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THIS is TRUE: 14 September 2009 Copyright This is True

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SUDS: There are no loading docks for the bars in the Campustown section of Ames, Iowa, so the beer distributors drop off kegs of beer next to the fire station. But there are so many kegs hitting the sidewalk that it gets cracked and quickly starts falling apart. To address the issue, the city has installed a rubber sidewalk. (Ames Mid-Iowa News) ...Which has had the handy benefit of reducing injuries to the falling-down drunks, too.

BUDS: When "the" narcotics officer at the Smith County, Texas, Sheriff's Dept. got a tip that there was a marijuana growing operation in a rural part of the county, she decided not to be formal and instead went over for a "knock and talk". She and a backup deputy confirmed the tip as soon as they arrived: pot was growing in tires along the driveway. Then they were "amazed" when the resident not only answered the door, but consented to a search since "he knew we were coming sooner or later," a deputy said. In all, deputies found 71 plants, plus more "leafy substances" drying in the house, though there were no scales or other evidence he was selling it. John Daniel Miller III, 55, who claimed it all was for his personal use, was arrested for felony possession. (Tyler Morning Telegraph) ...Good -- if nothing else, he needed a good airing out.

IS THAT 10, OR TEN? Britain's Tesco supermarket chain is changing the "Ten items or less" signs at express checkout lanes because that's bad grammar. For years, Tesco has resisted suggestions to change it to "Ten items or fewer", but has now accepted a suggestion from the Plain English Campaign to use the wording, "Up to ten items". That wording, a Campaign spokesman said, "avoids any debate." (London Telegraph) ...Is that up to and including 10 items?

A STIFF SMILE: Three aides at a nursing home in Sterling Heights, Mich., were told to prepare a recently deceased patient for pickup by the funeral home. When administrators learned the aides arranged the dead woman's body in various poses for a series of pictures, they were fired and a report was sent to the local health department. The health department cited the nursing home operators for "violation of patient dignity," but found "no evidence" the aides had violated the Public Health Code and allowed them to keep their nurse's aide licenses. They were also cleared of patient abuse charges, since a body isn't a "patient". (Detroit News) ...Once rigor mortis sets in, the rigor of law goes out the window.

WHERE THERE'S SMOKE, THERE'S FIRE: "Fire Engines 'Used to Cruise for Girls'" -- London Telegraph headline

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THIS is TRUE: 21 September Copyright This is True

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THEY DO SORTA LOOK LIKE MUTANT TURTLES: Police officers in Clifton, N.J., were suspicious of two men dressed in black parked in a car at 2:30 a.m. The men explained they were "modern-day Ninjas" -- "Shinobi Warriors" who were merely delivering letters to local drug dealers to demand they stop their "impure" activities. If not, the "Shinobi will stop your cruel and sadistic intentions with justified, yet merciful force." The letters indicated that the "wind guides us to those of impure heart and intent," which includes drug dealers for having "committed [the] sin of passing impurity." Officers say Jesse Trojaniak, 19, and Tadieusz Tertkiewicz, 20, were carrying sheathed knives, Ninja throwing knives, Chinese throwing stars, four-pointed tacks, swords, bows and arrows, and nunchucks. Not surprisingly, police arrested both men on weapons charges. Tertkiewicz was also charged with harassment -- for allegedly already delivering one of the letters to his 16-year-old ex-girlfriend. (Clifton Journal) ...Wait: a Ninja geek had a girlfriend? That really is news!

THE WATER IS ONLY 4 INCHES DEEP, BUT THE BS IS 4 FEET DEEP: Several residents in the Chichester district of West Sussex, England, reported a trash can in a creek, polluting it. Trash collectors refused to touch it because it was not a council-owned container. But despite call after call, no one dragged it out of the water. Harting parish councilor David Barnard finally got an explanation: "[The district spokesman] said, and I quote, 'We don't have anyone qualified to wear wellington boots'. I said: 'But it's only four inches deep'." The district spokesman expected it would take a week to get someone qualified to wear boots to step into the stream to grab the bin. The next day three parish counselors got their own boots and walked over and cleaned the mess up themselves, which they said took all of 10 minutes. (London Telegraph) ...Which was the district's plan all along.

WHAT AROUSED YOUR SUSPICIONS, OFFICER? After stopping a motorist for a routine traffic offense, a Corpus Christi, Texas, police officer noticed the driver was quite nervous. "It's not my truck," said Terrance Massey, 25. "If you find something, it's not mine." After following up with "If there is anything in that black bag, it's not mine," Massey allegedly admitted that there was crack cocaine in the black bag. Officers found 50 rocks of crack, and arrested Massey on drug charges. (Corpus Christi Caller Times) ...If you find a glimmer of intelligence, it's not his.

IF YOU CAN'T JOIN 'EM, BEAT 'EM: "It is the only option left" to deal with naughty schoolchildren, argues Rosa Lee, a Member of Parliament for the Northern Tablelands in Queensland, Australia. Her proposal: bring back the cane for some good old fashioned corporal punishment. "Some students are consistently reprimanded and take no notice," she argues. "They're laughing at authority." Teachers should beat students for "anything considered a serious breach of school discipline" so they can learn to "know their boundaries." (Cairns Post) ...I'm OK with it -- as long as "and politicians" is included after each use of "students".

BRUIN ESCAPES FROM CIRCUS: "Teacher OK after Crashing into Bear on a Bicycle" -- AP headline

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THIS is TRUE: 5 October 2008 Copyright This Is True

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ARTIFICIAL EDUCATION: The state of Maine gave a test to about 15,000 eighth-graders to assess their writing skills, including their ability to form a logical position. When the state refused to release the results, a newspaper filed a Freedom of Information Act request and learned that 78 percent of the kids failed, which was 50 percent more than failed the test the previous year. Maine's Department of Education explained the results were "inconclusive", and they discarded them because students reacted emotionally to the test. "Kids got ticked off at the [question]," explained Education Commissioner Susan Gendron, "so it was not an accurate reflection of their writing skills." The essay- based test asked the students to support or refute the statement, "Television may have a negative impact on learning." (Portland Press Herald) ...And their inability to form a logical position and refute that is proof that the test is flawed. Got it.

RAPID RETRIBUTION: When he was kidnaped at gunpoint from a motel in Oldsmar, Fla., Gregory Longley, 20, had to go along with his captors: they were armed, and there were three of them. As they drove him down the street, Longley, in the back seat with one of the men, saw his captor put his gun on his lap so he could send a text message. Longley grabbed the gun and shot the man. He then shot the kidnaper in the front passenger seat, and then put the gun to the head of the driver and told him to stop. When he did, Longley bailed out. The 18-year-old driver was uninjured; the 17-year-old front-seat accomplice was hospitalized with non-life-threatening injuries, and the back-seat 18-year-old gunman was killed. The three teens were seeking a man they had a dispute with, and grabbed Longley when they couldn't find him. (Tampa Tribune) ...The wrong man was the right man for the right job.

ONE TRACK MIND: A visitor to Fargo, N.D., wanted to get his picture taken with a passing train. Jeffrey R. Lynch, 34, and two friends went around safety gates and the man posed with his back to the train. "He thought it'd be a better shot if he got a little bit closer," said police Sgt. Jeff Skuza, and took a step back. Lynch stumbled and got closer than he meant to: the train caught his back and tore at his shirt and pants. Police were called in when Lynch was helped back to his hotel. Skuza said Lynch wasn't seriously injured beyond a "bad case of train rash," and that alcohol "was a factor" in the incident. (Fargo Forum) ...Alcohol, we figured. What we want to know is, where's the resulting photo?

THIS IS PROGRESS? A 10-year-old boy's pencil sharpener fell apart, and he kept the tiny blade that fell out so that he could continue sharpening his pencil. A teacher at Hilton Head Island International Baccalaureate Elementary School saw the blade and reported him to administrators; a vice principal called the sheriff to report the "crime". The responding deputy declared there was "no criminal intent" and refused to file charges, noting the boy is "a very good student who has not been in any previous trouble." But the school suspended the unnamed fourth-grader, which was "warranted" based on the boy's "inappropriate behavior in the classroom" for possessing the blade, insists principal Jill McAden. A school spokesman said the school was stuck in the "precarious position" between the district's zero tolerance weapons policy and common sense, but later noted they did away with ZT in favor of a "broader, more nuanced approach" to discipline. (Hilton Head Island Packet) ...Maybe they can call it "no tolerance" to properly characterize the difference.

A RIGHT NOT RESERVED JUST TO THE PEOPLE: "Candidates Defend Right to Be Stupid" -- Boston (Mass.) Herald headline

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THIS is TRUE: 12 October 2008 Copyright This Is True

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THE TOMB OF STIFLED PATRIOTISM: John Haines, a retired car dealer from Glenwood Springs, Colo., wanted to do his part: the marble Tomb of the Unknown Soldier has severe cracks, and he decided to take action. Haines commissioned a new piece of marble from the same Colorado quarry where the original was from, so it would match the original exactly. It took five years to find a perfect match, and it was cut in 2003. He paid $31,000 out of his own pocket for it, and even arranged free transportation for the slab to Washington D.C. But the replacement marble is still sitting at the quarry, since the government won't accept it. Instead, the Arlington National Cemetery has budgeted $2.2 million for the replacement project, $80,000 of which is solely to support the bidding process. "A citizen can't just give us any piece of marble and say, 'This is what we'll use to replace the tomb'," sniffed Arlington's deputy superintendent Thurman Higginbotham. "I understand how the government works," Haines said. "But there comes a point when you just say 'to hell with it'." (Denver Post) ...Mr. Haines, welcome to the tail of a long, long queue.

