Stranger than fiction 

Curses, foiled again

When John Comparetto exited a bathroom stall at a Holiday Inn outside Harrisburg, Pa., he said a man pointed "a very large handgun" in his face. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported the robber fled with Comparetto's money and cell phone, but Comparetto, a retired New York police chief, pulled his ankle gun and gave chase, joined by some of the other 300 police officers attending a convention at the hotel. They quickly arrested Jerome Marquis Blanchett, 19, whom Comparetto dubbed "probably the dumbest criminal in Pennsylvania."

Oklahoma state police arrested David Louis Siany, 51, for bank robbery after a criminal justice student at the University of Central Oklahoma identified him from a surveillance photo on a news Web site. The student was Michael Siany, 21, the suspect's son. "A lot of things went through my mind," the younger Siany told the Tulsa World, "but I knew the right thing to do."

Flu fever

Swine flu fears prompted Pennsylvania's Slippery Rock University to announce the school would hold a separate graduation ceremony for 22 students who recently returned from Mexico, where, health officials said, the flu originated and spread rapidly. University official Karl Schwab said the school would recognize the students' sacrifice of not graduating with the rest of their class by videotaping the private ceremony and showing it at the main ceremony.

Noting Jewish dietary law considers pigs unclean, Israel's Orthodox Jewish deputy health minister, Yakov Litzman, declared that swine flu would be called "Mexico flu." Mexico's ambassador, Frederico Salas, promptly complained to Israel's foreign ministry, which labeled Litzman's announcement "a slip of the tongue." A ministry official told Agence France-Presse, "Israel has no intention of giving the flu any new names."

U.S. officials recommended calling the flu pandemic something else after other countries threatened to ban pork exports from North America, especially from Iowa, the leading U.S. pork producer. "It's important to not refer to swine flu," Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, a former governor of Iowa and longtime friend of the pork industry, told reporters. "It's important to convey the message that consuming pork will not cause this illness."

Not only can pigs still be eaten, but according to the National Pork Producers Council, which lobbies the federal government on behalf of the nation's 67,000 pork producers, they can even be petted and hugged, or tickled until they squeal.

While lobbyists and officials discounted the likelihood of pigs transmitting the flu to humans, a human infected 200 pigs on a farm in Alberta, Canada, with the H1N1 virus. Brian Evans, a senior official from Canada's food safety agency, told journalists that the man, a farm worker who recently returned from Mexico, and the pigs were recovering.

Modern times

Police in Pittsfield, Mass., charged Stephanie K. Lighten, 26, with domestic assault and battery after she reportedly tried to use a large syringe to artificially inseminate her wife by force with her brother's semen. The Berkshire Eagle reported that Jennifer A. Lighten, 33, told police her wife was "all liquored up."

Feet first

Flying footwear has become so rampant in India's general election that authorities began erecting metal safety nets to protect politicians from disgruntled voters during campaign speeches. Candidates have also asked party workers to remove their shoes at meetings and alerted their security staff to scrutinize people at rallies and journalists at news conferences.

Police in Akron, Ohio, said a 52-year-old woman who took a job as an exotic dancer to help make ends meet was attacked on her first day by a jealous co-worker, who hit the victim several times in the face with a stiletto shoe. "The other girls were upset she was there and said, 'We don't need any more dancers around here,'" police Lt. Rick Edwards told the Akron Beacon Journal.

How'd that go?

When a loud siren sounded in a Washington, D.C., neighborhood at 5:30 a.m. and lasted nearly 90 minutes, alarmed residents were unsure of the source and what action to take. The University of the District of Columbia announced later that the alarm was on one of its buildings but is not part of the university and "may be part of a Municipal Civil Defense system." UDC official Jacquelyn Boynton explained that several crisis alarms had been installed in 1975, but current university staffers weren't aware of them and aren't even sure they still have a use.

Scientists at the U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration have forgotten how to make a key component of a Trident nuclear missile warhead, according to the Government Accountability Office. As a result, the warhead refurbishment program has been delayed at least a year at an additional cost of $69 million. NNSA "lost knowledge of how to manufacture the material because it had kept few records of the process when the material was made in the 1980s," the GAO report said, "and almost all staff with expertise on production had retired or left the agency."

Mensa reject

David Senior, 26, was trying to show a woman afraid of heights that it was safe to lean over a sixth-floor hotel balcony in St. Pete Beach, Fla., when he fell four stories onto a second-floor concrete ledge. The St. Petersburg Times reported Senior was rescued and hospitalized in fair condition.

Gun goofs

A wounded man at a gun shop in Kane County, Ill., told sheriff's deputies he had just finished target practicing and was removing the magazine from a .45-caliber handgun when the weapon discharged a bullet through one of his hands. The suburban Chicago Daily Herald reported that after being taken to the hospital, the unidentified man began crying and admitted the gun went off after he grabbed it by the barrel.


Two undercover detectives were trying to buy drugs in St. Petersburg, Fla., when the drug sellers robbed the detectives. The detectives fired at the fleeing suspects, who drove off in a blue SUV, pursued by undercover and patrol units. The St. Petersburg Times reported that moments later, off-duty police Officer Stephen Mathews, who heard about the incident over the radio, rammed a dark SUV he thought was the suspect's, but it turned out to be an undercover vehicle. Meanwhile, a second cruiser tracked down the suspects a few blocks away, and officers arrested Antwan Marquis Britt, 21, and Christopher Jerome Toliver, 20.


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