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The Odd Truth, Aug 12, 2002

The Odd Truth is a collection of strange but factual news stories from around the world compiled by CBSNews.com's Brian Bernbaum. A new collection of stories is published each weekday. On weekends, you can read a week's worth of The Odd Truth.

Girl Scouts In Demo Derby

TOLEDO, Ohio - Thin Mints are coming to the demolition derby. Girl Scouts in Toledo, Ohio, are doing something a little different this summer. Their scout camp is outfitting a '74 Chevrolet Impala to run in a demolition derby.

The car is being decorated with pictures of all the Girl Scout cookies. The girls are also learning how to do everything from changing the oil to changing a tire. Veteran racer Jeff Baldwin is convinced. He won last year's derby using the scout's first car. It was Baldwin's first victory in ten years of demolition derbies.

A Cop Named Cocaine? You Make The Call

EL PASO, Texas (AP) — A police officer's name nearly cost her her job. The problem was the way El Paso officer Christine Lynn O'Kane's name appeared on her identification tag and e-mails: C. O'KANE.

"When you put it together, it spells 'cocaine,'" said police spokesman Al Velarde.

O'Kane resigned from the El Paso Police Department on April 6, 2000, to take care of her ailing mother, the El Paso Times reported. She had a good service record, and her work file included a recommendation that she be reinstated if she reapplied in the future.

But when O'Kane reapplied with the department months later, she found it no longer supported her reinstatement. Police management cited the "inappropriate" use of her name as the basis for their denial.

O'Kane had been using "C. O'Kane" in e-mails including a goodbye message to co-workers she sent in April 2000.

"In reading the (e-mail) header, it is clear that the intention was to refer to the drug cocaine," states an April 2, 2001, e-mail from Assistant Police Chief Richard Wiles to the department's personnel director.

It later continues: "It placed the department in a position of being subjected to public ridicule and disrespect."

O'Kane appealed her case to the Civil Service Commission on May 24, 2001, and the commission supported her position. She was rehired in September 2001 and now works as a police officer in El Paso's Lower Valley.

Since being rehired, O'Kane switched to her maiden name, Whitaker.

Goatsucker Eligible For Unemployment

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina - Argentina's bankrupt government is notorious for writing checks to workers who never show up, but eyebrows were raised when an imaginary "goatsucker" showed up on payroll recently.

Registered as "goatsucker, male, born in 1900," the mythological figure blamed for animal maulings throughout Latin America is eligible to receive unemployment benefits of about $42 per month, local media reports said.

"It could be in doubt whether he deserves the money or not, but he is registered as a real person with an identity number and everything," a systems analyst said.

Officials blamed the error on a technical glitch and said the goatsucker would be eliminated from the benefits list as quickly as possible.

Excessive government spending and corruption are cited as the root causes of Argentina's worst-ever economic crisis, which has left more than 21 percent of the workforce without jobs.

The government said the goatsucker never collected his checks. (Reuters)

Rome Cracks Down On Fountain Swimmers

ROME - Life in Rome isn't so sweet after all. A new urban code approved by city officials this weekend imposes stiff fines for fountain swimmers like Anita Ekberg in Federico Fellini's "La Dolce Vita."

The diva would have to cough up 500 euros ($500) for the pleasure of splashing around in the famed Trevi fountain in today's Rome.

Under the new list of regulations, many of which are extensions from the previous code, bathers in non-historic fountains will be fined a mere 100 euros, Corriere della Sera reported on Sunday.

Bathers aren't the only problem at the Trevi fountain. A homeless man who has long made his living fishing coins out of the Renaissance masterpiece was arrested last week for theft. A mother and son team was nabbed when they attempted it.

Rome residents can also be slapped with fines for hanging their laundry out to dry in the open.

If You Think Rome Is Tough...

RIYADH - Saudi Arabia has flogged 12 teenage boys in public after charging them with harassing women at a park designated for families in the conservative Muslim kingdom, al-Eqtisadiah newspaper reported on Sunday.

It said the youths were given 15 lashes each inside the park for "flirting and bothering families" after scaling the walls of the enclosure in the resort city of Taif.

Saudi Arabia's strict implementation of Islamic sharia law bans unrelated men and women from mixing before marriage. Women are also required to cover up in public.

Punishment in the kingdom includes beheading for murder, rape and drug smuggling, stoning for adultery and flogging for relatively minor crimes including alcohol consumption. (Reuters)

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