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January 2005


8 January 2005

A 43-year-old man in Greensburg, Pennsylvania, appeared to be inebriated when ambulance personnel removed him from his burning home. David Kemerer allegedly explained the fire to officers by saying that he 'was torching' his guitar in the living room of his flat, on the top floor of the building, when the fire started. The police said they believed that several inches of debris on the floor of the room may have fuelled the blaze. Kemerer, who was wanted by the police in connection with unspecified charges, suffered burns to his lower legs and was taken to hospital.

Cumberland County, Pennsylvania, police noticed a pickup truck spinning its tyres. Officer Kevin Spangler took off in pursuit of the driver, 37-year-old Robert H. Sparks, whose further traffic offences strengthened Spangler's resolve. When Sparks stopped the truck, Spangler approached on foot, then Sparks took off again. Later in the chase, Officer Raymond Krzywulak fell for the same thing, except that he grabbed the tailgate as the pickup sped away. He climbed into the bed of the pickup and tried unsuccessfully to get Sparks to stop the vehicle. When the pickup hit Spangler's police car, Krzywulak escaped. The chase ended when Sparks reached a dead end - the parking lot of York County Prison.

Jason Sherman was working as a teacher at Colorado's Columbine Prep School, an institution for teenagers who have been expelled from traditional schools, when he heard that a student had displayed a gun to three students and then boasted that he would use the weapon to kill Sherman. Sherman discovered that the principal and at least one teacher simply told the student to go home early and to take his gun with him. No authorities were contacted. After all, as an assistant principal pointed out, the student was a 'good kid'. Sherman is claiming that he was fired after complaining about the way in which the matter had been handled. He has filed a federal lawsuit against the school.

In Baguio in the Philippines, police officer John Vite and fireman friend Jay Domingo were watching a striptease show when three off-duty agents of the National Bureau of Investigation complained that the two men were blocking the view of the stage. The city police chief reported that Vite responded by shooting at the NBI agents, who returned fire. Vite was killed, and Domingo and the bar's floor manager were wounded. One of the two NBI agents who were arrested was also injured.

Timothy Brown of West Haven, Connecticut, contacted the emergency services to report that his car was on fire. According to the fire department's Sgt. Paul Raucci, firefighters rushing to the scene found that 'there was no fire, but they found he locked his keys in his car.' According to the Connecticut Post, the 35-year-old Brown denied reporting a car fire. The tape of Brown's telephone conversation with a dispatcher was at variance with this claim.
Brown, who was wanted on burglary charges, is now in jail. He has been charged with interfering with police and falsely reporting an incident. Raucci said that if Brown had just admitted locking his keys in his car, the police would have helped him and probably not checked for outstanding warrants for Brown's arrest.

Douglas Eugene Wilson, 45, is serving time in a Colorado prison for murder. While awaiting trial on that charge, he disregarded warnings not to share food with other prisoners. He passed cheese sandwiches to others in the jail. Judge Thomas Kane has sentenced Wilson to an additional three years in prison for possession of this contraband, bringing his total sentence to life plus three years in prison.

Janelle and Steve Carpenter were told that they didn't need a permit to paint their new barbeque restaurant, but when the establishment opened, city officials said they hadn't given their permission for a _mural_ to be painted on the building. The painting on the restaurant features five pigs, one of whom is trying to use a hot-air balloon to escape the impending meal. The city's design review board objected to the image because it didn't fit the landscape and because the painting featured pink porcine nakedness - which could lead to paintings of naked humans. Tarpaulin remains over the $3500 painting.

Utah Highway Patrol Trooper Ben Lang started chasing a car that he deemed to be driving recklessly, and he used a loudspeaker to tell the driver to pull over. The driver got out of the car at a stop light, but Lang said the man took off again after Lang told him to get back into the car. Lang resumed the chase, which led to the hospital, where the man admitted himself to the emergency room for treatment of a nail gun injury to his calf. He was arrested at the hospital for not stopping when ordered.

Sikh metro train driver Kevin Harrington, 53, was recently told by the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority that he has to wear an MTA badge on his turban or be sent to a non-customer-facing position - or, as MTA Transit Authority spokesman Charles Seaton put it, be 'relegated to yard duty'. Harrington had worn the turban at his MTA job for 25 years before it became an issue. The US Justice Department has filed a religious discrimination lawsuit against the MTA on the behalf of Harrington and several female Muslim bus drivers.

A little over two years ago, Cpl. Joel D. Klimkewicz converted to the Seventh-Day Adventist faith. He then re-enlisted in the US Marine Corps. Almost immediately, he was asked to participate in a training exercise in preparation for deployment in Iraq. When his commanding officer had a problem with him refusing to pick up a gun, the 24-year-old Klimkewicz sought conscientious objector status, which was denied him. After nearly two years of refusing to lift a firearm, he was charged with refusing to obey an order. He has been given a seven-month jail sentence, a reduction in rank, and a bad conduct discharge.