PRIME SUSPECT: Nathan Attwood, 24, says his Subaru Impreza WRX STI hatchback was his "pride and joy". The Christchurch, New Zealand, man even invested in a personalized license plate for the car. But when he got up for work one morning, his car was gone -- stolen! His custom license plate reads, "STOWLN". (Christchurch Press) ...Quick! Apply for a new one: "RCOVRD".

LET ME EXPLAIN: "He was off duty," offered attorney Doug White after his client Ryder Laramore, 44, was arrested. Laramore is charged with possession of marijuana and methamphetamine, as well as driving under the influence of drugs, after being pulled over in Panama City, Fla. Two things are notable about the case: First, Laramore was wearing a blond wig, black miniskirt, and fishnet stockings when he was arrested. And second, he is a county probation officer. OK, and third: he was at least initially defended by the county public defender's office, which is headed by his father. (Panama City News Herald) ...If the best his regular attorney can come up with is "off duty," he better stick with dad.

CONDEMNED TO OBSCURITY: A new musical has debuted at the Melbourne, Vic., Australia, Fringe Festival based on the 2006 cave-in of a gold mine in Beaconsfield, Tasmania, which killed one miner. Dan Ilic, the author of the musical, says he was "astonished" with media coverage of the cave-in, which he called "insensitive". He titled it "Beaconsfield: A Musical in A-Flat Minor" -- "A-Flat Minor" for short -- to get publicity, he said. Ilic changed it after the dead miner's family expressed outrage. (Tasmania Mercury) ...Who cares what he changed it to -- it's no longer controversial.

SPLIT LEVEL: "Cambodian Couple Saw House in Half in Divorce" -- AP headline

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THIS is TRUE: 19 October 2008 Copyright This Is True

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UDDERLY RIDICULOUS: Police in Middletown, Ohio, responded to a disturbance and found Michelle Allen, 32, running around the street wearing a cow suit. They advised her to go home. Instead, she impeded traffic, chased children, and urinated on a resident's porch, so officers felt they had no choice but to arrest her. Allen, who police say smelled of alcohol, was given a month in jail for disorderly conduct. (Oxford Press) ...A cow suit? Funny, but she was acting more like a horse's a**.

WHAT BUNNIES DO LEAST BEST: Dave Arthur was standing in line at a currency exchange in Farsta, Sweden, when he looked up and "saw a huge blue bunny standing there with a bucket," he said. "I assumed it was there collecting money for some charity." He changed his theory when he "saw the bunny talking to a man in a crash helmet carrying a shotgun." By then the exchange teller was already suspicious enough that he dove behind a security door, and the two robbers ran off empty-handed. Police caught the two men and some possible accomplices. "We also received a report about a stolen bunny suit," a police spokesman noted. (Sweden Local) ...It isn't "Trick or Treat!" if you're using a shotgun.

CAN YOU IDENTIFY THE MAN? After an armored car was robbed in front of a bank in Monroe, Wash., police were reasonably confident they'd find the culprit: the man was wearing a yellow vest, safety goggles, a respirator mask, and a blue shirt. But when officers arrived, they found more than a dozen men dressed that way. They were all responding to an ad on the Craigslist site for road workers, who were told to meet at the bank at that time wearing a "Yellow vest, safety goggles, a respirator mask ... and, if possible, a blue shirt," one of the men recited. The robber has not been found. (Seattle Times) ...Let's hope the cops looked through all of their identical lunch boxes.

TWO OUT OF THREE AIN'T BAD: After the driver of an SUV on his way home from work hit a fox near Dover, Tenn., he stopped to retrieve the animal. "The tails are real bushy and pretty and thick this time of year," said Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency officer Dale Grandstaff, and the driver wanted to keep it, which is legal. He put the body in the back seat and continued toward home. Then he heard something from the back and realized the fox was still alive. As he tried to find something to shield himself from the now-angry fox, the driver lost control and rolled the vehicle. The driver was treated for minor injuries, but the fox was now really dead. The driver's name: Tommy Fox. (Nashville Tennessean) ...Whose tail may be bushy and thick, but it's unlikely to be pretty.

THAT'S SOME BAD COOKING: "Woman Shot in Leg by Her Stove" -- Port Angeles (Wash.) Peninsula Daily News headline

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THIS is TRUE: 26 October 2008 Copyright This Is True

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ZERO TOLERANCE IN REAL LIFE, UTAH DIVISION: Ryan Turner, 30, lives next to a city-owned lot in South Salt Lake, Utah. City workers had left a trap out for a pesky skunk, which caught it -- on a Saturday night. Turner came out of his house and noticed the skunk suffering in the morning sun, so he moved the trap into the shade. "It's just a matter of that's the humane thing to do," Turner said. "Leaving an animal to die in a metal trap over the weekend isn't humane." But a police officer scoffed at that explanation, and Turner has received a summons charging him with criminal trespass. He faces a $652 fine. Still, Turner says, "I would rather be in the situation I'm in now than not do anything." (Salt Lake Tribune) ...The ultimate moral defense to zero tolerance.

PROPHETIC WORDS: After seeing Christian ads on placards on the sides of London buses purchased by a web site promising non-Christians will go to hell, British writer Ariane Sherine, 28, suggested atheists should buy ad placards for a more reassuring message. The British Humanist Association agreed to collect donations to buy the ads, and the 5,500 pound (US$8,700) goal was met after just 10 hours. More than 109,000 pounds (US$172,700) have now been collected, even though most atheists disagree with the proposed ad slogan -- "There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life." -- because the word "probably" isn't strong enough. While many British Christian groups think the banners are a good idea since they will stimulate thoughtful discussion (one has even contributed to the campaign), Stephen Green of Christian Voice predicts the displays will be quickly defaced by graffiti because, he says, with no hint of irony, "People don't like being preached at." (London Times, AP) ...Hey, remember: he said it, not me!

DIRECTIONLESS: Two men stopped a police officer in Louisville, Ky., to ask for directions. While talking to the men, the officer noticed a mask on the seat of their vehicle, and realized the men were probably responsible for a robbery minutes before at a gas station, a police spokeswoman said. Lavarr A. Milton, 21, and Guy O. Walker, 18, were arrested on robbery charges. (Louisville Courier-Journal) ...See, ladies? Some men do ask for directions. Extremely stupid men.

THAT'S INFLATION FOR YOU: Cold, rainy weather resulted in lower beer sales at the Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany. Six million visitors drank only 6.6 million liters, a reduction of at least five percent from last year. The cold weather apparently encouraged visitors to snuggle up a bit more, though: condom sales were through the roof. Manufacturer Durex reported 1.5 million were sold in just the first two weeks of the festival. "With that kind of turnover," exclaimed Durex marketing manager Gerald Schreiber, "maybe we should think about developing a special Wiesn condom!" (Germany Local) ...Now that a liter of festival beer has broken 8 euros, all the attendees will be needing one anyway.

WELCOME TO THE STATE HOUSE: "What Happens after You Flush? Rhode Island Offers New Tour" -- AP headline

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THIS is TRUE: 2 November 2008 Copyright This Is True

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ZERO TOLERANCE IN REAL LIFE, BRITISH DIVISION: Lena Ainscow, 75, was trying to travel from London to Bromely, England, to visit her grandchildren. She had a ticket, but platform personnel put her on an earlier train. The conductor refused her ticket because it was for the later train, and told her she must immediately pay 115 pounds (US$187) for her fare -- ten times the normal ticket price. She didn't have that much on her, so fellow passenger Tom Wrigglesworth, 32, appalled at how the elderly woman was being treated, started collecting money from other passengers to help her out. The Virgin Train manager called police -- collecting money is "begging" and illegal, the manager said. He ordered Wrigglesworth to give the money back or be arrested. Wrigglesworth refused the demand. "I couldn't sit there are let this helpless woman deal with it on her own," he said. Police officers sided with Wrigglesworth: they refused to arrest him when they heard the whole story. A Virgin Trains spokesman later apologized for "any distress caused." (London Telegraph) ...Which doesn't help anything until they give the manager plenty of distress over his actions.

SHOWCASE SHOWDOWN: Several floors of a highrise in San Francisco, Calif., were evacuated after a man walked into a law firm's office with a pipe strapped to his chest, said he had a bomb, and "threatened to blow the place up," said Assistant District Attorney Andrew Clark. The "bomb" with blinky lights was determined to be fake. Antonio Scardina, 44, was upset, he told police, because he was turned down as a contestant for the game show "The Price is Right". (San Francisco Chronicle) ...And there's no question he IS the weakest link!

CAREFUL, IT MIGHT BE A TRAP: Charles Privette was at a strip club in Pompano Beach, Fla., when one of the dancers flipped off her shoe, which hit the ceiling and smashed the mirror mounted there. That caused the glass to rain down on Privette, causing a cut to his eyebrow, headaches, and nosebleeds, his lawyer claims. Attorney Omar Demetriou filed suit for Privette against the Booby Trap club, seeking "at least $15,000" because the club failed in "its duty when its employee failed to perform her routine in [a] reasonably safe manner." (South Florida Sun-Sentinel) ...The club offers a $1,000 settlement, but only if a large, smelly man can stuff the money into Privette's shorts $1 at a time.

