The Trentonian's Strange But True Page

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Next thing you know they'll be putting shoes on dogs

BERLIN - Police dogs in the western city of Duesseldorf will no longer get their feet dirty when on patrol — the entire dog unit will soon be equipped with blue plastic fiber shoes, a police spokesman said Monday.

"All 20 of our police dogs — German and Belgian shepherds — are currently being trained to walk in these shoes," Andre Hartwich said. "I'm not sure they like it, but they'll have to get used to it."
The unusual footwear is not a fashion statement, Hartwich said, but rather a necessity due to the high rate of paw injuries on duty. Especially in the city's historical old town — famous for both its pubs and drunken revelers — the dogs often step into broken beer bottles.
"Even the street-cleaning doesn't manage to remove all the glass pieces from between the streets' cobble stones," Hartwich said, adding that the dogs frequently get injured by little pieces sticking deep in their paws.
The dogs will start wearing the shoes this spring but only during operations that demand special foot protection. The shoes comes in sizes small, medium and large and were ordered in blue to match the officers uniforms, Hartwich said.
"Now we just have to teach the dogs how to tie their shoes," he joked.


OPATOWEK, Poland - Victoria has no secrets in this Polish town.

In an exhibition that's making some Poles do a double-take, the Museum of Industry in Opatowek has chronicled the evolution of women's underwear from the knee-length knickers and tight corsets of the early 20th century to the skimpy thongs of today.
"Undergarments were pretty much kept well out of sight in the old days," said Ewa Sieranska, curator at the Central Textile Museum in Lodz, which loaned 140 items to the exhibit called "From Pantaloons to G-Strings."
"At the beginning of the 20th century you couldn't show them at all, and later only a little bit, whereas now they're everywhere," she added.
Female underwear evolved as women's role in society changed.
The frumpy drawers of the early 20th century gave way to more modern styles in the 1920s — including garter belts to hold up the stockings of women entering the workplace.
Among notable items on display in this town 150 miles east of Warsaw is a white garter belt with pink hearts and clasps to attach to silk stockings, a style popular before pantyhose were developed in the 1960s.
There are also pantaloons (knee-long cotton underwear with lace fringe), day shirts, night gowns and two-piece corsets.
Nylon rose in popularity in the 1970s, while natural materials like cotton hold sway today.
In the 1980s, when Poland's then-communist regime was staggering from one political and economic crisis to the next, so-called "tygodniowki," which came in packages of seven — a pair for each day of the week — were the standard cotton undies for women.
The exhibition, which opened in January and runs until the end of March, is sprinkled with a few items of male clothing — boxer shorts, robes and a jock strap from the 1930s.
But male underwear has changed little over the years, and the vast majority of the collection is made up of what once was known as women's unmentionables.
"When people came to see the exhibition after it first opened, it caused a range of different reactions," said museum curator Ewa Klysz. "But these items are subject to historical research, and this is a serious exhibit."
Serious it may be, but it is also proved entertaining.
"It's great," said Klaudia Kepa, 15, who visited the museum with her high school classmates.
"You're not just learning about art or something that you can read about in a history text book, but something that's important, well, every day."
The underwear did generate a fair amount of giggling among the three other groups of students that visited the museum on Valentine's Day.
Older visitors, however, tend to take a different spin on things.
"They want to see some things they aren't familiar with, or remember items that they once wore," Klysz said. "Sometimes they say, 'Oh, I used to wear that, or, ugh, those were horribly uncomfortable.'"
A frequent source of such memories: a magenta nylon nightgown with pink frills around the chest.
"Those were terrible," Klysz said with a laugh. "Women hated wearing those things."
And where does underwear style go next? Klysz looked around the room and shrugged.
"Oh, I don't know what'll come next," she said with a laugh. "Maybe a return to what we wore before underwear — nothing."

Talk about your bathroom emergencies

AUBURN, Wash. - An employee of an Auburn nursing home called firefighters for help on Tuesday because the toilets were exploding with steam. The fire department said there was a boiler malfunction at Regency Auburn Rehabilitation Center that caused a minor explosion.
The blast set off the sprinkler system and flooded the floors of the three-story building.
The Valley Regional Fire Authority said no one was hurt, but water damaged electrical systems and the kitchen. So, 72 occupants had to be temporarily moved to five other rehabilitation facilities using ambulances, buses and vans.

A gator for your trouble

DAYTON, Ohio - Dayton police and U.S. marshals called for backup from animal control when they found two alligators instead of the suspected probation violator they were after.
Deputy U.S. Marshal Joshua Hillard said the authorities went to a home Monday morning with an arrest warrant for a man accused of violating his probation in a drug trafficking case. Hillard said people in the house said the suspect wasn't home but invited the officers in.
That's when they found the gators, one about 2 feet long and another about 5 feet. Animal control was summoned, and an exotic animal expert arrived to snatch up the reptiles.
Hillard said the man was braver than he is.
He said authorities also confiscated cocaine tablets, marijuana and a pair of guns. No arrests were made.

Paging Stalin... Joseph Stalin

HOPKINSVILLE, Ky. - A class of third-grade students got a lesson in civil liberties when an envelope containing $5 disappeared from their teacher's desk.
The students at Martin Luther King Elementary in Hopkinsville were asked to remove their shoes and socks during a search. Some were patted down and had their pockets checked.
Some parents were angered by the Feb. 15 searches, which did not turn up the missing money at the western Kentucky school.
"The way they treat our students is ridiculous," said Zlatko Skuljan, the father of a 9-year-old girl in the class.
The school's principal gave written reprimands to four instructors who had physical contact with the students. The principal, Sarah Newman, declined to comment and phone numbers for the four teachers could not be located Wednesday.
Christian County Schools spokeswoman Regan Huneycutt said the search violated the school district's policy. School employees can touch students only when the student poses a threat to another student or to themselves.
School officials said the search was prompted by the disappearance of an envelope containing $5 for a school function that was on the teacher's desk.
The students' regular teacher was absent that day.

Too punk rock for kindergarten

PARMA, Ohio - A kindergarten student with a freshly spiked Mohawk has been suspended from school.
Michelle Barile, the mother of 6-year-old Bryan Ruda, said nothing in the Parma Community School handbook prohibits the haircut, characterized by closely shaved sides with a strip of prominent hair on top. The school said the hair was a distraction for other students.
"I understand they have a dress code. I understand he has a uniform. But this is total discrimination," she said. "They can't tell me how I can cut his hair."
An administrator at the suburban Cleveland charter school first warned Barile last fall that the haircut wasn't acceptable. The school later sent another warning to her reiterating the ban.
Mohawks violate the school's policy on being properly groomed, school Principal Linda Geyer said. Also, the school district's dress code allows school officials to forbid anything that interferes with the conduct of education.
Ruda's hair became a disruption last week when Ruda arrived freshly shorn, Geyer said. Administrators called Barile on Friday telling her to pick Ruda up from school.
"This was his third infraction," Geyer said Tuesday. "We felt that we were being extremely patient."
Rather than request a hearing to appeal the suspension, Barile said she'll enroll him at another school. Changing the hairstyle is not an option, she said.
"It's something that he really likes," Barile said. "When people hear Mohawk, they think it's long, it's spiked, it's crazy looking, and it's really not."

