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THIS is TRUE for 23 October 2005 Copyright www.thisistrue.com

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TOP OF THE NEWS: An unnamed newspaper carrier in Jacksonville, Fla., was confronted by a man who said the carrier had forgotten to deliver his newspaper. When the 56-year-old carrier asked the man for his address to check his list, the man responded by pulling a gun. "Give me a paper," he demanded at gunpoint. The carrier handed over a paper, then called police. Officers found Christopher M. Cooper, 26, hiding in a cooler at a gas station, a gun in his car, and marijuana in his pocket. He was charged with armed robbery of the 50-cent paper, and drug possession. (Jacksonville Times-Union) ...Actually, the more interesting edition of the paper was the next day's, which contained this story.

PAY ATTENTION! Cliffton Hassam, 16, was in class at East Ridge High School in Clermont, Fla., when the little box on his belt started beeping. Substitute teacher Richard Maline demanded that Hassam hand it over, but Hassam refused. So Maline grabbed it and yanked. It wasn't a cell phone or pager, as Maline apparently figured, but rather an insulin pump; the beeping was to alert Hassam, a diabetic, that his blood sugar was at a dangerous level. Hassam got the device back and hooked up before he suffered ill effects, and Maline was fired by the school. "When we train our substitutes, that's one of the items we cover," a school spokesman said. "We specifically train our substitutes on this particular device." (Orlando Sentinel) ...Yeah, but did you

give him a quiz afterward to ensure he had met the "learning objectives"?

DRIVEN: "He had no idea he had been involved in an accident," said St. Petersburg, Fla., police officer Mike Jockers. But indeed Ralph Parker, 93, had hit a pedestrian on a busy street at about 45 mph. The 52-year- old man smashed half-way through Parker's windshield -- and stayed there as Parker kept driving. He drove, apparently unaware of the body, until he got to a bridge's toll plaza, three miles away. The toll taker thought the body on the car was a Halloween prank until Parker stopped to pay the toll -- and the body slid the rest of the way through the windshield. When police asked Parker where the dead body in his car came from, he said it must have "fallen out of the sky." Police took Parker's license from him (it doesn't expire for five more years) and will ask the motor vehicle department to conduct a competency hearing toward revoking it permanently. (St. Petersburg Times) ...One down, tens of thousands left to go.

DEAD MEAT: Diane Johnson, 74, of Ormond Beach, Fla., was pretty shocked by what she found in a pork loin she got at a local supermarket: a bullet. A spokesman for Publix grocery stores said the chain is

perplexed: they scan their meat with a metal detector before it goes on the shelf. And he couldn't explain how a bullet would get into grocery meat in the first place. But the store doesn't have to brace for a lawsuit: "I don't plan to sue anyone because no one got hurt," Johnson said, noting she was quite satisfied with the $10 refund from the store -- and a replacement roast. "I hope there's no bullets in it," she said. (AP) ...No lawsuit? Well there you have it: Florida really IS a strange place!

JUST ANOTHER HUM-DRUM DAY IN FLORIDA: "Alligator Eats Cocker Spaniel" -- Tampa Tribune headline

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THIS is TRUE for 30 October 2005 Copyright www.thisistrue.com

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SLIPPERY SLOPE: A new "teaching document" issued by the Roman Catholic bishops of England, Wales and Scotland warns that Catholics should not take the Bible literally -- that it's not infallible. "We should not expect to find in Scripture full scientific accuracy or complete historical precision," they say in the booklet, "The Gift of Scripture". So what sorts of things aren't accurate? Creation, for one. Genesis, they note, has two different, and sometimes conflicting, creation stories and cannot be considered "historical." Rather, the bishops say, it simply contains "historical traces." (London Times) ...Don't even get them started on Leviticus 11:6.

ON THE RIGHT TRACK: Police in Montclair, Calif., shot and wounded a man allegedly trying to hijack a freight train using a homemade bow and arrow. The engineers bailed from the engine and responding officers shot the man when he pointed the arrow at them. Once the smoke cleared, prosecutors considered the case of Juventino Vallejo-Camerena, 43, trying to figure out what to charge him with. "A train is a motor vehicle," said Deputy District Attorney Robert Lemkau, making his thought process clear. "It's a train. It moves. It's a diesel." Thus, Vallejo-Camerena has been charged with carjacking. (Riverside Press- Enterprise) ...And since the train had 71 cars, they filed six-dozen counts against him.

DRAGNET: A bank robber in Bensalem, Penn., wasn't stupid: when he wrote his demand note on the back of his pay stub from the local car wash, he used a marker to cross out his name. At the end of the sentence demanding money, he used a smiley face in place of the period. And he left the note behind as he fled with his loot. Police were able to make out his name anyway, and arrested Michael Drennon, 26. "It wasn't a huge forensic undertaking," a police spokesman said. "We just put it under a light." (Philadelphia Inquirer)...It wasn't a huge interrogation: they just put Drennon under a light.

Z.T. IN REAL LIFE, CAPITOL DIVISION: When Debra Bolton, 45, was pulled over by police in Washington, D.C., she told the officer the truth: she had a glass of wine with dinner. He arrested her for DUI. A breath test found her blood-alcohol was .03, well below the .08 percent legal limit, but the charge stuck. "If you get behind the wheel of a car with any measurable amount of alcohol, you will be dealt with in D.C.," said Dennis Fair, the arresting officer. "We have zero tolerance." Area defense lawyers know about the rule, and usually suggest their clients plead guilty and accept "diversion" programs, but Bolton fought the charge. After four court appearances it was dropped, but the Department of Motor Vehicles then moved to suspend her license anyway. "Our burden of proof is lower" than a court's, said a DMV spokesman. "Not enough evidence for them may be enough evidence for us." The DMV eventually decided not to suspend her license, but instead give her a "warning." (Washington Post) ...Warning: paternalistic bureaucrats rule Washington D.C.

NO SERVICE FOR SURE: "No Shirt, No Shoes and No Pants Means Jail" -- AP headline

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THIS is TRUE for 6 November 2005 Copyright www.thisistrue.com

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SMILE FOR THE CAMERA: Motorists in Australia are unhappy with speed cameras which automatically catch drivers over the limit; citations are mailed to the registered owner. In the past year the cameras brought in A$54,069,259 in fines (about US$39.6 million), leaving drivers so unhappy that over the past two years there have been 74 cases of vandalism against the cameras. The Roads and Traffic Authority has responded by installing surveillance cameras to watch over the most- vandalized speed cameras. Now, angry motorists are smashing the security cameras before taking out their frustrations on the speed cameras. (Sydney Telegraph) ...Didn't it occur to anyone that they could simply raise the speed limit?

SMILE FOR THE CAMERA II: Stewart and Cathryn Bromley of Manchester, England, got two photo-radar speeding tickets in quick order. Each had a fine of 60 pounds (US$105), but they didn't want to pay that. Instead, police say, they concocted a story to say that "Konstantin Koscov", a colleague from Bulgaria, had borrowed their car and had done the speeding. To help "prove" that, they say, Cathryn, 42, flew to Bulgaria to mail back a postcard from Koscov. Suspicious police ran a check through Interpol and confirmed there was no such person in Bulgaria, and the elaborate con fell apart. The couple pleaded guilty to two charges of "perverting the course of justice" and were fined 9,200 pounds plus 1,900 pounds in court costs (US$19,400 total). They got off lucky. "Had they not pleaded guilty," noted Manchester Crown Court Judge Bernard Lever, "I would almost certainly have sent them to prison." (London Times) ...In Bulgaria.

BY THE NUMBERS: Eric James Torpy, 27, was in court to face charges of robbery and shooting with intent to kill. Oklahoma County, Okla., District Judge Ray Elliott announced a plea bargain: Torpy would plead guilty, and would only get 30 years. But Torpy objected, asking if he could have 33 years, instead. That, he explained, was the number on the jersey of his favorite former basketball player, Larry Bird of the Boston Celtics. "We accommodated his request and he was just as happy as he could be," Judge Elliott said. (Oklahoman) ...Unfortunately his first try didn't work: Kobe Bryant.

PAGING ANDY WARHOL: Canuck Lawyer Andrew Bergel, 29, beat out 500 contestants from as far away as Australia to win the World Rock Paper Scissors Championship, which was held in Toronto, Ont., Canada. It's going to change his life," said Tournament director Graham Walker. "He is going to be a serious C-level celebrity." (Canadian Press) ...Actually, an appearance in "This is True" generally makes one more of an F-level celebrity.

THIS SURELY GOT A RISE OUT OF THE OWNERS: "Pizza Parlor Burglar Gets Away with Dough" -- Reuters headline

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THIS is TRUE for 13 November 2005 Copyright www.thisistrue.com

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LORD, GIVE ME A SIGN! Timothy O'Neal Evans, 28, seemed to think his chances weren't good in his trial for rape and robbery in Bay Minette, Ala.: When court broke for lunch, he broke for the door. As he dashed down the hall, the judge in another courtroom heard the commotion and joined the chase, though "I didn't know what I was going to have to do if I caught him," Judge Robert Wilters said. Once outside, Evans broke into a full run, looked back to see if the judge was still in hot pursuit, and turned back just in time to slam face-first into a parking sign. That "staggered him pretty good," Wilters said, and allowed court deputies to catch up and take Evans into custody. The attempted escape was not mentioned in court, nor was the origin of the swelling on Evans's forehead. The next day, the jury convicted him on all charges. (Mobile Register) ...Either way, he was going to get his lumps.

