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The Odd Truth, April 28, 2004

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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.

Lulu The Valiant 'Roo

CANBERRA, Australia - A kangaroo will receive a valor award for rescuing a farmer who was knocked unconscious by a falling tree limb, Australia's national animal protection society said Wednesday.

Lulu, a 4-year-old eastern gray kangaroo, raised the alarm after Len Richards was knocked cold in September on his cattle ranch about 100 miles east of Melbourne.

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) Australia will present Lulu with the Australian Animal Valor Award next month.

"It's the first time a native animal has ever received the award," said Jenny Hodges, the society's executive officer. "Certainly the vast majority of recipients have been dogs."

Japan Mourns Chickens Lost

TOKYO - Dressed in a black suit and tie, a man asked the roomful of mourners to bow their heads. For a minute, they stood and faced the brightly lit altar in silence.

On a stage, piled in a pyramid and surrounded by white daisies and lilies sat the dead: dozens of eggs in clear plastic cartons.

Arranged by the Agriculture Ministry and the poultry industry, Wednesday's solemn ceremony at a Tokyo hotel honored hundreds of thousands of chickens slaughtered since a deadly bird flu was discovered here in January.

"We want to express our regret to chickens for having to kill them, while also giving thanks to them for providing us with food," said Hideyuki Shimada, a director at the Japan Poultry Association. "I don't know how chickens feel about it, but humans should show appreciation."

The ceremony was nonreligious, though it featured an altar and flowers commonly found at religious funeral rites in Japan. Mostly, it demonstrated a quirky side to the Japanese fondness for rituals and marked what poultry producers hope will be a steady recovery in chicken and egg sales.

Since emerging late last year, avian influenza has ravaged flocks across Asia and killed at least 24 people in Vietnam and Thailand. To stem the disease, authorities destroyed about 100 million chickens, ducks and other birds and temporarily quarantined farmers. No new infections have been reported for weeks.

There was nothing deliberately humorous about the chicken funeral services.

Caught On Tape

CHARLOTTE AMALIE, U.S. Virgin Islands - A supermarket employee who forgot there were surveillance cameras in the store, loaded a small company safe onto a hand truck and left with it, police said Tuesday.

Jerome James, 20, had finished his shift at the Schooner Market in St. Croix on Sunday evening when the robbery took place, police spokesman Sgt. Thomas Hannah said.

When the supermarket's owner opened the store Monday morning, she reviewed security tapes showing James putting the safe in a black bag and hauling it out, Hannah said.

Police said they arrested James at his home near the store when he confessed to taking the safe, removing $3,794 in cash from it and hiding it in brush.

James had worked at the market sporadically for two years as an inventory clerk, the owner told investigators, and knew there were security cameras there, Hannah said.

He was charged with grand larceny and remanded to jail when he couldn't post $50,000 bail at an advice of rights hearing. James has not yet entered a plea.

If convicted, he faces a maximum 15 years in prison.

Castro Crank-Calling DJs Could Be Fined $4000

MIAMI - A radio station that crank-called Cuban President Fidel Castro and broadcast the recording should be fined $4,000, the Federal Communications Commission said.

The Spanish-speaking hosts of "The Morning High Jinks" used snippets of an earlier prank involving Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to move the call from a receptionist up the chain to Castro in a five-minute broadcast June 17.

The hosts of the show on WXDJ-FM, Joe Ferrero and Enrique Santos, fed pleasantries to Castro before breaking in and calling him an assassin. The conversation ended after Castro denounced the callers with a stream of vulgarities.

The FCC concluded Friday that the station should be fined for the broadcast. It rejected the station's claim that a rule requiring people to be notified before their voices are used does not apply to people in Cuba.

Payment of the fine or a request for cancellation or reduction is required within 30 days.

It was unclear whether the station had been fined for the prank involving Chavez five months before.

There was no answer at the station's business line Saturday, and a call to the station's Washington attorney was not immediately returned.

Police Handcuff 97-Year-Old Woman Over Parking Ticket

HIGHLAND PARK, Texas - Police say they had no choice but to go by the book when they handcuffed a 97-year-old woman and took her to jail for failing to pay a traffic ticket.

Harriette Kelton was arrested last week after officers stopped her for having an expired registration and inspection sticker and realized there was a warrant for her arrest for failing to pay a traffic ticket.

Kelton, a former schoolteacher who has lived in the Dallas suburb for decades, was in police custody for about two hours before her attorney arrived and she was released on her own recognizance.

"Our real beef with this is that no real judgment was displayed or actually carried out in this incident," said Kelton's son Dr. Phil Kelton Jr., a plastic reconstructive surgeon with Baylor University Medical Center.

But police spokesman Detective Randy Millican said the officers had no choice but to arrest Kelton's mother.

"A warrant begins with the words 'You are hereby commanded to arrest,"' Millican said. "How do you decide who do you arrest and who you don't? How about at age 90 but not at 91 and up? How about between 17 and 20?"

Phil Kelton Jr. said his mother lives alone, cooks her own meals, goes out to lunch regularly and is involved in the community. She has good eyesight, he said.

"All of our enthusiasm should be tempered with judgment, and therein lies my problem with this, and basically Mother's problem with it, too," he said.

Her other son, David, is a state district judge. He said it would be inappropriate for him to discuss the arrest.

Dog Outfitted With Artificial Legs

ANN ARBOR, Mich. - A dog named Footsie can now run, walk, sit and frolic - on a pair of new legs.

Until recently, the six-year-old shepherd mix was missing the lower halves of his hind paws. He used to have to tuck his back legs under his backside and scoot with his front paws.

But two specialists in Ann Arbor, Michigan, spent nearly a year working for free to construct artificial limbs for Footsie.

Steve Hoover and Kenneth Woodard have more than 30 years combined experience working with humans, but this was the first time they worked with an animal.

They say it was a tough project, but it paid off.

The dog's owner, Helen DePinto, says when Footsie tried on the new limbs, it was a "home run."