Peanut butter companies are locking their doors

JERUSALEM - Israeli police are on the lookout for a thief with a super-sized chocolate craving.
The robbers broke into a factory in the northern Israeli city of Haifa late Monday and walked away with nearly 100 tons of chocolate spread.
Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said such a large heist indicated it may have been an inside job and police were searching the area of any traces of the sweet stuff.
Moshe Veidberg, one of the company's owners, told the Israeli daily Yediot Ahronot it would require five large trucks to transport the stolen chocolate, which he valued at roughly $415,000.
He said the company's alarm system was deactivated and its surveillance footage stolen as well, leaving the fate of the creamy chocolate a mystery.

I wish she was my mayor

ARLINGTON, Ore. - The mayor of an Oregon town who once stripped to her underwear and posed on a fire truck has been stripped of her office.
Voters in this town of about 500 voted narrowly Monday to recall Carmen Kontur-Gronquist. The tally was 142-139. City officials said the recall is effective Tuesday.
Kontur-Gronquist said the pictures of her in black bra and panties were taken for use in a contest about fitness, but a relative posted them on MySpace in hopes it would improve the social life of the single mother.
They predated her election, but she said she saw no reason to take them off the popular Web site once elected three years ago. Later, she closed access to them.
Opponents said it wasn't fitting for the mayor to be so depicted. They said they also disagreed with her on issues about water and the local golf course.

Sanke eats dog

BRISBANE, Australia - A 16-foot python stalked a family dog for days before swallowing the pet whole in front of horrified children in the Australian tropics, animal experts said Wednesday.

The boy and girl, ages 5 and 7, watched as the scrub python devoured their silky terrier-Chihuahua crossbreed Monday at their home near Kuranda in Queensland state.
Stuart Douglas, owner of the Australian Venom Zoo in Kuranda, said scrub pythons typically eat wild animals such as wallabies, a smaller relative of the kangaroo, but sometimes turn to pets in urban areas.
"It actively stalked the dog for a number of days," Douglas said.
"The family that owned the dog had actually seen it in the dog's bed, which was a sign it was out to get it," he added.
"They should have called me then, but (the snake) got away and three or four days later, I was called and went around and removed it" after the dog had been killed, Douglas said.
By the time Douglas arrived, all that could be seen of the dog was its hind legs and tail.
The zoo manager, Todd Rose, said pythons squeeze their prey to death before swallowing it whole. The 5-year-old dog would have been suffocated within minutes.
"The lady who was there threw some plastic chairs at the snake, but you've got to remember that this is about 50 kilograms (110 pounds) of aggressive muscle," Rose said.
Removing the half-swallowed dog could have harmed or even killed the python, Rose said, because dogs have sharp teeth and claws that could do the snake internal damage if it were wrenched out.
The snake was still digesting the dog at the zoo Wednesday. It will soon be relocated to the bush, Douglas said.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Ummm, sexy?

STOCKHOLM, Sweden - Sweden, a champion of gender equality, plans to introduce unisex underwear for hospital patients in a move designed to save both money and space, the project leader said Thursday.

The Swedish Standards Institute has developed a new style of boxer-style underwear that is considered equally suitable for male and female patients.

Swedish hospitals currently have four different models of underwear: two for men and two for women.

Switching to one model will save money because hospitals can buy greater quantities at a better price, project leader Tuula Cammersand said. It is also an issue of space.

"A lot of people have complained that the different types take up a lot of space because you need all the different models and in different sizes," Cammersand said.

The new boxers are expected to receive final approval in April and be introduced before the summer, she said.

Max the driving dog

AZUSA, Calif. - Doggone it, my truck's gone!

Police said Charles McCowan parked his pickup in front of a mini-mart Wednesday, leaving his 80-pound Boxer named Max in the passenger seat. When he came out, the truck and Max were gone.

McCowan called police, assuming the truck had been stolen. When officers arrived, they found the pickup across the street in a fast-food parking lot but had no idea how it got there.

In security video shown Thursday on KCAL-TV, the truck can be seen rolling backward out of the store lot and across the street, threading its way through traffic and out of view.

Police said that after McCowan left the truck, Max knocked the vehicle out of gear and sent it rolling backward.

Both Max and the truck emerged without a scratch.

Wheeeee! I'm a fireman!!!

MERRIMACK, N.H. - A woman faces several charges after police said she climbed into a ladder fire truck at a Merrimack fire station and refused to get out.

Police said Marque Buckley, 20, got into the fire truck after her car broke down outside the Reeds Ferry Fire Station Wednesday afternoon.

Police eventually got her out, then charged her with trespassing, resisting arrest, assaulting an officer, disorderly conduct and shoplifting from an incident at a convenience store earlier in the day.

Honestly, I've had better days

MOSCOW, Pa. - Police say a Lackawanna County man suspected of drunken driving was released in custody of his sister, who took his keys. But four hours later police got another call. This time it was to a Covington Township intersection where authorities say the man crashed his car into a state Department of Transportation end loader.

State police say Daniel Corbett, 56, of Spring Brook Township, was taken to Community Medical Center both times — about 2 a.m. Wednesday and again about 6 a.m.

Corbett had his blood alcohol tested, but a state police news release does not say what, if any, charges he is likely to face.

State police say following the second accident, Corbett was taken to Community Medical Center with moderate injuries.

A hospital spokeswoman told The Times-Tribune in Scranton she had no further information about him.

They look hilarious in space suits

STOCKHOLM, Sweden - Seventy-two small fish were briefly launched into space by researchers Thursday, hoping their swimming patterns would shed some light on motion sickness.

German researchers sent the cichlids on a 10-minute rocket ride that blasted off from a launch pad in northern Sweden, said Professor Reinhard Hilbig, who was in charge of the project.

"They were very happy, I think they want to have another flight," he said.

The thumbnail-sized fish were filmed as they swam around weightlessly in small aquariums during the unmanned space flight.

The German team will now study the video to see if some of the fish swam in circles because that is what fish do when they experience motion sickness, said Hilbig, of the Zoological Institute at the University of Stuttgart.

He said scientists hope the experiment can help explain why some people experience motion sickness while others do not. The mechanisms involved are similar for both fish and humans.

Hilbig said the fish landed safely and appeared to be in good condition.