DID THE FLAG READ "BANG!"? A motorist in Pocatello, Idaho, called police to say a man had pointed a gun at him. The gun, the caller said, had a small flag sticking out of the barrel. Police confronted Richard C. Simmons, 30, and demanded he drop the gun; he did, and then dropped his pants. He was charged with aggravated battery and driving under the influence, but his attorney negotiated a plea bargain that spared him any jail time if he pleaded guilty to inattentive driving, indecent exposure and aiming a firearm at others. Defense attorney Keith Zollinger explained his client's actions by noting, "He had a mental incident." (Idaho State Journal) ...In that case it's perfectly reasonable to allow him back onto the street.

WHO DO YOU TRUST? Jeanine Pirro, the district attorney for Westchester County, N.Y., is gearing up to challenge Hillary Clinton for her Senate seat. To help raise funds, she sent a letter soliciting donations. "I cannot win without your support," she wrote. "I need people like you who I can trust. I need to know if I can count on you to stand by my side in my campaign against Hillary Rodham Clinton." The letter came to light when one of its recipients -- Hillary Rodham Clinton -- sent copies to the press. It was addressed to Clinton in care of the White House, and was forwarded to her Senate office. (AP) ...Well, the joke's on Hillary: It came postage due!

VERY LONG DISTANCE: Funeral directors in Ireland report that more and more families are throwing a mobile phone into the coffin with the deceased. They're more than just mementos, too. "There is a fear that some people have that they will be buried alive," says Dublin mortician Peter Flanagan. "They have contact with the outside world if they have a mobile phone with them." But, he says, he suggests to families they either turn the phone off, or at least turn it to vibrate. "Obviously," he says, "you don't want a phone ringing inside a coffin during a funeral." (AFP) ...Ringing from a coffin wouldn't be so bad -- not compared to hearing "Hello?"

REMEMBER, YOU HAVE THE POWER TO SAVE A LIFE: "No Sex Could Kill You" -- Sydney Australian headline

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THIS is TRUE for 20 November 2005 Copyright www.thisistrue.com

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ASK NOT FOR WHOM THE BELLS TOLL -- THE BELLS TOLL FOR LI: Newspapers in China report families won't cooperate with them in their effort to run obituaries in their pages. The Beijing News had hoped to expand its once-a-week obit page featuring "interesting people" to attract more readers, but hasn't found enough material to do it, even though the page is open to anyone who died anywhere in China. The English-language Beijing Today reports it too is having trouble, and it may drop the death notices altogether. "The obituary page, a popular page in western newspapers, is all but dead in the Chinese newspaper," a spokesman said. (Kyodo) ...So, is that an obituary for Chinese obituaries?

WHAT WAS THAT? Police won't name a driver in Kreuzlingen, Switzerland, who came to their attention, but they did describe him as "a little bit stupid." The man thought someone was trying to "annoy" him by flashing a light at him when he drove through the town during the night, police say. He turned around at the next roundabout and came back, and was flashed again. And again. And again. After four passes to see "what was going on" he apparently figured it out: it was a speed camera, and he set it off four times over the course of a few minutes for speeding in a 50 kph zone. Police confirm they will issue all four speeding citations -- plus an extra for failure to wear his seatbelt. A police spokesman said the officers found the case "maybe a little amusing." (London Telegraph) ...In other news, Swiss police were found to have cracked a smile for the first time in 40 years.

EASY COME: Adonis Oandasan, 35, was committed to the Hawaii State Hospital after being arrested for slashing 40 car tires. Months later he escaped the mental hospital, and worried hospital officials told police he was armed with a machete, was paranoid after being off his medication for two weeks, and was "possibly violent." So where did a patient in a mental hospital with a history of cutting crimes get a machete? The hospital staff gave it to him to help with gardening on the hospital grounds. (Honolulu Advertiser) ...Well, it sure seemed like a good idea at the time.

EASY GO: Police in Honolulu, Hawaii, report they have captured Adonis Oandasan, 35, who had escaped from the state mental hospital. He was arrested without incident, officers said. Oandasan was the ninth mental patient to escape from the facility this year. "The hospital currently houses about 170 patients," the newspaper notes, "though the number fluctuates." (Honolulu Advertiser) ...Depending on whose turn it is to escape that week.

COULD YOU FRONT ME THE MONEY? "Woman Promises to Pay Boss for Breasts" -- Boston Herald headline.

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THIS is TRUE for 27 November 2005 Copyright This Is True

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NO DUMMIES: A new lingerie store in Augusta, Maine, is using live models instead of mannequins in its storefront windows. Area merchants generally like it. "It's like a New York thing -- urban, edgy," said the owner of a Hallmark store. But one merchant doesn't like it one bit. The models don't show anything that can't be seen around any swimming pool, but the display is "tainting the wholesome businesses down here," complains Carrie Rossignol, co-owner of a video game store across the street. "I think it's selfish, and I think it's morally reprehensible." (Augusta Kennebec Journal) ...I guess she means it's cutting into her sales of "Grand Theft Auto" and "50 Cent: Bulletproof".

REAL DUMMY: Michael James Plentyhorse, 18, of Sioux Falls, S.D., was discovered in a high school after school hours with his pants around his ankles, lying on the floor next to a female mannequin. School security say they kept finding the mannequin undressed, and now they know why. Plentyhorse was arrested and charged with indecent exposure. "There was inappropriate activity between him and the mannequin," offered Sioux Falls police officer Loren McManus. "That's the only way I know how to put it." (Sioux Falls Argus Leader) ...Sadly, that was Plentyhorse's excuse too.

CATCH OF THE DAY: Prawn fishermen from Dunmore East, Waterford, Ireland, pulled up their nets off the coast of England and found plenty more than jumbo shrimp: bottles of Carolans Irish Cream liqueur, complete with drinking glasses. C&C International, which makes Carolans, confirmed a container-load of 8,000 presentation bottles had fallen overboard from a freighter on its way to Spain. "None of the fishermen who made last week's discovery could be contacted yesterday," the Irish Times reported. "They were back at sea fishing the same area." (Irish Times) ...Proving that not everyone featured in 'This is True' is stupid.

BLA-FOO MUMBLE: Irish singer Enya, who has sung in Gaelic and Latin, has rejected those languages for her newest album as not quite eclectic enough. Forget English; that's "a little bit obtrusive", she says. Thus, three tracks on her latest album are sung in Loxian. Not familiar with that tongue? That's because she made it up: it's "a futuristic language from a distant planet," she says. "It seems to choose elements at random," says Terry Dolan, a professor of English at University College Dublin.' The resulting "language" has "no form of grammar or word order," Dolan says, which provides "very limited comprehensibility." (London Times) ...Big deal: Bob Dylan has sung in that sort of language for years.

SEE HERE! "String of Light-pole Thefts Around the City Leaves Officials

in the Dark" -- Baltimore Sun headline

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THIS is TRUE for 4 December 2005 Copyright This Is True

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WHERE THERE'S STEAM, THERE'S HEAT: Famiglia Cristiana ("Christian Family"), Italy's leading Roman Catholic magazine, came under fire after it ran an ad for a ventilation company which showed a woman in the shower. Readers could easily see her backside through the steamed- up shower door. "If you want to see clearly," the ad said, "call an electrician now." The editor, the Rev. Antonio Sciortino, at first defended the ad, but decided to apologize to readers after they "made it clear" the ad upset them. (Reuters) ...Hey, cut him some slack: if he's been following his vows, the photo wasn't something he'd be able to recognize.

PANTY RAID: Jennifer Stevanovich, 31, has been sentenced to two years in prison for theft after stealing "thousands of pairs" of Victoria's Secret underwear to sell on eBay. But that's not the end of her legal troubles: the city of Andover, Mass., has charged her with welfare fraud after paying her $117,000 in assistance. What tipped detectives to that crime? "Stevanovich was living in low-income housing in Andover," a District Attorney's spokesman said, "while at the same time driving a [brand new] Mercedes SUV." (Boston Herald) ...In these sorts of cases, it's always about the bottom line.

DIVIDE, EH? HOW APTLY NAMED: The newly opened New Life Christian Church in Auburn, Calif., is attracting attention by buying gasoline discounts for church members so they can fuel up their cars at $1.99 per gallon. The idea, says Senior Pastor Bill Jenkins, is to show God is interested in everyday things that affect people's lives. But members of the Church of the Divide in nearby Garden Valley object to the new church's "cheap marketing trick." A sign outside the older church proclaims, "Jesus cares more about your sin and burning in hell than gas prices." A member of the Divide church dismissed the New Life's church reaching out to the community. "They might hear an ear-tingling sermon of what they want to hear, get some coffee and leave." A member of New Life responded, "There are many things to protest in the world, and this is not one of them. It's confusing. Hopefully, we all worship the same God." (Auburn Journal) ...Who needs Satan running around when the churches will simply battle each other?

