Odd News Stories
You couldn't make this stuff up
Sources: Reuters news agency, Yahoo!, the Fayetteville Observer, and that country paper over yonder

Fry spy
SAN ANTONIO, Texas – When children in five elementary schools try to sneak extra french fries in the cafeteria, Big Brother will be watching. The schools have cameras in the cafeteria line and trash area that read food bar codes on the trays. When a child goes to the disposal window, Big Brother will measure the leftovers. A computer will identify the food and its nutrient levels, and print a list showing the size of the serving and its calories, fiber, sugar, and proteins. The goal is to cut down on childhood obesity by discovering what they are eating.

92-year-old fires when refused smooch
FORT McCOY, Florida – Helen Staudinger, 92, wanted a kiss, but her 53-year-old neighbor refused, so she aimed a semi-automatic pistol at his house and fired four times. "I want a kiss before I leave," Dwight Bettner, a former law enforcement officer and boilermaker, said Staudinger had told him. He said no and "just go back to your property, and leave me alone." One bullet went through a window, spraying him with glass. Staudinger was jailed on charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and shooting into a dwelling. She told deputies she had fired at Bettner's new Mitsubishi 3000GT, a car "that he loved so much." Bettner said his elderly neighbor had seemed attracted to him since he moved in six months earlier. "I've taken her trash out for her, just neighborly stuff," he said.

Switchblades for one-armed people
CONWAY, Massachusetts – Maine lawmakers have legalized switchblade knives with blades three inches or shorter for people with one arm. Proponents say legalizing spring-action knives eliminates a need for one-armed people to be forced to open folding knives with their teeth in emergencies. In most states, carrying switchblades is illegal.

Freed from jaws of python
LYONS, Kansas – A woman was charged with harboring a vicious animal after her pet python grabbed onto her neck and would not let go. Chrystal Wilson had taken the eight-foot albino snake from its cage for feeding when it clasped its jaws on the side of her neck. Fortunately, the snake had small teeth rather than sharp fangs. The snake had not wrapped itself around Wilson, however she could not get it off her neck. A child in the house called police. Officer Max Bryant, who came and forced the jaws of the snake apart with his hands was cited later by city council for bravery. "There's not too many guys or women who would grab it by the end of the mouth like that," the police chief said. Wilson received a misdemeanor citation for harboring the snake and was ordered to remove it from her home because it posed a risk to children.

Man trapped in women's prison
HILDESHEIM, Germany – Mayor Henning Blum helped rescue a man who was trapped in a women's prison after mistaking it for a shortcut to a park. The mayor heard cries for help while passing by the prison near the city center and notified police who came and freed the 24-year-old. The man told police he was strolling through town and did not notice he had walked into a prison. By the time it dawned on him, the gate to the jail had closed, locking him inside. Police are investigating why the prison gate was open.

Kiss apple freshens breath
SEOUL, South Korea – Apples have long been known to freshen breath and remove food from teeth. Now the Rural Development Administration is developing a ping-pong ball-sized apple it is calling a kiss apple. Kimchi and other smelly foods can leave South Koreans with bad breath. A small apple kept in a pocket or purse could freshen breath when events bring people together, according to RDA researcher Hwang Hye-sung, who described it as a do-it-yourself bad breath treatment. One question remains: could crunching an apple at the wrong moment break a romantic spell?

Holy bank deposits
UTTAR PRADESH, India – Imagine a bank with no security gates, no locks, no guards, yet with customers' deposits simply stacked on shelves. The Ram Ram Bank pays no interest and makes no loans, but has 5,000 customers. Their deposits are protected from theft by God. The bank's customers scribble Ram, the name of the hero of the Indian epic myth Ramayana, on pieces of paper as many as 100,000 times and deposit them in the bank. Ram Ram Bank accepted scribbles of the name on cigarette packs and old scraps of newspaper until a customer provided notebooks. Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims write the name of Ram in their native languages. Every six months the deposits are moved to a temple in Ayodhya, Ram's birth place.

Holy supermarket
TYROL, Austria – A deacon is making a special offer at local supermarkets – free spiritual guidance and counseling when you pick up your groceries. Austrian deacon Willi Holzhammer sets up his service for shoppers at supermarkets in various towns in the western Alpine province each Saturday. The retired computer specialist has a Facebook site where followers can Ask Willi for advice. "Personal encounters are just another step," Holzhammer says.

Burglar heated by oil vat
ROTTERDAM, New York – Police answering cries for help found a screaming burglar dangling from a ceiling air vent over a hot fat fryer at an upstate New York restaurant. A grease-covered Timothy Cipriani, 46, of Schenectady was pleading for help when he was discovered wedged into the ventilation duct at Paesan's Pizza in the early hours of the morning. "He said he thought he was going to die," said Lt. Michael Brown, spokesman for the police in Rotterdam, New York. Cipriani had climbed a tree to the roof, where he broke into an air duct to enter the restaurant after it closed, police said. He became extremely distraught when he became trapped where the vent opened over the fryer. "The fryer had been used all day, so it may have been generating some heat," Brown said. Cipriani was charged with burglary, criminal mischief and possession of burglary tools and was held in lieu of $20,000 bail at the Schenectady County Jail, police said.

Randy roosters
PRINCETON, New Jersey – Some roosters in New Jersey may not feel love too often as a township plans to limit their conjugal visits with hens. "It's a noise issue," said John Hart, a farmer who helped draft the chicken ordinance in Hopewell Township. The law would limit mating between roosters and hens in backyard farms to 10 days a year and no more than five consecutive nights. Crowing, their mating call, is strictly prohibited. In the morning, roosters wake up the hens and say, 'It's time for me to take care of business,'" Hart said. Hundreds of chickens and roosters reportedly have been living in town under the legal radar. Hart said some people mistakenly think a rooster is needed for a hen to lay eggs, when the rooster is only necessary to fertilize eggs to hatch live chickens.