Cichlids were picked for the experiment because they are sturdy fish who were deemed to have good chances to survive the stress of a space flight.

"Goldfish are a little bit fat and messy, while the cichlid fish is a well-trained, sporty fish with muscles," he said.

You like my jacket?

SHEBOYGAN, Wis. - He must have really liked the jacket. An 18-year-old man has been charged with stealing clothing from a department store after police said he showed up for questioning wearing a jacket taken months earlier

Felipe M. Medina, of Sheboygan, was charged Thursday with a misdemeanor count of retail theft.

The criminal complaint said Medina took a pair of blue jeans, a black T-shirt and a black jacket from a Kohl's store on Nov. 27 in Sheboygan. Police Capt. James Veeser identified Medina as the suspect after viewing the store surveillance tape.

A detective asked Medina to come to the police station Wednesday. He admitted in a police interview that he took the clothes and was currently wearing the stolen jacket, the complaint said.

He faces up to nine months in jail if convicted.

Runaway bride? Pay up

MEXICO CITY - Runaway brides — and grooms — in Mexico City could get stuck paying for the limo and flowers under a bill proposed by a local lawmaker Friday.

If approved by the city assembly, the law would offer engaged couples a legal contract outlining how much a man or woman can recoup if he or she gets jilted at the altar.

The contract would stipulate reimbursements at any point the engagement is called off.

"What we want is to protect the person who is being hurt, not only emotionally but also economically," Jose Zepeda, a divorce lawyer-turned-politician, told The Associated Press. "Whoever rents a wedding hall, pays for the church, for the cake, has the right to be reimbursed."

Such contracts could "eliminate the culture of fighting," said Zepeda, who proposed the bill.

Laura Gomez, a 33-year-old, bride-to-be perusing a bridal shop in downtown Mexico City, said the contracts were "a perfect idea."

They would "give more security and trust to both people involved," Gomez said.

But Pamela Montiel, a 19-year-old getting married in April, said she would never sign such an agreement. "Things like that are for immature people," she said.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Now that's a HIGH school project

ANN ARBOR TOWNSHIP, Mich. - Students in a University of Michigan biology project had been assigned to grow herbs, vegetables, annuals and perennials. Police are trying to find out whether someone's green thumb also was being used to grow pot.

The Ann Arbor News reports 11 small green plants believed to be marijuana were seized from a greenhouse in the school's Matthaei Botanical Gardens in Ann Arbor Township, near its main Ann Arbor campus.

Police say a school employee found the plants Monday on a table while monitoring the research project.

The plants were mixed in with the project, which involves about 80 students. Samples were sent to the Michigan State Police for testing.

At least he didn't shoot it

ROGERS, Ark. - Police are conducting an internal investigation into an allegation that a lieutenant used his stun gun to shock a cow and shared a videotape of the incident with other department employees.

Police Chief Steve Helms said Tuesday the inquiry began after he received a complaint from the group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. A letter dated Feb. 11 from PETA representative Stephanie Bell complained that Lt. David Mitchell filmed himself using the electronic stun device on the cow.

Electronic stun guns are used as less-lethal weapons to subdue people who pose a threat to officers.

Bell said in the letter that Mitchell distributed the video as a joke among friends and co-workers and she notes that animal cruelty is a misdemeanor crime in Arkansas.

Helms didn't immediately return a call for comment on Wednesday. City Attorney Ben Lipscomb said Tuesday that the alleged incident happened 2 1/2 years ago, which would be beyond the statute of limitations for misdemeanors. Lipscomb said there would be no point in pursuing a criminal investigation.

Helms said a captain in the department will conduct the investigation and Mitchell will remain on regular duty.

And the winner in the corruption category is...

LAWRENCE, Mass. - Congratulations! You're corrupt. That was the message on three wooden, gold embossed plaques sent from Puerto Rico to the Lawrence Police Department. The plaques delivered Sunday appeared to be awards, but accused officers, including Chief John Romero, of corruption.

Romero estimated the plaques cost about $200 each to make and $75 to deliver.

Police have dusted the plaques for fingerprints. They say they have a suspect in mind, but did not identify the person.

Police have notified the postal inspector in Boston and the sender could face federal charges for using the Postal Service to "threaten, harass or intimidate."

Fix that leaky faucet

LEXINGTON, Ky. - A Danville family has received an $8,000 water bill for house they say they haven't lived in for more than two years. The granddaughters of Lurlene Gray say they are stuck with the high bill that covers part of January and February.

Sherlene Tucker told WKYT in Lexington that she paid the last bill she received, about $35 to cover the period from October 9 through December 11. Tucker said her mother owns the house, but she went to a nursing home two years ago.

The ground around the home isn't saturated and there are no apparent signs of a leak.

Tucker says she was told by a water company employee that the $8,000 bill was not a clerical error. The water was turned off yesterday, but the family is asking the city for an explanation.

That won't play well on

LONDON - First she waited 45 minutes to place her order. Then she waited more than an hour for the food. Then she saw the bill. Clare Watkin was out with a group of friends Friday at an Italian steak restaurant in the English town of Lichfield, about 125 miles north of London when she found "absolutely disgusting language" printed on her bill, the British Broadcasting Corp. reported.

The BBC Web site carried what it said was a copy of the bill, with the message — a crude invitation to oral sex — printed between the cabernet sauvignon and the fish cakes.

"I think that the way that we've been spoken to is absolutely outrageous," the BBC quoted her as saying.

A spokesman for the restaurant did not immediately return a call seeking comment, but other British media reported it had apologized for the message, which it said was the result of a private joke between members of staff.

Meow, man, meow!

PHOENIX - A cat who took a three-week cross-country ride to Arizona in a storage container is headed home to Florida.

Arizona Humane Society officials say the 2-year-old gray cat crawled into the locker in Pompano Beach, Fla., while a man loaded it for a move to Phoenix.

The container spent time in a Florida warehouse and on a semitrailer before being delivered to a Phoenix facility.

A worker heard a cat meowing inside the container Tuesday. The cat, named Meatloaf, was hungry and thirsty but unharmed. The man who was moving remembered a similar cat near his old apartment.

Meatloaf's owners had put up posters around their neighborhood. The apartment manager remembered them when Humane Society called.

Officials will give Meatloaf time to recover before flying him home.

What? He should have taken the bus???

ANDERSON, S.C. - Authorities say a man drove a stolen car to the Anderson County Sheriff's Office to demand the return of nearly $2,000 officers seized from him during a drug arrest last June.

Deputies said after they told Charles Chambers, 36, to leave Tuesday afternoon, an officer noticed he got into a car that matched the description of a vehicle stolen about three hours earlier.

Another officer pulled the man over and told him to stop the car. The officer said Chambers stuck a screwdriver in the ignition to shut it off because the vehicle's key switch had been removed.