Austin Aitken of Cleveland, Ohio, says that he often watched the programme Fear Factor, known for its gross-out challenges. He had no problem with the programme's insect-eating and worm-immersion ways, but a recent episode caused him to vomit. He said eating rats mixed in a blender was degrading to the contestants and the viewers. In a hand-written lawsuit, Aitken accused the network that produces the programme of causing him to vomit. He is seeking $2.5 million.

A German man appealed a court's decision on a property usage dispute with neighbours, but the appeals court in Zweibruecken angered him by ruling against him. He stormed out of the courtroom, slamming the door. Court spokesman Wolfgang Ohler said: 'Apparently the panes shook, he slammed it so hard. That displeased the judge.' The man was given an extra fine on top of the original 200-euro judgement.
In another courtroom rage story, a defendant in a Fort Worth, Texas, case reacted to the guilty verdict against him by throwing a pitcher of water across the courtroom in what authorities think was an attempt to hit the family of the child with whom he had been found guilty of committing indecency. The defendant, 28-year-old Lonnie Bee Howard, then bit an intervening bailiff in the face. Also, his mother apparently took part in the melee. She was hospitalised for chest pains shortly after her arrest.

After facing drug charges in the last case of the day, Missouri's Tammy Lynn Price, 28, stole some items from Associate Circuit Judge Thomas Ray's desk. These included his pens, calculator, executive calendar, and heirloom gavel. Ray remembered that only Price and her public defender had remained in the courtroom at the end of the day, but she denied taking anything. A male friend said this was not the case, and mentioned that Price had taken cleaning supplies from the courthouse as well. A friend of Price later turned in the stolen items.

Police officers were summoned to a park in Great Falls, Montana, at about 1:00am on Christmas. What to their wondering eyes should appear but a 19-year-old naked man who had become stuck in a plastic toddler's swing? Failing to extricate him and concerned about the effect of the sub-freezing temperatures, firefighters cut the swing and the man down. At the firehouse, they tried a hacksaw and bolt cutters, then a tub of cooking grease from the kitchen. Fire Chief Max Bailey said he and his crew tried everything before someone brought a steel grinder and attacked the rivets on the swing's clasp. The man was eventually freed. He has not been charged with anything, nor did he explain how he ended up in the circumstances in which he was found.

A man from Parma, Ohio, put a blue police light on his dashboard and put a female motorist in the spotlight with his high-beam flashlight. The man, Michael Gustafson, 50, apparently told the woman that he was a police officer and that he was stopping her for driving erratically. The woman, a police detective, called for backup. He was found to be carrying a gun and a stolen police radio. His home contained more police paraphernalia. He is due to face a grand jury indictment.

Florida's Bach McComb lost his medical licence amid a 2003 malpractice case after facing charges that he ran a prescription mill. Under financial pressure, he decided to give Botox injections as a supplement to his income at a clinic that was unaware of his background. He used a saline solution to dilute powdered botulism toxin intended for animal research. When a medical technician at the clinic suggested to him that the dilution rate wasn't quite right, McComb brushed off the comment. On the day before Thanksgiving, McComb used the toxin solution, which was 10 times stronger than the product for human use, on chiropractor Eric Kaplan and his wife. Both were given six injections. Eric Kaplan went blind during Thanksgiving dinner. A doctor later estimated that his wife's injections amounted to three times what he received.
McComb also injected himself and his girlfriend. All four were on respirators at last report. McComb faces criminal prosecution and several months of recovery time - if he survives, that is.

When Winnipeg's Cindy Peterson went outside to shovel snow two days before Christmas, a neighbour asked whether Peterson couldn't afford a proper Christmas tree, then pointed to a two-foot-tall tree stump in front of the apartment building where Peterson is caretaker. Evidence of the formerly 5.5-metre-tall blue spruce wasn't hard to find: a trail of pine cones, needles, and broken branches led to a home across the street. Peterson said: 'It's got to be the dumbest crime of the century. You could see where they dragged it into the house.' The 22-year-old occupant of the home told the police that he had bought the tree for $5 from a door-to-door tree salesman. He has been charged with possession of stolen goods.

Georgia's Augusta Chronicle reports that a man didn't put on a mask until he was already in a controlled area in a Salley, South Carolina, bank. Police Chief Brian Epperson said 'Smart, eh?' - but it gets better. The man's disguise, consisting of a scarf wrapped around his face, didn't prevent a teller from recognising him as someone with whom she had attended high school. When the man asked for money, another teller thought he was joking, but she wasn't far off when she said the bank had no money: many customers had cashed cheques and made withdrawals on this particular Friday afternoon, Christmas Eve. Of the money that the bank did have, most remained there - after the robber spilled the bag of cash on the way out the door. The man left lots of fingerprints in exchange for the bank's $1,232, but he did make a clean getaway.

