Lighting a Fire Under Your Rear End ... Literally

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Japan's leading toilet maker, Toto Ltd., is offering free repairs for 180,000 bidet toilets after wiring problems caused several to catch fire, the company said Monday, according to the Associated Press.

The electric bidet accessory of Toto's Z series caught fire in three separate incidents between March 2006 and March 2007, according to company spokeswoman Emi Tanaka. The bidet sent up smoke in 26 other incidents, the company said.

"Fortunately, nobody was using the toilets when the fire broke out and there were no injuries," Tanaka said. "The fire would have been just under your buttocks."

The company will repair 180,000 toilet units manufactured between May 1996 and December 2001 for free, she said. A manufacturing defect is thought to have led to the faulty wiring.

Toto has been a pioneer in high-tech toilets fitted with pressurized water sprayers — a standard fixture in Japanese homes.

The popular Z series features a pulsating massage spray, a power dryer, built-in-the-bowl deodorizing filter, the "Tornado Wash" flush and a lid that opens and closes automatically. Prices range from $1,680 to $2,600.

The model is not sold overseas.

When You Gotta Go ...

CAPE CORAL, Fla. (AP) — A woman arrested for shoplifting has blamed the crime on irritable bowel syndrome, authorities said.

Helen Gallo, 61, of Clearwater, was arrested Sunday after allegedly shoplifting from a Cape Coral grocery store, The Daily Breeze of Cape Coral reported.

Gallo reportedly told authorities that she could not wait in line because she has irritable bowel syndrome, according to the newspaper.

Gallo was charged with petit larceny and released Sunday from the Lee County jail on $500 bond.

Nobody Wants the Popemobile

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A 1999 metallic gray Volkswagen Golf believed to once belong to the pope went up for sale on eBay, but the auction ended Saturday without a winner.

For the second time in two years, eBay hosted an auction for a car said to be Pope Benedict XVI's old hatchback. Though bids surpassed $204,000, a reserve price wasn't met.

The car's owner, a Texas-based online casino,, bought the car in 2005 on eBay from a German man. The casino had posted two German automobile registration documents that list "Josef Kardinal Ratzinger" as the vehicle's previous owner.

A spokeswoman for eBay, Catherine Fisher, said she did not know what the seller's minimum price was. A message left with was not immediately returned Saturday evening.

The online auction site said it had verified the car was owned by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger before he ascended to the papacy. The seller said it would give 40 percent of the proceeds of the sale to charity.

You Can Take the Couple Out of New York ...

PHOENIX (AP) — A retired New York couple who hailed a taxi for their 2,500-mile move to northern Arizona arrived with their two cats at their destination on Monday.

Neither Betty nor Bob Matas drive and they wanted to spare their cats, Pretty Face and Cleopatra, a trip on an airplane to their retirement home about 90 miles north of Phoenix.

They left the couple's Queens neighborhood April 10 in Douglas Guldeniz's canary-colored Ford SUV cab and traveled about 10 hours a day for a $3,000 flat rate plus gas, meals and lodging. The SUV is a hybrid-electric vehicle, which helped lessen the cost of fuel.

"It was pretty tiring, for my wife especially," said Bob Matas, 72, a former audio and video engineer for advertising agencies. "We're happy where we are. We're happy and that's it."

Matas said he was "flabbergasted" by the attention surrounding the couple's trip. Passers-by recognized them when they saw the New York cab, he said.

"Every state that we hit, people would say 'Are you the ones?' and we would say 'Yes, we are the ones,'" Matas said.

The Sedona mayor welcomed the couple at a noontime ceremony Monday, presenting them with a bag of Sedona souvenirs. Their real estate agent presented them with the keys to their new home in the Village of Oak Creek, a community just south of Sedona.

The couple will stay at a hotel for a few days until all their belongings can be moved into their house. A friend followed the cab in a rental truck carrying the couple's possessions.

Buy Milk, Go to Dry Cleaner, Rob Bank

NORTON SHORES, Mich. (AP) — A suspected bank robber took a cab to and from an afternoon heist and rounded out his day running errands, including visiting an elementary school, before being caught, police said.

Randy Benka, 55, who has previous robbery convictions in New York City, was charged with bank robbery and faces up to life in prison if convicted. He was being held at the Muskegon County Jail on a $500,000 bond.

Police told The Muskegon Chronicle that the robbery happened in Norton Shores on Thursday afternoon. The suspect left the bank in the same cab that had delivered him, police said.

At some point, the suspect "actually told the cab driver he robbed the bank," Norton Shores Police Lt. Tim LaVigne said. "The cab driver thought he was joking."

Near Holland, police said the suspect gave the driver money and ordered him to purchase a cell phone. Police said he then went to elementary school where he claimed he daughter attended, saying he wanted to give her money.

Benka was arrested Thursday night at a mobile home park, police said.

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