The Odd Truth, April 22, 2004

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

Newman: Not In My Name

PRINCETON - Paul Newman is appealing to Princeton University to end a campus tradition in which participants try to drink one beer an hour for 24 hours.

Newman's Day, set for Saturday, derives its name from an apocryphal quote attributed to the actor: "24 beers in a case, 24 hours in a day. Coincidence? I think not."

Students have been known to show up for class inebriated or with beer poured into coffee mugs.

There's additional concern because the day coincides with a weekend when the university hosts hundreds of prospective students.

Newman's lawyer sent the university a letter calling for the tradition to stop. The actor founded a center to help prevent substance abuse after his 28-year-old son died of an overdose in 1978.

The university says it doesn't not sanction the event.

Blended With Salt, Splash Of Antifreeze

OMAHA, Neb. - A bench trial is under way for an Omaha woman accused of spiking a margarita with antifreeze, then serving it to her former sister-in-law.

Maureen Plambeck is charged with attempted murder. She is accused of using antifreeze in mixing drinks for Kris Cerveny during a two-hour drinking session last August.

Cerveny ended up in a hospital intensive care unit, where she stayed for three days recovering from ingesting four times the lethal limit of antifreeze, prosecutors said.

Plambeck admitted in court Tuesday to putting the antifreeze in Cerveny's drink, but said she only wanted to scare her.

Her attorney, James Martin Davis, asked Douglas County District Judge Gerald Morgan to find Plambeck guilty of the lesser charge of first-degree assault.

"Admittedly, it was a half-baked idea," Davis said. "But the intent was to make her sick, not to kill her."

Plambeck and Cerveny had been struggling over the care of the ailing Tracy Horton, who is Plambeck's brother and Cerveny's ex-husband, Davis said.

Plambeck became Horton's guardian after the couple's divorce and she was concerned that Cerveny had been allowing Horton to drink alcohol - which Cerveny denied, Davis said.

Doctors had told Horton that drinking alcohol could kill him.

Plambeck waived a jury trial.

Quack Dentist Busted In Garage Operation

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - Patients who had dental work done by Jairo Herrera may want to get a second opinion.

Herrera, 60, was arrested Tuesday on charges he ran an unlicensed dental office out of his garage.

Police said Herrera told them he made more than $100,000 last year pulling teeth and making dentures, crowns and implants.

He was charged with practicing dentistry without a license, use of dental equipment by a non-dentist, operating a dental lab without a license and dispensing drugs without a license.

West Palm Beach Detective Lt. Mark Anderson said police found a dental chair, moldings, needles and vials of a local anesthetic as well a lab to make dentures, crowns, bridges and implants in the neatly kept two-door garage.

Police said they weren't sure how long Herrera had been working out his home, but that he used to do dental work in his native Colombia.

Herrera was released Wednesday from the Palm Beach County jail on $3,000 bail.

Charcoal Dog Panties

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - Dogs may no longer be the butt of their owners' jokes, thanks to Frank Morosky.

Morosky, owner of Flat-D Innovations, has developed a product to reduce the odor of flatulence in dogs.

Two years ago, Morosky, who runs the business with his partner, Brian Conant in Hawaii, developed a similar product for people. He said he could only laugh when people first asked if he could make it work for dogs.

"For a year, we said, 'No, that's stupid. Nobody would buy that for a dog,'" Morosky said.

But Morosky changed his mind after a customer asked him to custom make a pair of full underwear using his material. It was during that project that he realized making charcoal-lined panties for dogs might just work.

Morosky has developed two versions that will go on sale later this month. One, similar to a G-string, will sell for about $20. The other, a denim diaper with a detachable charcoal pad inside, will sell for about $50.

Veterinarian David Graeff of Animal Care Hospital, said flatulence is common in dogs, but is not a medical problem.

"I think it would be great if they could find a way to keep them (the diapers) on," said Graeff, adding that many dogs won't wear a bandage without tearing it off.

Graeff said pet owners often jokingly blame their own flatulence on their pets.

"Unfortunately," he said, "the dogs do get blamed for this, no matter what."

Caught In A Coffee Caper

FAIRBANKS, Alaska - It happened in North Pole, Alaska - a man used a video camera to record his apartment being burglarized, apparently by a neighbor's friend intent only on stealing coffee and creamer.

Arnold Reed became suspicious that someone had been pilfering his coffee after his upstairs neighbor said she smelled coffee in her own apartment but knew she didn't have any.

Reed borrowed a video camera and caught Hall's houseguest stealing French vanilla coffee from his freezer and hazelnut coffee creamer from his cupboard.

He told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner that if the guy had just asked he would have given him some coffee.

The videotape showed the thief using a butter knife to gain access into the home. He was jailed on $500 bail.

German Postman Caught Auctioning Stolen Packages

BERLIN - A German postal worker admitted to putting packages up for auction over the Internet after a search of his apartment turned up a hoard of missing deliveries, police said Thursday.

The 37-year-old letter carrier, whose identity wasn't released, started siphoning off packages and offering their contents on online auction site eBay last summer, police said. In all, more than 100 went missing, and police estimated the total value at $23,700.

While the German post office noticed that packages frequently went missing on his round, it was unable to prove anything until a musician whose clarinet mouthpiece went missing in the mail blew the whistle.

After the package failed to arrive, he found an identical item on eBay - offered by the postman, from the western town of Gelsenkirchen. He bought it, but also informed police.

Police found the missing mouthpiece at the apartment of the postman's girlfriend and then searched his own apartment - turning up piles of missing packages.

The man confessed to stealing the mail and was released after questioning, police said.

14th Century Italian Poet's Skull Missing

ROME - Experts hoping to reconstruct the features of Italian poet Petrarch by examining his bones have a problem: The skull in the 14th-century writer's tomb is not his.

Researchers discovered Thursday that a skull in the marble casket believed to hold Petrarch's remains probably belonged to a woman, according to project leader Vito Terribile Wiel Marin. He insisted, however, that the rest of the bones were Petrarch's.

Marin said tests showed the DNA of the skull was different from that of the other bones - and that therefore the head could not be that of the literary great. Marin says physical marks, including a leg injury suffered while riding from Florence to Rome in 1350, confirm the other bones were Petrarch's.

"Don't ask me where the real cranium is, because no one knows where it finished up or who took it," Marin said. "Think of all the craniums in the world - where would we look?"

"Our only hope now is to make an appeal in the hope that someone who is the descendant of the thief might return it anonymously," he said.

Petrarch was born in Tuscany in 1304 and is famed for the poems he dedicated to his mysterious love, Laura. He is considered second only to Dante in the pantheon of Italian writers.

He is widely seen as the founder of humanism, the study of classical civilization that paved the way for the Renaissance.

Marin's team suspected from the shape of the skull that it belonged to a woman, and DNA tests showed this to be 60-70 percent probable, said Marin, speaking by phone from his home in the Padua area.

Petrarch's tomb is in Arqua-Petrarca, the village in northeastern Italy where the poet died in 1374.