Stranger than fiction 

Curses, foiled again

When a man walked into a bank in Watsonville, Calif., announced he had a bomb and demanded $2,000 to pay his friend's rent, the manager advised him to apply for a loan instead. She asked him to sit and wait while she went to get the loan paperwork but called police, who arrested Mark Smith, 59. (Santa Cruz Sentinel)

Seattle police identified Larry Shawn Taylor, 18, as the man who robbed two women at gunpoint, after the victims described the robber as a short black man with deformed ears who had "MOB" shaved into one side of his hair and "GET MONEY" on the other and "GET" tattooed on his right hand and "MONEY" on his left. Detectives used their database to match the tattoos to Taylor, who was apprehended after an officer stopped a car for reckless driving and recognized him by his ears and tattoos. (KOMO News)


Russia's finance minister announced his ministry was doubling the cigarette tax to boost the economy and encouraged citizens to do their patriotic duty by smoking more. "If you smoke a pack of cigarettes, that means you are giving more to help solve social problems such as boosting demographics, developing other social services and upholding birth rates," Alexei Kudrin said. "Those who smoke are doing more to help the state." (CBS News)

Romanian lawmakers seeking new sources of revenue proposed taxing witches. The measure, drafted by senators Alin Popoviciu and Cristi Dugulescue of the ruling Democratic Liberal Party, would require witches and fortune tellers to produce receipts and also hold them liable for wrong predictions. After the Senate voted down the proposal, Popoviciu claimed the senators were afraid of being cursed. (Associated Press)

Winners & losers

As soon as competitive eater Joey "Jaws" Chestnut, 26, won Nathan's Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog Eating Contest at New York's Coney Island by downing 54 wieners in 10 minutes, six-time champion Takeru "The Tsunami" Kobayashi, 32, tried to rush the stage. He had skipped the contest because he refused to sign a contract with Major League Eating so he could be free to compete in contests sanctioned by other groups, but his manager, Yuki Nagura, explained Kobayashi just wanted "to prove that he was the real champion." He wrestled with police, who arrested him while the crowd shouted, "Let him eat! Let him eat!" After his release from jail the next day, Kobayashi said, "So now, I'm thinking about what I want to eat." (Daily News)

Russia's Vladimir Ladyzhensky died during the finals of the Sauna World Championships in Heinola, Finland, after spending six minutes in temperatures of 230 degrees F. Ladyzhensky was trying to outlast five-time sauna champ Timo Kaukonen of Finland when judges noticed Ladyzhensky had collapsed. They ordered both contestants pulled from the heat and suspended the event without naming a winner. (Reuters)

Who needs guns?

When a masked intruder entered a house in Spartanburg, S.C., carrying what looked like a gun, homeowner Phillip Graham, 71, ran him off with a Swiffer WetJet in one hand and a plugged-in Dustbuster in the other. Graham said he used the Swiffer on the suspect "like a cattle prod" and chased the suspect outside until the cord on the Dustbuster ran out. He called 911, but sheriff's deputies couldn't locate the suspect. (Spartanburg Herald-Journal)

Police said two armed men broke into a home in Chester, Pa., tied up one man and robbed another before the 43-year-old woman of the house chased them away with a broom. (Associated Press)


Richard Junkins rolled up to a parking space in his Ford Mustang to find Ross Campbell standing in the spot holding his 3-year-old son and refusing to budge, according to police in Athens, Ga. "Junkins, after an exchange of words, continued pulling in the space" and hit the man and the child, causing both to land on Junkins's hood, police official Hilda Sorrow said. Junkins was arrested, and Campbell declined to explain why he wouldn't move from the parking spot. (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Slight provocations

Authorities in Everett, Wash., accused Dallas Amber Smith, 18, of stabbing a 19-year-old man who laughed at her for having smelly feet. The two were at a party, where Smith boasted that she was good at doing back flips. The man challenged her to do a flip off the deck, so she took off her shoes and tried but failed. Snohomish County prosecutor Janice Albert said that's when the man laughed at her and said her feet smelled. She started to leave the party but stopped long enough to stab him in the back with a steak knife. (Everett's The Herald)

After David A. Patton, 44, burst into the house of a neighbor, Stephen A. Carr, 48, and shot him to death, police in Fairfax County, Va., said the homicide occurred because Patton objected to a speed bump in front of Carr's house. Carr had campaigned for the speed bump to discourage traffic speeding through the neighborhood. (The Washington Post)

Incendiary devices

Fire officials concluded that a fire which damaged an apartment in Springfield, Mo., was caused by a big-screen television left outside in the sun. Assistant Fire Chief Randy Villines explained that mirrors inside the set likely bounced and concentrated sunlight enough to start a fire. Villines called the blaze "bizarre" but noted the damage was minor. (Springfield News-Leader)

Drinking-class hero

Authorities said Tommy Ryser, 54, was driving drunk when he crashed his truck into a utility pole in Blaine, Wash., and again soon after when he crashed his wife's car into a guardrail a short distance away. While Whatcom County sheriff's deputies were investigating the crashes, Ryser pulled up to the scene of the second crash in his privately owned tow truck to take the wrecked car back home. They questioned him, determined he'd been the driver of the two vehicles and charged him with three counts of driving under the influence. (The Bellingham Herald)

Name game

Declaring his intention to start a new life, Shelby Marwan Heggs, 27, petitioned a court in Bibb County, Ga., to change his name to Saint Jody Almighty Bedrock. "I wanted a name that everybody would know when they were talking to me that they were talking to a man of God," Heggs said. "I wanted that to be expressed by my name." He added that his friends and family already call him Saint Jody. (Macon Telegraph)


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