John Stevenson of Inverclyde, Scotland, hit a bump in his plans to vacation in the United States on Dec. 3 when his visa was denied after he declared himself a terrorist while filling out a Department of Homeland Security online form commonly known as ESTA. One of the questions on the form asks, “Are you a terrorist?” Stevenson, 70, told The Independent that the website “must have jumped from No to Yes without me knowing,” adding that the site kept timing out and crashing as he and his wife, Marion, tried to answer the questions. “I even called the border control in the U.S. and gave them my passport details,” he said. “They looked up my ESTA number and said, ‘You’re a terrorist.’ The only time I’ve been in court was for jury service. Marion is sick about it… I don’t know why that question is on the form in the first place.” (UPDATE: United Airlines refunded the Stevensons’ airline tickets and gifted them two free flights to New York once their visa troubles are all worked out.)
ARMED AND CLUMSY
A shopper at a Buckeye, Arizona, Walmart was in the meat department on Nov. 27 when his semiautomatic handgun, which he had positioned for a quick draw in the waistband of his sweatpants, began to slip. As he tried to reposition it, he told Buckeye police, it discharged, striking the gunslinger in his privacies. AZCentral reported the unnamed shopper was taken to the hospital with minor injuries, and no one else was hurt. However, police did file a charge of unlawful discharge of a firearm.
The animal rights group PETA launched a new campaign Dec. 4 designed to remove some common animal-related idioms from the English language. CBS News reports the group tweeted suggested alterations to phrases it says are verbal vestiges of “speciesism” and perpetuate harmful messages. PETA offers these alternatives: For “bring home the bacon,” try “bring home the bagels.” “Take the bull by the horns” should be “take the flower by the thorns.” And “kill two birds with one stone” morphs into “feed two birds with one scone.” PETA likened the use of the original phrases to racist and homophobic language: “Phrases that trivialize cruelty to animals will vanish as more people begin to appreciate animals for who they are.” Reaction on social media was swift. Maybe PETA should have let sleeping bags lie.
LEAST COMPETENT CRIMINALS
A successful heist at an electronics retail store requires careful planning and attention to detail – a fact that appears to have escaped three men in North Raleigh, North Carolina, on Nov. 12. That night, the News and Observer reported, an employee of the store called 911 to report that three men had entered the store with semi-automatic weapons and ordered workers into the stockroom. One of them was carrying a cardboard box, officers learned, which he used to load up mobile phones and smart watches. The men also filled two crates with merchandise, which totaled more than $26,000. When the robbers left through the back door, they took the crates with them, but forgot the cardboard box which, serendipitously, sported a shipping label with an address on it. Police used the address, along with a mug shot from a previous crime that matched an image in the store’s surveillance video, to track down Brian Lamonte Clark, 22, and arrest him for robbery with a dangerous weapon and conspiracy to commit robbery.
The Lucardo Escape Rooms in Manchester, England, were the site of a misguided break-in on Nov. 29 when two thieves ransacked a fake bank vault as if it were the real thing. The Manchester Evening News reported that more than 50 surveillance cameras captured the duo’s antics as they broke into fake safes and opened drawers that held only puzzles. “They must be Manchester’s stupidest burglars,” said Lucardo director Ian Pownall, 26. The business lost about 100 pounds in cash, but damage amounted to about 1,000 pounds – not to mention lost revenue while the business cleans up. “We’re a small, family-owned business, so even a couple of thousand pounds will have an effect on us, particularly before Christmas,” Pownall said.
At the Grand Slam of Darts in Wolverhampton, England, there was more in the air than just the sharp projectiles tossed by competitors on Nov. 16. According to Reuters, former two-time champion Gary Anderson, 47, from Scotland, prevailed over Wesley Harms, 34, from the Netherlands to reach the quarter finals, but Harms had a gripe: He said he was affected by the “fragrant smell” Anderson had emitted as they played. “It’ll take me two nights to lose this smell from my nose,” Harms told a Dutch television station. Anderson objected, saying the smell came “from the table side,” laying the blame on spectators. “If the boy thinks I’ve farted he’s 1,010 percent wrong,” Anderson declared. “If somebody has done that they need to see a doctor… He says it was me, but I would admit it.”
Shanetta Yvette Wilson, 37, was standing in line at a Dollar General store in Dania Beach, Florida, on Nov. 25 when the urge struck and she let one rip. John Walker, who was standing nearby, was offended and complained about “the defendant farting loudly,” according to the resulting Broward Sheriff’s office complaint, so Wilson pulled out a small folding knife, opened it and threatened to “gut” Walker as she moved toward him. The Miami Herald reported that police called to the scene tracked down Wilson and charged her with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon without intent to kill.