Stranger than fiction 

Curses, foiled again

Los Angeles police reported that a holdup victim recognized the robber's gun was a fake, so he grabbed it and beat the startled robber with it. Sgt. Jeff Collado said the bloodied suspect had to be hospitalized before being charged. (Associated Press)

Two masked men entered a restaurant outside Green, Ohio, demanded money and then ordered the 17 people in the place into a storeroom while they stuffed a duffel bag with stolen cell phones, cash and wallets. A 20-year-old waitress slipped out the back door and called 911. Meanwhile, the robber who'd herded the people into the storeroom headed back to the dining room to help his partner. When the door closed behind him, it locked, separating him from the hostages. "We were all standing there crying when he started banging on the door saying, 'Let me in,'" waitress Marla Sprinkle said, noting the room had a side door that led outside. "The cook said, 'Everybody run out the door.'" The robbers, racing from the front door to the side door to recapture the hostages, were greeted by responding sheriff's deputies, who arrested Joseph Cornelius, 18, and Jeramiah Haugen, 29. (Akron Beacon Journal)

A man wearing a transparent plastic bag over his head demanded money from a convenience-store clerk in Phoenix, Ariz. After threatening to shoot the clerk in the head, the robber stopped abruptly and ripped a hole in the bag, apparently to prevent suffocating. "It gives the impression, looking at the pictures, that he was using it kind of like a nylon to distort the appearance of his face," police Sgt. Darren Burch said. "But he was having problems with his airflow." Once he'd torn the plastic-bag, surveillance cameras got a clear shot of his face. (The Arizona Republic)

Kind of significant

Cancer patients being treated with radioactive iodine to shrink their tumors are contaminating innocent people, according to a congressional investigation headed by Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass. He blamed a change in Nuclear Regulatory Commission requirements that let thyroid cancer patients leave hospitals only a few days after treatment. Investigators found these patients have contaminated hotel rooms; set off alarms on public transportation; come into close contact with vulnerable people, including pregnant women and children; and their household trash has triggered radiation detectors at landfills. (Associated Press)

The government last year sent more than 89,000 stimulus payments, totaling $22.3 million, to people who were dead or in prison, according to an investigation by the Social Security Administration's inspector general. Half the payments weren't returned. The SSA defended its performance by noting that workers did accurately process more than 99.8 of the 52 million stimulus payments. (NPR)

Hairless sex or?

Researchers found that men using the baldness drug finasteride (brand name Propecia) may grow hair, but one in 80 also experience erectile dysfunction. Those who do, however, are unlikely to stop taking the drug. "It seems that most men taking the drug really prefer to have hair," said Dr. Jose Manuel Mella of the Hospital Aleman in Buenos Aires, the author of the study reported in the Archives of Dermatology. (Reuters)

Lucky loophole

German entrepreneur Siegfried Rotthaeuser figured out how to overcome a European Union ban on light bulbs of more than 60 watts. After calculating that higher-watt bulbs produce more heat than light, the mechanical engineer from Essen began importing 75- and 100-watt light bulbs from China as "small heating devices" and reselling them as "heatballs." Costing 1.69 euros each ($2.38), the first batch of 4,000 sold out in three days. (Reuters)

Sacrificial follies

Ten people were killed and 11 injured at a temple in India's Bihar state during a stampede by more than 45,000 people waiting to sacrifice goats. "People were vying with each other to get their goats sacrificed first," Banka district official Gupdeshwar Kumar explained. (India's Bangalore Mirror)

Irony of the week

Police charged Faribah Maradiaga, 19, with stabbing another woman after the two argued during an anger-management class in Bellevue, Wash. According to charging documents, the class was watching a video on controlling anger when Maradiaga started complaining about the movie. When the victim told her to give it a chance, Maradiaga "blew up out of control," then pulled out a knife with a 3-inch blade, stabbed the other woman in the arm and threatened to kill her family. (Seattle Times)

Helmet, schmelmet

Kyle Johnson, 25, was given only a 5 percent chance of surviving after he shattered his skull by falling off his skateboard near his home in Salt Lake City, Utah. Doctors said his brain swelled so much it "nearly exploded," forcing them to saw off both sides of his skull. The operation left him with just a tiny strip of bone down the center of his head to protect his brain. Doctors kept him in a drug-induced coma and stored the rest of his skull in the freezer for two weeks, until the swelling went down and they could put it back together using plates and screws. He's now expected to make a full recovery. "Normally I wear a helmet," Johnson said, "but on this day, I just went down the hill on a whim." (Britain's Daily Mail)

Andy Duncan, 47, suffered three brain hemorrhages, a heart attack, a broken neck and back, and eight broken ribs after he lost control of his bicycle in West Lothian, Scotland, and crashed into a ravine. The crash sent him flying across the handlebars and falling 10 feet. He admitted not wearing a helmet because he was "only going up the street" to catch his son, who had ridden off without his helmet. (The Scotsman)


When British Prime Minister David Cameron decided the government couldn't afford two new aircraft carriers that the previous government had ordered, a review found the contracts would cost more to cancel than to fulfill. The two carriers will be built, costing 3 billion pounds each ($4.8 billion), but the first, HMS Queen Elizabeth, will be retired once the other is finished, without ever carrying the jet aircraft it's designed to. Government sources indicated the mothballed carrier won't return to service and would probably be sold to another country to recoup some of its cost. (Britain's The Telegraph)

Slight provocation

Police arrested a 41-year-old man in Oshkosh, Wis., for punching a 27-year-old acquaintance in the face during an argument over which one could outperform the other on a military physical training test. (Oshkosh's The Northwestern)


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