GO OUT WITH A BANG: An unidentified 22-year-old man has been charged with public nuisance after his arrest in Mount Isa, Qld., Australia, after he "streaked" down a city street. "He was running down the street in his underwear and he had a box of firecrackers going off on his helmet," a police spokesman said. The man had no explanation for his actions. (Adelaide Advertiser) ...Well, the firecrackers keep him running....

SHRUG -- ANOTHER TYPICAL DAY IN SANTA CRUZ: "Man Arrested in Santa Cruz with Beer Keg, Harmonica, Wet Suit, [and] Hallucinogenic Mushrooms" -- Santa Cruz (Calif.) Sentinel headline

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THIS is TRUE: 9 November 2008 Copyright This Is True

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I'LL BET YOU CAN'T CRUNCH JUST ONE: A Frito Lay delivery truck was driving through Georgetown County, S.C., when the driver noticed a car in front of him had slowed down to make a turn. He couldn't stop in time, so he swerved into the oncoming traffic lane. Sure enough, the potato chip delivery man managed to hit the only other vehicle on the road head-on: another Frito Lay delivery truck. Both trucks suffered severe damage, but the unnamed drivers received just minor injuries. (Georgetown Times) ...Huh: I wonder what could have cushioned them?

ALTERNATIVE SUGGESTION: A resident of Halifax, N.S., Canada, was awakened at 3:30 a.m. by two men who smashed through his front door and demanded money. The unidentified victim said he didn't have any cash, but offered to go to a bank machine and get some. The two intruders agreed to wait, and the man called police as soon as he was outside. Alexander Reddick, 51, and Dennis States, 53, have pleaded not guilty to breaking and entering, and robbery. (Halifax Chronicle Herald) ...Whereas in the U.S., it's "I don't have any money, but let me get my valuable pistol out of my drawer...."

CLOSE COMBAT: Frank Garren, 34, was walking through a park in Springfield, Ill., with his girlfriend when he saw an "enormous" squirrel in a tree. Garren, who has hunted squirrels before, made a squirrel call to get its attention -- and to impress his girlfriend. "Whatever I said in squirrel language must have made him mad," he says, since it jumped on his head. All he saw was fur and eyes until the rambunctious rodent ran off. "I never thought a squirrel could kick my a**," Garren said, noting his girlfriend was "rolling on the ground laughing" until she saw he was bleeding. He went to a hospital for treatment, but declined a rabies shot -- the 6'4" former Army sergeant is an Iraq war veteran who earned a Purple Heart, and says he's "current on all of my shots." (Springfield State Journal-Register) ...Typical macho soldier: he always wants to call the shots.

DRIVEN: "Wife for sale. Model 1983, good condition. Full option, nice suspensions, spacious boot, second owner." reads the ad on a Romanian web site that specializes in used cars. "Price is negotiable, comes with 3-year-old and 5-year-old accessories." Alex Cretu, 20, of Bucharest originally placed an 18 million Lei (US$6.15 million) price tag on his wife, but dropped it to 30,000 Lei (US$10,250) in hopes of a quick sale -- Cretu admits he waited until his wife went on a business trip to place the ad. He says he has had several offers, but either the price was too low or they wanted to pay in installments. (PA) ...Maybe he'd get more if he hadn't used up the warranty.

BAD DOG! BAD! "Driving Dog Has Accident at Car Wash" -- Pryor (Oklahoma) Daily Times headline

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THIS is TRUE: 16 November 2008 Copyright This is True

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IF ONLY THEY GOT THIS ON CAMERA: A security officer at a Wal-Mart store in Madison Township, Ohio, noticed two men who were acting suspiciously. Sure enough, one of the men "was seen concealing a camera in his clothing," a police spokesman said. "He walked out the grocery side of the store, and his partner went out the other side of the store." When confronted, the man who allegedly took the camera, Jose M. Diaz Jr., 35, ran -- and slammed into the store's glass door, cutting his head. "He then kicked at [the security officer], got back up, and ran" again -- into a cement post in front of the store. That was enough to stop Diaz, who was treated in a hospital for his injuries and then taken to jail. (Lorain Morning Journal) ...Where he's a cinch to star on the "human pinball" team.

CLEANUP ON CENTRE AISLE: Karl Walker, 16, got a job at Apollo Cleaning in Chippenham, Wiltshire, England. But after a week, a regional manager ordered his supervisor to take him off the job. According to government guidelines, until he passes a "safety clearance" a 16-year-old isn't allowed to operate machinery -- and that includes vacuum cleaners. That's not all: hot water is unsafe for someone of that age, and he can't use chemicals, either, such as cleaners and furniture polish. "How can I be too young to use a vacuum cleaner?" Walker asked. "It is so stupid. I want to earn a living." In Britain, 16-year-olds can buy lottery tickets, join the army, and consent to marriage and sex. (London Telegraph) ...Usually when the government opposes teen-aged sucking, it's the other way 'round.

FEELING A BIT BLAH: Students at Framingham (Mass.) State College are embarrassed at the "unprofessional" and misspelled Web postings and poorly worded style guides the school uses to solicit alumni donations. "With the recent economic downturn and loan crisis, it has become even more important for Framingham State College to receive your support," said a recent letter to 6,000 former students. "Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah...," the letter continued, using the word "blah" 137 times -- on purpose, as a joke. The letter was signed by alumni association president Timothy Cornely. The tactic "insults the intelligence" of the alumni, said Ken Shifman, a 2003 graduate. "It just doesn't seem like something from a legitimate university." (Framingham MetroWest Daily News) ...Perhaps he put his finger right on the problem.

DON'T WORRY, BE HAPPY: Arson investigators are studying a rash of fires in a West Palm Beach, Fla., neighborhood. At 4:45 a.m., firefighters were called to Happiness St., where a baby mattress was leaned against a house and set alight. Minutes later they were called to nearby Success St., for a truck on fire. A third fire on Pot O' Gold St. was quickly doused by a witness before it caused significant damage. The series of fires are "too coincidental" to not be arson, concluded department spokesman Don DeLucia. "What they're trying to determine is if any have a pattern." (Palm Beach Post) ...Police are on the lookout for area leprechauns who appear to be off their medication.

THE HIGHEST COURT IN THE LAND: "Judge Hears Cases While High on Drugs" -- Asbury Park (N.J.) Press headline

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THIS is TRUE: 23 November 2008 Copyright This Is True

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BUYER BEWARE: The Illinois state Environmental Protection Agency is looking into a manufacturing plant that was turned into office space without adequately ensuring it was clean and safe enough for people to work in. Sure enough, despite a multimillion-dollar renovation, the people who work there now complain of headaches, breathing problems and other illnesses, and blame the building's history as a manufacturing plant for electrical equipment. The federal EPA fined the previous owner for improperly disposing of the carcinogen PCB. Asbestos and mold have been found inside, and a leaky benzene tank was discovered buried on the property. Purchase paperwork is so unclear that it's not really known if the seller or the buyer "really" owns it. The buyer: the State of Illinois, and the building is the Illinois EPA's headquarters. One employee who works in the building said that if it was a private sector building, it "would never pass" the agency's review process. (Springfield State Journal-Register) ...But you can be sure the purchase paperwork very clearly says the state is responsible for cleaning it up.

FULL TANK, NO HOSE: Tragedy was averted in a 3:00 a.m. fire in Saskatoon, Sask., Canada, when a neighbor rushed over and rescued the occupants of the burning home. Stephen Townsend kicked through a window to get inside and rescued six people. But, Townsend says, he's certainly not a hero. Rather, he said, his common-law partner, April Knight, woke him up when she got up and saw the flames through the window. "She's the hero," he insists: she had gotten up because "she had to pee." (Saskatoon Star Phoenix) ...Yeah, but who got her the drink of water just after she went to bed?

"IDIOT" WOULD BE AN UPGRADE: A robber stepped into a bank in Springettsbury Township, Pa., just after it opened. Too early: the tellers showed the man that they hadn't received their cash drawers yet, and thus didn't have anything to give him. As the angry robber left, he promised he'd file a complaint with the manager. Police arrested Joseph Goetz, 48, a half-mile from the bank. Goetz is a former police officer who spent five years in prison after hijacking a UPS truck. Goetz thought the driver was having an affair with his wife, but told officers he had kidnaped the wrong UPS driver. (York Daily Record) ...Wrong careers, wrong driver, wrong timing. At least one thing in his life is consistent.

WRONG KIND OF SPIRITS: Four months ago, the County of San Diego, Calif., discovered that residents of a trailer park in Guatay had converted a closed-down bar into a church, and had been using the building for

religious services for 22 years. Nothing doing, county officials ruled: the permit says bar, not church, and the parishioners were ordered out -- unless, presumably, someone wanted a drink. "We can't give them a pass just because they've been there for a long period of time," a county attorney said. "It's not like we have a choice as to which ordinance we can enforce." Members of the Guatay Christian Fellowship made a federal case out of the closure; U.S. District Judge Jeffrey Miller has ruled that the county caused "significant irreparable harm" and ordered local officials to allow the church to reopen as soon as it fixes several building code safety violations, which parishioners say they completed even before their case was heard. The church is threatening to sue the county for civil rights violations. (San Diego Union-Tribune) ...The county attorney should have realized the eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth phase would hurt.