19 January 2005

In Vancouver, Washington, the driver of a tractor-trailer full of merchandise left the engine idling while washing grease off his hands at a shopping mall. He emerged to see his vehicle receding in the distance. Meanwhile, in the rig, Cuitlahvac Renteria-Martinez, 26, decided to take a drink from a cup he noticed in the vehicle. After swallowing the legitimate driver's tobacco spit, Renteria-Martinez rang 911 and told a Spanish-language translator that he was choking and needed assistance.
The truck's onboard GPS unit enabled authorities to locate the thief quickly - while he was still speaking to the translator. He is being investigated for first-degree theft.

After Jared Persitz robbed a petrol station in Poulsbo, Washington, clerks rang the police to report being held up at knifepoint. Persitz, who was still in the establishment, apparently tried to use his knife to cut the telephone cord while the call was in progress but was not successful. He did succeed in fleeing before the police arrived. A short while later, the police made another visit to the petrol station, after the clerks recognised the 22-year-old Persitz's getaway car outside. Persitz and getaway driver Matthew Barela, 22, then entered the estabilshment a second time, to ask for directions out of town. Persitz and Barela were arrested this time and admitted to the robbery and a burglary earlier in the day.

In a reader-submitted item, events surrounding the footbridge ramp at the Welshpool railway station began to unfold in 2001. The lights began burning out, as lights do. According to the Welsh Rail Passengers' Committee, 'the fragmented nature of the UK rail industry' left various authorities unsure what to do - or, more precisely, who should do it. By 2003, the now-defunct Wales and Border train company, Network Rail, the Powys county council, and the Welsh Assembly were ringing each other and exchanging letters in an attempt to determine whose responsibility it was(n't) to replace the burnt-out bulbs. The saga came to an end two years after the first complaints, when the last bulb had winked out. It was agreed that the local council was responsible for replacing the bulbs, and the task was completed within minutes.

The US's Transportation Security Administration - the agency responsible for confiscating air travellers' fingernail clippers and razors - has decided to allow convicted arsonists to receive special licences to drive petrol tankers and trucks carrying hazardous materials. A spokeswoman explaining the decision indicated that this was to allow the agency to examine individual arsonists' cases.
In another piece of TSA news, Wendy Swason, a baggage screener in Spokane, Washington, has been convicted of stealing medicine from the luggage she was supposed to be checking for explosives. Pain pills were a particular favourite. She was even caught on camera swallowing a few after swiping them. Her colleagues turned her in, and she is due to be replaced by an explosives detection machine. She was sentenced to three years of probation.

Such things don't happen just in the US, however. After claiming his luggage at Montreal's Pierre Elliot Trudeau airport, Sidney Crosby found that his Team Canada hockey jersey was missing. The next day, a 14-year-old girl wore it to school. It was easy to piece together what happened, as the girl's father, who gave her the shirt, had been on duty the previous day as a baggage handler at the airport. After being caught, 47-year-old single father, Jacques Lamoureux, said: 'I'm sorry. Maybe I was too much of a fan.' He has been suspended from duty.

Irene Miszler, the owner of a hair salon in Los Altos, California, complained to Max Ehinger, perhaps about his salon's putative plans to encroach on her company's specialities. Surveillance camera footage appears to indicate that Ehinger decided to deal with the situation by dumping toxic chemicals in the flower planters outside Miszler's beauty spa, a few doors down the road from his own salon. A hazmat team was called in to dispose of the remaining chemicals and shriveled flowers, and the 66-year-old Ehinger was arrested.

Someone broke into a Shelby County, Indiana, woman's home in April and stole a ring, compact discs, and money. In another break-in, someone ate a banana and drank a glass of the woman's milk. Several months later, the woman discovered that a recording had been made on her Web cam during the break-in. The woman opened the file on her computer, which showed a man holding her underwear and picture while masturbating. His face wasn't shown, but fingerprints were recovered from the photograph, which she kept in a desk drawer. A match for the prints was found in 19-year-old Matthew L. Howard, a friend of the victim's son. He admitted to breaking into the home on three occasions and to making the recording.

Arild Tofte and Kåre Heggdal, who run a recycling company in Årødalen, Norway, were hired by the Sparebanken Møre bank to remove an old cash machine from a petrol station. Tofte said the woman on duty at the petrol station was dubious when the pair arrived with a trolley and truck to remove the ATM, but 'calmed down when I explained that the machine was empty and that we had a contract to pick it up'. Before Tofte and Heggdal had completed their morning rounds, they received a telephone call indicating that a bank security guard was looking for the machine - 'He was very eager to empty the cash from the machine', said Tofte. After the cash was removed, the bank blamed the incident on a communications error.

Dr. Chen Huan-tang of Taiwan's Chang Gung Memorial Hospital reports on a patient who had sought acupuncture treatment for the pimples on her face. He said the woman, who has saline breast implants, 'was told by the acupuncturist that needling would be done on her left breast, but being too shy to tell the truth, the woman just let the acupuncturist pierce her implant chest.' The patient discovered weeks later that her left breast had, due to leakage of the implant, shrunk from a D cup to A size. It was then that the woman, in her late 20s, sought a refill of her breast and explained the situation. News reports contained no mention of whether the woman's pimples decreased in size.

A Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, teenager and his friend 'borrowed' his father's two-seat aeroplane, using it to buzz their high school and pelt it with a bucketful of eggs. The unlicenced pilot got away with it because it was dark and fog obscured the plane's tail number. Authorities say the pair were caught because they told others of the incident. The charges against the teens include reckless endangerment.

According to the fire marshal of Reading, Pennsylvania, Robin Cornejo probably made an 'honest mistake' in his recent attempt at an indoor pig roast. The 57-year-old Cornejo was ordered to remove propane tanks and cooking equipment from his basement after he and 13 other people suffered carbon monoxide poisoning in the incident. The citation Cornejo has received does not carry a fine, although legal action could result if he decides to have another pig roast in his home.

A judge at Edinburgh sheriff court recently heard the tale of Anthony Quinn's relationship with the caiman he bought for 250 pounds from a man he met online. Things got off to a less than auspicious start: the man selling the South American reptile refused to take the creature back when Quinn complained that it was four times as long as he had expected. Quinn, a 54-year old unemployed father, took the animal home and tried to replicate an area of rainforest for it in his 15th-floor flat. The heating apparatus he set up nearly electrocuted the caiman. His other plans included keeping the creature, which sports 70 razor-sharp teeth, in an inflatable paddling pool in his lounge. In the end, as the protected reptile grew closer to its adult length of 2.4 metres, Quinn decided to get rid of it. He placed it in a box in the boot of his car, where it was reported to be 'hissing and snapping away, and altogether not very happy', and tried to sell it from a supermarket car park. He was arrested in a sting operation, and the animal was confiscated.
The judge told him it was hard to think of an appropriate sentence, given the 'utter stupidity' of Quinn's actions and that 'the person most at risk throughout was yourself'. Quinn avoided jail time but has been forbidden from owning animals for five years, with the exception of his two companion birds.

Stefan Muir, an 18-year-old man from Wandsworth, London, told friend Ashley Bridgeman to get out of the dog's favourite chair. When Bridgeman said he would simply kick Muir's dog if it bit him, Muir fetched a baseball bat and hit Bridgeman, 18, over the head with it. Bridgeman died of brain damage the following day. The BBC reports that Muir has been sentenced to three years in jail after admitting to manslaughter. The two teenagers reportedly had never fought prior to this incident.

Dustmen in Frankfurt collected yellow plastic sheets that appeared to be construction rubbish, then incinerated them. Readers of the Clippings will probably be unsurprised to learn that the sheets were part of a city-wide modern sculpture exhibition by a graduate of Frankfurt's prestigious Städel art academy. Peter Postleb, the head of the city's sanitation department, said: 'As the weather was bad, I thought it was construction workers who had dumped their materials on the street, and called my people to come and take it away. ... There was no sign or anything to show it was art.' Upon reading about the exhibition in a newspaper a few days later, Postleb rang the artist, who reportedly took the news well. The city too was magnanimous in its response - providing free modern art classes for 30 of the city's dustmen. In the mandatory 'Check Your Art Sense' lessons, the sanitation workers will be asked to distinguish between various works and discuss what classifies them as art.

After Liu Min's husband cheated on her, the Beijing couple reached an agreement that he would give her the equivalent of ten euros for every hour he stayed out after midnight. He apparently paid her once but then began giving her 'IOU' notes. Reports state that he ended up owing over 300 euros to her. A court in Chongqing has granted a divorce and ordered him to pay this debt to his now former wife. She said after the judgement: 'It was a lesson to all unfaithful men.'

After months of negotiations, investment guru Jack Schwager agreed to be featured speaker at two educational conferences for financial services officers and government trustees in South Africa. However, he never made it beyond the airport in Cape Town. An immigration officer told him that there weren't two blank pages in his passport and that she therefore couldn't let him into the country. Contacted at midnight, staff at the US embassy offered to go to the airport in the morning to add two pages to the passport. An immigration officer replied that she would let her supervisor know and that Schwager could remain at the airport until morning. Meanwhile, however, Schwager had been marched onto a flight back to Amsterdam. At least one of the conferences has been cancelled.

Nebraska's David Hennecke decided that it would be no big deal to skip out of his last day of work. After all, what could his employer do? Given that he was employed in a work-release prison programme, the answer is 'ensure that his nearly-complete four-month sentence is not the last he sees of a correctional facility'. He was arrested when he returned to the work-release centre at the end of the work day. He has been charged with felony escape.