'TIS THE SEASON: "Flying Deer Injures Man near Danville" read the headline. The story: Robert Brooks, 50, driving near Danville, Calif., stopped his car because he thought he had hit a deer. As he was checking his car for damage, another car drove by and hit the deer for sure -- it sent the animal airborne, and it bowled Brooks over. He was left with a broken ankle, and the offending driver didn't even bother to stop. (Pleasanton Tri-Valley Herald) ...Wait'll Santa hears about this.

MULTI-MILLION-DOLLAR STUDY FINALLY REVEALS: "During a Tornado, a Mobile Home Is Worst Place to Be; Flee Mobile Homes If You Can, Experts Say" -- Indianapolis Star headline

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THIS is TRUE for 11 December 2005 Copyright Thisistrue

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TYPE OH: Moon God Drinking Products Co., a skin care company in China, has offered a bounty of 1,000 yuan (US$120) for every typographical or literary error found in a day's editions of four Chinese publications in an attempt to embarrass journalists into better writing. Hao Mingjian, who came up with the idea for the bounty, said that "China's press has lost its polish in the past decade or two," which "reflects a chaotic cultural environment and shows people lack a sense of responsibility." (Reuters) ...Nice try, but journalists can't be embarrassed.

STOP THAT: An administrative law judge has issued an order to Harold Weingold of West Orange, N.J., to stop promising that a $15 "cosmic protector" that he's advertising will bring buyers good luck and protect them from bad people. The judge noted the protector "is actually a solar-powered calculator." Cosmic powers? No, it "has no inherent power to do anything but assist the user in performing mathematical calculations," she ruled. (AP) ...Seems to me that if people buy one, it has already not worked.

THIS ARREST BROUGHT TO YOU BY: The city council in Oxnard, Calif., has approved a plan to allow advertising space to be sold on city police cars. "We think the public safety vehicle could attract a lot of attention for businesses," the police chief said. Fees for ad space would help pay for the cars. A local newspaper made fun of the plan by suggesting the cars could display the slogan for Taco Bell: "Make a run for the border." (AP) ...Surely, then, WonderBra could sponsor some of the smaller busts.

WHO GOES THERE? An Egyptian policeman was standing guard at a checkpoint in Malawi, which is under a strict curfew. When a private car driven by a police captain in civilian clothes drove through the checkpoint without stopping, the policeman opened fire. For strictly adhering to his orders and shooting his captain, the policeman has been rewarded with the equivalent of US$29. The captain was seriously wounded. (Reuters) ...Makes you wonder: did he shoot because he didn't know who the driver was, or because he did?

WHAT ARE THE ODDS? "Gambling Ship May Have Sunk" -- AP headline

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DREAMING OF A GREEN CHRISTMAS: OK, you want to celebrate Christmas. Do you get a fake plastic Christmas tree which could leach toxic chemicals, or cut down a living, if maybe pesticide-laden, tree only to throw it away after a couple of weeks? Environmentalist Kristi Chester Vance of San Francisco, Calif., decided to buy a real tree to decorate her house for her Christmas party. "I'm a forest activist, and there's a dead tree in the middle of my house," she admitted. "Geez, if I have a tree, why not nail the last snow leopard to the wall, too?" But, she says, Christmas trees are farmed products, "kind of like corn." Still unsure which way to go? Eric Antebi of the Sierra Club offers a suggestion: "Allow me to put in a plug for Hanukkah, which celebrates the miracle of a little bit of oil lasting eight days," he said. "You've got to love a holiday that's all about energy efficiency." (San Francisco Chronicle) ...Rationalization is the sincerest form of snobbery.

DREAMING OF A LIQUID CHRISTMAS: A gang of men dressed up as Santa Claus went on a rampage in Auckland, New Zealand, police say. The 40-50 St. Nicks were celebrating "Santarchy" and roamed the streets, where they allegedly threw beer bottles at cars and people, vandalized Christmas trees, shoplifted from stores, and were generally naughty, not nice. Their point? Contrary to press reports it was not to protest the commercialization of Christmas, said Auckland's Santarchy organizer, Alex Dyer. "It's not against anyone," he insisted. "We're just dressing up as Santa and getting drunk. We just like booze." (New Zealand Herald, NZPA) ...It's nice to know their motives are pure.

HO HO HOLD THIS: Police in Salem, N.H., arrested a man dressed as Santa in a mall after allegedly dropping his Santa pants several times. Richard Mullen, 52, was charged with disorderly conduct after telling police he was "just having some fun with the kids," said Salem Police Capt. Robert Larsen. Larsen noted that the charge would have been

upgraded to indecent exposure had Mullen not been wearing another pair of pants under his Santa uniform. (Manchester Union Leader) ...So remember, kids: it's a crime to remove your pretend pants and show people you're wearing real pants.

HO HO OH OH: Waiting in long lines at the mall to get this year's must- have toy for your kid, at retail or above prices? Forget it: the National Toy Hall of Fame at the Strong Museum in Rochester, N.Y., has inducted one of the most cherished toys of childhood into its collection, the plain old cardboard box. "I think every adult has had that disillusioning experience of picking what they think is a wonderful toy for a child, and then finding the kid playing with the box," explained Christopher Bensch, chief curator at Strong. "It's that empty box full of possibilities that the kids can sense and the adults don't always see." (AP) ...Which shouldn't be considered official permission to keep the Xbox 360 for yourself and just give the kids the box.

HO HO NO NO: "As I went back to my patrol unit, Mrs. Voiers made the comment that the baby Jesus gets stolen every year anyway," noted Eureka Springs, Ark., police officer Randall Keele. Sure enough, the baby doll from a downtown Nativity scene was missing. It wasn't kids that pulled the prank: this year, a surveillance camera watching over the creche allegedly caught Virginia Voiers, 70, in the act. Voiers indicated her granddaughter had urged her to do it, and said that she would have brought it back anyway. Baby theft isn't the only town Christmas tradition. Former Mayor Beau Satori says that in the past, someone was rearranging the animals in the Nativity scene into "uncompromising positions." (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette) ...You can sort of see why he's the former mayor.

SHE HAS A LIST, SHE CHECKED IT TWICE: Lucella Bridget Gorman, 38, of Banyo, Qld., Australia, was arrested for stealing fruit, chocolate, Barbie dolls, toys, batteries, electronics, beauty products and earrings. After her arrest, police took her mug shot with a digital camera; when the booking officer turned his back for a moment, she swiped the camera, too, which was then recovered from her bag. She pleaded guilty to several theft charges. Her motive? "I didn't have enough money for Christmas and I thought that would be an easy way of getting things" for her gift recipients, she told the court. (Brisbane Courier Mail) ...Another fool caught up in the "better to give than receive" trap.

HAPPY POLITICALLY CORRECT HOLIDAY: There's a war raging between those who want a Merry Christmas and those who don't want to offend anyone and wish "Happy Holidays" instead. The rift is "related to a whole series of moral and religious issues," says church history professor Bill Leonard of Wake Forest University's Divinity School. Christians have long lamented the commercialization of Christmas, and "Happy Holidays" is the result, he says. "If they want to put Christ back in Christmas, they should skip the mall and give that money to the poor." (St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times) ...Yeah, but who wants to put their money where their mouth is?

TRUE CHRISTMAS SPIRIT: Jurors at a criminal trial in Denver, Colo., were repulsed by the crime -- a man had molested his 10-year-old stepdaughter -- but were even more distressed that the trial concluded just before Christmas. Jury forewoman Jennifer Volk had noticed how hard it was for the little girl to testify, and thought "it was heartbreaking to think [she] wouldn't have a Christmas." So after finding the unidentified man guilty on enough charges to send him to prison for eight years to life, she asked the judge if she could buy gifts for the girl and her family. He said yes. Volk raised $500 from co-workers "to provide the family with a little holiday happiness." The detective in the case said he has never seen anything like it. "This family was traumatized," said Detective Ken Klaus. "And they went and did something about it." (Denver Post) ...Think about it: it's that easy to make a huge difference for a kid who needs it.

YOU CAN STOP WORRYING, VIRGINIA: "Police Reject Killing Off Santa" -- PA headline

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THIS is TRUE for 25 December 2005 Copyright www.thisistrue.com

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MARKED MEN: Police in Detroit, Mich., say they really like the new trend on the street: more and more bad guys have tattoos these days. Witnesses to a murder were able to identify the suspect because of the distinctive "13" on his forehead. Terrence Moore, 37, was convicted of the murder. It was fairly easy to identify another murder suspect, who allegedly killed his 17-year-old girlfriend. His throat says "Joe" and his upper back reads "Duncil". Joseph Duncil, 21, has been captured. And so has alleged bank robber Andrew Jeffrey Webster. His right forearm reads "DUMB". (Detroit Free Press) ...Which police say is "subtly low key" for a guy like Webster.

