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The Odd Truth, April 13, 2004

The Odd Truth is a collection of strange but factual news stories from around the world compiled by's Brian Bernbaum.

Cell Phone Explodes

HONG KONG - A mobile phone exploded Tuesday and slightly injured the man who had been talking into it, local broadcasters reported.

The man was standing in line at a bank when the phone mysteriously blew up, Commercial Radio and television ATV reported.

ATV showed footage of phone pieces laying on the floor of the bank lobby, with police gathered around the scene.

"I was just calling my boss to say I would be returning to work a few minutes late, and when I pressed the button to hang up, the phone was suddenly flying everywhere," the man told ATV.

The broadcast reports gave no indication about how it could have exploded, but many similar accidents have been attributed to faulty or counterfeit batteries.

The man, who was not identified, said he was only slightly hurt, with some slivers of telephone parts getting into his eye and scraping his hand. He said he bought the phone secondhand.

Police did not immediately answer when The Associated Press rang seeking comment.

Air Marshal Leaves Gun In Bathroom

CLEVELAND - A federal air marshal accidentally left her gun in a restroom at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, an airport spokeswoman said Friday.

A passenger found the semiautomatic handgun Thursday and notified an airport employee. The employee then told airport police, who secured the weapon, said the spokeswoman, Pat Smith.

"They later found it belonged to a federal air marshal who apparently was using the restroom and put it up on the shelf while she was washing her hands and forgot about it," Smith said.

Dave Adams, a spokesman for the federal Air Marshal Service, said the marshal, whose name was not released, probably would be suspended.

"The air marshal realized within five minutes that she had lost her weapon, went back to the police department and it was subsequently returned to her," Adams said. "Obviously, we are very concerned about the situation."

There were no delays or other disruptions at the airport.

Night Monkey Undergoes Cataract Surgery

BUFFALO, N.Y. - For a noctural animal that lives high in the treetops, being able to see is no small matter.

So on Monday, a monkey at the Buffalo Zoo underwent double cataract surgery to restore part of his vision.

Phantom, a 4-year-old douroucouli, got the vision back in one eye after Dr. Kimberly Stanz replaced the damaged lens with an artificial one. There was too much scar tissue in the other eye to attach a new lens.

By midafternoon, Phantom was back in the zoo's rain forest display, shaking off his sedative and able to see for the first time in months.

It is unknown why the animal developed cataracts last fall. Zoo veterinarian Frank Ridgley said that because Cajun, a sister of Phantom, also had cataracts and underwent the same surgery several years ago, "it's probably a genetic predisposition."

Restoring the animal's sight will allow its future transfer to another zoo as part of the global species protection program.

Nocturnal douroucoulis, also known as night monkeys, are endangered in Panama because of severe habitat loss, so it is up to zoos to replenish the population through breeding programs.

Phantom is one of six douroucoulis living at the zoo. The animals, 22 to 30 inches long, including tail, and weighing 1.3 to 2.2 pounds, are native to South America.

Dead Man Running

JAKARTA, Indonesia - A candidate in last week's legislative elections in Indonesia won nearly 800 votes despite having died three months ago, poll officials said.

"It's a bit ridiculous," said Andi Mappinawang, an election committee member in south Sulawesi province where the mix-up occurred. "Maybe the voters didn't know that he had died."

Mirdin Kasim died in February, shortly after the deadline for printing ballot papers had passed, Mappinawang said Tuesday. It was impossible to inform all the people in the region of his death, he said.

Kasim was one of 33 candidates contesting the south Sulawesi seat on April 5 in the regional representatives council, a newly created body that will sit in Jakarta.

Don't Mess With Mister Cranky Pants

SYDNEY, Australia - Would you upset an alligator named Mister Cranky Pants? Some thieves chanced it, but apparently soon regretted it.

The four-year-old gator was stolen from a reptile park north of Sydney, Australia, during the weekend. But the zoo said Monday the thieves may have underestimated his moodiness and let him go. The animal later was recovered in a nearby creek.

A zoo official put it this way: "Mr. Cranky Pants is a cranky pants, he gets moody, and so they probably messed with the wrong alligator and dumped him."

Mister Cranky Pants will undergo a quick medical check before he is reunited with his family.

How's Cranky doing? The official says "You can tell with alligators by their eyes whether they're stressed or not stressed, and he looks glad to be back."

Nude Intrusion Looms

VANCOUVER, British Columbia - Beach bums here could receive far too much exposure if a proposed pair of high-rise dorms are built on the cliffs above a world-famous nude beach.

If the University of British Columbia builds the 20-story residences, binoculars and Web cameras will soon be trained on Wreck Beach, ruining beachgoers' privacy, Wreck Beach Preservation Society protesters said.

"It's mean for the university to do," said Stephanie Gibson, 12, who has been raised in the buff on the beach. "I know they need more residences for the students, but they have to think of us."

University Vice President Dennis Pavlich said Monday that the university will keep the group's concerns in mind when designing the buildings.

"All that's been approved so far is the concept," he said. "We are going to run our own tests in June and they will influence design considerations."