Teacher Kazuya Ito from Akita, Japan, decided to take a taxi home because he was inebriated after spending an evening with work mates and alcohol. The 31-year-old Ito paid the fare with a photocopy of a 1,000-yen note. Later, the taxi driver said he was initially unaware that the note was fake because it was dark in the vehicle. He contacted the authorities when he noticed that it was black-and-white and printed on only one side. A photo of one of Ito's colleagues was where the watermark would be on the genuine article. After Ito's arrest, his boss issued an apology in which he stated that counterfeiting is 'not the kind of thing that a schoolteacher is allowed to do for fun.'

Ioan Haraga, the consumer protection chief in Iasi, Romania, told the Ziarul de Iasi newspaper of a complaint from a resident who had attempted to poison his neighbour's noisy dog with strychnine-injected food. When the canine didn't die, the would-be poisoner decided to file an official complaint against the manufacturer of the strychnine.
Another in what Haraga described as a spate of unusual complaints is that of a local man who complained that the sex of frozen chickens was not indicated on the label.

Jasmine Archie, a 12-year-old Birmingham, Alabama, girl, told mother Tunisia that she was no longer a virgin. As punishment, the slender Tunisia sat on 110-kilo Jasmine after making her drink bleach. Then she waited for the girl to die. Jasmine's nine-year-old brother, Jacorey, was forced to stand in the corner and watch the proceedings. His mother apparently told him that she would kill him as well if he shed a tear. Tunisia, 31, has been charged with capital murder.

In a case that has now reached the US Supreme Court, two former spies from Eastern Europe want to sue the Central Intelligence Agency for breaching a promise made to them when they began working for the US in hopes of defecting during the Cold War. When the husband and wife were recruited, they were apparently told that they would receive help relocating to the US and be assured financial and personal security for life. When they moved to the US, the CIA manufactured references that enabled the husband, a former diplomat, to become employed, but the pair have been without income ever since he was laid off in a 1997 corporate merger.
Precedent is against the pair. Echoing the sentiments of Nathan Hale, a Revolutionary-War-era spy for the US who described the espionage relationship as 'a contract the law doesn't recognise', an 1875 Supreme Court ruling barred lawsuits for money promised to people for spying.
A ruling is expected by the end of June.

Michael Hammond is a 36-year-old British man who has impersonated police officers on many occasions and been convicted on 102 occasions. He has now pleaded guilty to another impersonation, in connection with a breach of security at Windsor Castle in which he entered via a private gate after claiming to be a policeman accompanying friends of princes William and Harry. His successful entry to the palace came just 12 days after the publication of a major review on royal security. Wearing torn jeans and a jumper, he was caught only after appearing suspicious to those monitoring CCTV cameras. Among Hammond's other offences are pretending to be an Interpol officer and having an Iraqi family stopped on a ferry bound for Britain because he claimed they were Al Qaeda suspects.

Many people gamble on not being found out when cheating on their taxes. Apparently, Survivor reality programme winner Richard Hatch figured no-one would notice that he neglected to include his million-dollar prize on his tax return. It also emerged that in 2002 he didn't report his $321,000+ in pay from a radio station. As part of a plea agreement, the 42-year-old Rhode Island man has agreed to plead guilty to tax evasion.

It appears that relatives of Tej Singh of Aligarh, India, were upset that he had willed his land to his daughter, so they took the corpse and two witnesses to the district Registrar's Office to get his fingerprints on the documents necessary to register a new will. Someone contacted the police. Yashvir Singh of the Bannodevi police station said: 'The fact that the registrar's office was open even after office hours perturbed us. ... When they saw us, all the government servants ran away. We took all the relatives of the dead along with us.'
Providing a contrasting version of events, Munni Devi, the daughter of the deceased, said the family travelled to the office because she had decided to share the property with her relatives. Then, she said, her father's 'condition deteriorated and the people at the registrar's office asked us to take him outside', after which he died.

Police in Sendai, Japan, received a robbery report from a public telephone. Approaching the scene, eight officers saw a trio of biker youths speed off and escape to an area that the police cars couldn't reach. However, one of the three youths crashed his bike and was taken in for questioning. He explained that the youths had rung the police themselves, because 'I wanted to experience the thrill' of being chased by a police car. They are being charged with falsely reporting a crime, and one with having a stolen licence plate.

An official with Spain's General Council of the Judiciary said a Spanish court order against the UK's Barclays bank 'looks as if it's a mistake'. An investigation is being conducted into the order, which told Barclays to pay 1,100,000,000,000,000 euros to Domingo Lopez Alonso, the former owner of a Spanish bank that Barclays acquired in 1981. Spain's state-run Deposit Guarantee fund, which took over the troubled bank in a bail-out attempt before Barclays became involved, said the fund had agreed to bear the brunt of any legal action that Lopez Alonso might bring. The fund said it would work to determine the level of accuracy of the amount demanded, which is 1,400 times Spain's gross domestic product.