MADE FOR EACH OTHER: "Wine-Glass Whacking Lands Silverdale Woman in Jail" -- Kitsap (Wash.) Sun headline; "Man Accused of Hitting Girlfriend with Sandwich While She's Driving" -- Port St. Lucie (Fla.) News headline, two days later

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THIS is TRUE: 30 November Copyright This is True

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HUMANITY UP TO FIFTY PERCENT OFF: Shoppers at a Wal-Mart store in Valley Stream, N.Y., just couldn't wait for the "Black Friday" deals -- the day-after-Thanksgiving specials that start off the holiday shopping season. Five minutes before the store's 5:00 a.m. opening, 2,000 impatient shoppers, who had gotten in line as early as 9:00 p.m. the evening before, tore the doors open and rushed in, trampling employee Jdimypai Damour, 34. The shoppers "were like a stampede," said a Nassau County police officer. "Hundreds of people walked past him, over him or around him" while officers tried to do CPR to save Damour, but he was pronounced dead on arrival at a hospital. (New York Times) ...No doubt they were the same shoppers who complained bitterly about the "appalling lack of help" in the store.

A ROBBERY? WANNA BET? Two employees of a bookmaking shop in Leeds, West Yorkshire, England, took on a robber who barged into their office. Nichola Burke, 30, and Sally Hamilton, 34, fought with the man, who decided he was outmatched and tried to run -- but found the front door was locked. As he tried to smash through with a stool, Burke grabbed him and started bashing his head against the door. The robber then tried to dash through another door, but it was a storeroom; Burke locked the door behind him and called police. But before officers arrived, the women realized the robber was kicking through the ceiling to escape to the roof. Burke grabbed a baseball bat, went up to the roof, and waited for him to emerge through the hole. When he did she cracked him on the head, and police arrived to arrest the unnamed 28-year-old man. (Yorkshire Evening Post) ...That's one hard-headed criminal.

HAPPY CHRISMAKAH: Jewish groups are alternately outraged and amused by an invitation issued by the White House for a Hanukkah reception: the printed card features a painting of the White House Christmas tree being delivered. Sally McDonough, a Special Assistant to President Bush, and Laura Bush's press secretary, blamed a "staff mistake" for the gaffe, noting "it is just something that fell through the cracks." One recipient called the Christmas theme "absolutely bizarre", and said it "belongs right in the 'Weird but True' column." (Israel National News) ...I'll be the judge of that.

APPOINTED ROUNDS: Apex, N.C., mail carrier Steven Padgett, 58, was popular along his route. He brought packages to people's doors, and gave treats to dogs. But suspicious postal authorities went to his house and found hundreds of thousands of pieces of mail piled in his garage and buried in his yard, dating back to the 1990s. Padgett pleaded guilty to delaying and destroying mail, and was sentenced to probation, a $3,000 fine, and community service. Before the court proceedings, authorities sent notices to hundreds of his customers asking for their comments about the criminal case. Only one responded -- with support for Padgett. (Raleigh News & Observer) ...I don't suppose Padgett was responsible for delivering those notices?

CATCH IT IF YOU CAN: "Police: Molotov Cocktail Tossed Back, Forth" -- Northwest Florida Daily News headline

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THIS is TRUE: 7 December 2008 Copyright This Is True

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WILD DATE: Anthony Zitnick, 21, allegedly took a 16-year-old girl into the home of an animal collector -- uninvited -- to show her the wild animals kept in the North Miami-Dade, Fla., home. Neighbors say Zitnick was trying to "impress" the teen, and became aware of their intrusion when "I heard her scream, 'I'm gonna die! I'm gonna die!'," said Richard Miralles, who lives next door. He is familiar with the cats, so he jumped a fence and ran in to find the girl's head in the mouth of a 150-pound cougar, who was biting down, and Zitnick looking on in shock. Keeping the animals is apparently legal: the resident, a retired science teacher, has proper permits, authorities say. Miralles saved the girl, and carried her out to wait for an ambulance. (Miami Herald) ...Zitnick: not too impressive. Miralles: pretty darned impressive. See the difference, boy?

THE LONG, UPHILL BATTLE: The "mindless" attempts by government and society to eliminate all dangers in life are threatening personal freedom, says Tom Mullarkey, chief of the U.K.'s Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents. "The application of common sense and balance is much more reasonable than the seeking of mindless increments towards 'absolute safety'," he said, which is "a destination which is neither feasible nor, in all probability, desirable, since it would come at such cost to our freedoms." While some areas obviously need regulation, he says, such as nuclear power and aviation, individuals should merely be given information on safety and be allowed to make their own decisions on whether risks are worth taking, so long as they don't put others in danger. (London Telegraph) ...The mindless elimination of all dangers: malarkey. The new patron saint of common sense: Mullarkey.

NOT QUITE HOME FREE: A car reported stolen in Beachwood, N.J., was spotted in nearby Toms River. Officers there started following, and the driver turned into a side street and ducked into a driveway in hopes of eluding his pursuers. It didn't work: "Of about 34,000 homes in Toms River, this guy pulls into my driveway," said Toms River Police Chief Michael Mastronardy, who was one of the officers following the stolen car. The driver, George Parker, 49, was captured in the chief's driveway. (Asbury Park Press) ..."He followed me home, and we're going to keep him" -- the police version.

I'M GONNA WASH THAT MAN RIGHT OUT OF MY HAIR: An unnamed woman called police in Port St. Lucie, Fla., to report that her ex-boyfriend had stolen her wig. The 20-year-old said she was out walking at 3:00 a.m. when her ex rode up on a bicycle. They argued, and the man grabbed the black wig that was "sewn" to her blonde hair, slapped her, and rode off. She told officers she had lived with the man for eight months -- but could only remember his first name. Investigating officers are stalled until they get more information. (Port St Lucie News) ..."Let's see: he snored. He left the cap off the toothpaste. He always left the toilet seat up...."

BOOMERS REMEMBER WHEN IT WAS CIGARETTES: "Rugged Individualism, Beer Linked" -- San Antonio (Texas) Express-News headline

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THIS is TRUE: 14 December 2008 Copyright This Is True

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YOU THINK YOUR STATE IS WEIRD? Catalonia, Spain, boasts some of the most

...uh... unique Christmas traditions. Nativity scenes there typically

don't just include a manger, but rather the entire town of Bethlehem.

That is, in part, to make it harder for the people who delight in

finding the caganer -- or "pooper". The figurine depicts a man or

woman, often someone well-known, in the act of defecating, and it's

been a tradition in Catalonian nativity scenes since the 17th century.

"People call from all over the world asking for us to make statues of

their local figures," says a spokesman for Terra I Mar, which makes the

figurines. But despite offering 150 styles of caganers and selling

20,000-25,000 of them each year, there is still "no way we could make

everyone happy." The spokesman notes the traditional farmer is their

best-seller, followed this year by a pooping President George W. Bush.

The pope is also a popular figure. (Der Speigel) ...But the Pope's easy

to find, because he's always hidden in the woods.

'TIS THE SEASON: A man stopped by police headquarters in Tonawanda, N.Y.,

to offer holiday greetings and deliver a nice Christmas wreath to the

officers on duty. Apparently the man was acting a bit suspiciously: an

officer called the store next door, where the wreath came from, and

learned it had just been stolen. When confronted, Robert E. Dendy, 59,

allegedly admitted to the theft and was arrested. (Tonawanda News)

...It's the thought that counts.

TO BE JOLLY: A couple in Parrish, Fla., called the sheriff to report

their 37-year-old son had attacked his father. The son allegedly first

assaulted him with a 3-ft Christmas tree, but found that insufficient

and tried to hit him with the tree's metal base. His mother and father

were able to restrain him until deputies arrived. Thomas Edward Lackie

was charged with felony assault. No motive was reported. (Sarasota

Herald Tribune) ...Motive schmotive. We told him, "Why should we buy

you an Xbox when you never even played with your PSP?" and the next

thing we knew, the tree is flying.

FA LA LA LA LA, LA LA LA FELONY: For six years, the North Bethesda (Md.)

United Methodist Church has sold Christmas trees from the church

parking lot to raise funds for a medical clinic in Tanzania, opening

the day after Thanksgiving. But this year, an "anonymous tipster"

called police -- it's illegal in Montgomery County to sell Christmas

trees before December 5, and are subject to a $500 fine. County

inspectors swooped in and shut the sale down, but didn't fine Pastor

Debbie Scott, who declared the action "ludicrous." The County Executive

has demanded to know why such a law is on the books, and promises a

hearing will be held to review the law. The hearing is scheduled for

February 3. (Washington Post) ...The repeal motion will never get by

the Mean One, Commissioner Grinch.

AWAY IN A MANGER: The poor economy is having an impact on church nativity

scenes: rented camels are too expensive for "wise men" to ride, so

groups are looking for less expensive substitutes. "It goes up and down

with the economy," said a spokeswoman for Jo-Don Farms in Franksville,

Wisc., which rents out animals. "Some groups cut camels and went with

donkeys and sheep instead." Camels run $500-700 per day this time of

year, including a handler and liability insurance, while two or three

sheep, plus two or three goats, only run about $25 if you can handle

them yourself. Donkeys run around $75 per day, without a handler.

(Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) ...Well, "What Would Jesus Do?" (Perhaps,

spend the money on food and clothes for the homeless instead? Just

thinking aloud here.)