THRASHED: "You don't want to do this. You are on camera," the bartender at a casino in Great Falls, Mont., told the 1:00 a.m. visitor. But the man, armed with a sawed-off rifle, insisted, so she handed over a wad of cash. When he left, she called police. Officer Michael Badgley was one of the three units to respond. As Badgley approached the area, a bicyclist suddenly darted in front of his car. He hit the rider, who was killed. He also caught the robber. The bicyclist was Robert Lawrence Thrash, 39, who had just robbed the casino. The money was recovered from his body. (Great Falls Tribune) ...Anytime you gamble, you should be prepared to lose it all.

THE HOUSE DOESN'T ALWAYS WIN: The Harrah's Joliet Casino & Hotel sent out coupons to 11,000 of its best customers, a few of which were supposed to be worth $525 in cash. But the casino quickly figured out that a "printing error" led to all of them being worth that much, for a total of nearly $5.8 million, and it refused to honor the coupons. A disclaimer on the back of the coupons "gives us the right to change or cancel that offer," Harrah's spokesman Doug Lima said. But when the Illinois Gaming Board ordered the casino to honor the coupons, the casino changed its tune. "After further consideration we will honor all the coupons that went out," Lima announced. "Customer service is the most important part of our business." (Joliet Herald-News)..But only when forced to admit it.

DISASTER WAITING TO HAPPEN: Michael Brown, the scapegoat for the slow federal response to the Katrina hurricane disaster, has announced what he will do after leaving the Federal Emergency Management Agency. He is moving back to Colorado to start a consulting business -- to help companies avoid public relations disasters. Brown made up an imaginary client to show how things could go for his new company: "The media just really beat you up. You made mistakes. I don't want to be in that situation. How do I avoid that?" (Denver Rocky Mountain News) ...Easy: hire someone else.

DONALD TRUMP WANTS YOU TO KNOW YOU'RE REALLY, REALLY FIRED: "Next 'Apprentice' to be Shot in Calif." -- AP headline

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THIS is TRUE: 1 January 2006 Copyright This Is True

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THE STORY WAS HARD TO SWALLOW: The news flashed around the world. According to the story, a woman in Blue Springs, Mo., was in an argument with her boyfriend and, to keep him from grabbing her cell

phone, she supposedly swallowed it. The boyfriend called 911 because she was choking. Case closed, police said -- until the victim woke up from surgery and got to tell her side of the story. "It appears she didn't voluntarily swallow this phone," a police spokesman said. "It's not quite the way it was first portrayed" by the boyfriend. Marlon Brando Gill, 23, who has a history of battery, has now been charged with felony assault in the case. Melinda Abell, 24, is expected to recover, and has requested a restraining order to keep Gill away from her. (Kansas City Star) ...And hey: don't try to call her, either.

RODE THE COMMODE: Michael Eugene Johnson, 34, was riding his motorcycle in Custer, S.D., when a portable toilet fell off a truck. Investigators say the toilet flying through the air struck Johnson, knocking him into the path of three cars. He was killed, and his family in Texas is suing Sander Sanitation Service, charging that the toilet was improperly secured to the truck. Sander Sanitation's lawyer disputes the charge. "I don't have any information that he was struck by [the toilet]," said attorney Dan Ashmore. "We're still in the fact-finding process." Further, he said, "There wasn't any damage to speak of to the Porta Potti. It's not humorous, but it's probably not the best way to go." (Sioux Falls Argus Leader) ...With that comment on the record, they're going to lose big when the suit comes to trial.

WOULD BE FUNNY IF: Police in Kazakhstan are "investigating" the death of opposition leader Zamenbek Nurkadilov, who was found dead in his home. Cause of death: two gunshots to his chest, including one through his heart, and one gunshot to his head. After three weeks of investigation, police are sticking with their initial theory: suicide. Nurkadilov had once been an aide to President Nursultan Nazarbayev, but had more recently denounced him as a dictator. Despite bad press over the death, Nazarbayev was re-elected, with 91 percent of the vote, for a third seven-year term. He previously stocked the Kazakh Parliament with friends and relatives, and said he wants to head the organization that monitors the fairness of elections in former Soviet countries. (London Times) ...To see if, by chance, there's a trick he missed along the way.

AUTOPILOT: An unidentified man in Paw Paw, Mich., got his car stuck in the mud near Leroy Township. No need to wait for a tow truck: "After several attempts to free the car," said a spokesman for the Calhoun County sheriff, "the man placed his toolbox on the vehicle accelerator, exited the vehicle and attempted to push the vehicle free. The man was successful." Success, of course, is relative: he got his Mercury full- sized sedan clear from the mud, but then had to run behind it to try to catch it. No luck: the car reached an estimated 100 mph, sometimes going airborne after hitting bumps, until it smashed into a tree a half-mile from the mud pit. Deputies decided not to give any citations to the man, who was not injured. (Battle Creek Enquirer) ...Not counting his pride.

AND YOU THOUGHT YOUR JOB WAS TOUGH: "Bill Gates Sets Indian Software Professionals on Fire" -- Asian News International headline

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THIS is TRUE: 8 January 2006 Copyright This Is True

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THAT WARM FEELING: Daniel Zeiszler, 22, pleaded no contest to a charge of manufacturing methamphetamine and was sentenced to five months in jail and three years of probation. Zeiszler didn't use typical methods to make the drug. He had just smoked some meth, so he tried to filter the residue out of his urine using solvent. "The methodology this guy used would work," said San Mateo County, Calif., chief deputy district attorney Steve Wagstaffe, "but it would take bottles and bottles of urine." (San Francisco Chronicle) ...Which of course will now have to be tightly regulated by the Drug Enforcement Administration.

A NOSE FOR CRIME: A woman in Raleigh, Tenn., has been charged with soliciting the murder of four men. Jessica Sandy Booth, 18, told the hit man -- actually (of course!) an undercover Memphis police officer -- that she would split the proceeds of a robbery of some drug dealers with him. She said she saw a huge block of cocaine in their house, but he had to kill the Hispanic men who lived there, along with any children old enough to testify against them, in the process. She accompanied him to the house and, once he was sure she really wanted him to go through with the murders, he arrested her. So then he and his backup went in and busted a big cocaine ring? No: the "cocaine" was actually a block of queso fresco, a white Mexican cheese. (Memphis Commercial Appeal) ...Which of course will now have to be tightly regulated by the Drug Enforcement Administration.

PAGING MACAULAY CULKIN: Jacob Calero, 39, and his wife, Michelle De La Vega, 32, celebrated the New Year in Las Vegas for five days. When they got home, police met them at the airport. They allegedly left Calero's two sons, aged 5 and 10, home alone, and each was charged with two counts of felony child endangerment. "They knew it was against the law," the 10-year-old said, adding the situation "makes me feel unloved, put it that way." The 5-year-old boy is autistic; their mother died two years ago. Calero's attorney, Thomas McKenna, says the case is "certainly not nearly as bad as it looks." True: the couple did hire a dog-sitter to care for the puppies they had gotten each other for Christmas. (San Francisco Chronicle) ...It says something that a kid's aspiration is to be treated like a dog.

NEXT THEY'LL BE DRINKING WINE! The latest snack fad in Quebec, Canada: bags of communion wafers. "My son can eat a whole bag while he's watching TV," said one man. "He's had more of them outside of church than he ever did inside one." Not everyone likes the trend, of course. "They're not distinguishing between the body of Christ and something you nibble on at home," complained a former Catholic missionary. "We don't respect anything. Nothing is sacred." But sales are still growing. "They melt in your mouth, and they're not fattening," said one woman. "I'm Catholic. This reminds us of mass." (Toronto Globe and Mail) ...For a more vivid reminder of mass, you could go to mass.

SNACK ATTACK: "Armed Man Arrested after Doritos Dispute" -- Buffalo (N.Y.) News headline

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THIS is TRUE: 15 January 2006 Copyright This is True

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The suspects in a car theft case in Redlands, Calif., were easy to identify after they found a disposable camera in the car, used it to take photos of themselves, and then left it behind when they dumped the ride. Police developed the film and recognized Albert Engelsman, 28, and Matthew Montanez, 22, who were charged with auto theft. Engelsman helped by wearing the same shirt as he wore in the photos when he was arrested. "I think, in general, what I find is that crooks, as a class of people, are not the brightest," a police spokesman said. "But every once in a while you run into some that make others look like Einstein." (San Bernardino Sun) ...Which isn't saying much, considering he's dead.

HORSEPLAY: An Oxford University student walked up to a policeman on horseback in London, England, and asked, "Excuse me, do you realize your horse is gay?" The humorless bobby called in backup, and Sam Brown, 21, was arrested. After a night in jail, Brown was fined 80 pounds (US$142), but the case was referred to the Crown Prosecution Service when he refused to pay. CPS dropped the charge, citing insufficient evidence to support the charge: making "homophobic remarks" that were "likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress." (London Times) ...Presumably, they meant distress to the horse, rather than the horse's a** riding atop it.