Frolicking leopard
KHAKASSIA, Russia – Russia's supreme leader has a black-belt in Judo, but lately has been cultivating a softer side as a passionate animal lover. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin broke off from a business trip to Russia's Far East – 2,000 miles east of Moscow – to ride a snow mobile to visit the mascot of the 2014 Winter Olympics. The endangered snow leopard was named "Mongol" by local scientists who rescued it after a harrowing ordeal at the hands of poachers.

Little room to sit
LONDON – A railway company has tackled the problem of overcrowding on its trains by making its seats so narrow that more than half of its passengers cannot fit into them. Unfortunately, many who do sit are left in pain.

Veggie weapon
FRENCHTOWN, Montana – Police say a Montana woman used an unlikely weapon to fend off a charging bear – a zucchini. Missoula County Sheriff's Lt. Rich Maricelli said a 200-pound black bear attacked the woman's 12-year-old collie just after midnight on the back porch of her home. When the woman screamed to draw the bear's attention, it charged her and swiped at her leg. Maricelli said the woman jumped back into the doorway and reached for the nearest object on her kitchen counter – a 12-inch zucchini from her garden. The woman flung the vegetable at the bear, striking it on top of the head and causing it to flee.

Undies money
BOULDER, Colorado – The lawyer for a Colorado man arrested for addressing the Boulder City Council in his boxer shorts said the city agreed to pay $10,000 to settle his civil rights claim. Attorney David Lane said Seth Brigham accepted the deal. In exchange for the payment, Brigham agreed not to file a lawsuit. Brigham had been handcuffed and arrested on suspicion of obstructing police and trespassing after he spoke to the council clad in his underwear. Brigham explained he had been trying to make a point about a proposal to criminalize nudity.

Class to die for
BALTIMORE, Maryland – Call it Zombies 101. The University of Baltimore offered a class on the undead. The course was taught by Arnold Blumberg, the author of a book on zombie movies, "Zombiemania," and the curator of Geppi's Entertainment Museum, which focuses on American pop culture. Students taking English 333 watched 16 classic zombie films and read zombie comics. As an alternative to a final research paper, they could write scripts or draw storyboards for their ideal zombie flicks.

Pulling the wool
WEST CAPE MAY, New Jersey – Someone spun quite a yarn over one New Jersey shore town. An unknown person, dubbed The Midnight Knitter by West Cape May residents, covered tree branches and lamp poles with little sweaters under cover of darkness. Mayor Pam Kaithern said police were looking into the guerrilla crocheting, which technically is against the law because it is being done on public property without permission. The mayor and many residents admitted they were enthralled by the rainbow of colors that popped up.

Governor Elvis
LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas – Elvis Presley was running for Arkansas governor. No, not that Elvis. This Elvis – Elvis D. Presley of Star City – filed papers with the secretary of state's office to run as a write-in candidate for governor. He declined to tell The Associated Press how he got his name, but admitted he is an Elvis impersonator in his spare time.

Unicorn meat?
PORTLAND, Oregon – It's official: The National Pork Board said it knows unicorns don't exist. The industry group said it was only protecting its trademark when it issued a cease-and-desist warning to online retailer ThinkGeek for calling a fake unicorn meat product "the new white meat." The fictional canned meat, described as an "excellent source of sparkles," was an April Fool's prank.

Calling card
HOMESTEAD, Pennsylvania – Police said a man charged with robbing someone outside a Pittsburgh-area Subway restaurant left a pretty detailed calling card: a job application he filled out just before the heist. Police didn't release the name of the suspect charged in the robbery in Homestead. Police said the man applied for a job in the sandwich shop moments before he committed an armed robbery outside the store. Police did not immediately specify who was robbed, or what the suspect allegedly stole.

Battling moms
LIMA, Peru – Forget brunch. Sports promoters in a Peruvian city honor its mothers by inviting them to slip on gloves and head protectors and try to punch each others' lights out. Mothers Day bouts took place in a grassy makeshift ring in Huancayo. Ten women took a day off from farm work to spar in three-round bouts while clad in "polleras," the colorful, embroidered skirts typical of the Andean region. Some were knocked down by powerful blows, but quickly got back up.

Opossum CPR
PUNXSUTAWNEY, Pennsylvania – Police charged a Pennsylvania man with public drunkenness after he was seen trying to resuscitate a dead opossum along a highway. State police in Punxsutawney said several witnesses saw 55-year-old Donald Wolfe near the animal. Police arrested him along the highway, Route 36, about 65 miles northeast of Pittsburgh.

Nice of them to call
FAIRFIELD, Connecticut – Police in Connecticut said they had ample warning of a bank robbery because the two suspects called the bank ahead of time and told an employee to get a bag of money ready. Police arrested 27-year-old Albert Bailey and an unidentified 16-year-old boy on robbery and threatening charges at a People's United Bank branch. Sgt. James Perez said the two Bridgeport residents showed up about 10 minutes after making the call and were met by police in the parking lot. Perez told the Connecticut Post the suspects were "not too bright."

COLUMBIA, Kentucky – A Kentucky sheriff said a claustrophobic deputy lost his job after accidentally locking himself in a jail cell and trying to shoot his way out of it. Adair County Sheriff Ralph Curry told WKYT-TV that no one was hurt when Charles Wright fired his weapon. It happened the first day a new $12.4 million county judicial center opened to the public after more than a year of construction. Curry said the former deputy had claustrophobia and agreed to pay for the damage he did to the cell.

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© 2011 Dr. Anthony Curtis, Mass Communication Dept., University of North Carolina at Pembroke    e-mail    home page