NO CRIB FOR HIS BED: The baby Jesus statue is stolen so often from

nativity scenes in Wellington, Fla., many of the figurines have been

outfitted with GPS tracking devices to expedite recovery efforts. "I

think it's because Jesus is small enough to take," said the town's

Director of Operations, John Bonde. "Everything else is too big." Last

year, an 18-year-old woman took the town's ceramic figurine, but an

internal tracking device led sheriff's deputies right to her door. She

was originally charged with a felony, but the town agreed to reduce the

charges so she could join the Marines. (Palm Beach Post) ...Divert her

energy into a positive for society, rather than locking her up for a

few years? Huh: what a concept.

AND THEN, WHAT TO MY WONDERING EYES SHOULD APPEAR? A holiday gathering in

Del Paso Heights, Calif., was interrupted when an apparently drunk

neighbor crashed the party. As guests were milling around the front

lawn, Donald Kercell, 49, allegedly pulled a knife and threatened the

guests. When he allegedly started slashing people's clothing, a guest

decided to fight back with the only weapon at hand: a 2-ft candy cane

Christmas decoration from the lawn, which he used to beat Kercell down.

After the intruder was subdued, police arrived and charged him with

assault with a deadly weapon. Police ruled the candy man acted in self-

defense and no charges are pending against him. (Sacramento Bee)

...Sure Kercell faces felony charges, but that's nothing compared to

what Santa will do to him.

EDITORIAL COMMENTS: On a secret pre-Christmas farewell trip, President

George W. Bush went to Baghdad to meet officials -- and hold a press

conference. During the president's comments, an Iraqi reporter

interrupted, shouting in Arabic, "This is a farewell kiss, you dog!"

and hurled his shoe at the president's head. Bush ducked, so the man

threw his other shoe, which also missed. Other reporters wrestled the

man to the ground before Secret Service guards could even react. The

president was unfazed, joking "All I can report is that it's a size

10." (AP) ...The worst part: "Made in Iran" on the label.

NAUGHTY, NOT NICE: "Father Christmas Was Punched in His Grotto" -- Dorset

(England) Echo headline

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THIS is TRUE: 21 December 2008 Copyright This Is True

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P.I.N.-HEAD: A man allegedly tried to steal an automated teller machine from a credit union in Leavenworth, Kan., by using a stolen Bobcat to rip the ATM off its mount. Then, to break open the ATM, he dropped the cash machine down an embankment behind the financial institution. But "it makes it easier when you let go of it," said Leavenworth Police Chief Patrick Kitchens. "That way you don't go with it." Police arrived to find the suspect trapped inside the stolen vehicle at the bottom of the embankment, right next to the battered ATM, which had not broken open. "It is stunning that he is still alive," Kitchens said. "We are talking about a 50-foot embankment -- basically straight down." The unnamed 49-year-old man was airlifted to a hospital in serious condition. (Leavenworth Times, Kansas City Star) ...Ironically, he wanted the money because he couldn't afford health insurance.

THE BARE FACTS: After clocking a car at 82 mph in a 40 mph zone in Ocala, Fla., a sheriff's deputy pulled the driver over -- and caught a huge whiff of alcohol on the driver's breath. Tina M. Boggess, 41, allegedly didn't pass a field sobriety test and was taken to the Marion County Jail. Before she could be booked, jailers asked Boggess to remove her shoes. Deputies noticed that she took them off along with the rest of her clothes, holding on to the wall because she couldn't otherwise keep her balance. Deputies then gave her a breath test, which came back at 0.157 percent, nearly twice the legal limit for drivers, and she was booked for drunk driving. It was her first DUI arrest. (Ocala Star-Banner) ...So perhaps it's just an old habit that she gets undressed for the guys as soon as she's fully drunk.

ADDING TO THE BOTTOM LINE: A strip joint in Chester, England, is offering local businesses a new place to advertise: on dancers' butt cheeks. A spokesman for the Platinum Lounge said the ads are a "cheeky bit of fun," but also a serious, "interesting and unusual way for people to get their businesses noticed." The 10x15cm (4x6") ads will be stenciled onto dancer's bottoms with body paint. "I had to do a lot of research with a tape measure to come up with the optimum size for the adverts!" the spokesman cracked. (Chester Chronicle) ...Though if he had done research on the best placement for the most viewership, that's not where they would have put them.

SACKED: Sondra Fortunato, 60, considers herself the New York Giants' biggest fan, coming to games to cheer on her team. But she was asked to leave Giants Stadium after appearing in a customized Santa Claus costume, with a tiara on top and a bathing suit bottom. She was also carrying a suitcase with two signs: "Go Giants" and "Have a No Guns Christmas" -- the latter a reference to Giants wide receiver Plaxico Burress, who recently accidentally shot himself in the thigh at a nightclub with an illegally carried pistol. Fortunato, who admits she is "well-endowed", complained about her ejection from the stadium. "You couldn't even see my underwear!" she exclaimed, but a Giants spokesman said her attire wasn't an issue, but rather she broke stadium rules against signs and baggage. (AP) ...The suitcase, or her "endowment"?

CAUSE AND EFFECT: "Deputies: Man Flunks Drug Test, Steals Fridge Full of Urine" -- Gainesville (Fla.) Sun headline

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THIS is TRUE: 28 December 2008 Copyright This Is True

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PROFESSIONAL WOMAN: Anadel Carrizales was driving near Monterrey, Mexico, when he saw a woman in a miniskirt broken down on the side of the road. It was a trap: when he stopped, the woman told him an accomplice had a gun pointed at him. She then super-glued his hands to his steering wheel, tied him up with shipping tape, and demanded his money. He didn't have any, so she took his credit cards and fled. Carrizales' engine was still running, so he drove until he found a police officer to help. (AP) ...Now that's a stick-up.

PUT A LID ON IT: As an end-of-term prank, students at Gonville and Caius College at England's Cambridge University put a Santa Claus hat on a spire on the Gate of Humility on campus, 60 feet above the ground. College authorities were not amused: deeming the hat a "safety hazard" as it might fall on someone's head, they called the fire brigade to remove it. At least 10 firefighters in three trucks sped to the scene to take care of the threat. (London Telegraph) ...End-of-Term Quiz: Which is more dangerous: a cushy felt hat with fake fur trim, or three firetrucks speeding through heavy town traffic?

SUPERHERO: Trevor King, 78, the founder of the Westside Mission in Sydney, NSW, Australia, was delivering food to a destitute family when two men arrived to repossess their personal items. When one of the repo men allegedly started pushing the lady of the house around, King stepped forward. "This chap said, 'Get out of the way, you silly old goat' to Trevor," homeowner Ted Ferguson said. "Trevor took him out with one punch." Trevor King was a featherweight boxing champion -- fifty years ago -- and described the scene a bit differently. "This fellow had a go at me so I inadvertently threw my right hand and he collided with it," said King, who suffers from leukemia and a bad heart. When the second repo man saw his partner go down, he repeatedly punched King in the stomach, but when King didn't even flinch, the man fled. (Sydney Morning Herald) ...I think Mr. King has anything but a bad heart.

CRIMINAL FRIENDLY: Police officers in Queensland, Australia, have been ignoring minor traffic and criminal infractions so they don't have to deal with QPRIME -- their new A$100 million Queensland Police Records Information Management Exchange computer system. A simple report that took an hour on older systems takes "several hours of angst" on the "nightmare" QPRIME system, according to Queensland Police Union vice-president Ian Leavers. A state police spokesman defended the system, saying it assists officers "by allowing them to access information in a holistic manner." (Brisbane Courier-Mail) ...In the old days, people worried that computers would take over the world. We have now come to a point where computers are intelligent enough to realize that they don't want to.

IS THAT YOUR EGO IN YOUR POCKET, OR...? "Vive la Difference -- French Say They Need Biggest Condoms" -- Montreal Gazette headline

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THIS is TRUE: 3 January 2009 Copyright This Is True

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WOMEN'S PARTS: Australia's Advertising Standards Bureau has announced the most-complained-about ad in the country last year was for the Kotex "U" line of feminine protection products. The ad features a woman and her beaver -- a furry, bucktoothed dam-building rodent, that is -- trading on the common nickname women use for their body part "down there" (as the ad puts it). The TV spot shows a woman taking her beaver to the beach, the beauty salon, lunch at a nice restaurant, and other places, and advises women, "You only have one of them, so look after it." Despite the complaints, the ad didn't breach the ASB's code of ethics, and was allowed to continue. (Sydney Telegraph) ...Just wait until this year's ad debuts, featuring kitties.

MEN'S PARTS: An 88-year-old woman in Gresham, Ore., confronted an intruder in her home. The man, who wasn't wearing a stitch of clothing, grabbed her and pushed her face-first into a livingroom chair. The unnamed woman took her fate into her own hands: she reached back and grabbed the intruder's "cahoochies" (as Multnomah County Sheriff's Office spokesman Paul McRedmond put it), "giving him a good squeeze." The man "tore free and ran back out the way he had come in," but deputies were nearby and arrested a 46-year-old man on charges of burglary, harassment and indecency. His name: Michael Gordon Dick. (Gresham Outlook) ...His eyes are no longer crossed, but it'll be another week before he'll be able to close them.