Authorities say Chambers was charged with possession of a stolen automobile, driving under suspension and a tag violation.

Monday, February 18, 2008

He survived on rats, we guess

NEW YORK - A skittish kitten that scampered out of its carrier on a subway platform has been found after 25 days in the underground tunnels.
Transit workers tracked down 6-month old Georgia under midtown Manhattan Saturday. Police reunited her with owner Ashley Phillips, a 24-year-old Bronx librarian.
After hearing that the black cat might have been spotted below Lexington Avenue and East 55th Street, track workers Mark Dalessio and Efrain LaPorte went through the area making "meow" sounds.
Georgia responded, and they found her cowering in a drain between two tracks.
Georgia had lost some weight and scratched her nose but was otherwise unhurt. She had disappeared while Phillips was bringing her home from a veterinarian visit last month.

Rock n' roll at the library

ROCHESTER HILLS, Mich. - Libraries in southeastern Michigan are turning the page on peace and quiet.
Video game events at public libraries are drawing crowds of teens, including about 100 competing monthly at "Guitar Hero" at the Rochester Hills Public Library.
"Getting teens to come to the library is right up there with getting them to go to church: It's not exactly the first place they want to go," Christine Lind Hage, library director, told the Detroit Free Press for a story Sunday.
Hage stocked the shelves with 1,823 games. And the games are hot items, with an average of 1,300 checked out daily.
A competition in Rochester Hills was held Feb. 9, and similar events are being held at other Detroit-area libraries.
Nearly 30 teens play "Guitar Hero" or "Dance Dance Revolution" every few weeks at the Clinton-Macomb Public Library, which offers 300 video games in its collection.
"It's a big social event," said Stephanie Jaczkowski, 17. "I've met a lot of friends there, and they're really good friends."
The Canton Public Library six months ago began offering games and holding monthly tournaments for Nintendo Wii bowling and "Super Smash Bros."
"Many of the games are complex. They're worthy in their own right. They can help build cognitive skills," said Brad Bachelor, teen librarian.

Sounds like the next diet fad

NEW YORK - Spending time behind bars in New York City might turn out to be good for your health.
The overhauled menu at the city's jails includes no sweets, no butter and only skim milk. The Department of Corrections wants healthy alternatives to traditional jailhouse grub.
A breakfast might include fresh fruit, whole wheat bread and wheat flakes. A sample dinner: pepper steak, rice and steamed carrots.
"These people are in our custody, and they don't get to make their own choices," said Department of Correction Commissioner Martin Horn. "We have a moral obligation to make sound choices for them."
That means unsweetened muffins, which are expected to replace the wickedly sweet ones for the roughly 14,000 inmates in the jail system.
"We have no choice but to eat what they give us. It's bland — so I guess that's healthy," said Christopher Alberici, a 40-year-old inmate.
The healthier menu costs the city as much as the previous one, which had included white bread and sweetened drinks, Horn said, adding that it may cost the city less in the long run.
"The cost of an inmate having a stroke or going into diabetic shock is far greater than keeping people healthy to the extent we can," Horn said.

Friday, February 15, 2008

I'd finish this headline, but I'm done for the workwee-

CORSICANA, Texas - A driver who apparently took her work rules very seriously abandoned a bus full of former prisoners along a highway because her hours for the day were over, police said.

The 40 passengers had been paroled or released from the state prison in Huntsville. Some wore ankle bracelet monitors.

They were aboard a charter bus that was headed Thursday to a terminal in Dallas but wound up 60 miles short.

"In 31 years in law enforcement I've never seen anything like this," Corsicana Police Sgt. Lamoin Lawhon said.

Police said the bus was chartered from Greyhound Bus Lines Inc. The driver pulled over in front of a convenience store around 4 p.m. and told the passengers her allotted driving time was up and another driver was on the way.

A clerk in the convenience store called police. Officers arrived to find the former prisoners milling around the bus. Dispatchers exchanged several phone calls with Greyhound and prison officials while Lawhon and two other officers stayed with the bus and the passengers.

Just before 7 p.m., a second bus arrived with three drivers — including the one who had abandoned her passengers in the first place, Lawhon said.

Greyhound spokesman Dustin Clark said company officials were investigating the incident. "It is a very serious matter," he said.

Clark said drivers have to follow strict guidelines on consecutive working hours and rest periods.

Police said there were no incidents involving the passengers while they were stranded.

"Their behavior was exemplary," Officer Travis Wallace said.

Rick James could not be reached for comment

HARRISBURG, Pa. - A Harrisburg teenager might have been well on his way to earning his driver's license if he hadn't hit the brick house. Quenton Gann practiced parallel parking, changing lanes and making turns for months. He says he may need more practice on ice.

Gann and his cousin were on the way to his road test Thursday in a borrowed car. The 16-year-old turned left, hit some ice, and the car landed on its side, wedged between a utility pole and a row house porch.

Christina Sears says her house shook, and "It scared my cat so bad, the hair on his back stood up."

Gann and his cousin climbed up out of the passenger's-side window, uninjured. But the car needed a tow truck. Gann says, "I'm going to leave driving alone for a little bit."

You do not want to know what went on on the honeymoon

GROVE CITY, Ohio - If one bride felt lighter than air in her wedding gown, her groom certainly felt like air itself as 19 couples renewed their vows near Columbus.

Sheila Smith's husband, Bob, had to go away on business and couldn't make the Valentine's Day recommitment service at Grove City United Methodist Church. So friends brought a life-size inflatable doll to serve as a stand-in.

They dressed Blow-up Bob in dress pants, a shirt and tie, and taped on a head-shot photo of the real Bob Smith.

His wife was blown away, because she thought she'd only be serving as matron of honor for four of her friends. After Sheila Smith phoned her husband to tell him about his air-filled alter ego, she wiped away tears as she told how he laughed so hard he couldn't speak.

How to keep the drunks away

KODIAK, Alaska - A man faces assault charges after allegedly spraying bar patrons twice with bear spray. Kodiak police charged Daniel Pement after the incidents Saturday and Sunday at the B&B Bar.

Police said Pement was escorted from the bar on Saturday, but returned 15 minutes later and allegedly sprayed customers. Police talked to him later and took the bear spray, but were called away on a more urgent matter.

On Sunday, police were called to the bar again after Pement allegedly sprayed patrons with another can of bear spray.