30 January 2005

Amanda Monti, a 24-year-old woman from Birkenhead, Merseyside, had apparently remained on good terms with Geoffrey Jones, 37, after he broke off their relationship. Liverpool crown court heard recently that after Monti drove Jones home from a party, she offered him sex and said she wished to discuss the relationship. He refused and, in the struggle that followed, threw her out of the house. After she smashed a window, there was another fight, in which Monti ripped off one of her ex-boyfriend's testicles. She initially tried to hide it in her mouth, but it was recovered. However, it could not be reattached.

Robert Kendall Prather of Boulder, Colorado, was pulled over for ignoring a stop sign. After a breath test, he was taken to jail for driving while intoxicated. He was released four hours later. Less than an hour after that, he returned to the police station to ask if officers had seen his mobile telephone. Officers asked him how he was transported to the station. When he said he drove, he was again given a breath test and arrested for driving while intoxicated.

In Saitama, Japan, unemployed man Teruo Miyazaki stole a bag containing 45 million yen from an unguarded cash delivery van that was parked near an ATM booth. Miyazaki, a former employee of the security firm, is suspected of using a duplicate key to enter the van. He later left a bag of money by a cash machine and another in a forest. It is unclear what happened to the one million yen that was not returned. Miyazaki was arrested after he showed up at a hospital complaining of hunger.

A 16-year-old student at Ohio's Ledgemont High School asked home economics teacher Diana Stevens whether one of the meals students plan and prepare on Wednesdays could include a wild rabbit he had hunted himself. Stevens gave permission for this and allowed other students to go into another room if they didn't want to watch the preparation of the rabbit carcass. The boy, an avid hunter, also brought and prepared a guinea pig carcass. Apparently, both animals were purchased at a pet store. Humane Officer Sarah Westman said: 'Something irrational and wrong happened'; however, there are no plans to file charges against the student. The police and humane society officers said it would have been hard to prove that the killings were needless, as students did eat some of the meat.

In Brno, in the Czech Republic, a 32-year-old man hid in a pizzeria until the staff left. He then availed himself of the beer supply, breaking into a cooling box, disconnecting the pipes leading to the tap, and placing them in his mouth. The intruder, asleep, was found by cleaners in the early morning. Police spokesman Vit Cvrcek said the man will have to pay for the beer and either be fined or face jail time for the damage he caused.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that a man from western Sydney was displeased when he received a $50 back-to-school allowance cheque for his son. The cheque, which arrived 15 months after the death of the man's wife, was made out to 'Mrs Passed Away'. The man said his 15-year-old son initially thought the letter, from New South Wales Premier Bob Carr, was a 'sick joke'. On realising it was an official communication, the man said, he decided 'he can keep his lousy $50'. Carr told reporters that 'we apologise unreservedly' but that, as he didn't address the envelope, he was not in a position to offer the family a personal apology. The man replied: 'We do something wrong by the Government and they're into us. As soon as they make a mistake you get a flippant apology.'

Social workers were sent to Michelle R. Shelton's apartment in Kansas City, Missouri, where they took hair samples from her and her four-year-old son to test for drugs. The tests came back positive. Court records quote Shelton as telling detectives that she had found drug paraphernalia all over her home after parties her son attended and that it's possible that the boy found some crack that way. Some residents at Shelton's apartment complex told investigators that the mother gave her son crack cocaine to calm him down.

According to Serbian daily newspaper Blic, Goran Markovic was stopped by police at a roadside checkpoint in Pirot and identified himself as Bruce Willis. He backed up this statement with an Australian passport bearing the name. Markovic was promptly arrested. He had dozens of other fake passports and was linked also to the theft of several vehicles, including the one he had been driving at the time of his arrest. A police spokesman said: 'It's not very often we get American film stars driving around southern Serbia on their own.'

A car chase started when police tried to stop a car near Valdres, Norway. Ringerikes Blad reported that the car chase ended when the 23-year-old suspect jumped from his car, ran into the forest, and climbed a pine tree. Police spokesman Erik Bergan said: 'The police tried everything they could to get him to come down from the tree, but nothing helped.' In the end, they collected an axe from their patrol car equipment and began chopping down the tree. The suspect leapt to a smaller tree, which began to give way before the police had made many hits with the axe. The suspect decided to climb down at this point. At last report, it wasn't clear why the man fled from the police.

Portugal's Marco Guerra, 17, placed photos of himself with a machine gun on his Web site. Also on the site are photos of a table full of money and marijuana with the comment that 'through illegal or obscure deals you can live really well'. Making the job of the authorities easier, Guerra included his full name and mobile telephone number on the site. After police searched his room in his parents' Lisbon home, he was charged with drug possession and illegal possession of arms. He lamented that they even took the computer 'and now I don't have access to the Internet anymore'. Perhaps it's for his own good.

Staff at Winnipeg's Headingly jail discovered that prisoners at this 'tobacco-free' facility were using boiled Nicorette gum and tea leaves as a substitute, which they rolled in pages from Gideon Bibles in order to make cigarettes. Prison superintendent Cathy Sandney described the illicit activity as 'very discreet'. Speaking for Gideons International, who place the Bibles in jails, Ron Muir said: 'They've destroyed about 50 Bibles. They're going to need more Bibles and I'll bring them more.'

