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Australian arson investigators accused Erich Alexander Sarger of setting fire to his television repair shop, then hiring Shane Long to burn down Sarger’s hairdressing salon. Prosecutor Kate Youngson told Brisbane District Court that Sarger paid Long $300, but Long failed on three separate occasions to ignite a blaze. On the fourth try, he brought a Molotov cocktail to do the job but ended up setting himself on fire.

Authorities in San Mateo County, Calif., said that after Daniel Zeiszler, 22, smoked methamphetamine, he tried to extract the drug from his own urine. The experiment ended when he spilled some solvent on himself, then lit a cigarette to ponder his predicament, which worsened when the solvent ignited, burning Zeiszler’s right hand and arm. “The methodology this guy used would work,” San Mateo County prosecutor said after Zeiszler received five months in prison for manufacturing methamphetamine, “but it would take bottles and bottles of urine, not one void of a bladder.

Police in Memphis, Tenn., arrested Jessica Sandy Booth, 18, after they said that she tried to hire a hit man to help her rob and kill four men whom she had seen with a big block of cocaine. The hit man turned out to be an undercover police officer. The cocaine turned out to be a big block of white cheese.

Delusions of the Week

Clayton Edward Butsch of Lake Stevens, Wash., received 50 years in prison for murdering a sleeping man because Butsch’s cat wouldn’t go near him. Butsch explained that the cat was the reincarnation of a kitten he had baked to death in an oven 10 years ago and thus could show him who was evil and who was good.

An Iowa judge ruled that a former security guard couldn’t be denied unemployment benefits just because he claimed to see ghosts. Neighborhood Patrol of Urbandale fired Wade Gallegos five hours after he alerted his supervisor that the ghosts were haunting a neighborhood he was guarding. The company found no evidence of drugs or alcohol. Judge G. Ken Renegar decided that even though “such beliefs do render the claimant unfit to act as a security guard,” seeing ghosts does not constitute misconduct sufficient to disqualify Gallegos from receiving benefits.

Working the System

Some Dutch firms have discovered that they can earn money by overpaying their taxes. Dutch Finance Minister Gerrit Zalm complained that because the Dutch Treasury pays 5 percent interest on any excess amount paid that it returns later, some firms gladly accept a tax estimate that is too high. Pointing out that the overpayment does reduce the amount of money the government needs to borrow, Zalm said, “The 3.25 percent that we save this way doesn’t outweigh the 5 percent we have to pay.

Bust Boosters

Chinese lingerie company Top Form, which makes more than 60 million bras a year for Victoria’s Secret, Playtex and Maidenform labels, is seeking new ways to pad its bras. The company tried air- and oil-filled padding, but the air leaked and the oil was too heavy and expensive. The Wall Street Journal reported that Top Form’s latest effort is fiberfill, the stuffing used in ski parkas.

Japanese underwear maker Triumph International introduced its Warm Biz Bra, which it declared will help office workers cut down on heating this winter during the government’s campaign to conserve energy in government offices and private businesses. The bra is lined with a layer of insulation, has removable gel pads that can be heated in a microwave or hot water and features long, furry straps that wrap around the neck like a scarf. “Warm Biz lets you add a little fun and chic to office wear,” Triumph said in a statement, “and prevents global warming.

Authorities in Sarasota County, Fla., charged Jill Knispel, 35, with stealing a rare greenwing parrot, which she traded for a vintage 1964 Volkswagen Karmann Ghia. The Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission was alerted by the car’s sellers after Knispel bragged to them that she had made off with the $2,000 bird by hiding it in her bra. The sellers turned out to be close friends of the parrot’s rightful owner.

Literal Performance

While Tony-winning actress Sutton Foster was rehearsing a number called “I’m an Accident Waiting to Happen,” she accidentally fell and broke her arm. “I wasn’t even dancing,” Foster said. “I was just stepping backward, and my feet went forward, and I fell backward and caught myself with my hands.” Foster, who was rehearsing for the musical The Drowsy Chaperone in Los Angeles, said the show would go on but without such stunts as a dive roll through a hoop, cartwheels and complicated lifts that the script called for.

Literacy’s Curse

Sheriff’s investigators in Douglas County, Colo., blamed the death of a bicyclist on a 17-year-old driver who struck the cyclist after losing control of his car. “We do not believe it was an intentional act, but it was inattentiveness to the roadway,” Lt. Alan Stanton said. “The investigation showed that he was text-messaging on his cell phone.

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