Next Step: Tomacco 

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Curses, Foiled Again
Clayton Dial, 23, pulled a gun and demanded cash at a Japanese restaurant in Champaign, Ill., only to have Chef Tetsuji Miwa thwart the robbery. "I instantly grabbed my sushi knife, walked up to him, wrapped my arm around his shoulder and asked him what he wanted," Miwa said. "He saw the blade, got scared and started running." Miwa and two co-workers wrestled him to the ground, and assistant manager Joe Pendzialek said he grabbed a stool "and cracked him over the head with it," before calling police. (Champaign's The News-Gazette)

• John Balmer, 50, was arrested at a Kmart store in Hudson, Fla., while wearing a T-shirt that read, "Who needs drugs?" Below that, it said, "No, seriously, I have drugs." When a sheriff's deputy entered the store, Balmer tried to hand a "bag of green leafy substance" to the person behind him, officers reported, but the person wouldn't take the bag, which deputies retrieved and said contained marijuana and methamphetamine. (Tampa Bay Times)

Blessing in Disguise
After Charlene Ross, 75, was accidentally shot in the neck with a "birdshot" pellet by her husband in Medina, Ohio, doctors treating her discovered she had an irregular heartbeat. They transferred her to an Akron hospital to have a pacemaker inserted. (The Medina Gazette)

• Internal Revenue Service Commissioner John Koskinen warned that budget cuts could delay tax refunds, even for people who file electronically, but he added that fewer agents would be available to audit returns. Congress cut this year's IRS budget by $346 million, leaving it with only $10.9 billion. (Associated Press)

Pledge Drive
After Bill Kelly earned $600,955 as executive director of public broadcasting station WVIA-TV in Scranton, Pa., he proposed a new position: raising money for the station's new endowment fund. The board of directors agreed and notified its 15,000 station members, anticipating they would welcome the station's continuing its ties with Kelly, an employee of 40 years. Instead, 6,300 members dropped out. About 2,300 of them specifically cited excessive executive compensation as the reason. The organization's 22 board members cut ties with Kelly by donating $291,878 of their own money to buy out his contract. (Scranton's The Times-Tribune)

Researchers Conclude More Funding Needed
A year after Colorado legalized marijuana, a panel of doctors studying the health effects of marijuana and how people are using it concluded that the $8 million the state earmarked for its research isn't enough. "We don't have the answers yet," said Mike Van Dyke of the state Department of Public Health and Environment, who heads the panel. Among the topics needing investigation: the health effects on pot-smoking skiers. (Associated Press)

One Step Below a Corporation
An Argentine court ruled that a 29-year-old orangutan held by a Buenos Aires zoo is a "non-human person" unlawfully deprived of its freedom, paving the way for her to be transferred to a sanctuary. The decision came after the Association of Officials and Lawyers for Animal Rights filed a habeas corpus petition claiming the ape had sufficient cognitive skills and should not be treated as an object. Adrian Sestelo, the zoo's head of biology, responded that to claim an animal "suffers abuse, is stressed or depressed, is to make one of man's most common mistakes, which is to humanize animal behavior." (Reuters)

Rescue Follies
John Arwood, 31, and Amber Campbell, 25, told police who found them in a closet at Florida's Daytona State College that they had spent two days locked in the closet before calling 911 to be rescued. Officers tracked the phone's location and simply opened the door, which they said had been unlocked the entire time. (Orlando Sentinel)

Special Delivery
Police arrested Paul Bennett, 45, for trying to have sex with a mailbox at a shopping arcade outside Manchester, England. A witness spotted Bennett approaching the mailbox with his pants down and making "sexual advances towards it." He then rubbed himself against it while holding his hands in the air and shouting "wow." After completing the act, he pulled up his pants and started swinging on a lamppost. The witness called police, who found Bennett again exposing himself. (Britain's Manchester Evening News)

• When Rob Dorzek, 29, called 911 to report he and three friends had been boating on Ontario's Lake Wanapitei after dark and crashed into a small island, the dispatcher delayed alerting rescuers for an hour while she tried to figure out their location, despite being sent a map that pinpointed it using GPS. During this time, the dispatcher instructed Dorzek to start a signal fire. Dorzek told her he couldn't because he was holding his girlfriend to keep her from slipping into the water. After the dispatcher insisted the fire was the only way to direct rescuers, Dorzek used a boat cushion to start one. It quickly spread to the underbrush and then to the boat hull, which ignited, killing one of the four. A rescue boat was finally launched after the crew, which didn't know of the 911 call, spotted the fire and arrived in eight minutes. Another man and Dorzek's girlfriend died from injuries. An internal report by the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care commended the dispatcher who handled the call. (The Toronto Star)

Next Step: Tomacco
SuperNaturals Grafted Vegetables introduced seeds for "Ketchup'n'Fries," a hybrid plant consisting of thin-skinned white potatoes attached to a vine of red cherry tomatoes, aimed at home gardeners with limited growing space. Also known as TomTato, it was created by Britain's Thompson & Morgan and previously available only in Europe. (New York Daily News)

Holiday Follies
Arkansas lawmakers rejected a proposal to remove Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from the state holiday honoring the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Arkansas is one of three states that jointly celebrate the two men on the third Monday in January. The proposal designated Nov. 30 as a state memorial day honoring Lee and Confederate Gen. Patrick Cleburne and would have repealed June 3 as a state memorial day honoring Confederate President Jefferson Davis. (Associated Press)

Smart Phones, Dumb People
Hong Kong authorities caught a man trying to smuggle 94 iPhones, worth more than $48,000 on the black market, into mainland China by strapping the devices to his body. The man's luggage contained no contraband, but customs officials noticed him walking with a "stiff posture." When he set off a metal detector, they searched him and found the phones taped to his chest, abdomen, thighs, calves and groin. (International Business Times)

Compiled from the press reports by Roland Sweet. Authentication on demand.

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