WHO WAS THAT MASKED MAN? "Am I really a 'Super Hero'? By definition, yes. Do I enjoy this title? No." So said "Captain Jackson", who fought crime in Jackson, Mich., dressed in tights, a mask, gloves and a cape, all with police approval. But after five years, the local newspaper outed the caped crusader: he's Thomas Frankini, 49. Why unmask him? Standard procedure: Frankini had been arrested and charged with drunk driving. Frankini says he will no longer patrol -- at least in Jackson -- now that his identity is known. "It's not an everyday occurrence to see a man with a mask and tights on," said deputy police chief Matthew Heins. (Detroit Free Press) ...Apparently Chief Heins has never been to San Francisco.

ALL ABOARD! Police in Melbourne, Vic., Australia, are on the lookout for a woman who has been providing interesting entertainment to train commuters. On at least two occasions, the woman has broken into an unmanned cab to broadcast to passengers over the train's public address system. "There was a woman on the address system," said one witness. "It was very graphic about how she was going to have sex with a driver for about three minutes." The driver is apparently innocent of collaboration, but some are suspicious. "I thought she was in cahoots with the driver," said another passenger. (Melbourne Herald-Sun) ...No! He was up front the entire time! I swear!

CZECH MATES: "Czech MPs Approve Law on Same-Sex Partnerships" -- Reuters headline

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THIS is TRUE: 22 January 2006 Copyright This Is True

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CRAZY LIKE A FOX: Christine Ryder, 53, says she was so depressed, she asked a friend, Kevin Reeves, 40, whom she had met in a mental hospital in Kent, England, to find a hit man to kill her. He offered to do it himself (he was her friend, after all!) and accepted 20,000 pounds (US$35,000) for the job. After several arranged dates to kill her came and went and she was still alive, a frustrated Ryder filed a criminal breach of contract complaint, and prosecutors took him to trial. Even Reeves's own defense attorney admitted the scheme was "mean." Reeves was sentenced to 15 months in jail and ordered to pay 2,000 pounds in compensation. (London Times) ...No matter what, a deal's a deal.

SPIN DOCTOR: "I just hopped in there, playing hide and go seek with the kids," said Robin Toom, 30. The place he decided to hide: the washing machine at his sister's Townsville, Qld., Australia, house. The kids found him quickly, and he found something too: he was stuck. "I couldn't stop sweating in there, they had to bring in a fan." After 20 minutes, the family gave up and called in the rescue squad. They finally got him out after about an hour. (Adelaide Advertiser) ...And straight into the dryer he went.

ABOVE THE LAW: As Florida's Attorney General, part of Charlie Crist's job is to prosecute e-mail spammers. He even trumpeted in a press release that spam is "an annoying, intrusive form of e-mail that almost all of us receive but few of us want." When Crist decided to run for governor, he bragged how he helped stiffen the law against unsolicited e-mail. Then he started sending out campaign e-mails to drum up support for his candidacy, gathering e-mail addresses from requests for official state newsletters. "The irony and hypocrisy amazes me," said one angry voter. "Do I need to file a complaint with the Attorney General's office?" But Crist refused to back down. "It's not spam," said his political director, Arlene DiBenigno. "It's political speech." Besides, she says, "We're not selling anything." (St. Petersburg Times) ...In other news, a Florida gubernatorial candidate's political director has no idea what campaigns are about.

BELOW THE RADAR: Robert Bailey, 23, faces the death penalty for the murder of a police officer in Panama City Beach, Fla. His defense: his lawyer says Bailey is either retarded or has "brain damage." Prosecutors say he's faking it: They taped calls between Bailey, who was in jail, and a friend, and he talks about faking being "mildly retarded or crazy" so the charges will be dropped. What does Bailey's lawyer say about that? "That just shows that he really is functioning at a really low level, because he thinks he's got everybody fooled," says Deputy Public Defender Walter Smith. (AP) ...Which just shows that Smith really is functioning at a really low level, because he thinks he's got somebody fooled.

YEE HAW! "Good Grits! Southern Boy joins Bacon of the Month Club" -- Pensacola (Fla.) News Journal headline

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THIS is TRUE: 29 January 2006 Copyright This Is True

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DRY RUN: "If there was an award for the dumbest crooks," said a spokesman for the police in Gronau, Germany, "they would certainly be in the running." That would be armed robbers who held up a courier, chasing him at high speed and forcing him to stop. They then grabbed a case from the trunk and ran. But instead of the suitcase full of cash they were after, the gunmen got the courier's first aid kit. (PA) ...Sure: robbers that stupid probably shot themselves in the process.

WHO'S CALLING? Gabriel J. Wichman, 23, and Ryan S. Fleming, 22, were "drunk dialing" in the middle of the night, prosecutors say, and "someone" provided them the home number of St. Francois County (Mo.) Circuit Judge Thomas L. Ray. They left a curse-laden, threatening message on his answering machine; the judge called police when he heard the message. The dastardly duo pleaded guilty -- to a different judge -- to misdemeanor harassment, and were sentenced to each write an essay titled "How Practical Jokes Have Serious Consequences". The judge specified the font size, margins, and page count for the essays. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch) ...Act like a 12-year-old, get treated like a 12- year-old.

TAKE YOUR MEDICINE: Nervous about giving a speech? Forget picturing the audience in their underwear, says Stuart Brody, a psychologist at the University of Paisley in Scotland. Rather, his studies show the best way to calm your nerves is to have sex beforehand. And, he says, "The effects are not attributable simply to the short-term relief afforded by orgasm but, rather, endure for at least a week." (Reuters) ...Damn it, Brody! Would it have killed you to recommend daily treatments?

NEW KID IN TOWN: Valentina Petty has had a hot dog cart in the Cherry Creek business district in Denver, Colo., for seven years. But ten months ago, a Wolfgang Puck restaurant opened on the corner where she parks her cart, and the eatery demanded that the city force her to move because the restaurant's "business is being adversely affected by the presence of a pushcart that sells comparable items," its attorney claimed. City officials refused the request, and the cart's regular customers say they will boycott Puck's place. "I have two words for them: Puck you!" said one customer waiting for his dog. (Denver Rocky Mountain News) ...The best part is the restaurant's attempt to convince city officials that it slaps together junk food meals from bins of pre- heated ingredients. What a publicity coup!

SLICK SHOPLIFTER: "Lotion Thief Makes Smooth Getaway" -- Ft. Worth (Texas) Star-Telegram headline

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THIS is TRUE: 5 February 2005 Copyright This Is True

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CAMPY CAMPAIGN: Coleen Rowley, running for Congress from Minnesota, has apologized to her opponent, incumbent U.S. Rep. John Kline, for a photo of Kline on her web site. The photo used Kline's face pasted over a publicity shot of Nazi prison camp commandant Col. Wilhelm Klink from the 1960s TV show, "Hogan's Heroes". Rowley's campaign manager blamed the deed on "a volunteer Web site person who didn't understand the implications of using the Colonel Klink image." (St. Paul Pioneer Press) ...So can we assume he's been "Disssssmissssed!"?

DUMMY SMURF: A motel clerk in Anchorage, Alaska, reported that a man tried to rob him. He locked himself in the office and the man got away with no money. His disguise: the blonde man was wearing a puffy red coat, and had his face painted blue like a "Smurf", police said. An officer said he had dealt with Daniel Peter Clark, 19, a blonde man in a puffy red coat, at a different motel the previous day, so he went to

see if he was still there. "In runs Mr. Clark, still wearing his blue face," a police spokesman said. "It was a clue." Clark was arrested. "Sometimes that's what it takes, putting two and two together." (AP) ...It's a nice switch from the usual, when they make a suspect talk until he's blue in the face.

ON THE INTERNET, NOBODY KNOWS YOU'RE A DOG: "Sassy Sarah" was very active on an online sports forum, accessing the site 19,200 times and posting 6,622 messages over about 10 weeks. Then City of Toledo, Ohio, officials traced the activity to Scott Leo, a city intern, who made the postings while at work. "The Internet is full of people who make false claims," Leo said, defending his alter ego. "I wasn't going to say who I really was." Leo, who insisted he made all of his postings during breaks or his 30-minute lunch period, resigned. His supervisor said she was satisfied with Leo's performance, and noted he got his work done. (Toledo Blade) ...You have to wonder just how much work they gave him, then.

