Stranger than fiction 

Curses, foiled again

Dorothy McGurk, 43, was receiving $850 a month in alimony by claiming she was disabled and couldn't work. Then ex-husband Brian McGurk discovered a blog showing the New York City woman belly dancing, as well as other Internet postings in which she wrote about dancing vigorously for several hours every day. He took her to court. Dorothy McGurk insisted the dancing was physical therapy, but the judge reduced her payments to $400 a month. (Associated Press)

A 67-year-old Italian man who received $85,000 in disability benefits by claiming to be blind was arrested outside Naples when police caught him driving a car. The officers pulled him over in a random traffic stop and initially fined him for not having his license with him, but when they entered his name into their database, it showed up on a list of people suspected of disability fraud. (Italy's ANSA news agency)

Metaphorically ...

Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., declared in a speech against federal support for Planned Parenthood that providing abortions represents 90 percent of the agency's services. When confronted with the actual fact that Planned Parenthood's abortion care represents 3 percent of its medical services, Kyl's staff explained that the senator's assertion was "not intended to be a factual statement." (The Washington Post)

Hot to trot

An unidentified man caught fire while watching videos at a San Francisco porn shop and ran out the front door "engulfed in flames," according to police Lt. Kevin McNaughton. Officers across the street from the Golden Gate Adult Superstore saw the man and summoned firefighters, who happened to be only a block away. They extinguished the flames, which caused severe burns over 90 percent of the victim's body. Arson investigators couldn't say why the man caught fire. (San Francisco's KCBS-TV)

Power to the people

When the city planning department approved construction of a 50-foot-tall cell tower across the street from Stephen Stuart's home in Palo Alto, Calif., Stuart called his colleagues at the nonprofit group that provides the city with a free Internet connection and asked them to pull the plug. The Internet Systems Consortium agreed to Stuart's request and notified city officials that it was disconnecting City Hall and other municipal buildings. Stuart, who helped the city maintain its free Internet connection since 1994 through his contacts with different technology firms because he felt it was his civic duty, said city planners' approval of AT&T's cell tower violates numerous codes and could hurt property values. "This isn't a threat," he declared. "This is a consequence." (San Jose's The Mercury News)

Go green, pay green

A bill in Oregon's House of Representatives would require owners of electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles to pay for the miles they drive to compensate the state for the gas taxes they don't pay. The 1.43-cents fee amounts to the same as the gas tax paid for a vehicle that gets 21 miles per gallon. (Associated Press)

Lawmakers in cash-strapped Washington state are considering charging owners of electric vehicles a flat $100-a-year fee, regardless of miles driven. (Associated Press)

Dishonor roll

Florida authorities accused high school senior Rachel Anne Hachero, 17, of pistol-whipping her mother and forcing the woman to buy her a car. According to Lee County deputies, Hachero, an honor student with scholarship offers from several Ivy League schools, became upset because her mother refused to co-sign for a car. She bashed her mother in the head with a 9mm Sig Sauer handgun, threatened to kill her and demanded the mother accompany her to a car dealership, where she signed for the daughter's car. Despite the beating and the threat, the mother declined to prosecute because of Hachero's status as an honor student and her acceptance by the Ivy League schools. Deputies arrested her anyway. (Naples Daily News)

Although Ryan Ricco, 18, was charged with threatening to blow up two suburban Chicago schools and ordered to wear an electric monitor to assure that he leaves home only to attend his own school in Des Plaines, Ill., Judge Garritt Howard changed the conditions of Ricco's bond to allow the teenager to play in a basketball tournament. (Chicago Tribune)

Hard times

Organizers of an annual Massachusetts job fair canceled this year's event because of the lack of jobs. Richard Shafer of the Taunton Employment Task Force said only 10 employers signed up of the 20 to 25 needed to fund the fair, which has been held in Taunton most years since 1984. (Taunton Daily Gazette)


A 15-year-old Florida boy used a candle to look underneath a bed for his dog, but the candle caught the bed on fire. The fire spread, according to St. Petersburg Fire Rescue Lt. Joel Granata, destroying the house and killing the dog. The boy suffered minor smoke inhalation. (St. Petersburg Times)

Space-age medicine

Authorities in Mower County, Minn., accused water-softener salesman Ronald Renken, 66, of swindling an elderly couple out of $6,300 by claiming he could make laser beams from a satellite cure the man's diabetes, plus clean their well of lead and iron. "The real tragic part is he also told this man to quit using his medications, that he was cured, and that obviously wasn't the case," Sheriff Terese Amazi said. (Mason City, Iowa's KIMT-TV)

Open the floodgates

Tennessee lawmakers voted to remove a law that set an age limit of 1 year old on breast-feeding in public, despite the objection of Sen. Bo Watson, R-Hixson. "Is 35 a child? I know that sounds crazy, but I'm thinking of a situation in a bar where maybe things got a little crazy," Watson orated. "I know I'm going way out on a fringe thinking a 14-year-old, but weird things happen in our society." (Knoxville News-Sentinel)

Them rich folks

Authorities in Polk County, Fla., charged Richard Ludwig, 54, with finding a lost credit card and using it to buy two large pizzas with extra olives. When sheriff's deputies asked if financial problems might explain his action, the Michigan dentist, who said he was visiting Central Florida to watch his son play in a baseball tournament, reportedly laughed and informed them that his net worth was between $3 million and $4 million. He did admit that risking his career and reputation for a couple of pizzas was "dumb." (Orlando's WKMG-TV)


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