Some odd news for hard times

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By James Roberts

Let's face it. The news is pretty bleak right now. Recession is almost always the headline of the day. So, with all of downbeat stuff going on, it's reassuring to know that there are still some people out there doing things that bring much-needed chuckles to us news hounds.

We all know the joke about the Maytag repairman with nothing to do. Apparently, that is not just a sales pitch.

Nevada appliance storeowner Darin Jerome French has been charged with 36 counts of wire fraud for submitting false repair claims.

From 2006 to 2007, French had a contract with Maytag to make service calls for appliances under warranty. Seems those Maytags didn't break down as often as French might have thought. Police say he copied serial numbers from washers and dryers at various retail stores and then submitted false repair and mileage claims, many of which were in excess of $10,000.

Maytag says about $353,000 of French's claims in 2006 were false. The company stopped paying him in 2007 when the false claims were discovered.

In Sydney, Australia, environmental protection officials are dealing with an unexpected consequence of their efforts.

Efforts to clean up the beaches and to curb fishing have led to clearer water and more fish, meaning sharks are now chasing more fish closer to shore.

Sydney's beaches recently saw two shark attacks in two days. Neither of the attacks was fatal.

Experts say that efforts to clean up the oceans and cut back on commercial fishing may be helping sharks thrive in Australian waters.

But here in America, it's a different story. Shark attacks are down. The reason? The recession.

Americans are finding less money in their pockets and are naturally spending less as a result. Fewer families are taking to the beaches for vacations, University of Florida researchers theorize.

In 2008, shark attacks on people dropped to the lowest level in five years.

There were 59 attacks last year and 71 in 2007.

As the recession continues, we could see a rise in crime. But as these next couple of criminals show, police may not have their work cut out for them.

Pensacola, Fla. police arrested a 37-year-old burglary suspect last week after the man's pants fell down to his ankles and tripped him.

Police say the man had smashed through the door of a convenience store, grabbed several packs of cigarettes and fled on foot. However, not wanting to drop his loot, the man was unable to hold up his pants and ended up tripping before he made it out of the parking lot.

Maybe he should have stolen a belt.

Also in Florida, police arrested a 23-year-old man who allegedly robbed a gas station. Unfortunately for him, he ran out of gas while making his getaway.