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The Odd Truth, April 7, 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.

Elk Lodge Bandits Busted

FAIRFIELD, Iowa - A report of a pounding noise from a field in the middle of the night led police to two men trying to crack open a safe stolen from the Fairfield Elks Lodge, authorities said.

Neal Ehrhardt Connelly, 20, and Martin Michael Box, 21, were arrested Monday on felony burglary charges. Police said they found the pair with a hammer, a pry bar and a flashlight.

Someone called police saying they heard pounding in an open field near a preschool.

"Had the person who heard the noise not called us, they probably would have gotten away with it," said police Lt. Julie Harvey.

Police recovered several thousand dollars.

You've Come A Long Way, Baby

POUGHKEEPSIE, N.Y. - Happy birthday System/360. IBM unveiled its revolutionary mainframe computer 40 years ago today. The geek set rates the System/360 as one of the most influential computer rollouts ever. It incorporated the novel idea that businesses could use one computer to run different types of software - for everything from reservations to rocket science. It was dubbed the 360 because of its all-around compatibility. The main processing unit was the size of two refrigerators placed front to back. But the 360 was puny in computing power compared to today's laptops. Prices on a 360 system ranged up to $5.5 million.

Pot-Growing Priest On Probation

AKRON, Ohio - A pot-growing priest is on probation. The Reverend Richard Arko has pleaded guilty to two counts of illegal cultivation of marijuana. He's been sentenced to two years probation. He also must perform 100 hours of community service and submit to random drug testing. Police say they found 35 pot plants growing in the rectory of the Prince of Peace Roman Catholic Church, near Akron, Ohio. Arko told the judge he believes in the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes - and looks forward to the day when it will be legalized. Arko says he probably won't continue as a priest, but adds he still wants to serve others.

Smooth Move, Mr. President

EL DORADO, Ark. - President Bush has a penchant for dishing out good-natured insults, and usually the victim laughs along. But Sammie Briery didn't seem much amused when Bush fired one at her Tuesday.

Bush was wrapping up a town hall-style appearance at South Arkansas Community College when he let the jest fly. It was a mother joke, a blonde joke and an insult all in one.

"You and my mother go to the same hair-dye person," Bush said to Briery, whose blondish bob bore little resemblance to Barbara Bush's shock of white hair.

The audience in the gymnasium laughed, and Briery smiled, but replied firmly: "President Bush, I'm a natural blonde."

"Oh, yes," Bush agreed.

"I'm just a natural blonde," she repeated.

"I couldn't help myself, sorry," Bush shrugged.

With that, Bush moved quickly to end the session. He turned to Bob Watson, superintendent of the El Dorado Public Schools - who had opened the meeting by inadvertently insulting Bush.

"Governor - excuse me, President," Watson said.

Bush muttered, "How quickly they forget."

When Watson offered to shake Bush's hand, the president shot back: "Just don't hug me."

Naked Sushi Sparks Chinese Outcry

BEIJING - A restaurant in China's southwest has been ordered to take its newest dish off the menu: sushi served on the naked bodies of two young women.

The Japanese restaurant in Kunming held a trial banquet of its "feast on a beauty's body" on Friday, prompting a public outcry, the Xinhua News Agency and newspapers reported.

The event was banned this week before anyone had ordered the dinner, the newspaper China Daily reported on its Web site. It was priced at $120 per person - the equivalent of two months' income for the average Chinese person.

Some Kunming residents "were indignant, claiming it is humiliating to women," the China Daily said. "But others were curious and tempted to have a try."

Managers of the Yamato Wind Village said they were "introducing special Japanese food culture" to China, according to Xinhua. It said the two women were recent university graduates who worked as models.

Authorities banned the event on the grounds that the women "who acted as dishes," in Xinhua's words, lacked required health certificates for restaurant employees and were improperly dressed.

A photo on the China Daily site showed a woman covered with leaves and flowers and lying on a table. A woman in a kimono stood over her holding a piece of sushi with chopsticks.

