It's never too early in the year to catch up on some unusual news stories and the past few months have had more than their fair share of such tales. Today let's travel around the world and take a look at some of the strange, bizarre and downright stupid things that have happened lately.

We don't have to travel very far for our first news story. About 30 miles down the road in Bethlehem it's advisable to make sure you pay any gratuities attached to your bill in local restaurants or you may find yourself visiting lockup. Two college students learned the hard way at the Lehigh Pub in Bethlehem when they had a less than good time and decided the lousy service wasn't worthy of a tip. The problem? The pub automatically adds an 18 percent gratuity. When Leslie Pope and John Wagner saw the $16.35 tip on their $73 bill, they refused to pay it. According to an item on the Philadelphia Inquirer website, Pope said, "You can't give us terrible, terrible service and expect a tip."

Pope said they had to find their own utensils, get their own refills and waited over an hour for appetizers. When they paid the bill but not the gratuity, the bar called the police who treated it as a theft. Personally, if a restaurant is going to mandate the payment of gratuities, then they better deliver on their end of the bargain. Why pay for shoddy service? Shame on Lehigh Pub and the Bethlehem Police for such a stupid waste of taxpayer money. Lehigh Pub should be apologizing to the couple for lousy service.

Cold weather isn't the only thing heading to Florida this weekend. Apparently stupidity is making the southern circuit also. Marathon, Florida resident Steven Alan Locasio learned that kidnapping doesn't always land the kidnapper in jail. Sometimes it lands the person being asked to pay the ransom. Budding farmer Locasio found his alleged crop of marijuana missing earlier this week.

In its place was a ransom note, "Thanks for the grow. You want them back? Call for the price" and a phone number. They must have been prized plants because Locasio called the number, arranged a $200 ransom and when he showed up at the drop he found himself under arrest by the kidnappers who happened to be deputies from the Monroe County sheriff's office.

Fortunately Massachusetts resident Stanley Dudek didn't have to deal with morons like Locasio or the Bethlehem Police when he returned a library book that was 99 years overdue. Yes, that is not a typo. Dudek's mother passed away in 1999 and he was going through some of her things a few weeks ago when he came across a library book she checked out that was due back on May 10, 1910. The fine in those days was a penny a day and the total bill was $361.35. The library decided not to hold Dudek responsible for the fine. What was the book? "Facts I Ought to Know About the Government of My Country" No wonder the country is messed up. Mrs. Dudek had been holding back information Teddy and the rest should have read.

Back to Florida for Frank Singleton who managed to be released from prison only to end up back there before he left the parking lot. How? Frank's first ill-conceived decision was to steal a car from the prison parking lot because walking was too hard. His second decision was to make sure the car had a stick shift that he didn't know how to drive. After a less-than-exciting slow speed chase, Frank ended up back home in jail. He supposedly told the police he stole the car because "he didn't feel like walking." I wonder if pot farmer Steven is Frank's roomie.

Let's travel across the seas to Italy where a Sicilian man decided he would rather spend his New Year's Eve in prison rather than with his wife and her relatives. He went to the local police station to turn himself in but was refused when the cops said he had not committed a crime. He decided to remedy that little detail by going next door to a smoke shop and threaten the owner with a box cutter before stealing a pack of gum. He waited for the police to arrive and arrest him for robbery. Too bad he wasn't in Bethlehem, he could have bought a beer and refused to pay the 36 cent tip.

What knowledge can we divine from these stories to carry forward into 2010? First, if you live in Bethlehem and want to avoid your relatives don't pay your tip at the Lehigh Pub. Second, if you find a ransom note in your garden, you may want to rethink what you are growing there and who might have stolen it. Third, spend some time learning how to drive a stick if you want to be a car thief. Otherwise grow a thicker skin so when the cops laugh at you, you can handle it.