Dateline: Iraq—Agence France-Presse is reporting that the Iraqi port city of Basra, already embroiled by a nasty turf war between rival militia factions, is now gripped by rumors of giant badgers stalking the streets at night and eating humans. Local farmers who have caught and killed several of the beasts claim the animals were released into the area by hostile British forces. Mushtaq Abdul-Mahdi, director of Basra’s veterinary hospital, has inspected the corpses of several badgers and has tried to assure locals that the animals are not postwar arrivals to the region. “The animals appeared before the fall of the regime. They are known as Al-Ghirayri and locally as Al-Girta.” he told AFP. “Talk that this animal was brought by the British forces is incorrect and unscientific.” British army spokesperson Maj. David Gell said the animals—believed to be a kind of honey badger—“are native but rare in Iraq. They’re nocturnal carnivores with a fearsome reputation, but they don’t stalk humans and carry them back to their lair.”
Dateline: Texas—A Houston woman by the name of Syvette Wimberly is suing a former high school classmate named Lara Madden over Madden’s professional porn star name—which, none too coincidentally, happens to be Syvette Wimberly. Wimberly and Madden met in ninth grade at Kingwood High School, located in a planned suburb just north of Houston. According to the lawsuit, the two “were friends but eventually that friendship ended due to conflict.” Madden, 25, began her adult-film career in 2005 and has appeared in more than a dozen titles, including Young Cheerleader Swap ’n’ Swallow 2, using Wimberly’s name. As a result, the lawsuit claims, Madden and film distributor Vivid Entertainment Group have inflicted “humiliation, embarrassment, loss of enjoyment of life, emotional distress, mental anguish and anxiety.” Caj Boatright, attorney for the real Syvette Wimberly, said her client became aware of Madden’s stage name when friends and acquaintances started contacting her asking about her career in pornography. Kent Schaffer, Madden’s attorney, said his client chose the name simply because she liked the sound of it. “There is no bad blood between them,” Schaffer insisted. Wimberly’s lawsuit, filed June 26 in Harris County District Court, seeks unspecified damages.
Dateline: Florida—He might want to think about a new line of work. A man making his way from Puerto Rico to South Florida to raise money for his religious education was hospitalized last week after being struck down by a bolt of lightning which flew out of the clear blue sky on Sunday. Hailu Kidane Marian was working with members of his church group, selling religious materials door-to-door in a Northwest Miami-Dade neighborhood, when the bolt from the blue struck him down. “I heard a boom, and I looked and the guy jumped back, and he just laid there, stiff,” witness Maria Martinez told CBS affiliate WFOR-4. Paramedics at the scene say Marian was not breathing and his heart was not beating when they arrived. They were able to rush him to nearby Jackson Memorial Hospital, where he was listed in critical condition. “He’s unconscious, he’s in a coma,” said Francisco Perez, leader of the Puerto Rico-based group. “It’s difficult what happened, you know, but what can we do? Things happen in life, but we still believe in God.”
Dateline: New Hampshire—Investigators say 49-year-old James Coldwell robbed the Citizens Bank in Manchester last Saturday morning while disguised as a tree. Video surveillance of the robbery shows a thin white man leaving the bank with a pile of tree branches duct-taped to his shirt and head. “I think he was hoping the disguise would camouflage him long enough that no one would recognize who he was,” Capt. Dick Tracy told the New Hampshire Union Leader. Unfortunately, the man’s short, dark hair and large mustache were visible through the leaves. After the surveillance footage was broadcast on local news, several anonymous callers phoned police to identify Coldwell as the arboreal bank robber. Police have recovered most, if not all, of the $1,000 stolen from the bank and have charged Coldwell with one count of robbery.
Dateline: Washington—The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports that police Chief Gil Kerlikowske and shift commander Lt. Kenneth Hicks were making a last-shift tour of Seattle’s historic Pioneer Square early Sunday morning when the two senior officers were called upon to break up a sidewalk fight between a bar patron and a man dressed as an eagle. The officers watched as a 30-year-old Seattle man shoved the eagle to the curb and then stomped on the costumed man’s back while the eagle’s costumed confederate—a man dressed as a beaver—looked on. Four patrol officers eventually rushed to the scene, at the corner of First Avenue South and South Washington Street, and secured the three men. None was injured, and all were later released without citations. Apparently, several mascots from Northwest universities had been at Pioneer Square earlier on Saturday afternoon for a competition during the annual Fire Festival. Police Department spokesperson Debra Brown told the P.I. that when she spoke with Kerlikowske earlier this week, he described the incident as “bizarre.”