Stranger than fiction 

Curses, foiled again

Facing five years in prison for forging drug prescriptions, Michelle Elaine Astumian, 41, appeared for sentencing in San Luis Obispo County, Calif., with a doctor's note requesting a postponement. Prosecutor Dave Pomeroy called the doctor, who declared the note was a forgery. (Associated Press)

Facing prison for scamming $450,000 from 23 investors in his bogus securities scheme, Samuel McMaster Jr. convinced New Mexico prosecutors to let him go free so he could repay his victims with his poker winnings. Only McMaster lost. He was ordered to prison for 12 years — and to make full restitution. (Associated Press)

Off to a bad start

Three months after issuing new fire-retardant gloves to 6,500 firefighters, the New York City Fire Department recalled the gloves because they don't prevent burns. Six firefighters suffered second-degree burns on the backs of their hands while fighting fires, even though their gloves weren't damaged. The Blaze Fighter gloves cost the city $850,000. Department investigators found that the manufacturer, the Glove Corp., had changed one of the materials used to make the gloves from cotton to a polyester blend. (The New York Times)

Less than 24 hours after officials ceremoniously unveiled a giant electronic timer in London's Trafalgar Square to count down to the start of next year's Summer Olympics, the clock stopped. Its display remained at 500 days, 7 hours, 6 minutes and 56 seconds while technicians from Omega, the Swiss watchmaker that made the 21-foot-high timepiece, took six hours to fix it. (BBC News)

Not so sober

After spending the day touring New Hampshire brewpubs, two men were "goofing around" in the back of their Boston-bound tour bus, a witness said, when they both toppled or jumped out the bathroom window. The window opens from the bottom and measures 4 feet by 2 1/2 feet. The bus, carrying more than 50 revelers, was going 60 mph when Thomas Johnson, 31, and Seth Davis, 34, hit the pavement. Johnson died; Davis was severely injured. (Boston Herald)

Bad aim

Charged with murdering his wife, David McCall, 72, told police in Wakefield, Mass., that when his shot missed, Elaine McCall, 69, taunted, "You can't even shoot." He hit her with a second shot. He then called 911 to report a "murder-suicide" and tried to shoot himself, Middlesex District Attorney Gerard Leone said, but missed. (Boston Herald)

Smoking in Bangor

On Jan. 10, a 29-year-old woman complained to police in Bangor, Maine, that she invited Christopher Rosene, 41, into her Union Street residence, but when she offered him a cigarette, "he punched her in the face," police Sgt. Paul Edwards said. "This guy just snapped." (Bangor Daily News)

On Feb. 27, Bangor police responded to a different Union Street residence, where a woman demanded they arrest Anthony Bowie, 21, for extinguishing a cigarette on her face. Sgt. Paul Edwards said the woman explained she let Bowie have just enough tobacco to roll his own cigarette, but he took more than she had specified. They began fighting, and that's when he used her face to put out the cigarette. (Bangor Daily News)

Trial separation

Acting on a tip, Brazilian police found a 64-year-old woman locked in a basement in Sao Paulo state while her husband lived upstairs with another woman. Insisting Sebastiana Aparecida Groppo was mentally ill and aggressive, Joao Batista Groppo, 64, explained he'd kept his wife confined for 16 years. He later revised that to eight years. "He told us that locking her up was the only way he could think of to prevent her from wandering off and getting lost," police inspector Jaqueline Barcelos Coutinho said. "She does have psychiatric problems, but she is definitely not an aggressive person." (BBC News)

True suffering

Crocs Inc. announced it's donating 100,000 pairs of its shoes to earthquake-tsunami victims in Japan. (Associated Press)

Domestic rewards

Texas state Rep. Debbie Riddle proposed a bill creating tough punishments for those who "intentionally, knowingly or recklessly" hire an unauthorized immigrant — except "for the purpose of obtaining labor or other work to be performed exclusively or primarily at a single-family residence." By exempting maids and lawn caretakers, the bill, according to Riddle's chief of staff, Jon English, would avoid "stifling the economic engine" in Texas. (CNN)

In flagrante delicto

Scientists examining two mites preserved in amber for 40 million years concluded the mites were copulating when the fatal blob of tree resin fell on them. Researchers Pavel Klimov and Ekaterina Sidorchuk also noticed that, unlike modern mites, the female of this extinct species controlled mating, having evolved a pad-like projection on her rear end that enabled her to cling to males and direct the mating process. Males of the species lacked the "butt grabbing" feature. (Discovery News)


A fire rescue unit responding to a call of someone choking at a Dallas, Texas, apartment found "a 69-year-old female, sitting on the toilet, with a toilet paper holder impaled in her neck," Dallas Fire Rescue Public Information Officer Jason Evans said. Deciding to remove the toilet paper holder at the scene because it still had a roll of toilet paper on it, rescuers used bolt cutters to cut off one end, and the remaining piece fell out on its own. The woman apparently fell, Evans explained, "and the toilet paper holder just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time." (Dallas's KTVT-TV)

Problems solved

Zionist Israeli rabbis launched a campaign to marry gay men and lesbian women — to each other. Rabbi Areleh Harel of the West Bank settlement of Shilo said his 12th couple just announced their engagement, and he has a waiting list of 30 gays and 20 lesbians seeking matches. Pairing the two groups helps religious homosexuals avoid violating the halakhic prohibition of homosexual sex by seeking other solutions, Harel said, pointing out, "A family isn't just sex and love." (Israel's Haaretz)

Labor pains

The Montana Supreme Court ruled that Brock Hopkins is entitled to workers' compensation after a captive grizzly bear at a drive-through park where he worked mauled him while he was feeding it. Hopkins admitted smoking marijuana before the attack. The court upheld the findings of the Montana Workers' Compensation Court, which had characterized Hopkins's actions as "mind-bogglingly stupid" but noted that grizzlies "are equal opportunity maulers" without regard to marijuana consumption and the lack of evidence of Hopkins's impairment. (Kalispell's Daily Inter Lake)


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