Police found Pement walking down the street and charged him with six counts of misdemeanor assault.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

And this is why you always should have a Soduku book in your back pocket

MADISON, Wis. - A sheriff's deputy wound up stuck for 14 hours in an underground tunnel used to move jail inmates to a courthouse because no one was there to unlock the door.
When Dane County Sheriff's Deputy Dave Hafeman entered the 8-by-8-foot passageway leading to the tunnel Friday afternoon, the guard who controls the heavy metal doors on each side had gone home for the weekend.
"This is an area that, again, is secure, and the doors lock behind you as soon as you enter," sheriff's spokeswoman Elise Schaffer said Monday. "And once you're in, you're really at the mercy of the controller to let you in or out."
Hafeman, a 14-year member of the sheriff's department, was not discovered until his wife called police because he never returned from work. Detectives found Hafeman's car parked in the county ramp and traced him to the tunnel.
Schaffer wasn't sure why Hafeman, who was unhurt, had entered the tunnel in the first place.

Why dogs are better than humans, part 382

WINONA, Minn. - Bella, a 3-year-old golden retriever/collie mix who was once rescued as an abused puppy, returned the favor to her owners by alerting them to a house fire. With help from Maddie, a 6-month-old golden retriever, Bella helped get Sue Feuling and her 9-year-old daughter, Mckenzie, out of the house last week. The dogs didn't make it.
Those dogs were without a doubt the heroes," said Winona Assistant Fire Chief Jim Multhaup.
Bella had jumped on Feuling's bed early Friday morning and started barking, and Feuling then smelled smoke, grabbed her daughter and rushed out of the house.
But Feuling couldn't coax the dogs out of the house, even when she tried to run back in to yell for them.
"Bella must have thought Mckenzie was still in the house," Feuling said.
A firefighter who arrived at the scene tried to save the dogs, but it was too late. The Feulings were taken to an area hospital for smoke inhalation monitoring, but were OK, Multhaup said.
The fire, which was caused by an overloaded electrical outlet, gutted the home, Multhaup said.
While an assistance fund was set up, Sue Feuling said she was only thinking about her dogs. "Everything I lost is nothing compared to them," she said.

Where was this guy when I lived in New York?

NEW YORK - Finding your better half this Valentine's Day could be as easy as hailing a taxi — especially if Ahmed Ibrahim is in the driver's seat.
The 53-year-old cupid cab driver, as he refers to himself, has spent the past few years playing matchmaker to lonely New Yorkers, setting up more than 70 dates. Nineteen have led to relationships that lasted more than a year.
Ibrahim planned to decorate his yellow cab with red and white hearts and roses for Thursday.
"I've organized so many dates, and it really makes me feel good about it," Ibrahim said. "I've not had one complaint."
Ibrahim said he offers his matchmaking services to passengers he evaluates by listening to conversations and asking a few questions. He then exchanges phone numbers and e-mail addresses.
"I want to know if they're the real deal or just a player," he said. "If you're a player, then forget about it."
One of his clients, Martin Karamon, said he successfully found romance through the cupid cab's services. The relationship ended after about six months, though the two remain friends.
"I might have to get in his cab again because I just broke up with my girlfriend," said Karamon, 37.

This would be a boon to the New Jersey business owner

JERUSALEM - Some companies request tax deductions for philanthropy, others for restaurants bills. But one Israeli business tried to push the envelope by asking to deduct nearly $860,000 it paid in kickbacks.
A Tel Aviv district court rejected the petition on Feb. 8.
The business, whose name was withheld by the court, asked to deduct the sum for kickbacks that were paid to help spur a business deal. The Israeli daily Maariv reported that the deal took place in an unidentified African nation. The company alleged the kickback was necessary as a part of the local business custom and therefore should be exempted from the Israeli law.
The transaction was carried out in 1999, four years before Israel adopted a U.N. anti-corruption convention.
Judge Magen Altuvia ruled that an Israeli business must adhere to the values of its home nation even while conducting business abroad. The "state's values don't stop at its borders and the petitioner's request damages the bedrock of Israeli law and its legal system," the judge wrote.
The business, however, countered that the business conducted in this particular country did not pose a threat to Israeli business ethics at home or in other nations abroad.

Works with dogs too!

LONDON - England's commissioner for children and a civil liberties group joined in on a campaign Tuesday to ban high-frequency devices intended to drive misbehaving children away from shops and other areas.
The so-called "Mosquito" device emits high-frequency noise which is audible — and annoying — to young ears, but generally not heard by people over 20.
"This device is a quick fix that does not tackle the root cause of the problem and it is indiscriminate," English Children's Commissioner Al Aynsley-Green said.
The campaigners claim that about 3,500 of the devices, made by a Welsh company, are in use.
Aynsley-Green said in an interview with British Broadcasting Corp. radio that the devices do not tackle the real problem, which is that children have no place to gather other than on the streets.
"I think it is a powerful symptom of what I call the malaise at the heart of our society," he said.
"I'm very concerned about what I see to be an emerging gap between the young and the old, the fears, the intolerance, even the hatred, of the older generation toward the young."
Shami Chakrabarti, director of the civil rights group Liberty, supported the campaign.
"Imagine the outcry if a device was introduced that caused blanket discomfort to people of one race or gender, rather than to our kids," Chakrabarti said. "The 'Mosquito' has no place in a country that values its children and seeks to instill them with dignity and respect."
The Mosquito's inventor, Howard Stapleton, has called for agreement about guidelines for using the devices.
"We tell shopkeepers to use it when they have a problem and I would be more than happy to introduce a contract which stipulates to shopkeepers how it can be used," Stapleton was quoted as telling the Western Mail newspaper.
"People talk about infringing human rights but what about the human rights of the shopkeeper who is seeing his business collapse because groups of unruly teenagers are driving away his customers?"

Friday, February 8, 2008

Sounds like a 'Lost' episode

CALGARY, Alberta - A Canadian woman narrowly avoided getting hit by several chunks of ice that crashed through her bedroom ceiling Thursday, likely dropped from a passing airplane, officials said.
The Calgary, Alberta fire department said the woman was in her room and only a few steps away when debris "exploded" through her roof shortly before 9:30 a.m..
Fire crews found several chunks of ice about 6 inches long on the bed, along with pieces of shingles, plywood, drywall and insulation.
Fire department spokesman Jeff Budai said his best guess is that the "frozen liquid" fell from a passing airplane.
The Transportation Safety Board of Canada is looking into the incident and confirms that a couple of airplanes were in the area at the time.

Save the Cliff

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - A man charged with shooting out a red light camera passed out teddy bears to reporters before a hearing. Clifford Clark's stuffed animals bore the message "Save the Cliff."
During the Thursday hearing, Clark, 47, said he would represent himself. He is charged with felony vandalism and reckless endangerment.
Police said he shot out the camera with a rifle.
Clark was arrested near the scene with a deer rifle in his van.
Clark said he's innocent and set up a Web site that claims he was framed.

