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Since 1994, this is the 1052nd issue of Randy Cassingham’s...

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10 August 2014: Repeating ThemesCopyright ©2014

Sometimes the Solution Comes to You: An undercover officer was watching an area of St. Petersburg, Fla., because of reports of teens trying to open parked car doors in the area. The officer saw three teens allegedly trying the doors of several cars — including his, while he was sitting inside. The teens, boys and girls ranging in age from 13 to 15, were arrested and charged with possession of burglary tools and vehicle burglary. The group allegedly admitted to other burglariesin the area, and are suspected in several more. (MS/Tampa Bay Times) ...Knock, and the door will open. If not, try the handle.

Darwin Wins Another Round: Eric Zyzanski, 31, had some friends over and was grilling on his apartment deck in Evanston, Ill. He was showing his guests, which included his girlfriend, his shotgun, and they “became alarmed and told him to put it away,” police say. To reassure them that it was safe, he “ejected 2-3 rounds” from the gun, and held it up to his head, “told his friends it was empty and pulled the trigger.” When police arrived, Zyzanski was“on the floor with a shotgun wound to his head.” He was dead. (RC/Evanston Review) ...Q: Is the gun empty? A: You bet your life.


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Darwin II: Darnell Mitchell, 28, Mark Ramiro, and an unnamed third man were making a video in the basement of a home in Westport, Md., at 4:00 a.m. Mitchell donned a bulletproof vest to “test” it on-camera. He looked into the lens and the video recorded him saying he was ready for a “deuce-deuce in the chest” — a .22 caliber bullet. Ramiro, police say, then fired the gun at Mitchell, but missed the vest, and hit Mitchell. The video ends with Ramiro andthe third man rushing to his aid. The two took Mitchell to a hospital, but it was too late: he was dead. Detectives who were investigating the shooting scene found the video camera, and got a warrant to see what was on it. Once police saw the video, Ramiro was charged with murder. (RC/Baltimore Sun) ...He’s ready for a deuce-deuce — 22 years in prison.

Human Kindness Is Overflowing: Israel Lopez, 50, and Adam Hines, 36, had a job to do: clean out a house in Spring Hill, Fla., that no one was living in. They noticed an awful odor and blamed dead rodents; they thought what was hanging in the garage was a mannequin. So they cut it down, and they loaded it into a pickup truck like the garbage they thought it was. In fact, it was the body of former tenant Jeremy Allen Witfoth, 33. Officials are investigating, but it seems he hangedhimself. Lopez and Hines weren’t charged for treating him like garbage. The local sheriff says most people haven’t seen corpses except just after death or in a funeral home, and Lopez and Hines didn’t recognize what they were seeing. (AC/Tampa Bay Times) ...People often kill themselves thinking no one sees their pain. But usually people at least see that they’re dead.

I Wonder If They Have Coverage for That?
Huge Geico Insurance Banner Falls on Fremont Home
KNTV San Jose (Calif.) headline

Did You Find an Error? Check the Errata Page for updates.

This Week’s Contributors: MS-Mike Straw, AC-Alexander Cohen, RC-Randy Cassingham.

Author’s Note: You may know — from the subject line date, if nothing else — that the This is True stories are written on Sundays. (And of course you knew that not all stories are meant to be humorous!) The editorial below was written early Monday afternoon, and was first published in the Premium edition late Monday afternoon ...minutes before news broke that comedian Robin Williams had committed suicide. Theirony of the timing is palpable, especially considering the several coincidences discussed.

This Week’s Headline sounds kind of familiar, doesn’t it? Back in Issue #1040 (18 May) there was a story about a plane towing an insurance banner crashing into a house — the plane, that is, not the banner, which the pilot cut loose as he was going down. The “weird” part is the house he hit in Northglenn, Colo., outside of Denver, turned out to be the pilot’s former house, which was damaged by thecrash-caused fire. In that case, the insurance company involved was also Geico. I’m starting to think they might want to rethink their advertising methods.

