The Odd Truth, May 12, 2003

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The Odd Truth is a collection of strange but factual news stories from around the world compiled by CBSNews.com's Brian Bernbaum. A new collection of stories is published each weekday. On weekends, you can read a week's worth of The Odd Truth.

When Perfume Attacks!

STUART, Fla. - A woman was arrested for dousing herself with perfume, spraying the house with bug killer and disinfectant, and burning scented candles in an attempt to seriously injure her chemically sensitive husband, prosecutors said.

Police charged Lynda Taylor, 36, with aggravated battery Thursday.

David Taylor, 46, is disabled due to allergies that resulted from exposure to toxaic mold and hazardous chemicals as a construction worker, his doctors say. That exposure netted him $150,000 in a recent workers compensation settlement.

The fragrant incident occurred on April 4 during a conversation the couple were having about separating after three years of marriage. Taylor told investigators that his wife became enraged when he refused to give her half of his settlement.

"Lynda came in the kitchen wearing perfume and applied some to (her daughter). Then went around the house spraying Lysol and even sprayed some in my face," David Taylor wrote in his complaint.

Magicians' Careers Disappear

SAO PAULO, Brazil - Magicians claiming they nearly went broke after a television program aired the secrets of their trade have won a legal fight against Brazil's largest television network.

TV Globo must pay damages to 21 magicians in the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul because of a program that revealed how magicians perform such tricks as pulling rabbits out of hats and sawing women in half, Judge Eduardo Kothe Werlang ruled recently.

The show featured Leonard Montano, an American magician known as "Mister M" who always hid his identity with a scary black mask and was not named as a defendant in the lawsuit.

Paulo Roberto Brito Martins, one of the magicians who sued, has performed as "Uncle Tony the Magician" for three decades, estimated he lost $518,000 since 1999 because many people lost interest in magic after learning how the tricks were performed.

His show on a local television station was dropped, many clients stopped contracting him for shows at parties and theaters and business slumped at his magic store in Porto Alegre, a city about 540 miles south of Sao Paulo.

Lizard Head Found In Salad

CORALVILLE, Iowa - There's good news about a lizard head found in an Iowa woman's salad. It's tested negative for salmonella.

The lizard head was found earlier this month in a carry-out salad from a restaurant in eastern Iowa.

The Johnson County Public Health Department says preliminary results showed no presence of the bacteria that causes food poisoning. Final results are expected tomorrow.

A University of Iowa dentistry professor filed a complaint with the health department, saying his wife discovered the lizard head in a Santa Fe Chicken Salad she bought at an Applebee's restaurant.

He says she was "upset" and probably won't be eating Santa Fe salads anytime soon.

Applebee's parent company has issued a statement apologizing for what it calls an isolated incident.

The statement says the restaurant is now using pre-cut, pre-cleaned lettuce for its salads.

Lawyer Wants To Ban Oreo Cookies

SAN FRANCISCO - A San Francisco attorney wants to outlaw the sale of Oreo cookies to children — because they contain something called trans fat.

It's the trans fat that makes the cookie crisp and the cream filling creamy.

And that's just the problem, according to lawyer Stephen Joseph. He sued last week in Marin County Superior Court after reading about the dangers of trans fat in newspaper stories.

The suit asks the court to order Kraft Foods, the parent of cookie maker Nabisco, to stop selling Oreos to California's children because they are made with the fat.

The fat is in about 40 percent of the food on grocery shelves. A branch of the National Academy of Sciences said last summer that trans fat is directly tied to heart disease and artery-clogging cholesterol.

Nabisco officials have 30 days from the May 5th filing date to respond.

Thai Official Trapped In Malfunctioning Car

BANGKOK - While on the way to an important speech, Thailand's finance minister got locked inside his luxury car Monday because of an onboard computer malfunction and had to signal someone to smash a window for him to crawl out.

"It was pretty bad because nothing worked, everything was locked," a shaken Finance Minister Suchart Jaovisidha told reporters.

Suchart said he was on his way to give a speech to central bank officials from 17 countries when his ministry-assigned BMW car stalled on a road, not far from his house.

