fryer he kept next to his sofa.

Dad of the Year

Robert Cisero, 46, drove his teenage daughter to a hospital parking lot in Medford, Ore., where authorities said he struck her in the ankle with a hammer and then told doctors her injuries were from a skating accident. Police Detective Sgt. Mike Budreau said Cisero's motive was to use the pain pills his daughter would receive.

Shoot me now

Maine State Police concluded that Chad Murrat, 18, accidentally wounded a woman sitting inside her mobile home in Lubec while target practicing near the woman's trailer. Murrat fired two shots at a frog in a nearby pond, one of which ricocheted, went through the trailer wall and struck the woman in the right side.

A 43-year-old woman drew a .44-caliber Magnum revolver from a holster under her left arm, intending to shoot mice scurrying across the floor of a small travel trailer in Potter Valley, Calif., but the weapon slipped from her hand and fired as it hit the floor. According to the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office, the bullet went through the woman's right kneecap, hit keys hanging on the belt loop of a 42-year-old man in the trailer, glanced off the keys and tore a hole in the man's pants. It grazed the man's groin before stopping in his coin pocket.

Police in Salina, Kan., reported that when Michael Urich stopped by to tell his neighbor, Shannon D. Austin, 36, he had been in a fight at a local bar, Austin showed his support by firing a .22-caliber revolver he thought was empty several times in the air. Urich told Austin to stop, but Austin then turned the gun toward his head and fired, hitting his skull above an eye. Austin was treated at a local hospital, then ticketed for discharging a firearm within city limits.

Big spender

James Hartman, 39, pleaded guilty in Jefferson, Colo., to spending $3.2 million in just three months to buy two pickup trucks, two SUVs, an automobile, two ATVs, a toy hauler, two houses and mountain property. Police said Hartman had no money of his own and made all the purchases using a photocopy of his brother's driver's license and a matching Social Security number. "Did I go overboard in buying a few vehicles? Probably did," Hartman told KUSA-TV after being sentenced to eight years in prison. He insisted, however, he did not commit identity theft and that he had his brother's permission. Ed Hartman denied any knowledge of the purchases and called his brother a "thief, crook and slime ball."


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