But wait, there’s more: when I pulled up #1040 to get those details, I noticed that the story immediately above it was about friends hanging out late at night, deciding to (yes!) have one guy don a “bulletproof vest” so another guy could shoot him. That time, too, the bullet missed the “bulletproof” part of the vest and killed its wearer. “Weird death” stories are a True staple all the way back to the very first issue, but this week isa bit heavy with them, by chance.

Alexander wanted to add something to the one he did (the last story, where workers thought the body from a suicide was a mannequin). “One reason people who are contemplating killing themselves sometimes feel that no one sees their pain is that they don’t know whom they can safely talk to. To help solve that problem, I’ve created a Facebook page I call Your Life Is Worth an Hour. That page is a promise I’vemade to all my Facebook friends — one I hope you’ll make to yours by joining the page — that if they’re ever contemplating suicide, they can talk to you first. For my friends, I make it clear that I’ll try to understand where they are, I’ll try to help them see the value in their lives, and I’ll honor their privacy and their right to their own decision. I know that last part may be hard for some people to commit to, but the fear of being hospitalized isone reason people don’t talk, and I want to take away that fear.” If you want to make such a pledge to your friends, “Like” that page and share that pledge with them. Again, that is Alexander Cohen’s Facebook project, not mine nor This is True’s.

I Have Not Been Called on to “talk someone out” of suicide, but a shocking number of readers have said that This is True itself convinced them not to do it. For example, I ran a story about a high-profile suicide seven years ago with a specific purpose in mind: “To get people to think. But let me be more specific: I find it constructive to ridicule suicide since it is, in fact, aridiculous way to escape what are often fairly petty problems, rather than facing up to them and helping to clean up the mess they’re in (or caused)” (as in the case of that particular story, which is on that linked page). I went on, adding that “frankly, I think it’s worth it to criticize [suicide], even mockingly, so that others might think a bit more clearly when considering such a choice. Saying ‘Awww, that’s really too bad. I can sure understand why hedid it’ may sound like a nice thing to say, but it validates and thus encourages suicide. And I just will not do that. I’d rather be on the side of depreciating such a choice, maybe prompting those in a pickle to take another look at their options, and maybe make a different decision.”

But it was controversial not just because I did that, but because of coincidental timing: the story came out right after the Virginia Tech shooting that April. Still, readers mostly agreed that it was an effective way to make the point. Most importantly, “CT” wrote in the comments on that page that the story and my editorial about it talked him out of suicide. (Actually, I don’t know CT’s gender: I kept them so anonymous when I posted the comment that I can’teven tell, or even get back to them.) Then “Cathy” weighed in too: “I don’t know why exactly I just made myself sit down and just sit and allow myself to calm down, but I did. I suspect that reading that story reminded me that suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. I was able to remind myself that I had gotten though things much worse and survived. I have several medical conditions, one of which is eventually fatal, though hopefully not for a long time.My life isn’t easy right now. But I have hope that it will get better so long as I don’t end it.”

So, Are Such Stories “Entertaining”? Well, no, not particularly, even if some of them have amusing aspects to them. But they are quite thought-provoking, and if it jars people a little to help them realize that their life matters and is worth at least “an hour” to their friends, maybe they can come up with a better solution to their problems. If so, and I have seen proof again and again that it is so, then I think such stories are well worthincluding in True’s story mix. As I also said on that page, “No one approach will work for all. Walking on eggshells so as to never offend people will also result in suicides.” The idea is to provide talking points, and such stories from real life provide them.

This is True Absolutely Needs Your Support! You can bet a hard-hitting editorial like the above will offend some. If you aren’t offended by being provoked to think about important issues, if you want reading that’s both fun and interesting, then you need to step forward and help make it happen! Even if you don’t want the more complete edition, you can make a contribution to This is True, pick up any of our books (electronic or paper), or help in other ways (many of which don’t require opening your wallet).

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The Latest Posting to Jumbo Joke: Cat Haikus.

Ten Years Ago in True: Man leads police on an especially dangerous chase because he didn’t want to be caught after stealing ...what?! Throw the Book at Him.


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(Well, Maybe the Air You Breathe?)

This Week’s Honorary Unsubscribe goes to Jesse Steinfeld. A doctor, Steinfeld was one of the first to officially recognize the dangers of “second-hand smoke” ...while also being in a position to actually do something about it.

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