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The Odd Truth, Aug. 13, 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.

No Funny Business In San Jose

SAN JOSE, California - The U.S. Catholic Church's drive for greater transparency after a raft of damaging sex scandals is being taken literally by one California bishop.

He has ordered church confessionals to be equipped with see-through windows.

Bishop Patrick J. McGrath of the Diocese of San Jose ordered windows or glass doors put into confessionals and counseling rooms "to have the perception match the fact that people are safe" with church priests, Vicar General Francis Cilia said.

"This still allows for privacy, it still allows for inaudible confession, the secrecy of what goes on. It just makes it a bit more open. We think it's the prudent thing to do," Cilia said.

McGrath's order will affect hundreds of confessionals and counseling rooms in the diocese's 52 churches and missions, mandating that they be equipped with see-through glass within a year.

Cilia said "old-style" confessionals, in which the priest and the penitent are in adjoining chambers separated by a screen, would not be affected. (Reuters)

Toilet Humor

RIVERVIEW, New Brunswick - Potty training turned traumatic for a Canadian tot - when the toilet bit back. Firefighters in Riverview, New Brunswick, had to smash the bowl with a hammer to free two-and-a-half-year-old Aidin Richard. The boy's arm was caught in the toilet trap when he stuck his hand in the hole at the bottom of the bowl. The toilet was new and wasn't hooked up yet. His mother called for help when she found Aidin stuck in the john past this elbow. (AP)

Horsing Around Lands Dad In Court

ROME - An outraged Italian mother has gone to court after her husband furtively named their newborn son after a prize-winning horse.

Before his wife was out of hospital, the man went to the records office in the small southern town of Boscotrecase to register his son as Varenne Giampaolo.

Varenne is a seven-year-old horse considered the greatest trotter in history and Giampaolo is his jockey's name.

"He said his wife agreed," an official at the records office told Reuters.

Varenne is, after all, no ordinary horse. The dark brown racer is a national hero in Italy where he was awarded the title of athlete of the year in 2001.

But when the mother discovered she couldn't change the baby's name to Christian, she went to court.

"She just wouldn't accept that the name isn't embarrassing or insulting," the official said. The court's ruling is pending. (Reuters)

Bar Owner Gets Viking Funeral

TRAVERSE CITY, Michigan - There was a bit of viking in bar owner Arne Shield. Now, Shield has gotten his final wish -- a viking burial at sea. The Traverse City, Michigan, businessman was sent to his final resting-place on a flaming papier-mache boat. The burning craft was set adrift on Lake Michigan at dusk, while his family and friends said their farewells. Shield's remains had already been cremated and his ashes were on the model viking ship. His daughter Betty Carden says Shields loved the water. (AP)

Hot Seat In The City

MIAMI - City officials are in the hot seat - literally.

Mayor Manny Diaz and others are working to fix new black steel benches at city bus stops, which have proven to be too hot to sit on in the summer sun.

"I've sat on a bench myself and it's uncomfortably warm even with a pair of pants on," Assistant City Manager Frank Rollason said Monday.

About 150 of the 1,500 new benches have already been installed in the city, replacing older ones made of cement and wood.

Rollason said city planners discussed the potential problem in meetings and that he did not know why it was initially ignored. No more benches will be installed until the problem is resolved, he said.

Sarmiento Advertising Group was awarded the contract in January to produce the new seats. Sarmiento CEO Alberto Waisman has said his company will pay to refit benches.

The solution could be a plastic coating that would insulate the benches, Rollason and Waisman said.

Rollason said he wanted to test a bench with the coating before approving the plan. (AP)

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