Now that's one emu

APPLING, Ga. - Authorities in east Georgia are seeking the owner of a wandering emu that made drivers gawk and clogged traffic on Interstate 20 before it was finally caught.
The three-toed emu — a flightless bird — was spotted by numerous motorists on Wednesday after it appeared in the highway median between the Thomson and Camak exits, said Law Enforcement Capt. Larry Barnard of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.
"The biggest concern was the threat to motorists," he said. "Since an emu is technically livestock it doesn't normally fall under our jurisdiction."
Columbia County animal control officers helped capture the bird, said Pam Tucker, director of the county's Emergency Services Department.
"They surrounded it in the median — with a lot of caution because emus will hurt you," she said. "One of the animal control officers grabbed its legs and another grabbed the upper body and another put a covering over its head and they loaded into the truck. It kicked so hard in the truck that the latch on the truck broke."
Tucker said Thursday that a man from Wilkes County said he was coming to see if the emu was his, but he had not arrived.
"We're hopeful," she said. "Emus are a difficult animal. After four more days, we will put him up for adoption."
Emus are native to Australia and are the planet's second-largest bird, behind the ostrich. They are sometimes raised as livestock.

He's training for the NYC marathon

BANGKOK, Thailand - A leatherback turtle has been tracked swimming from the coast of the Papua province in Indonesia to Oregon, researchers said, in what may be the longest trip for marine vertebrae between breeding and feeding sites.

"This is an animal perfectly suited for doing this kind of journey," said Scott Benson, research fishery biologist for the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service, who helped track the turtle and presented details of the journey at a sea turtle symposium last month.
The longest distance of nine turtles tagged in 2003, Benson said, was the leatherback that reached Oregon and then headed to Hawaii before the battery on the satellite transmitter gave out. The 12,774-mile journey took 647 days, he said.

He's dead? No wonder why he hasn't gotten off the couch... for eight years

LONDON - Workers responding to neighbors' complaints of a bad smell coming from an apartment in western England discovered a body that lay decomposing on a couch for years while another resident lived there, officials said Friday.
The British Broadcasting Corp. reported that neighbors of the Bristol, England apartment had been complaining for years about the stench and cleaning workers found the body. Neighbor Michael Stone told the BBC he assumed the tenant suffered from poor hygiene and even offered him air fresheners.
A spokesman for Bristol City Council said the body was thought to have been in the apartment for at least eight years.
The identity of the man, who was thought to be in his 70s when he died, has not been released.
Police arrested the apartment's tenant after the body was found Jan. 30, but concluded the death was not suspicious. The occupant, also in his 70s, apparently failed to report the death because he suffers from mental health problems.
Bristol Coroner's Court launched an urgent inquiry on Friday to determine how the corpse had gone unnoticed for so long.
A local lawmaker expressed disbelief at the find.
"How can any of us possibly understand how there could be a dead body in somebody's flat for five years, or maybe even as long as eight years, and nobody know and nobody notices, and life appears to go on as usual," Labour parliamentarian Dawn Primarolo told BBC television.

Naughty, naughty

ELKHART, Ind. - Investigators have decided not to pursue criminal charges against Elkhart police employees involved in the photographing of a woman who climbed on a police station information desk and posed provocatively.
Police said they released security camera video of the November incident since it was no longer needed as evidence.
The woman arrived around 3 a.m. at the Elkhart Police Department in northern Indiana on Nov. 22 after state police arrested the man she was riding with on suspicion of drunken driving. Part of the video released Thursday shows her placing one leg on the desk and then kneeling on it, as a civilian police employee walks around behind her to snap a picture with what appears to be a cell phone camera.
The employee was fired.
No charges were filed, but a corporal resigned, and the department suspended six officers without pay.
Midnight shift supervisors also had to go through ethics training, said Assistant Police Chief Timothy Balyeat.
"It's humiliating, it's embarrassing," he said. "The police station is a secure facility where there's cameras all over the place, and they let their guard down, and they got caught up in the moment and forgot they were working."
Balyeat said the woman was just as much at fault as the officers, but people hold law enforcement personnel to a higher standard.
"When they make mistakes, it has a tendency to impact a little bit more on the community because people are disappointed because they expect more out of their police officers," he said

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Send in the clowns

LONDON - The men and women in white face-paint and polka-dot bow-ties sang hymns and said prayers as one of their number rode a unicycle down the aisle of an austere east London church.

The group was gathered for a memorial service Sunday, but since it was for one of Britain's best-known clowns, the attendees kept things bright, cheery and more than a little unorthodox.

Brilliantly colored wigs, parasols and minuscule hats filled the nave of Holy Trinity Church at the annual service in honor of Joseph Grimaldi, known to many as the father of modern clowning. Roly Bain, the clowns' chaplain, blew bubbles from the pulpit at the service, which also honored clowns who have died in the past year.

The Rev. Rose Hudson-Wilkin, a vicar at the church who helped organize the event, said the clowns had a religious role to play.

"In the Bible, in the New Testament, it talks about us being fools for Christ and in a sense they clown around, they fool around, and they try to help people see the lighter side of life," Hudson-Wilkin said.

"I think from that perspective, that they have a ministry to perform."

Grimaldi was born in the late 18th century, and began performing publicly at age 3. A skilled mime, acrobat, magician and a consummate physical performer, he popularized many of clowning's trademark tricks, including thieving long strings of sausages. Grimaldi, who died in 1837, is credited with inventing the white face-paint and two red triangles that still grace many clowns' cheeks.

The first memorial service was held in 1946 and moved to Holy Trinity in 1959.

"If you're a clown, you know about it," said Albert "Clem" Alter, who traveled to the memorial from Portland, Ore.

Rats are people too!

BEIJING - An animal rights group called Monday for China to treat rats with kindness and respect, as millions across the nation begin to celebrate the coming Year of the Rat.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA, said it has asked the Chinese government to consider animal welfare laws for rats used in laboratory experiments. The group also recommended a series of guidelines for animals used in science.

"Rats sing, they dream, and they express empathy for others," Coco Yu of PETA's Asia-Pacific branch said in a statement.

China has increasingly become a place of business for international pharmaceutical companies, the group said.

The country has a shoddy animal rights record. There is little animal welfare legislation, many zoos are poorly run and animal parts are traded for use in traditional Chinese medicine. Activists have called on China to phase out bear farms, where bile is harvested for traditional medicine, complaining that the animals are often raised in inhumane conditions.

The rat is one of 12 animals in the 12-year cycle of the Chinese zodiac, which follows the lunar calendar. The Lunar New Year is Thursday.


RIVERSIDE, Calif. - Rooster owners in this Southern California city may be about to get their feathers ruffled.

Measure A on Tuesday's ballot seeks to muffle incessant cock-a-doodle-dooing and crack down on illegal cockfighting by limiting the number of roosters residents can own in rural areas within the city limits.