KILLIN' JUST MAKES A GUY HUNGRY: Eugene Michael Falle, 35, was on trial for second-degree murder in Edmonton, Alta., Canada. Falle admitted he stabbed Shane Chalifoux, 18, to death after Chalifoux broke into his apartment -- and Falle stabbed him 39 times to get the job done. "I told him just hurry up and die already," he told police. "So I keep stabbin' him and stabbin' and stabbin' him and stabbin' him and stabbin' him, trying to slash his throat to get a jugular vein," he said. Chalifoux begged for his life, but Falle kept going. "He wouldn't bleed properly the way he should've bled, according to the movies." Falle finally got Chalifoux's jugular, and he died. After it was over, Falle leaned out a window and asked a neighbor to order a pizza for him. After hearing the story, the jury returned its verdict: self defense, and Falle was set free. (Edmonton Journal) ...Who knew that the O.J. jury moved to Canada?

POSTAGE DUE: When a relative in Florida asked for their address, Rodney and Juanita Annis of Nictaux, N.S., Canada, keeping with a family joke about their rural location, replied online: "1 tree past the squirrel's hole, 3 runs past the deer lick, 1 leap over the felled oak tree." The relative sent the Christmas card to "Hick in the Woods" at that address, without even a province or country listed -- and it was successfully delivered. "We laughed our fool heads off," Juanita said, adding she suspects that their real address was attached using a removable sticker, and that Canuck postal authorities were in on the joke. "With Canada Post, everything's possible," a spokeswoman said. "The impossible sometimes, too." (Canadian Press) ...Right: sometimes Canada Post can't find Toronto.

"AGAIN"?! "Woman Sets Herself on Fire at Church Again" -- Nashville Tennessean headline

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THIS is TRUE: 11 January 2009 Copyright This Is True

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I WONDER WHY THEY DIVORCED: Andrew and Patricia Craissati of West Palm Beach, Fla., were divorced in 2001. Andrew agreed to pay $2,000+ per month in alimony, which would become void if she remarried or "cohabitated" with another person for more than three months. Andrew sued to invoke that clause on the grounds Patricia was living with another woman: her cellmate. Years after their divorce, Patricia was convicted of felony drunk driving after a crash which severely injured two people, and was sentenced to nine years in prison. The 4th District Court of Appeal agreed in a 2-1 ruling that living in prison with another woman constituted "cohabitation" under the agreement, even though it was forced, and canceled the alimony. Andrew filed the action after Patricia demanded he continue making payments on her vacant house, and refused to let him rent it. (Palm Beach Post) ...Push long enough, and sometimes people will start pushing back.

WHO DOES SHE THINK SHE IS, A JOURNALIST? Jacqueline Pomeroy, 44, a French teacher at Ellison High School in Killeen, Texas, was apparently fed up with a student talking in class. Pomeroy took off her high-heeled shoe and threw it, hitting the girl square in the face, drawing blood. Pomeroy was placed on paid administrative leave, and she was arrested on misdemeanor assault charges. Students were outraged -- not at Pomeroy's actions, but at the school's. More than 30 students, some with their parents, protested, carrying signs reading "Let Her Stay", "Free Our Teacher" and "She Doesn't Deserve This". (Killeen Daily Herald) ...School officials just might have been impressed, had the signs been in French.

DIFFERENTIAL DIAGNOSIS: Researchers at Australia's University of New South Wales say sarcasm is a good way to diagnose frontotemporal dementia. Or, really, the inability to understand someone is being sarcastic is indicative of that common form of the disease, especially among people younger than 65. "They don't detect humor," said study lead John Hodges. "They are very bad at double meaning and a lot of humor is based on double meaning." But, he said, people with early Alzheimer's disease have no trouble understanding humor. (Sydney Telegraph) ...So if you didn't find any humor in this story, you may have FTD. If you did, relax: it's only Alzheimer's.

ZERO TOLERANCE -- IT'S ONLY FOR THE KIDS: When a school bus driver in Mansfield, Texas, found cookie crumbs on a seat in his bus, he allegedly threatened several sixth-grade girls with a pocketknife, saying he would cut them if they didn't admit to eating cookies on the bus. When the girls' parents complained to the school, school officials told them that William Allen, 66, was a "good employee" and was just joking, along the lines of a "grandfather joking about cutting your ears off if you don't knock it off," the parents said. The parents turned to police, who arrested Allen for assault, and only then did the district "take the matter seriously," one mother said. Allen has been placed on paid leave. "Had the roles been reversed, my daughter would have been taken into custody right away," said parent Kendra Hill-Foreman. "I don't care good of an employee he is, he traumatized those girls." (Fort Worth Star-Telegram) ...Good employee: one who hasn't been caught before now.

SOME PEOPLE JUST CAN'T TAKE "NO" FOR AN ANSWER: "Burning the 'No Smoking' Sign? Law Doesn't like That, Either" -- Medford (Ore.) Mail Tribune headline

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THIS is TRUE: 18 January 2009 Copyright This Is True

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FOLLOW THAT MAN: The police department in Franklin, Tenn., announced it will patrol parking lots, looking in cars for things that might attract thieves, and leaving "crime prevention cards" on cars that have tempting goods in view. "A friendly reminder from alert and responsive Franklin police officers may be all it takes to help keep someone from leaving their purse or phone on their front seat while running into the store," said Deputy Police Chief David Rahinsky. The town has recently seen a 15 percent increase in auto burglaries. (Nashville Tennesseean) ...Since car burglars have been able to save time by only looking in cars with crime prevention cards on them.

GROUNDED: Herman Sakaria, the director of a security company, was on his way home when he saw two young men obscuring the license plate on their car in Rodney, New Zealand. The duo then put plastic bag masks over their faces and socks over their hands, and went into a store. Sakaria parked his car to block their getaway. When the store owner chased the would-be robbers away without any loot, Sakaria was there to intercept. "I grabbed them," Sakaria said, "disarmed them and took them to the ground, restraining them until police arrived" -- by sitting on them. As a passerby took a photo of the scene, one of the 16-year-old boys caught sight of an onlooker and said, "Oh s--t, there's my mum!" (Rodney Times) ...In an ideal world, delinquents would indeed be more afraid of their parents than the police.

BAD NEWS, GOOD NEWS, AND...: "We are deeply sorry," said Joe Rafferty, chief executive of Britain's National Health Service for the Central Lancashire region. "This should never have happened." An NHS employee lost a computer memory stick containing the health information of as many as 6,360 patients. But the good news is, the clerk who lost the memory stick made sure the data on the removable device had been encrypted for privacy. On the other hand, when he lost the device, there was a sticky note attached to it with the encryption password written on it. (Lancashire Evening Post) ...And anyone with any password written on a sticky note isn't entitled to laugh at them.

YO! NO HO ZO': Days before Barack Obama's inauguration as president, police started posting bright red signs on light posts around Washington D.C.'s capitol hill: "WARNING: This area has been declared a PROSTITUTION FREE ZONE by Order of the Chief of Police". The special ban ends January 25. "Now, maybe I'm not reading this the way your average tourist or Obama supporter would," a Washington Post columnist wrote, "but to me, this sign... means that everywhere the signs aren't, prostitution is just fine and dandy." (Washington Post) ...Not at all. Just think about how Congress works: it's more likely that the $750 billion economic bailout bill makes it free in that area.

YOU DON'T WANT TO BE HER DREAM MAN: "Woman Fires Shotgun into Wall While Asleep" -- Fargo (N.D) Forum headline

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THIS is TRUE: 25 January 2009 Copyright This Is True

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HAMMER TIME! Torvald Alexander, 38, arrived home from a costume party and surprised a burglar in his Edinburgh, Scotland, house. "As soon as he saw me his eyes went wide with terror," Alexander said, perhaps because he was dressed as Thor. "He looked like he had had a few drinks and decided to do a late night break in, but he hadn't counted on the God of Thunder living here." The burglar dove through a window to escape. (London Telegraph) ...After jumping through the front window, the burglar was probably pretty thor too.

HOT HOT HOT: Jason Viles had just gotten settled in a tanning bed in a salon in Regina, Sask., Canada, when he realized it was on fire. "I couldn't kick it open. I had to knock the stereo off the wall and crawl out of the back," he said, taking about a minute to get through the narrow gap. "Anyone bigger wouldn't have gotten out." He grabbed his clothes, alerted salon staff to evacuate, and barely escaped with his life. Viles said he'll still use tanning beds, but never the Leonardo "high intensity" model again. (Regina Leader-Post) ...Right: if he wanted "char" he could have just stayed in there.

CALIFORNIA ROLL: Police in Boulder, Colo., were called to a sushi bar after a man allegedly hit a bus boy and ran out without paying for his meal. Officers chased the man until he dove under a parked car. They said they would use pepper spray if he didn't come out, and he wouldn't. After a few blasts, he still wouldn't budge, so officers said they'd flush him out with a police dog. He still refused to come out, so a dog was sent to drag him out. Daniel Axford McKeever, 30, who the newspaper was careful to point out was from California, was finally placed in custody. When asked why he ran, he told officers it was "exciting" and "You have to admit, this is why you do this job," and said he'd write a letter to the department to praise them for "a job well done." (Boulder Daily Camera) ...Since the California cops usually Taser him.

THE NEXT BEST THING TO BEING THERE: Thousands of people with official tickets to attend President Obama's inauguration were turned away in various snafus. One was campaign volunteer Gabe Cohen, 29, of Denver, Colo., who recruited members of a 5,000-member Facebook group of disgruntled ticket-holders "to make the best of an unfortunate situation," he said. Cohen invited them to gather on the Capitol steps -- or as close as they were allowed to get -- and replay Obama's swearing-in from iPods and laptop computers four days after the first one. (Washington Post) ...Gee: if he had a little more faith, he would have waited for the redo expected four years after the first one.

