Stranger than fiction 

Curses, foiled again

While police were in the process of citing Eldon Alexander, 36, and Korin Vanhouten, 47, for shoplifting merchandise worth about $25 from a store in Ogden, Utah. someone broke into their parked getaway vehicle and stole $60 worth of items. (Deseret News)

Jonathan D. Miller, 18, and Myshawn L. Bonds, 19, arranged meetings with people selling items on Craigslist and then grabbed the items without paying, according to police in Carpentersville, Ill. Cmdr. Tim Bosshart said investigators identified the suspects after they advertised the stolen items on Craigslist. One victim spotted his $8,000 watch with the same photo he'd used, clearly showing its individually numbered back plate. (Chicago's WLS-AM)


Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear proposed cutting $50 million in education spending in the state's new budget while preserving $43 million in tax breaks for the Ark Encounter, an amusement park that features a life-sized Noah's Ark and promotes a literal interpretation of the Book of Genesis. (Forbes)

Gun goofs

Robbie Ostberg, 14, was playing with a 6-inch-long toy cannon when it fired some sort of projectile into the boy's face, killing him. "It's not intended to be used to fire anything," Tremonton, Utah, police Chief Dave Nance said. "It's just intended to be looked at." (Salt Lake City's KTVX-TV)

Not a good idea

Seven hundred people had to be evacuated in Stockholm after a youth hostel caught fire. Fire investigators said the blaze started after the hostel staff placed several mattresses in the hostel's sauna and turned up the heat to try to delouse them. (Sweden's The Local)

Nine people attending a personal development seminar titled "Dying in Consciousness" outside Drummondville, Quebec, were covered with mud, wrapped in plastic, put under blankets and immobilized with their heads in cardboard boxes for nine hours with instructions to hyperventilate. The body of Chantale Lavigne, 35, was removed after being "cooked to death," according to coroner Gilles Sainton. Another woman was hospitalized but survived. (Canada's National Post)

Rear ended

South Korean authorities arrested eight men they said tried to smuggle gold out of the country by hiding it in their rectums. The scheme involved converting $260,000 worth of gold bars into small beads, which the men then inserted in their anus so they could sneak the gold past customs officials. (Associated Press)

Louis Helmburg III, a student at West Virginia's Marshall University, is suing Alpha Tau Omega fraternity and fraternity member Travis Hughes for injuries Helmburg claims he suffered at a party when Hughes tried to fire a bottle rocket from his anus. "Instead of launching," the lawsuit claims, "the bottle rocket blew up in the defendant's rectum, and this startled the plaintiff and caused him to jump back" and fall off the deck. (United Press International)

Why recycling pays

Firefighters were unable to extinguish a blaze at a home in Tempe, Ariz., because more than two feet of empty beer cans on the floor blocked the front door. "They couldn't even open it," fire investigator Michael J. Reichling said, adding that when firefighters finally managed to get inside, the beer cans prevented them from going upstairs. The house was destroyed. (Phoenix's KSAZ-TV)

Money laundering

Police arrested Jose Veras, 21, after observing him in the laundry room of an apartment complex in Louisville, Ky., stuffing cash in a washing machine. Officers, who said Veras didn't live at the apartment, reported finding more than $1,000 scattered throughout the halls and in the washer. (Louisville's WDRB-TV)

Chance of a lifetime

President Obama was supposed to congratulate Wilbur and Theresa Faiss at a speaking event in Las Vegas on the eve of their 79th wedding anniversary, but they arrived too late and were dropped from the president's prepared remarks. Wilbur Faiss, 100, said he'd been assured that the couple would be invited the next time the president visits Las Vegas. (Associated Press)

Condiment follies

Special needs teacher Lillian Gomez was suspended from her job at a Kissimmee, Fla., elementary school after she was accused of pouring hot sauce on crayons to stop autistic children from putting them in their mouths. (Orlando's WFTV-TV)

Heavy metal

Two people trying to remove scrap metal from an abandoned five-story building in Detroit were killed when part of the building collapsed on them. The Rev. Kevin Johnson, whose Calvary Presbyterian Church is next door, said he'd seen the men regularly at the building for the past few months, pulling out every scrap they could. "They were getting into the skeletal structure, the beams that actually hold the floor up," he said. "They literally just tore it apart." (Detroit's WWJ-TV)

Schools in southeast Los Angeles County reported a rash of tuba thefts. "All they took were tubas," South Gate High School music teacher Ruben Gonzalez Jr. said after thieves pried open the band room. Authorities attributed this and similar thefts to the high prices the brass instruments bring on the black market — even an old, dented tuba can fetch $2,000 — and Southern California's banda music craze. Banda is dance music, popular among the region's large Mexican immigrant population, played by brass and woodwind instruments and anchored by the tuba. (Los Angeles Times)

What could go wrong?

A report in the British scientific journal Nature proposed controlling wildfires in Australia by introducing elephants and rhinoceroses Down Under. "A major source of fuel for wildfires in the monsoon tropics is gamba grass, a giant African grass that has invaded north Australia's savannas," David Bowman, a professor of environmental change biology at the University of Tasmania, wrote. "It is too big for marsupial grazers (kangaroos) and for cattle and buffalo, the largest feral mammals. But gamba grass is a great meal for elephants or rhinoceroses." Bowman conceded that introducing wild elephants to Australia "may seem absurd" but pointed out "the only other methods likely to control gamba grass involve using chemicals or physically clearing the land, which would destroy the habitat. Using mega-herbivores may ultimately be more practical and cost-effective." (Agence France-Presse)

Fatal ironies

Medical researcher Dr. Richard Olney, 64, devoted 18 years to seeking a cure for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), better known as Lou Gehrig's disease. He died Jan. 27 of ALS, which he battled for the last eight years. (Associated Press)

Home birth advocate Caroline Lovell, 36, died after the delivery of her second child at home in Melbourne, Australia. (Victoria's Herald Sun)


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