LEARNING EXPERIENCE: University of Prince Edward Island (Canada) Prof. David Weale was "dismayed" that the last class he was to ever teach before he retired after 30 years had 95 students, so he announced a "January clearance," school administrators say. Weale said he'd give credit to anyone who dropped the class, and even award them a B-minus grade, in return for making the class more "enriching" for those who remained. About 20 students took him up on the deal. When administrators caught wind of the offer, they said the "Weale Deal" was off, the professor was suspended, and anyone who wanted credit had better come to class. "They just want to send out this message about how strict they are about standards," Weale complained, "when, goddammit, I was the one who was fighting in that class for standards." Weale complained about "our so-called merit-based society," adding "It's not a good thing to think that you have to earn everything." The class? History of Christianity. (Toronto Globe and Mail) ..."If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion is vain." --James 1:26

STOP THE PRESSES -- NOW THIS IS NEWS! "Man Chooses Girlfriend Over Elvis" -- AP headline

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THIS is TRUE: 12 February 2006 Copyright This Is True

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SHELL GAME: In 2005, the City of Los Angeles, Calif., seized some private land by eminent domain to build an animal shelter. The furniture factory that was there for 20 years was "thriving," said the firm. It cost the city $5.8 million to buy them out. But after just a year, the city announced it wants to build the shelter somewhere else, so it's going to sell the property even though the switch will add $5-11 million to its cost. And who is buying the land? A furniture manufacturer -- not the same one, but another company that has contributed $17,600 to city politicians. The expensive new deal is better, says City Councilman Bernard Parks. The area is "one of the last inner-city industrial areas, and so we are trying to ensure that it continues to develop," he says, while "the original proposal impairs the growth of a major economic development." Parks' election committee received a $1,000 contribution from the company trying to buy the property. (Los Angeles Times) ...The surprising thing isn't how easily politicians can be bought, but rather how low their price is.

HE RODE A BLAZING SADDLE, HE WORE A SHINING STAR: Ron Stallworth, recently retired from police work, admitted in an interview that a major accomplishment during his 30 years as a cop was not only being a card-carrying member of the racist Ku Klux Klan, but he was even asked, as a "good, loyal Klansman," to lead the local Klan chapter in Colorado Springs, Colo. The Klan didn't know he was a policeman. It also didn't know he was black. "It was one of the most fun" investigations he was involved with, Stallworth said. He did all of his contact with the Klan over the phone. When he couldn't avoid a meeting, a white officer went in his place. His investigation started in 1979, and he said he is amazed no one in the Klan ever caught on. (Deseret Morning News) ...Nah! When dealing with such mentalities it's not surprising he could keep hidden under the sheets for so long.

SURE, THIS MAKES SENSE: A student at McHenry (Ill.) Community High School has been disciplined after "doodling" in his own notebook. His drawing features the initials "D.L.K." which, school officials told his mother, "could" mean "Disciples Latin King" -- the Latin Kings and the Latin Disciples are two rival gangs. His mother says he's not a member of any gang. But under the school's zero tolerance rules about gang activity, the boy was suspended, and the school board voted unanimously to expel Derek Leon Kelly from any state-funded school for the rest of the school year, rejecting his explanation that the initials he drew are simply his own. (Chicago Tribune) ...Leaving him nothing to do but join a gang.

AH, AN EXPLANATION AT LAST! After a 6-year-old boy at Downey Elementary School in Brockton, Mass., touched a girl in his class, the girl complained to a teacher, who called in the principal. "Sexual harassment" proclaimed Principal Diane Gosselin, who called the district attorney's office and police. "My son doesn't even know what sexual harassment is," complained Berthena Dorinvil. "He's only 6 years old." Gosselin suspended the boy for three days, but police took no action. The National Association of Elementary School Principals issued a statement noting that "Cracking down now [on sexual harassment] not only is best for students, it will also create a better climate for learning. And it's certainly good PR (public relations)." (Brockton Enterprise) ...OK. Is this the kind of PR you were hoping for?

THANKFULLY, HE WASN'T ARMED: "Man Accused of Throwing Legs at Trooper" -- Roseburg (Ore.) News-Review headline

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THIS is TRUE: 19 February 2006 Copyright This Is True

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MORON OF THE WEEK #610: A customer in line at a Dairy Queen in St. Louis, Mo., dropped her purse. It exploded, sending black sequins into the air; customers could smell gunpowder. No one said a word until she cried out "I ain't got no gun!", grabbed her shredded purse, and ran. The store manager wrote down her license number and called police. Investigators say that indeed it was a gun: a low-quality one that discharged when it hit the floor. The license led to an unidentified woman who, police say, was an off-duty police officer. The cop first denied that she was in the restaurant, then claimed she ran because she was "under fire," and then finally admitted that the gun discharged in her purse, but she had thrown it out her car window along the freeway because she might be "in trouble." She resigned from the police department. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch) ...Total recommended prison time: 30 days for careless handling of a firearm, 90 days for fleeing the scene of an accident, 1 year for bringing disrepute to the police department, 5 years for making false statements in a police investigation, 10 years for ditching the gun unsafely, and 15 years for using bad grammar in public.

IT PAYS TO ADVERTISE: Tyrone Burgo, 20, was arrested in Boston, Mass., for allegedly selling drugs. Police say it wasn't that he was driving a car with a license plate from another car that led to his arrest, nor that he was driving with a suspended license. Rather, they were led to Burgo because he had advertised his cocaine on the Internet, listing his real phone number. Officers called, set up a meeting, and arrested him after he handed over the drugs. (Boston Globe, AP) ...Too bad he didn't try to figure out what "BPD Det Bureau" was on his Caller-ID before he agreed to the deal.

ON A (CHICKEN) WING AND A PRAYER: A group of 60 ministers protested plans to open a Hooters restaurant in Waco, Texas. It went in anyway, and on opening day Monsignor Isidore Rozycki, the head Roman Catholic priest for the area, was there to say a blessing. "Blessings are part of the Catholic tradition," Rozycki said, noting he had eaten at other Hooters outlets. He noted the restaurants in the chain are "a place of laughter" with "great food." Fr. Rozycki got the gig by invitation: a police detective suggested it to the restaurant managers, and they liked the idea. Rozycki felt it was important to bless the "families that enter" as well as the employees who work there to support their families, but many area Catholics are outraged that the 63-year-old priest would dare enter the restaurant. (Waco Tribune) ...Yet the moment someone spots an apparition of the Virgin Mary in a steamed clam, they'll all flock to the place.

DO THE BUMP: With the spread of bird flu and other contagious diseases, more and more people are refusing to shake hands with others. The World Health Organization thus suggests people switch to the "elbow bump" in case of a flu epidemic. But Dr. Harvey V. Fineberg of the National Academy of Sciences' Institute of Medicine says the timing of encouraging people to do the bump is critical: start too early and people would give up too early. Start too late and, well, it's too late. "What would backfire would be for you to say, 'Start bumping elbows now.' People would look at you as if you were from Mars."(New York Times) ...Who cares what people like that think? They'll be dead soon anyway.

THOSE DANGED MARTIANS WILL STOP AT NOTHING: "NASA's Inspector General Probed" -- Washington Post headline

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THIS is TRUE: 26 February 2006 Copyright This Is True

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MORON OF THE WEEK #611: "Even the dumb criminals are generally smarter than this," said Orem, Utah, police Lt. Doug Edwards. He was referring to an unidentified 18-year-old man who called the police to report that his home had been burgled. Anything missing? Yes, he said: the quarter- pound of marijuana he had for sale. Police arrested a suspect and recovered the drugs. And the victim? "He actually came and identified [the drugs] as his," Edwards said, so they arrested him, too, on charges of possession of marijuana in a drug-free zone with intent to distribute. (Deseret Morning News) ...Though it's unlikely prosecutors will be able to prove "intent" since that implies some sort of thinking ability.

NEXT! The police dispatcher in West Fargo, N.D., thought it was a joke when someone called at 3:15 a.m. and asked where to buy marijuana. The dispatcher told the woman that marijuana is illegal, but the woman insisted. Fine, the dispatcher said: they had some in the evidence locker and if she stopped by, he could "hook her up." Sure enough, "the dispatcher got on the intercom and said, 'You know what? She's here. She just handed me $3 for marijuana'," said an amazed officer, Ken Zeeb. He stepped to the station lobby and arrested Grace Sium, 20, a junior at North Dakota State University. Zeeb says Sium didn't appear high or drunk, and didn't seem surprised to be arrested. "This is something that you couldn't even make up," he said. (Fargo Forum) ...Truth is stranger than fiction because fiction has to make sense.

BEAM HIM UP: Tony Alleyne, 52, had a special ambition: he redecorated his studio apartment in Hinckley, Leicestershire, England, to look like the Enterprise from Star Trek. "I enjoy science fiction interiors," he said. But after completely remodeling his entire flat during his nine- year mission, he found he couldn't pay for it all: he spent 30,000 pounds (US$52,350) on the decorations, plus 100,000 pounds more trying to market his interior design services to others. An attempt to sell his apartment to pay off his debts failed, and Alleyne has declared bankruptcy, admitting it was "pretty daft" to finance his dream with credit cards. (London Times) ...On the other hand, his design has one major improvement over the TV version: it has a bathroom.

AN ARMY OF ONE: U.S. Army 1st Lt. William "Eddie" Rebrook IV, 25, was one of the lucky soldiers in Iraq: he had personal body armor. It saved his life when a roadside bomb blew up, but the bomb still ripped up his arm and severed an artery. Helicopter evacuation saved his life, but "I last saw the [body armor] when it was pulled off my bleeding body" before being flown out, he said. Because it was so bloody, it was apparently burned as a biohazard. But in the rush to save his life no one filled out the form to document that, and when he was medically discharged from the Army against his will, he was told he had to return the body -- or pay $700 for it. Paperwork to declare it lost or destroyed could take "weeks or months" to process, he was told, and that would delay his discharge, so he borrowed money from buddies and went home to West Virginia. "I had to pay for it if I wanted to get on with my life," he said. Rebrook, who graduated with honors from West Point, hopes to go back to school and become a doctor. (Charleston Gazette) ...I like the guy, so I don't want to see the look on his face when he finds out that the medical business has just as much paperwork.

