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The Odd Truth, April 27, 2004

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

Eyelid Bitten Off, Reattached

NEW ORLEANS - She was home alone, putting her dog in its kennel when it snapped at her and bit her right upper eyelid. Alyssa Kieff pulled back. The lid ripped off.

Kieff, of Marrero, had the presence of mind to put the lid on ice. Then she had to wait an hour for an ambulance - her call was listed just as a dog bite, not a missing eyelid.

An LSU Health Science Center microsurgeon, on call at West Jefferson Medical Center, sewed the lid back on. LSU and renowned microsurgeon Harry Buncke say it was a medical first. It kept Kieff from needing a more complex series of operations to create a new lid.

It took six hours for a team led by Doctor Kamran Khoobehi to sew the lid back together, rebuilding a damaged tear duct and connecting blood vessels with sutures only barely smaller than the capillaries themselves.

Dangerous Snails Rounded Up

MILWAUKEE - They reproduce quickly, destroy plants and can even transmit meningitis.

In other words - they're not what you want in a classroom.

Federal officials have seized several dangerous and illegal pests called Giant African Land Snails from some Wisconsin schools - and have kicked off a nationwide search for more.

The Agriculture Department says some of the snails were used in classrooms by teachers who weren't aware of how dangerous they are.

One school principal says they were "very, cool creatures."

15-Year-Old Fights Off Bear

ANCHORAGE, Alaska - A 15-year-old boy on a wilderness expedition fought off a 400-pound brown bear that came into his tent when he was sleeping.

The boy awoke to find the bear sitting at his feet. After trying unsuccessfully to back out of the tent, the boy was bitten in the forearm and decided to fight back, punching the bear with his left hand a half-dozen times, Alaska State Trooper Adam Benson said Monday.

When the teenager tried to run, the bear bit him again below his ribs, this time leaving a half-dozen puncture wounds on his back, Benson said.

The boy punched the bear again, and again she let him go, but chased him around a nearby stand of trees. He eventually remembered an air horn in his gear, and blew it in the bear's muzzle, waking others in the camp, said Steve Prysunka, director of the six-week "Crossing Wilderness Expeditions for Youth" program for emotionally troubled youths.

Prysunka asked that the boy not be identified.

The bear finally turned and ran after counselors blasted her with pepper spray and fired a flare at her feet, Prysunka said. Later Saturday, following the morning attack, officials found the sow in the campsite area on Deer Island in southeast Alaska and killed her.

The boy was flown out to a hospital, where he was treated, then sent home to Barrow to give his wounds time to heal, Prysunka said.

"I think he is the biggest, baddest thing in the woods. He punched the bear," Prysunka said.

Going To The Chapel, And We're Getting Arrested

BISMARCK, N.D. - A man who was arrested while leaving his wedding ceremony won't be enjoying his honeymoon quite yet. He first has to deal with a warrant for writing bad checks in Montana.

Cory Harmon and Daniella Kuntz, both 24, were married Friday at the Burleigh County Courthouse. Harmon was arrested a short time later when a police officer did a routine driver's license check because he thought a member of the wedding party was a suspect in an ongoing investigation.

It was a case of mistaken identity, but the license check turned up the warrant for Harmon, who said he does not know how many bad checks he wrote or the amounts because he had moved to Bismarck before the warrant was issued.

"I really wasn't happy," Harmon said in a telephone interview Monday from the Burleigh County Jail, where he spent the weekend. "Especially not on my wedding day."

His wife was not thrilled, either.

"I was pretty ticked off because the cops yanked him out of my hands," she said.

The couple returned to the courthouse Monday, where a judge set bond for Harmon at $1,000.

Woman Collects $2.1 M Posing As Hawaiian Princess

CHESTER, Pennsylvania - Is she simply a woman of Hawaiian descent - or a Hawaiian princess who is the heir to a billion dollar estate?

Abigail Roberts says she's both - but the government doesn't believe her. It's suing the suburban Philadelphia woman to get back a $2.1 million tax refund she received. It claims she fooled the IRS by using the social security number of the genuine heiress on her tax form.

The IRS has recovered most of the refund, but is suing to recoup $10,000 that apparently was spent.

Roberts was acquitted in 2001 of alleged tax-refund fraud for receiving more than $34,000 from a trust set up by Hawaiian royalty.

Her attorneys said she was suffering from "irrational insistence upon an identity that is not her own."

Teachers Packing Heat

BANGKOK, Thailand - Thailand has given permission to teachers in the violence-wracked Muslim south to carry guns to school to protect themselves, but the defense minister said Tuesday it was a bad idea.

Gen. Chetta Thanajaro told reporters he is willing to deploy four soldiers in every school in southern Thailand and arrange for teachers to be escorted by troops to and from their homes.

"I think there is no need for teachers to carry guns because they have to spend a lot of money to buy guns," Chetta said, indicating a discord within the government on how to deal with the continuing violence in the south.

On Monday, Interior Minister Bhokin Bhalakula ordered provincial governors to give teachers licenses to buy guns if they want to even though it would mean bringing firearms into the classrooms when the region's 925 schools reopen May 17 after two months of summer holiday.

More than 70 people have been killed in the three southern provinces of Narathiwat, Yala and Pattani this year in attacks blamed on Islamic separatists.

Teachers, who are mostly Thai-speaking Buddhists, have been prime targets of the militants along with monks, policemen and village headmen. Also, dozens of schools, which are usually located away from villages, have been set on fire.

Pairat Wihakarat, the president of a teachers' union in the three provinces, said more than 1,700 teachers have already asked for transfers to safer areas. Those who are willing to stay want to carry guns to protect themselves, he said.

The three provinces are the only Muslim majority areas in predominantly Buddhist Thailand. Muslims there have long complained of discrimination in jobs and education.