LISTEN UP: "I'll Just Let this Brick Do the Talking for Me" -- Memphis (Tenn.) Commercial Appeal headline

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THIS is TRUE: 1 February 2009 Copyright This Is True

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HAIL TO THE CHIEF -- FOR NOW: Now that Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich has been removed from office after his arrest on corruption charges, the state's lieutenant governor, Democrat Patrick Quinn, 60, has replaced him. Quinn is described by political observers as the "Anti-Blagojevich" -- calm, quiet, and humble. Quinn understands popularity comes and goes, remembering once in the 1970s when he was sitting in the gallery of the state legislature. When introduced, lawmakers "stood up and booed for three minutes," Quinn said. "One guy called it a standing boo-vation." Quinn may be popular now, especially compared to Blago, but "You want to know my philosophy?" he asked. "One day a peacock. The next day a feather duster." (New York Times) ...The public plucking in between is no fun either.

THAR'S GOLD IN THEM ...UH...: Officials at the Suwa sewage treatment plant in the Nagano prefecture in Japan report they are extracting significant amounts of gold from processed sewage. They recently have been recovering 1,890 grams of gold per ton of incinerated sludge, which is significantly more than most gold mines, they say: the Hishikari Mine in Japan only yields 20-40 grams of gold per ton of ore. Officials believe the gold is from high tech manufacturers in the area. (Reuters) ...So if you've been wanting to flush your Dell, your instincts are even better than you thought.

BODY AND SOUL: Dr. Richard Batista, 49, and his wife, Dawnell, are getting a divorce. She filed the action, but the Long Island, N.Y., doctor has a demand too: he wants his kidney back. He donated it to her for a transplant eight years ago and, if he can't have it back, he demands $1.5 million instead. "I saved her life" by giving her one of his kidneys, he told reporters. "There's no deeper pain you can ever express than to be betrayed by the person you devoted your life to," he said, alleging Dawnell was unfaithful to him with her physical therapist. "It put a hole in my heart that still exists." (New York Daily News) ...Forget the kidney, then. What he needs is a heart transplant.

MOTHERLY INSTINCTS: Callie Rough, 37, wasn't just arrested for shoplifting at a dollar store in Oxford, Ohio. She also had her two young children with her. Store clerks noticed her handbag was significantly larger than when she came in and called police. Rough dumped the items and ran. Officers found the family running along the highway. Among the items Rough allegedly tried to steal: clothes, towels, a rug, and a book titled "101 Ways to Be a Great Mom". (Middletown Journal) ...At least it wasn't a bunch of stuff she didn't need.

FIVE MORE STORIES: The full edition this week had more stories, including the man who ran out of the courtroom rather than hear his sentence -- bad idea. Burglar realizes just how dumb it was to commit a felony to get $23.75 worth of quarters. Drunk driver parks his car so he could tell police "I wasn't driving. I was walking on the sidewalk." Two men, handcuffed to each other, run from police -- and pass a light pole on opposite sides. Man on trial after trying to take his ex-girlfriends' breast implants from her. You can still read all of these stories: just ask for your upgrade to start with the 1 February issue. A full year of expanded issues is just $24: http://thisistrue.com/upgrade.html

THERE'S A LESSON WE CAN ALL LEARN FROM: "Alleged Bremerton Shoplifter: Nothing Goes Right When I Do Heroin" -- Kitsap (Wash.) Sun headline

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THIS is TRUE: 8 February 2009 Copyright This Is True

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DO YOU SMELL SMOKE? A fire station in Syke, Germany, was destroyed -- it burned down, and six fire engines worth 2.35 million Euros (US$3.4 million) burned with it. Investigators are unsure whether faulty wiring is the culprit, or if the firefighters themselves are to blame, since the fire broke out during a training exercise. The station was only 15 years old; it replaced the previous building, which was lost to a fire. (Austrian Times) ...Maybe this time they could try installing fire sprinklers -- or a smoke alarm.

AIMLESS: After an argument with his wife, Arloween, Ed Barney, 74, set off from his new home in Santa Rosa, Calif. He didn't like the cold of northern California, and was going to give Arizona a try. He left town walking on the southbound railroad tracks, and didn't bother taking money or a cell phone when he left. Once his wife filed a missing person report, police were able to track him down by getting a record of his ATM withdrawals: he was found in Eugene, Ore. Police there didn't detain him, since he had done nothing wrong, but they reported that he had purchased a bus ticket to Utah, where he was heading to visit his children. (Santa Rosa Press Democrat) ...Had he asked, Arloween would have been happy to give him directions. But did he ask? No. That's just so typical. You know, the boys are just like him, too....

HOW WAS YOUR DAY TODAY? The bad part: an unidentified 39-year-old man in Moenchengladbach, Germany, lost his keys. The good part: he was pretty sure he had accidentally tossed them into a public trash bin with some papers. The bad part: it had a narrow opening, and the top doesn't come off easily. The good part: he could fit his head and arm into the opening. The bad part: he got so stuck he couldn't move. The good part: a friend happened by, and called the fire brigade to come help. The bad part: they couldn't get him out either, so they widened the hole and shoved him the rest of the way in. The bad part: it took another half hour before they were able to get the top off. The good part: by the time he finally emerged, he had found his keys. (AFP) ...The bad part: in his pocket.

WHAT COULD POSSIBLY GO WRONG? After an 8-year-old girl was abused and murdered by her guardians, the British government put together a new data base to list the personal details -- including name, gender, address, and age -- of every child in the country, with space for "sexual health" information, so that child service agencies could know who they need to watch out for. The new 224-million-pound (US$329 million) system will be accessible to at least 330,000 users spread across at least 150 agencies, and is scheduled to launch this summer. The government has responded to security concerns by announcing that celebrities can apply to keep details of their children out of the system. Oh, and politicians, too. (London Telegraph) ...How about a new law: any law that politicians pass has to apply to them first.

FLORIDA FOOD FIGHTS: "Deltona Man Arrested in Taco Assault on Mom" -- Orlando (Fla.) Sentinel headline; "Woman Batters Man with Bagel" -- St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times headline, two days later

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THIS is TRUE: 15 February 2009 Copyright This Is True

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JUST CHARGE THE FINE TO THE VICTIMS: The State of Florida sold personal information from its drivers license data base to private marketing companies, including each driving citizen's name, address, and Social Security number. It made $108 million on the sales over a four-year period -- the four years after such sales were made illegal by federal law. When several Floridians sued, the state refused to admit wrongdoing, but agreed to settle for $10.4 million, which will be divided up this way: the drivers who sued, $3,000 each. Everyone else: a $1 credit on their next car registration fee. The five law firms that worked on the suit: $2.85 million. Federal law calls for a $2,500 penalty for each violation, which would have come to $39 billion. (St. Petersburg Times) ...Which would penalize citizens even more. So how about ten years in prison for every state official who went along with the scheme?

ANOTHER CASE SOLVED: Pasco County, Fla., sheriff's deputies were investigating an attempted theft from a boat parked in Zephyrhills when they contacted their chief suspect, Craig Martin, 41. During questioning, Martin noted that he had been "wanting that boat for a while. Mark my words, I'll get it again." He also told a deputy, "We both know I did it." He admitted he had been aboard the boat and "I usually ain't that dumb," he said, adding, "you ain't writing that down, are you?" (St. Petersburg Times) ...That's how the "anything you say can and will be used against you" stuff works, yes.

OUT OF THE MOUTHS OF BABES: Tawanna Davis, 22, of Fort Pierce, Fla., had warrants out for her arrest alleging assault, harassing phone calls, violation of probation, and carrying a concealed weapon without a permit. When police stopped at an address where they expected to find her, two men and a woman said that Davis was not there. That's when a little girl walked up to an officer. "The four-year-old child then tugged on my pants leg and stated, 'Tawanna's hiding under the bed'," the resulting arrest report notes. Officers looked under the little girl's bed and found Davis. (Fort Pierce News Tribune) ...Unfortunate, since now it will be hard to convince her that there are no monsters under her bed.

IF THIS SCARES YOU, THINK ABOUT THE ONES WHO PASS: Stanley Mayausky, 79, has lived in Tampa, Fla., since he moved there from New Jersey 30 years ago. He'd really like a Florida drivers license, but it was taken away from him after he drove away after an accident -- a hit and run. To get it back, he has to take the standard written state driver test -- 20 multiple-choice questions, and he has to get 15 correct to pass. There is no time limit, and he takes his time. Still, he has failed the test 72 times. "I've been driving for all these years and, see, they've made all these changes to the rules and they never told me," he explains. "Maybe I'll try again tomorrow." If he passes, he then has to take a driving test. If he fails that test five times, Florida will ban him from driving for life. (St. Petersburg Times) ...All of Florida admires his persistence, but fears his success.

TAKES A THRASHING, KEEPS ON CRASHING: "Oldsmar Man Arrested after Crashing into Parked Car, Store, Fence, Then Tree" -- St. Petersburg Times headline

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THIS is TRUE: 22 February 2009 Copyright This Is True

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ORDER UP! A man wearing a motorcycle helmet and a leather jacket burst into the Williams Supper Club in Waukesha, Wisc., through the back door and grabbed an employee. "Give me the money or I will shoot you," the man said. The bartender handed over the night's receipts, but chef Erik Minor saw the man, walked up behind him, and "hit him over the head with a big aluminum spoon" -- which broke. He then jumped the intruder, put him in a headlock, and wrestled him to the ground, even though at first, Minor didn't realize the man was a robber. He took action because "I wasn't going to let someone manhandle an employee," he said afterward. Minor and a patron held Joey N. Geraci, 39, until police arrived. (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) ...Tip: be nice if you ever send back your steak at the Williams Supper Club.