THAT'S WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU LET THE NEW GUY HANDLE IT: "H&R Block Fumbles on Its Own Tax Return" -- New York Times headline

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THIS is TRUE: 5 March 2006 Copyright This Is True

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MORON OF THE WEEK #612: "He took clothes and meals," said Washington County, Mo., Sheriff Brian Rahn. "Whatever he was finding in those refrigerators, he was filling up on it." He was speaking about a burglar who likes to make himself meals, take showers, and pick out changes of clothes from homes he breaks into. But they have a fresh lead on the burglar's identity: he also helps himself to home computers, where he surfs the Internet and checks his e-mail. On one recent caper, Rahn said, "He never logged out." Detectives say that helped them discover his identity, and his arrest is pending. (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) ...But it'll take awhile, since the cops are still on dial-up.

BAD BOY, BAD BOY, WHATCHA GONNA DO? Jack Munsey, 36, a Martin County, Fla., sheriff's deputy, has been fired after an investigation showed he was using his patrol car video system "for unofficialurposes." Video from Munsey's car camera included zooms of bikini-clad women, "an extreme close-up of a motorcycle passenger's breasts," and scores of other "inappropriate" images, the investigation found. A Police Benevolent Association attorney says the various shots of multiple women were not a "regular" thing, but "only an isolated, dumb, stupid and [juvenile] event." (Palm Beach Post) ...The PBA's message: for a citizen, twice is "multiple offense". For a cop, dozens and dozens is an "isolated event".

WARNING -- SMOKING IS DANGEROUS TO YOUR HEALTH: Mike Hartnett, 36, of Omaha, Neb., had found a firework shell in his son's closet. He pulled it out to get rid of it when a hot ash fell from his cigarette and ignited the fuse. He told his son to run, but didn't drop the device. It exploded, blowing out the window and shredding his hands. "Some of my fingers were off, some were still hanging," Harnett said. Doctors considered removing both hands entirely, but a plastic surgeon managed to save two fingers on each hand. "He saved me," Hartnett said, and "gave me a fighting chance." And the lesson he learned? "I'd tell people to soak [fireworks] in water and get rid of them as fast as you can." (Omaha World-Herald) ...Of the hundreds of thousands of people who will read this story, I'll bet more than 99 percent will see a far different lesson.

GREENER THAN GREEN: "We're people for whom recycling is no longer enough," says John Perry, founder of the Compact, about 50 people in the San Francisco, Calif., area, who have pledged to buy no new products for a full year, not counting food, health and safety items, and underwear. "We had a little crisis when Matt and Sarah had to replace their shower curtain liner and we said no," he said. "But we put the word out and someone found one for them." Whew! Everything the members will buy for the year will come from thrift shops, yard sales, and swaps. Perry says fighting consumerism is hard, since he loves to shop. (San Francisco Chronicle) ...The hardest part: finding used gas for their SUVs.

STICKY WICKET: "Bush Takes a Swing at Cricket in Pakistan" ... "Bush Hit by Bouncer and Fooled by Googly in Pakistan" -- Reuters headlines, several hours apart

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THIS is TRUE: 12 March 2005 Copyright This Is True

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MORONS OF THE WEEK #613: Tresa Waggoner, 33, the music teacher in Bennett, Colo., invited Opera Colorado to perform a comic opera for students. She showed her students a 12-minute segment from a children's video she checked out of the school library, "Who's Afraid of Opera?", to introduce them to the concept. The segment included scenes from "Faust", which uses sock puppets to tell the story about how a man suffers when he sells his soul to the devil. Parents accused the teacher, a singer who has issued two Christian music albums, of being anti-Christian and a devil worshiper. "I think [the video] glorifies Satan in some way," said one parent. Waggoner was suspended, and the school board ruled that Waggoner would not be allowed to return to the classroom. It also canceled the opera performance. "Do we look like bumpkins?" asked a cringing Town Board member, Rich Pulliam. (Rocky Mountain News, Denver Post) ...Heck no! You'll have to claw your way up several levels to get up as far as "bumpkins".

CRIKEY, MATE! Forget throwing "a shrimp on the barbie" -- Australia is getting serious about attracting foreign visitors with its new slogan. After showing lovely scenery and things to do Down Under, the announcer in the Tourism Australia ads demands to know, "So where the bloody hell are you?" Minister for Tourism Fran Bailey loves the tagline, callingit "plain speaking and friendly." Prime Minister John Howard says no one should be offended by the mild swearing -- but won't say the line himself. When asked to by a radio interviewer, Howard replied that he is "not somebody who uses that expression, certainly not on radio." (Sydney Morning Herald, Australian AP) ...Well bugger him, then.

DRIVEN CRAZY: Mayra Ramirez, 16, a sophomore at Curie Metropolitan High School in Chicago, Ill., didn't want to take driver's education, but passing the written rules-of-the-road exam is a graduation requirement. She reluctantly took the 10-week class and got an "A". Ramirez never plans to drive: she's blind. "In a way, it brought me down, because it reminds me of something I can't do," Ramirez said. "I don't think you can ever get enough traffic safety," said Brent Johnston, chairman of the Illinois High School/College Driver's Education Association. Still, he admits, "a little common sense would go a long way." (Chicago Tribune) ...Since so many schools haven't witnessed any in years.

TRY WALKING THE TALK: Scott Smith, 36, of Davis City, Iowa, was a leader of the Brotherhood of Christ religious community when he was convicted of sexual abuse and indecent contact with two teenaged girls. The Brotherhood is against modern conveniences, including anything electrical. Smith was ordered to wear an electronic monitor as part of his probation, but that violates his faith, he says, and would set a bad example for his children. The sect's current leader, Ron Livingston, says the ban on electricity is absolute, because it can cause people to "disobey God and religion." The judge in the case is reconsidering the monitor requirement. (Des Moines Register) ...You know, this wouldn't be an issue if the leader of the Brotherhood had simply believed sexual assault of teen girls violated his faith and set a bad example for his children.

IT'S SO SIMPLE, YOU SHOULD HAVE THOUGHT OF IT: "Make More Money, [Prime Minister] Berlusconi Tells Poor Italians" -- Reuters headline

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THIS is TRUE: 19 March 2006 Copyright This is True

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MORON OF THE WEEK #614: Kimberly Du, 36, of Des Moines, Iowa, had rackedup several traffic tickets. To get out of the fines, police now allege, Du faked her death, sending a falsified death certificate to the judge, who canceled an arrest warrant. But like most bad drivers, she kept getting tickets. A month after her supposed death, police stopped her for speeding and driving with a suspended license, and court investigators noticed the ruse. Du now faces two years in prison for forgery. (Des Moines Register) ...At least that will get her out from behind the wheel for awhile.

AW HAIL II: An Orange County, N.Y., sheriff deputy trying to pull over a motorist went in pursuit when the driver fled. The car went faster than the pursuing deputy was willing to in the icy conditions, and indeed the bad guy spun out and crashed, then fled on foot. After 90 minutes of searching through the snow, deputies noticed a taxi drive by, looking for his fare. "The cab seemed out of place," deputy Justin Butterfield said, so he flagged it down. Sure enough, the taxi was called by a man using a cell phone. The cab wasn't quite to the pickup location yet, so Butterfield jumped in the cab, ducked down, and told the driver to pick up the caller. Sure enough, the suspect flagged the cabbie down, and Butterfield got his man. (Middletown Times Herald- Record) ...And a way out of tracking the guy through the snow.

HOW DARE YOU!? Walter Soehnge and his wife, Deana, had run up their credit card a bit, so they decided to pay it down. The Scituate, R.I., couple paid $6,522 toward their JC Penney MasterCard balance. The check cleared, but the balance on their credit card account didn't go down. He called to ask why. Walter was told that the amount he sent in was larger than usual, which triggered a "threat alert" -- the retired Texas school teacher could be a terrorist, and the credit company said it was holding the money until Homeland Security could be notified and approve the money being applied to his account, which is legal, he was told, according to recent changes in the Bank Privacy Act. Lucky for the Soehnges, Homeland Security cleared the payment after a brief delay. (Providence Journal) ...Of course they were suspicious: terrorists always pay off their debts to large corporations before they commit suicide attacks, right?

BLUE STATE: Maryland State Sen. John A. Giannetti Jr. was at a restaurant's bar when James Rosapepe stopped in for dinner. Rosapepe is thinking about running against Giannetti in the next election. The two men didn't notice each other until Rosapepe started choking on a piece of chicken. "He was saying, 'I can't breathe. Help me, I can't breathe'," Giannetti said. He performed a Heimlich maneuver on Rosapepe, saving his life, before noticing it was his rival. Does the senator wish he hadn't saved Rosapepe's life, then? "No! My gosh, no," Giannetti said, in answer to the question. "There's a time for politics, and there's a time to do your duty as a citizen." (Gaithersburg Gazette) ...It takes a slimy reporter to ask such a question, and a stupid reporter to expect the answer might be "yes".

