Stranger than fiction 

Curses, foiled again

John K. Rosenbaum, 22, drove from Jacksonville, Fla., to Kingsland, Ga., to illegally purchase a black mamba snake. During the transaction, the venomous snake bit him, he later told Georgia wildlife officials. He was hospitalized and released but faces up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine. (Jacksonville's The Florida Times-Union)

After snatching a woman's purse at a store in Johnson City, Tenn., Cody S. Smith, 18, fled but was apprehended by some shrubbery planted just outside the door. The victim approached the entangled Smith, who returned the purse and apologized for taking it. Police arrested him anyway after finding him in possession of drug paraphernalia and a stolen driver's license. (Johnson City Press)

Poetic license

For its latest traffic-safety campaign, the New York City Department of Transportation made 144 signs with safety messages in the form of haikus. The signs, designed to resemble tradition street signs, are placed in high-crash locations near cultural institutions and schools. "The haikus are embedded in a QR code on the sign, readable with smartphone apps," the DOT said, "making the safety messages interactive and fun to discover." (New York City Department of Transportation)

Justice for all

Former District of Columbia mayor for life Marion Barry said he wants the D.C. Council to extend the city's Human Rights Act to ban employment discrimination against offenders who've served their time. Already considered the broadest in the nation, the act offers protection based on "race, color, religion, national age, sex, age, marital status, personal appearance, sexual orientation, familial status, family responsibilities, matriculation, political affiliation, disability, source of income and place of residence or business." Barry wants to add the words "past arrests and convictions." The four-term mayor, who now serves on the council, himself served six months in federal prison, after a 1990 conviction for misdemeanor drug possession stemming from an undercover videotape of him smoking crack cocaine at a hotel with a woman not his wife when FBI agents rushed into the room, and he famously declared, "Bitch set me up." (The Washington Post)

Drinking-class hero

When Matthew Mitchell, 27, came upon the scene of an alcohol-related head-on collision outside Palestine, Texas, that killed one person and injured three others, he tried to drive through the flashing lights of scattered police cruisers and ambulances but collided with a medevac helicopter that had just landed in the middle of the road to transport one of the victims. No one was hurt, but a Department of Public Safety trooper who questioned Mitchell after the incident quoted him as asking, "Why was the helicopter flying so low?" He was promptly charged with driving while intoxicated. (Houston Press)

Biting the hand

Alabama officials ordered all 16,000-plus of the state's sworn law-enforcement officers to undergo special training aimed at clarifying the new, uber-strict immigration law. R. Alan Benefield, head of the Alabama Peace Officers' Standards and Training Commission, explained that the four-hour training sessions are necessary because of the law's complexity and lingering confusion, which caused two international incidents in November. First, a 46-year-old German manager with Mercedes-Benz, which employs hundreds of workers to build sport-utility vehicles at a large plant in Vance, was arrested for violating the law while driving a rental car on a business trip because he wasn't carrying a driver's license and a passport. In the second incident, Honda Manufacturing of Alabama, another major employer, said a Japanese worker temporarily assigned to this country was cited under the immigration law at a routine police checkpoint, even though he possessed a valid Japanese passport and an international driver's license. (Associated Press)

Hey: Bees. See!

Upscale hotels in North American and Western Europe are adding beehives on their rooftops, ledges and balconies to provide guests with locally sourced honey for a variety of uses, from traditional sweetener to spa treatments. Leading the way, 18 Fairmont Hotels have added apiaries. (Los Angeles Times)

Donald Mason, 49, died at his Miami home after falling from an upstairs bedroom while spraying fog inside the walls, where a bee expert estimated as many as 60,000 bees were swarming. "When police officers arrived, they could hear a humming noise, like the walls were alive," said police Cmdr. Delrish Moss, who blamed Mason's death on the fall, not the bees, even though his teenage daughter discovered her father's body covered in bees. (The Miami Herald)

Pumped up

Florida authorities said Oneal Ron Morris, 30, posed as a doctor and performed illegal cosmetic procedures, notably buttocks augmentation by pumping women's rear ends with a tire sealant known as Fix-a-Flat. Authorities learned of the operations from a disfigured victim, who waited a year to come forward because she was too embarrassed. She revealed she had hoped to get a job at a nightclub and paid Morris $700 for a series of injections to accentuate her buttocks. According to Detective Michael Dillon, the 30-year-old woman lay flat on her stomach on a table at a Miami Gardens residence while Morris inserted rubber tubing attached to what looked like a cooler into her buttocks. She felt enormous pressure and then pain "to the point that she was screaming," Dillon said. The victim finally had to stop Morris, who sealed her wounds with Super Glue. She later became seriously ill.

After other victims, some of them transsexuals came forward to accuse Morris of also disfiguring them, Morris appeared on TV's Entertainment Tonight to proclaim her innocence. "They didn't catch me doing anything," she declared, accusing the so-called victims of lying and "ruining my life." Investigators described Morris, who was born a man but identifies as a woman, as herself having a butt "the size of a truck tire." (The Miami Herald, Britain's Daily Mail)

Mr. Roboto

South Korea announced it would begin using robots to patrol prisons. The 1.5-meter-tall, four-wheel guards are designed to monitor conditions inside cells and detect abnormal behavior, such as violence and suicide attempts. "The robots are not terminators," insisted Lee Baik-chul of Seoul's Kyonggi University, who headed the $850,000 project to develop the robots. "Their job is not cracking down on violent prisoners. They are helpers." Noting the first robot is scheduled to begin a month-long test in March at a jail in Pohang, Lee said the researchers "are now working on refining its details to make it look more friendly to inmates." (Agence France-Presse)


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