Stranger Than Fiction 

Curses, foiled again

A man who stole T-shirts from a New York City store was making his getaway on foot when he passed James Marr, 79, who said he heard somebody yelling "Stop thief!" and spotted the shoplifter "with a full laundry bag running past full tilt." Marr noticed some papers fly out of the suspect's bag that turned out to be a court document with the name and address of Trevor Frasca, 27, whom police arrested and Marr labeled "the dumbest thief ever invented." (New York's Daily News)

Dispatchers who received an emergency call in Leavenworth, Kan., found nobody on the open line, so they used a locator program to pinpoint where the call came from and notified police to investigate. Officers arriving on the scene determined that Jesus Daniel Santos, 26, had accidentally "butt-dialed" the emergency number from his cell phone. As they were leaving, however, they spotted baggies in the back seat of his car filled with what turned out to be crack cocaine and arrested him. (Kansas City, Mo.'s KSHB-TV)

Pretty boys

South Korean men spent $495.5 million on skincare products last year, accounting for nearly 21 percent of global sales, according to the market research firm Euromonitor International. And Amorepacific, South Korea's biggest cosmetics company, estimated total sales of men's cosmetics in South Korea this year will exceed $885 million, making the Asian nation the world's male makeup capital. Noting American men are often wary of makeup, Roald Maliangkay, head of Korean studies at Australian National University, said South Korean men regard effeminate male beauty as "a marker of social success." (Associated Press)

Avoirdupois follies

The Georgia State Board of Funeral Services suspended Conyers funeral director William B. Ellenberg III for dismembering the body of an 800-pound person before cremating it. "I cut the fatty tissue off the side of the legs so it would fit inside the crematory," Ellenberg said. "I did what I had to do to get the body cremated for the family." (Atlanta's WGCL-TV)

Chicago justice

Chicago zoning inspector Dominick Owens, 46, was found guilty of taking bribes after twice receiving $600 to issue certificates of occupancy for four newly built homes he hadn't inspected. He was sentenced to a year and a day in federal prison, but a federal appeals court overturned his conviction because the bribes weren't big enough. They fell short of the $5,000 minimum required by law. (Chicago Sun-Times)

Homeland insecurity

The Department of Homeland Security inspector general reported that 318 DHS employees and contractors were arrested in 2011. Crimes included Border Patrol agents smuggling drugs, Immigration and Customs Enforcement forging documents and robbing drug dealers, and Transportation Security Administration agents caught with child pornography. The good news, according to the inspector general's summary of significant investigations, is that arrests were down from 519 in 2010. (Wired)

A Congressional investigation comparing airport screeners at San Francisco International Airport (SFO), which employs private contractors, and Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), which relies on TSA agents, found that SFO screeners processed 65 percent more passengers than their LAX counterparts. The study by the House Transportation & Infrastructure committee noted that both groups receive the same wages and benefits and use virtually the same equipment. (Forbes)

Location, location

Police cited a 34-year-old man for calling 911 from the front lobby of the Greenfield, Wis., Law Enforcement Center, which houses both the city police department and the municipal courtroom. The man said he called the emergency number to complain because he was tired of waiting for his name to be called to appear in court for a previous citation. (Greenfield's Patch)

While Frank Rodriguez-Tapia, 20, was on his way out of jail in Santa Fe, N.M., he stole $80 from another inmate who was going through booking. He treated himself to lunch before he was caught and returned to jail. (Albuquerque's KOAT-TV)

Energy backfires

Renewable energy around the world is causing problems because it can't be stored, so when it's generated, it must be consumed or risk overloading the power grid and causing blackouts. The oversupply problem affects China and Texas but is particularly serious with wind energy generated by Germany. On windy days, it overpowers Central and Eastern European countries, causing them to consider disconnecting their power lines "to prevent accidents and destruction," Pavel Solc, Czech deputy minister of industry and trade, said. (Bloomberg News)

Sweden's program to generate energy from garbage is so efficient that Sweden has had to begin importing trash from other countries, to the tune of 800,000 tons a year. Only 4 percent of Sweden's garbage makes it to landfills. Norway pays Sweden to take its garbage, and Catarina Ostlund, a senior adviser for Sweden's environmental protection agency, said it's looking at Bulgaria, Romania and Italy as potential sources of garbage to provide electricity. "I would say maybe in the future, this waste will be valued even more," Ostlund said. (NPR)

Connecticut's nuclear power plant had to shut down one of its two reactors this summer because seawater used to cool the plant was too warm. The Millstone Power Station, which uses water from Long Island Sound, provides half of all power used in Connecticut and 12 percent in New England. It was the first time in the 37-year-old plant's history that excessively warm water caused a shutdown. (Associated Press)

California hydroelectric power plants produced 1,137 fewer megawatts this summer than usual because of drought, according to Stephanie McCorkle of the California Independent System Operator, which operates most of the state's power delivery. McCorkle blamed snow pack in the Sierra Nevada mountains, which was down as much as 50 percent in some areas last spring. "This is how we store electricity," she said, "in the snow pack." (National Geographic News)

Never too old

After serving as mayor of River Falls, Ala., for three decades, Mary Ella Hixon, 91, resigned and pleaded guilty to stealing $201,000 from the town. She was sentenced to five years in prison, all suspended because of her age, and ordered to repay the money. (Associated Press)

Positive fallout

In addition to spreading Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever, ticks may be boosting vegetarianism. University of Virginia researchers found that a bite from a Lone Star tick can cause victims to become allergic to alpha-gal, a substance found in the meat of hooved animals. Sufferers break out in hives or full-scale anaphylaxis a few hours after eating meat. (Sierra)


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