THE 12-INCH PEPPERONI STICK JUST WASN'T BELIEVABLE: "Man Caught with Groceries in Pants" -- St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times headline

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THIS is TRUE: 26 March 2006 Copyright This Is True

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MORON OF THE WEEK #615: A bank robber in Santa Barbara, Calif., escaped with $3,000 in cash, but the teller dropped in an exploding dye pack, too. He was last seen running across the parking lot with "a whisper of red smoke trailing in his wake," a police spokesman said. The robber went straight to a coin-op laundry and tried to wash the dye off, but it was permanent. He then tried adding green food coloring to the bills, but the result was so bad that he threw the money in the trash. Very soon afterward, police stopped at his home. Fred Bendtzen, 48, was arrested and charged with bank robbery. How did the police identify him so fast? His demand note, which he left behind at the bank, was written on the back of a pay stub bearing his name and address. (Santa Barbara News-Press) ...At least he learned the lesson that money that's earned is cleaner than money that's stolen.

KILLER PUBLICITY: The Swan, a pub in Ipswich, Suffolk, England, has to pay a fine as punishment for a murder that took place on the premises -- in 1664. The 40-shilling fine (2 pounds, or about US$3.50), was discovered on the books for the St. Mary Le Tower Church Charities by auditors. The money is supposed to go to the charity every year in perpetuity. In 1664, the payment was stiff: about what a laborer would earn in six months. The current owners of the pub are not contesting the fine, including several years of back payments. "We like being part of history," a spokeswoman said. (London Times) ...Sure: the t-shirt sales alone will be worth thousands.

A BUNCH OF FIVES BETWEEN THE EYES: The new ad campaign by Tourism Australia featuring the tagline "So where the bloody hell are you?" isn't playing well in some places (This is True, 12 March 2006). Minister for Tourism Fran Bailey, who called the slogan "plain speaking and friendly," says the ad was briefly banned in the U.K. because of the word "bloody". Now, it's banned in Canada for an entirely different reason: the line "I've bought you a beer." Bailey says the "Canadian regulator says that this implies consumption of unbranded alcohol," which is "some sort of quirky Canadian regulation." She says the line will be changed for Canuck audiences, and she'll invite the Canadian regulator to "come out here and I'll buy him a beer." (Australian AP) ...As long as it's a Cooper's and not a Foster's, deal.

A BANG-UP JOB: Police in Victorville, Calif., are looking for an unsuccessful burglar. Tapes from a security camera at a cell phone store show the burglar tried to enter the store by shooting the lock while an accomplice watched. "It's actually pretty funny," said the store's co-owner, Cary Walker: the tape shows the bullet bounced back and hit the gunman in the chest. "It hit him so hard it knocked the air out of him and he threw up on the spot." Police found the bullet at the scene, and put out an alert to local hospitals. "I guess they've been watching too much television," Walker said, "because it just doesn't work like that." (Victorville Daily Press) ...Right: on TV they use blanks.

MAY NOT PASS GO, COLLECT $200: "Goto to Go to Prison for 25 to 75 Years" -- Manchester (N.H.) Union Leader headline

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THIS is TRUE: 2 April 2006 Copyright This Is True

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IDIOTS OF THE WEEK #616: A police dispatcher in Enid, Okla., got a call from a cell phone. It was apparently an accidental call: the dispatcher could hear two men talking in the background. For more than three hours, the men talked -- about building and using a firebomb. Meanwhile, another dispatcher got an emergency call -- reporting a car that had been hit by a firebomb. A police officer found what he thought was the car being driven by the two men and honked his horn, and sure enough the dispatcher heard the horn. The cop pulled the car over and found the cell phone on the dashboard. Robert Allen Patterson, 24, and Johnny Ray Miller, 48, were charged with arson and conspiracy. "They didn't have a clue they had dialed the phone," Detective Mark Pettus said. (Enid News and Eagle) ...Or, more simply, "They don't have a clue."

THERE'S NOTHIN' LIKE HOME COOKIN': "Now THERE'S a couple that knows how to fight!" summarized an enthusiastic Reuters reporter, telling the story of a couple in Mexico who got into a spat in their Oxkutzcab, Yucatan, home. Like a scene from the movie "Mr. and Mrs. Smith", the report says, the couple's fight escalated from knives to guns to home- made bombs; their house was destroyed. Juan Espinosa was arrested and Irma Contreras was hospitalized with third-degree burns. Unlike the "Smiths" the couple didn't get a happily-ever-after ending: Espinosa said he was glad his wife suffered burns, and Contreras reported she was sorry she had not "hacked off his manhood." (Reuters) ...Coming next fall, with Brad Pitt as "Juan" and Angelina Jolie as "Irma" in the amazing sequel....

SPRING BREAK-IN: While his schoolmates went to beach communities for spring break, Drake University sophomore Skyler Bartels went somewhere else. The student from Harvard, Neb., camped out in a Wal-Mart store in Des Moines, Iowa, living there for nearly three days straight, catching a few hours of sleep in the garden department or the men's room. Late at night "it's just me and the stockers," he said, "and every once in a while somebody who needs a Swiffer at 2:00 in the morning." He killed time by putting out-of-place items back on the right shelves, figuring "at least I was being productive and beneficial to the store." He had planned to stay longer, but after about 41 hours he noticed that managers were on to him, and left when managers called a meeting -- apparently to discuss what to do about him. "I should have stuck it out, at least to see what the meeting was about," he said. (Des Moines Register) ...Whether or not the store had to pay him.

HAMMER TIME: A 14-year-old girl in Toledo, Ohio, reported to police that she was abducted at gunpoint by a man who forced her into his car, where he pulled down his pants and told her, "You know what I want." The girl, who went unnamed by police, pretended to drop her ring so she could look around under the seat for a weapon. She found a hammer, and when she got the chance she used it to whack the man in the groin and escape. (Toledo Blade) ..."We really need the public's help on this one," a police spokesman said. "We really want to nail this guy."

SHAKEDOWN: "Lunch Lady Accused of Stealing Lunch Money" -- Manchester (N.H.) Union Leader headline

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THIS is TRUE: 9 April 2006 Copyright This Is True

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IDIOT OF THE WEEK #617: Ryan Daniel Goff, 20, has been charged with felony attempted extortion after allegedly putting a dead mouse in a burrito he got at a Traverse City, Mich., Taco Bell. He complained to the restaurant that his food tasted "funny," and then took the mouse to the county health department, commenting to workers there about how much money "the lady got from McDonald's" after spilling coffee in her lap. Prosecutors say Goff then called a Taco Bell regional manager to say it "won't be a good day if the media finds out about this," and said he wanted "something that would make my ears tingle" to settle. Police heard something that made their ears tingle: Goff's girlfriend said he bought the mouse from a pet store, and said he put it in his burrito "to get rich quick." (Traverse City Record-Eagle) ...Earth to Dr. Duh: it'd only be news if a Taco Bell burrito didn't taste funny.

HARD TO BELIEVE THIS PLAYED IN PEORIA: When Matt Robison, 21, of Ottawa, Ill., learned that a Brit had recently set a world record for the number of body piercings in one sitting, he set out to break the record. After 500 piercings at a tattoo studio, he modified his goal: it was so painful that instead of a planned 1,200 studs to break the record by a good margin, he'd settle for just breaking the record. After 14 hours and 1,015 punctures, he declared victory. "It was taking its toll," he said afterward. "I'm just relieved it's done." But then he had all the piercings removed, which was just about as painful, he said. Was it worth it? Oh yes, Robison said. "I feel like I've done something memorable with my life." (Peoria Journal Star) ...Excellent: he illustrated just how different "memorable" is from "worthwhile".

YOU DON'T HAVE A PRAYER: A study of more than 1,800 heart bypass operations shows that praying for the patient has no effect on recovery rates. In fact, the $2.4 million Harvard Medical School study shows, if the patient knows he's being prayed over, complication rates increased, perhaps because the patients figured they were in bad shape if they needed prayers. (Washington Post) ...Worse, other studies have shown that praying that your medical insurance will cover the operation isn't effective either.

HOPPY EASTER: "As government, we have a different responsibility about advancing the cause of religion, which we are not going to do," said St. Paul, Minn., City Council President Kathy Lantry. She was supporting a move by the city Human Rights Director, Tyrone Terrill, who had asked that a cloth Easter bunny, pastel-colored eggs, and other Easter-related decorations be removed from city hall because they "could be offensive to non-Christians," according to Terrill. "We can't celebrate spring with bunnies and fake grass?" grumbled a city councilman. Nope, Lantry said. "It's not about being politically correct or anything else. Someone complained." (Minneapolis Star Tribune) ...But isn't offending everyone based on a complaint by one person the definition of political correctness?

MAYBE, AS LONG AS ERRANT COMPANIES ARE WHIPPED: "Tanzanian Legislator Wants Errant Investors Spanked" -- Reuters headline

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