"It just goes from about 3 o'clock in the morning to 8 or 9 o'clock at night," said Lee Scheffers, who said his neighbors had up to 200 roosters at one time. "There's just a lot of crowing going on. Every one is more macho than the other one."

After he complained to the City Council, code enforcement officers took action — but not until Scheffers had lost a lot of sleep.

The current law allows 50 birds, but the measure would only allow seven and require the birds be confined to an "acoustical structure" at least 100 feet from neighbors from sunrise to sunset.

If the measure passes, those with too many roosters would have to trim their flocks.

Riverside County has strict laws limiting rooster ownership, which had driven illegal cockfighting operations inside the city limits, particularly in rural areas of citrus groves, nurseries and ranches where local law mandates no more than one house per five-acre lot.

"It's a real quality of life issue, but it's also an animal cruelty issue," said Councilman Chris Mac Arthur, adding that the measure is also aimed at stopping cockfighting.

Mac Arthur, a Riverside native, said he favors the measure although it won't directly affect him. The measure needs a simple majority to pass.

"I've lived in this area most of my life, but I do not have any crowing fowl — or any fowl to speak of," he said.

We kind of depend on those, so DON'T STEAL THEM!!!

HURRICANE, Utah - A Washington County Sheriff's deputy thought something looked out of place when he looked in the back seat of a car he had stopped. There was a newspaper stand — one of the coin-operated machines found on street corners — full of newspapers lying on the seat.

"When he walked up to the car he glances in the back seat and sees this enormous Deseret Morning News newspaper stand. It's filling up the back seat of the car," sheriff's Lt. Jake Adams said.

"He thinks this is weird," Adams said. "Long story short, he arrests the guy for DUI and he's got a couple of warrants."

Under questioning, the man said he had stolen the newspaper stand in Beaver Dam, Ariz., and was taking it to Cedar City.

"He said he was going to sell it to a guy," Adams said.

Cop, truck driver, whatever

BIDDEFORD, Maine - Maine state police have charged a man who managed to get free rides on Amtrak's Downeaster by impersonating a trooper. Paul Rumery, 32, of Biddeford, told Amtrak personnel he was a state police sergeant and needed a ride from Saco to Boston for official business, authorities said.

The ploy worked four or five times dating back to November until Rumery was nabbed over the weekend by a real trooper outside the train station in Saco, said Stephen McCausland, spokesman for the Maine Public Safety Department.

Rumery got the free rides by telling Amtrak ticketing agents that he was a state trooper riding the Downeaster to look for trouble spots along the route, McCausland said. Real troopers don't accept free rides, the spokesman added.

A search of Rumery's vehicle and his apartment turned up no police paraphernalia such as fake identification or badges, McCausland said. Rumery, a truck driver employed by Labbe Construction of Arundel, has never been a law enforcement officer.

No more food for the overweight

JACKSON, Miss. - A state lawmaker wants to ban restaurants from serving food to obese customers — but please, don't be offended. He says he never even expected his plan to become law.

"I was trying to shed a little light on the number one problem in Mississippi," said Republican Rep. John Read of Gautier, who acknowledges that at 5-foot-11 and 230 pounds, he'd probably have a tough time under his own bill.

More than 30 percent of adults in Mississippi are considered it obese, according to a 2007 study by the Trust for America's Health, a research group that focuses on disease prevention.

The state House Public Health Committee chairman, Democrat Steve Holland of Plantersville, said he is going to "shred" the bill.

"It is too oppressive for government to require a restaurant owner to police another human being from their own indiscretions," Holland said Monday.

The bill had no specifics about how obesity would be defined, or how restaurants were supposed to determine if a customer was obese.

Al Stamps, who owns a restaurant in Jackson, said it is "absurd" for the state to consider telling him which customers he can't serve. He and his wife, Kim, do a bustling lunch business at Cool Al's, which serves big burgers — beef or veggie — and specialty foods like "Sassy Momma Sweet Potato Fries."

"There is a better way to deal with health issues than to impose those kind of regulations," Al Stamps said. "I'm sorry — you can't do it by treating adults like children and telling them what they can and cannot eat."

I would not wanted to have looked

OAKLAND PARK, Fla. - Broward County authorities said a grandmother was arrested for hiding cocaine in her bra during a drug raid in Oakland Park. Eight others were also arrested Friday at or near the home of Henrietta Corvin Daise, 62. Many of them were her grandchildren.

Jail records show Daise posted $7,500 bail Saturday.

The Broward County Sheriff's Office said deputies conducted a search warrant on her home and found Daise with powder cocaine stuffed in her bra. Deputies also found 20 crack cocaine rocks, four grams of powder cocaine, marijuana and $1,000 in cash.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Trust us, it's a hole-in-one

CLEARWATER, Fla. - A hole-in-one is rare on the golf course, but what are the odds of a blind golfer sinking one? Leo Fiyalko couldn't see it, but his golf buddies did — a hole-in-one on the fifth hole at the Cove Cay Country Club.

Fiyalko is 92 and has macular degeneration. He's been golfing for 60 years, but his 110-yard shot with a five iron on Jan. 10 was his first hole-in-one.

"I was just trying to put the ball on the green," Fiyalko said.

Fiyalko tees off every Thursday with a group of golfers ranging in age from 70 to 90-plus. He used to have a seven handicap, but now he needs help lining up his shots and finding his golf balls because he only has peripheral vision in his right eye.

Jean Gehring was playing in his foursome and watched Fiyalko's swing.

"I could tell it went on the green, (but) when we got up there I didn't see it. I looked in the hole and there it was," Gehring said.

Gehring said Fiyalko brushed off the feat, and had to be prodded to tell his wife about it at the end of the round.

Fiyalko's friends at the country club presented him with a plaque last week to commemorate the feat.

American cars rule

MEDFORD, Wis. - Frank Oresnik is on the verge of making history driving his old standby — the pickup truck he says is about to pass the 1 million mile mark.

Oresnik took the 1991 Chevrolet Silverado to the Oil Ex-Change Quick Lube in Medford on Thursday for what he expects will be its last oil change and tuneup before hitting the magic number.

He said the truck is 1,200 miles from a million, and once he hits the mark he will retire the vehicle.

"I feel almost like the longtime NFL player as he goes into his last training camp knowing this is the end," Oresnik said.

He credits proper maintenance and a good measure of luck for allowing the truck to rack up so many miles. He said he's had more than 300 oil changes and tuneups at the Medford business, going in every 3,000 miles.

The truck has had four radiators, three gas tanks, five transmissions and six water pumps, but the engine has never been overhauled, Oresnik said.

He bought the Silverado in June 1996 after the original owner put 41,000 miles on it. Oresnik uses the vehicle to deliver seafood in three states, putting on about 85,000 miles a year.

No double dipping!