Aww, What A Nice Car Thief

SYDNEY, Australia - A distraught woman used cell phone text messages to persuade a repentant thief to return her stolen car, a newspaper reported Wednesday.

Lee Alaban, 34, of Port Macquarie had her Holden Commodore sedan stolen while she was at work on March 30, The Daily Telegraph newspaper reported.

Her 13-year-old son's cell phone was in the car, so Alaban sent text messages to the thief. She explained that the car was a gift from her father shortly before he died and that presents for her son's birthday, which was on the following day, were in its trunk.

"We exchanged a number of text messages," Alaban told the newspaper. "He started apologizing and I felt I was getting through. Next thing, I got this text saying he will return the car."

The thief wrote another text message telling her where to find the car, which he abandoned in a parking lot - but not before stealing the cell phone and the birthday presents.

Alaban was so pleased to get her car back, she even sent a final tongue-in-cheek text.

"If I ever lock myself out of my car, I'll send you a message," she wrote.

Texas GOP Candidate Caught Cross-Dressing

FORT WORTH, Texas - A candidate for the Texas House rejected calls to withdraw from the race after photos of him in women's clothing began circulating.

Sam Walls, 64, said he will not give in to "blackmail" from opponents who are trying to use "very old, personal information" to force him out of the race.

"Now my opponent is using the private information in an attempt to intimate that I am a homosexual, which I am not," Walls said in a statement Monday.

Walls, a Republican, is competing in an April 13 primary runoff against real estate broker Rob Orr.

Orr political consultant Lee Woods denied involvement. He said Orr's campaign staff learned of the photos and alerted Republican leaders.

As a leading businessman and former party chairman, Walls once seemed the favorite to win. But GOP leaders urged him to withdraw when the pictures surfaced last week in two communities near Fort Worth.

The photos were apparently obtained by a company that repossessed a mobile home registered to Walls, according to court records.

He said his family had "dealt with" the issue, and he apologized to supporters for any embarrassment caused by "a small part of my personal past."

Turkmenistan President Opposes Gold Teeth

ASHGABAT, Turkmenistan - President Saparmurat Niyazov, whose tight control of Turkmenistan extends to citizens' appearances, said Tuesday young people should not get gold tooth caps.

In a televised address at an agricultural academy, Niyazov took note of the gold teeth of the female student who welcomed him.

"Don't take offense, your gold teeth are very beautiful, but you, young people, look much better with white teeth," he said, exhorting them to take better care of their teeth, according to the Interfax news agency.

"I watched dogs when I was young. They were given bones to gnaw ... Those of you whose teeth have fallen out did not gnaw on bones. This is my advice," he said.

Niyazov prefers to be known as "Turkmenbashi," or Father of All Turkmen. In February, he called on authorities to crack down on young men wearing beards or long hair

Last year, he suggested girls should wear braids and traditional Turkmen hats, and it immediately became a rule for all women studying in secondary and high schools.

Niyazov has banned all opposition and controls all branches of government and the media. Golden statues and busts of the president are scattered across the country, and his portrait is on every banknote and coin.

His book "Rukhnama" (Book of the Soul) is held up as equal in importance to the Quran and children at schools are obliged to start their days by studying it.

Cookie Thief Nabbed Answering The Phone

RIVERDALE, Utah - An alleged cookie-snatching burglar just couldn't help answering the phone at the victim's home - twice.

Police Detective Kevin Fuller said a 23-year-old Roy man broke into a Riverdale home Friday afternoon, and is suspected of stealing a power drill and cookies.

The man's undoing came when he answered the phone when it rang.

The caller, the homeowner's daughter, immediately hung up and called her mother to tell her someone was in the house.

Then her mother called, and the man not only answered again but identified himself as the man she kicked out of the house the previous night.

Police, who took the man into custody as he was walking in the neighborhood, did not know why he was asked to leave the house on Thursday.

Fuller said the suspect admitted stealing the drill, but "he maintains he bought the cookies and left them there from the day before."