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports on the plan of an 11-year-old boy and his three friends to force school-bus driver Janet McQuown off the bus and then drive it to Nevada. The plan wasn't executed in full: after the boy held a pocketknife to McQuown's throat and she stopped, she told him to give her the knife and he did. She told the four children to sit down and be quiet until they reached their school, a little over 30 kilometres away. As to why they obeyed her, McQuown said: 'Apparently, they did not have a Plan B.' Their Plan A didn't include a map, nor were any of the four conspirators tall enough to reach the pedals and look out the windshield simultaneously. Two of the children were taken into custody and two released to their parents' care.

The police in Pocatello, Idaho, didn't identify the 62-year-old woman who entered a bank and announced a hold-up. The woman, using a walker, approached tellers and said she had a gun. She went on to explain that she had recently had to leave the weapon in hock at a pawn shop but that she still wanted to rob the bank. Police Captain Kirk Nelson said: 'There was no money given to her at all'. In what Nelson described as a 'sad deal', the woman ended up crying and asking that the police be summoned.

Police in New Castle, Delaware, report that after two men robbed an 18-year-old pizza delivery woman, one of them decided to apologise. In what police spokesman Cpl. Trinidad Navarro said would be a good story for a television programme on dumb criminals, Brent Brown, 25, rang his victim, said he was sorry about the robbery, and asked her out on a date. Brown, who was arrested after officers searching a residence found the pizza boxes and receipt associated with the crime, was identified by the victim from a line-up. He said in his defence: 'I work every day. I have no reason to rob the pizza lady.'

Howard Weyers, founder of a Michigan-based health care company, said: 'I don't want to pay for the results of smoking.' Weyco company policy allows workers to be fired if they smoke, on the clock or not. Weyco offered to help smokers wanting to kick the habit. Chief financial officer Gary Climes estimated that 18 to 20 of Weyco's 200 employees were smokers when the policy was announced in 2003 and that as many as 14 of them kicked the habit before the policy entered into force at the start of this year. One resigned before the policy kicked in. Four employees have now been kicked out of the company for refusing to take a test to determine whether or not they are smokers.

Gloria Doster, the 62-year-old co-owner of a country store near Atlanta, Georgia, said a man wearing a wig entered and she asked if he could see to walk with the fake hair dangling in front of his eyes. That was her introduction to one of the two men who would shortly ask her to empty the till. When she didn't move quickly enough for the would-be robbers, one of the men tried to shoot her husband. In the moment after the man's gun jammed, Gloria's husband produced a .380-calibre handgun and shot one of the men. She grabbed her own gun from near the cash register and opened fire. The two assailants continued shooting from behind the meat counter. As Gloria put it: 'All hell broke loose. I was trying to shoot and dial 911 at the same time.' Both would-be robbers died in hospital shortly after the shootout.

Daniel L. Edwards, the 55-year-old principal of New Jersey's Pyne Poynt Middle School, has been charged with repeatedly offering a male student money on the condition that he undress in front of Edwards. When he went to the police, the 14-year-old student had a tape recording of the most recent conversation on the subject with Edwards. The principal has been charged with endangering the welfare of a child and with official misconduct.

A Dutch bank robber has been allowed to deduct the cost of his hold-up weapon from the proceeds from the robbery, as a business expense. A judge at Breda criminal court reduced the 46-year-old criminal's fine by the approximately 2250-euro cost of the gun, which was about a third of the gross proceeds from the robbery in Chaam. Leendert De Lange, a spokesman for the Dutch prosecutors' service, said he is not concerned that a drugs dealer might claim the cost of his Ferrari as a business expense in the same way. He said: 'He would have to prove that he needed the car to transport the drugs, and I hardly think he would transport them in a Ferrari.'

In 1978, the Los Angeles Cultural Heritage Commission declared Daniel Van Meter's seven-metre-high 'Tower of Wooden Pallets' a historic monument. Commission member Bob Winter described the crumbling beer-pallet tower's designation as 'the funniest thing we ever did ... The goats climbed all over the tower. It was a scream.' Van Meter, whose claims included that a Native American child was buried at the centre of the tower, had sought the designation at least in part to evade 'land-hungry developers'. It is still working, as Van Meter's heirs work with developers in an attempt to have the tower torn down legally. Not keen on having more apartments in the area, neighbours no longer find the feral animals and strange plants growing in the tower to be quite so much of a nuisance.

Retired physician Alan Leigh-Browne and his wife Anne bought a DVD of the Doris Day film The Pajama Game on special offer at the Safeway store in Taunton, Somerset. When they unwrapped the DVD and began watching it, they were not deterred by the onscreen warning about the 1957 film's explicit content. However, Alan said, 'some topless young woman appeared and started talking in Italian'. He said the film, which was in reality titled Tettore che Passione, 'certainly pulled no punches; my wife and I were shocked, but we watched it until the end because we couldn't believe what we were seeing.' The couple have urged Safeway, where they had bought the DVD, to investigate what went wrong.