COLUMBIA, S.C. - Keep an eye on the salsa this Super Bowl Sunday: A researcher inspired by a famous "Seinfeld" episode has concluded that double dipping is just plain gross.

"That's like putting your whole mouth right in the dip!" George Costanza was admonished on the show after he dipped a chip twice at a wake. That's not too far off, said Clemson University professor Paul L. Dawson.

Last year the food microbiologist's undergraduate students examined the effects of double dipping using volunteers, wheat crackers and several sample dips. They found that three to six double dips transferred about 10,000 bacteria from an eater's mouth to the remaining dip sample.

"I was very surprised by the results," Dawson said in a telephone interview Thursday. "I thought there would be very minimal transfer. I didn't think we would be able to detect it."

The professor said the students' research didn't get into the risk behind such a bacteria transfer, but they got the idea.

"I like to say it's like kissing everybody at the party — if you're double dipping, you're putting some of your bacteria in that dip," Dawson said.

The results of the research are scheduled to be published in the journal Food Safety within the next six months, he said.

BONHAM, Texas - Complaints from neighbors prompted Bonham police to remove 209 cats and three dogs from a home apparently overrun by the animals. The SPCA helped take custody of the animals Friday.

Officials found 40 cats in one bedroom.

Bonham Police Chief Mike Bankston said the situation apparently got well out of hand for the couple living in the house.

Owner David Wheeler told WFAA television that they started with just 13 cats, but the animals quickly bred. Wheeler said it's expensive to spay and neuter so many cats, plus feed them.

Dangers of online classifieds

STAMFORD, Conn. - If you're looking to sell high-grade marijuana, Craigslist may not be the place to do it. A man learned that the hard way when the "buyer" who contacted him turned out to be an undercover officer, Stamford police said.

Police said Steven Zahorsky, 24, posted an ad for "Mary Jane in Fairfield County." The ad offered a half-ounce of "A plus" marijuana for $220 and the same amount of "B plus" marijuana for $160.

Stamford Lt. Jon Fontneau said officers spotted the ad and responded, claiming to be a painting crew interested in buying drugs during a work break.

Zahorsky allegedly agreed to sell three-quarters of an ounce of marijuana at an Interstate 95 rest stop, Fontneau said.

Police said they arrived Wednesday afternoon and called Zahorsky's cell phone. He answered and agreed to meet at the rest stop McDonald's in 15 minutes.

Zahorsky allegedly stopped at the undercover officer's car and took $320 in cash in exchange for the marijuana, police said.

When Stamford and Darien officers arrested Zahorsky, he claimed he was at the McDonald's to eat and had no idea why police were arresting him, Fontneau said.

He said police found $320 on Zahorsky and the undercover officer's number on his cell phone.

They searched Zahorsky's Bridgeport apartment and found three bags of marijuana and one bag of hallucinogenic mushrooms, along with a shotgun, ammunition and a digital scale, Fontneau said.

Zahorsky was charged with several drug charges and released on $10,000 bond. He is due back in Stamford Superior Court on Feb. 13. No one answered the phone at a number listed for Zahorsky.

Smash bang boom

MARYLAND HEIGHTS, Mo. - It looks like a couple of suburban St. Louis purse snatchers picked the wrong women to attack. The victims fought back — with a snow shovel.

Police in Maryland Heights released details of the Sunday incident outside a Schnucks grocery store. The women were unloading groceries when the thieves tried to steal two purses from their cart.

One of the women grabbed a shovel from the suspects' pickup and smacked one of the men upside the head. The other woman jumped into the cab and attacked the other suspect, then grabbed the keys so he couldn't drive away.

Police tracked the men to a hotel. The man struck with the shovel required staples to close the gash in his head.

Both are jailed and charged with robbery.

Smash bang boom

MARYLAND HEIGHTS, Mo. - It looks like a couple of suburban St. Louis purse snatchers picked the wrong women to attack. The victims fought back — with a snow shovel.

Police in Maryland Heights released details of the Sunday incident outside a Schnucks grocery store. The women were unloading groceries when the thieves tried to steal two purses from their cart.

One of the women grabbed a shovel from the suspects' pickup and smacked one of the men upside the head. The other woman jumped into the cab and attacked the other suspect, then grabbed the keys so he couldn't drive away.

Police tracked the men to a hotel. The man struck with the shovel required staples to close the gash in his head.

Both are jailed and charged with robbery.

Dear Mr. Poopy Pants

BUFFALO, N.Y. - A collection agency tried to collect a $16.96 debt with an letter that addressed its recipient with a four-letter word for excrement. "Dear S---," began the letter attempting to collect from an old record club membership. The word was spelled out in the letter, which arrived in an envelope addressed to "S--- Face."

"I've never seen anything quite so brazen," said attorney Kenneth Hiller.

He said his client plans to sue Nationwide Collections Inc. of Fort Pierce, Fla., next week.

Under U.S. law, debt collectors are not allowed to use profanity to collect a debt, Hiller said, nor are they supposed to threaten legal action over such a small amount.

Nationwide President Phillip McGarvey said the October 2007 letter was automatically generated after his company bought about 350,000 Columbia House accounts. "S--- Face" is the name under which the account was opened and the way the coupon to start the club was filled out, he said.

Hiller's client has signed an affidavit saying he never signed up for the music club membership under that name.

"It looks bad to the observer who is not familiar with the industry," acknowledged McGarvey, "but anybody who understands the volume would understand how this could happen. ...You've also got people filling in famous people's names."

Hobo bandit nabbed

SANTA ANA, Calif. - A bank robbery suspect whose "Hobo Bandit" appearance inspired a bank teller to paint his portrait has been arrested, police said.

Kirby Dean Guyette, 52, suspected of robbing two banks in recent weeks, was taken into custody Thursday by officers looking for a green van that witnesses described as the getaway vehicle, police Cpl. Jose Gonzalez said Friday.

The alleged getaway driver, 52-year-old Jack Paine, was also arrested, Gonzalez said.

Both men were being held on $50,000 bail. It wasn't clear whether either had been assigned a defense attorney.

Authorities allege Guyette walked into a Washington Mutual branch on Monday and slipped a teller a note demanding money and warning that he was carrying a gun.

That night, teller Nick Wildermuth painted a portrait of the robber from memory. Authorities said the painting depicting a middle-aged man with bushy eyebrows and a salt-and-pepper goatee shared similarities with surveillance video of the robber.

The suspect's unkempt appearance earned him the moniker the "Hobo Bandit."

Guyette, a transient, also matched the description of a man who robbed a Bank of America branch in Santa Ana on Jan. 21, then attempted to rob the same branch several days later, police said.

"The teller recognized him and said, `You're not getting anything from us,'" Gonzalez said. "The suspect appeared confused, turned around, walked out and got in the same green van."