The engine stopped, the air conditioning shut down, the doors got locked and the windows wouldn't roll down, he said, adding that he was trapped for about 10 minutes.

"We couldn't breath because there was no air," he said.

Suchart and his driver waved at passers-by to draw attention to their plight, but it took a while to make them understand that they wanted the windows smashed.

Finally, a guard of a nearby building came to their rescue with a sledgehammer and broke a window. Suchart then climbed out of the car through the hole.

Klingon Translator Sought For Mental Health Patients

PORTLAND, Ore. - Star Trek fans fluent in Klingon take note — there's a job opening in Oregon for you.

The fictional language of the popular TV and movie science fiction series is one of about 55 languages needed by the office that treats mental health patients in metropolitan Multnomah County.

"We have to provide information in all the languages our clients speak," said Jerry Jelusich, a procurement specialist for the county Department of Human Services, which serves about 60,000 mental health clients.

County research has shown that Klingon has gone from being a fictional tongue to what many people — and not just fans — consider a complete language, with its own grammar, syntax and vocabulary.

If a patient speaks only Klingon, the county is obligated to respond with a Klingon interpreter. So officials have decided to include it with about 55 languages, some of which, such as Russian and Vietnamese, are widely spoken, and some, such as Dari and Tongan, are seldom spoken.

The county's purchasing administrator, Franna Hathaway, greeted the request to include Klingon with skepticism.

But, she said, "There are some cases where we've had mental health patients where this was all they would speak."

Accidental Boat Theft

KENOSHA, Wis. - The only time Ed Nedweski Jr. ever brought his 12-foot aluminum boat to his tire shop to work on it in his spare time, it disappeared.

Then, as he gave his statement to the police, a stranger appeared in the shop and asked, "Do you have a trailer and boat for free?"

"No, not me," Nedweski replied.

But the stranger persisted, showing Nedweski an advertisement that appeared in the Kenosha News.

A neighboring business at the same address had placed the ad offering two free boats and trailers. Someone mistook Nedweski's business for the business that placed the ad and took the wrong boat.

"For a while I thought somebody was just pulling a joke on me putting an ad in the paper," Nedweski said. "I just couldn't believe the coincidence."

Hours later, the man who took the boat returned it after a friend told him police cars were at the tire shop, Nedweski said. The man had assumed it was the boat advertised.

"It was just a big, gigantic mistake," Nedweski said. "I can't believe what went down."

Legendary Lake Monster "Memphre" Spotted

NEWPORT CITY, Vt. - A local historian says she saw the Lake Memphremagog monster this month.

Newport resident Barbara Malloy said she saw the creature, known to some as Memphre, May 1 in the 30-mile-long lake shared by Vermont and Quebec.

Malloy said she has seen the monster before — first in the waters off Horseneck Island and again north of the island in 1983.

This time, Malloy said she saw a jet black hump bob up and down and disappear in the water.

Memphre is believed to look somewhat like a plesiosaur, a water-living dinosaur of the Jurassic period, brown or black in color, with four fins or paddle-like feet, an elongated roundish body and a long neck. It ranges from 6 to 50 feet long. Popular artwork shows the skin color as green.

On Jan. 21, 1847, an eyewitness reported this: "I am not aware whether it is generally known that a strange animal something of a sea serpent ... exists in Lake Memphremagog."

According to historical accounts, American Indians told the first Europeans that there was something in the lake.

There have been attempts to photograph Memphre. Malloy took pictures in 1989, but they show only a dark object sticking out of the water and making a wake. One recent photograph turned out to be a moose swimming across the lake.

Big Marshmallows Avoid Candy Tax

ALBANY, N.Y. - The taxman isn't able to get his hand on marshmallows — at least not in New York State. The administration of Governor George Pataki is extending the tax-free status of big marshmallows. Up until five years ago, big marshmallows were taxed as candy. But mini-marshmallows and Marshmallow Fluff were considered food and not subject to sales tax. The tax-free status of marshmallows has to be reviewed every five years under state law. It's a sticky situation.