Carol Ries was pulled over by deputies in Michigan and found to have a blood alcohol level at three times the legal limit for being considered intoxicated. When the police found a bottle of Listerine in her car, she said she had drunk three glasses of the mouthwash, which contains between 21 and 27 per cent alcohol, earlier in the day. She has entered a plea of guilty to drunken driving. Prosecutors have agreed to drop a charge of having an open container of an intoxicating substance in a vehicle.

Patricia Tahram, 66, said she started cooking marijuana into food after she found that the sample friends gave her of the drug relieved her depression and back pain. The Northumberland woman has admitted to growing cannabis in her home and supplying herbal casseroles, soups, and biscuits to friends. Police found 32 cannabis plants in her home - they had missed a few, but Tahram pointed out the rest. She also offered the officers tea and biscuits.

Francisco Sanchez is accused of asking a hooker to sit in his car and offering her 40 dollars for oral sex. This drew attention because the car was a police cruiser and Sanchez is a Miami cop. And so was the prostitute. A police spokesman said that Sanchez may need help with a problem but that his behaviour while wearing a police uniform was still unacceptable.

At a family-run petrol station in Omaha, Nebraska, Carol Fulsom missed out a digit when entering the day's prices into the computer. As a result, customers bought unleaded gasoline for 18 cents per gallon. Because customers can pay only at the pump, this wasn't noticed by the staff. After several hours of the extra-low prices, at a cost to the business of about $1000, a fuel truck driver noticed the error and blocked the entrance to the pump area with his truck. Fulsom said that the word about the low price had spread and there were threats of violence, with one person threatening to hit the fuel truck driver with a hammer if he didn't move his vehicle. Fulsom said her father has forgiven her for the mistake.

Dantzler Thomas, 24, robbed a shop in Minneapolis, demanding money at gunpoint. The clerk emptied the till for him, and Thomas decided to count his takings before leaving the scene of the crime. To do this, he set down his gun. The cashier picked it up, pointed it at Thomas, and ordered him to leave the store, which he did, taking the money with him. He wasn't gone for long - he came back under five minutes later and demanded the return of his gun. It appears that this demand was ignored. In any event, Thomas was getting into a car outside the shop when police arrived. He evaded capture at this point but was quickly found at the home of the registrant of the car.

Michael Brown, an auto mechanic in Cressona, Pennsylvania, used a customer's sport utility vehicle to run an errand. The 47-year-old Brown left it running in a bank parking lot. He then left the bank in the wrong vehicle, driving back to his garage in a pickup truck that Brian McHale had left running two parking spaces away from Brown's customer's SUV. When the police told Brown of the problem, he returned the pickup to the bank and collected the SUV. State trooper John Powis said he was unsure whether charges would be brought against Brown.

Helen Koton, a 79-year-old woman who spends winters in Hallandale Beach, Florida, said she didn't hear any warning signals when she was crossing a drawbridge. When she was about halfway across, the bridge began to open. She said she grabbed the railing 'and I went up in the air'. Motorists noticed Koton dangling from the bridge and told the attendant, who lowered the span after several minutes had passed. Koton suffered only bruises in the incident, from when she fell on her face when the bridge came down. Brian Scott, the attendant's supervisor, said an investigation is being conducted.

Piotr Kardys, a businessman from Kolbuszowa, Poland, was annoyed that telephone operator TPSA erected a telephone pole on his property without seeking his permission. Local authorities ruled that since no-one had objected when the pole first went up, it was perfectly legal. Kardys built his home around the pole, which is now in his kitchen. The Supreme Administrative Court has now upheld Kardys's complaint and told TPSA to move the pole. Speaking for TPSA, Izabella Szum said the company would appeal the ruling.

Rescue teams found Richard Kral drunkenly staggering along a path in the Slovakian Tatra mountains, minus his car. He explained that an avalanche had buried his car in snow and that he had to dig his way out through the window. Realising that the snow would fill the vehicle before he could free himself, he decided to drink one of the 60 half-litre bottles of beer he had with him. Then he hit on the idea of urinating on the snow to melt it after he had scooped it down from above the vehicle. He said: 'It was hard and now my kidneys and liver hurt, but I'm glad the beer I took on holiday turned out to be useful and I managed to get out of there.'

The Supreme Court of Canada overturned the conviction of Daryl Clark for indecency, explaining that his masturbation was not done in public and thus was not a crime. He had been convicted for masturbating 'in an illuminated room near an uncovered window visible to neighbours' after his neighbour said she saw Clark in his window while she was watching television. At times using binoculars and a telescope, she and her husband had spent 15 minutes watching Clark, whose torso they said was visible from just below the navel.


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