HARD-HEADED ROBBER II: A man wearing a bicycle helmet demanded cash at a bank in Gig Harbor, Wash. The teller slipped a little something extra in the bag with the $12,000 in loot: a GPS tracking device with a transmitter that police could track. The robber escaped on a bicycle, which he rode to a nearby car and took off. Shortly after he got rolling, there were police cars behind, and the robber led a pursuit. When he got the chance to ditch his car and run, he took the money with him -- complete with the tracking device. He was found hiding in some bushes within minutes. Police say James R. Knox, 50, had only been out of prison for 10 days after spending nearly 10 years in prison -- for bank robbery. (Seattle Times) ...It's so important to keep up with technological advances related to your profession.

SOMETIMES I SITS AND THINKS, AND SOMETIMES I JUST SITS: After delivering a lunch tray to an inmate of the Gage County (Neb.) County Jail, the inmate "threw a fit," said Sheriff Millard "Gus" Gustafson, tossing the tray against the wall opposite his cell. A corrections officer went to get something to clean it up, but when she returned, the mess was gone. Jailers determined that the locks on cell doors were worn enough that an inmate could reach through the bars and turn the lock with their fingers enough that the door would pop open. A couple of prisoners had gone out and cleaned up the mess while the jailer was gone, and were back in their cell by the time she got back. "If they had not done that, we would have never known," Gustafson said. "This is a huge security issue," he added. "They have nothing but time to figure this [escape] stuff out." (Beatrice Daily Sun) ...Yet when done cleaning, they went back in and locked the door.

NO PARKING: A police cruiser with two officers responding to a robbery call in Toronto, Ont., Canada, swerved to avoid a car -- and there was "an almighty crash," said an ear-witness, who looked out his window to see the cruiser "half-embedded into the house" across the street. "I haven't seen a car in a house in a long time." The officers were only slightly injured. It was the second Toronto Police cruiser destroyed that weekend. The day before, officers parked their car on a train track. Witnesses say it was sitting there for at least 20 minutes before a passenger train smashed it. "I have no idea why this happened," said Staff Sgt. Courtney Chambers. "It could have been a case of bad judgment." Officers say the car was only "a little bit on the tracks," but admitted that's like being "a little bit pregnant." (Toronto Star, 2) ...Or a little bit stupid.

WILD NIGHT AT THE SALOON: "Elk Gets Bar Stool Stuck on Head in Eagle -- Animal in Eagle Not Impaired; Just Looks Goofy" -- Vail (Colo.) Daily headline

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THIS is TRUE: 1 March 2008 Copyright This Is True

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WHERE THERE'S SMOKE, THERE'S FIRE: "It was strictly accidental," ruled San Luis Obispo, Calif., Fire Department investigator John Madden after reviewing the circumstances behind a fire. The blaze, which destroyed a mobile home, was started by a cigarette, he said, and caused $200,000 in damage. Homeowner Bill Lewis, 68, and his mother, Chessie, were not at home when the fire struck; after she finished her smoke break, Bill had taken his mother to the County Public Health Department for a meeting to help her quit smoking. (San Luis Obispo Tribune) ...Meeting: marginally effective. Coming home to see the results of her actions: significantly more effective.

YOU ARE NOW FREE TO MOVE ABOUT THE CABIN: Samantha Scafe is incensed that when she flew from her home in Cairns, Qld., Australia, to Coolangatta, airline Jetstar made her pay for two seats because she weighs 160kg (353 lbs). Scafe says the airline told her "not to worry about paying for the second seat" when she reserved her flight, but when she arrived at the airport, airline agents changed their minds and "advised me to book and pay for a second seat for other people's comfort because of my size." She paid -- and only then did she notice that the two seats were not together. (Cairns Post) ...So the "other people comforted" by the double fare weren't her fellow passengers, but rather the airline's stockholders.

SHUDDUP YA DUMB REDNECKS: Missouri state Sen. Kevin Engler is really fed up with people who litter, and sponsored a bill calling for the death penalty for littering. "I think killing one or two of them would be a fine first start and then the rest would fall in line," he said after introducing his proposed law on the Senate floor. In his address, he said "dumb rednecks" are "teaching [their children] to be white trash" by throwing refuse out car windows, and he was "sick of every week having to pick up litter" for them. Engler then announced he was "doing this tongue in cheek" and withdrew the bill to "make it a little tougher." When criticized for calling people "rednecks" and "white trash," Engler said "The only people I called names are the ones doing it. If they are offended, good." (Park Hills Daily Journal) ...In other news, Missouri State Sen. Kevin Engler was re-elected in a landslide -- which he then immediately cleaned up.

AND THEN THEY CAME FOR ME: Teachers in Houston, Texas, are crying foul because the Houston Independent School District has decided school "zero tolerance" policies should apply to them, too. At least eight teachers, including a "Teacher of the Year", have been arrested on drug charges, two of them twice, after school police with drug-sniffing dogs were brought in to search teachers' cars and desks. The searches are "a very wide and very destructive dragnet," complained Tom Shahriari, a former attorney who is now a fifth-grade teacher, saying he has a problem with "using the zero-tolerance laws to make it zero compassion and zero common sense." (Houston Chronicle) ...What, you thought zero compassion and zero common sense policies were only for the kids?

FLUSH WITH EXCITEMENT: "Toilet Float Had Sinister Look; Des Moines Bomb Squad Called" -- Des Moines (Iowa) Register headline

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THIS is TRUE: 8 March 2009 Copyright This Is True

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PERSONAL FOUL: After a basketball game at Washington Township, Ind., High School, a fan came down from the stands and got into the referee's face. Referee Glen Fifield says the fan yelled "You suck!" and bumped him. Fifield tried to walk away, but the fan allegedly ran up and pushed him. That's when Fifield told the fan that he was a state trooper, and that he was under arrest for battery. "You can't arrest me, you're a referee!" the man screamed, allegedly pushing him again. Fifield wrestled the man to the floor and took him into custody, but only after the fan allegedly tried to choke him with his whistle lanyard. Once under control, the man realized Fifield really was a cop. "That's not fair!" he whined. Patrick Rempala, 64, was taken to jail on charges of battery and resisting arrest. (Northwest Indiana Times) ...And the penalty is the same as in the NBA: a $10,000 fine and a 3- game suspension.

PAGING MARTIN LUTHER: The Roman Catholic Church is bringing back Plenary Indulgences -- a sort-of Get Out of Hell Free card from a priest. "Why are we bringing it back?" offered Bishop Nicholas A. DiMarzio of Brooklyn, N.Y., who supports indulgences. "Because there is sin in the world." Indulgences were dropped by the church in the 1960s after the Second Vatican Council. Church doctrine notes that even after a priest offers absolution after confession, sinners still face punishment after death. Indulgences supposedly cancel the punishment in purgatory. They cannot be purchased -- the church outlawed that in 1567 -- but a contribution greases the wheels. A parishioner must confess to get one, and there is a limit of one per sinner per day. "It was always there," Bishop DiMarzio says. "We just want people to return to the ideas they used to know." (New York Times) ...So parochial school nuns can get out their rulers again.

THAT THEY'RE KNOWN AS THE "BEEHIVE STATE" IS WEIRD ENOUGH ALREADY: A bill introduced in Utah will help in "maintaining Utah's status as the go-to state for late-night punchlines," as the Salt Lake Tribune editorialized, has passed the state senate. It makes it a crime for anyone but state wildlife officials to provide birth control to animals, "so don't even think about handing out condoms to those randy mountain goats," the newspaper said. But the bill passed unanimously and is awaiting the governor's signature since it has a serious purpose: to keep anti-hunting groups from trying to reduce animal populations to the point where they can't be hunted. Meanwhile, the Tribune notes, "PETA volunteers will have to talk rutting Utah game animals into practicing abstinence" -- which "works so well for teenagers." (Salt Lake Tribune) ...Nah. PETA would just kill the animals so hunters couldn't.

WE CHANGED OUR MIND: After Barack Obama was elected president, Ty Inc. released two new dolls in their "TyGirlz" collection: "Sweet Sasha" and "Marvelous Malia". A Ty spokeswoman insisted the dolls were not named after Obama's daughters, Sasha, 7, and Malia, 10. Rather, the names were simply "beautiful names" they chose randomly. Other TyGirlz dolls are named Lindsay, Britney, Paris, and Hillary. "There's nothing on the [new] dolls that refers to the Obama girls," said spokeswoman Tania Lundeen. "It would not be fair to say they are exact replications of these girls. They are not." Ty is even headquartered in the Chicago area, Obama's stomping ground. But after Michelle Obama objected, Ty CEO Ty Warner admitted the dolls' names were inspired by "this historic time in our nation's history," and ordered the names changed. (AP, 2) ...Since he had gotten all the publicity he hoped for by then anyway.

YOU CAN BET THE OFFICER DIDN'T PUT IT QUITE THIS WAY IN HIS REPORT: "Cop Makes Arrest in Bathroom after Smelling Crack" -- AP headline

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