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The Odd Truth, Aug. 22, 2002

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

Death Takes A Holiday

LE LAVANDOU, France - The mayor of a French Mediterranean town, faced with a cemetery "full to bursting," has banned local residents from dying until he can find somewhere else to bury them.

Gil Bernardi, mayor of Le Lavandou on the coast 15 miles west of Saint Tropez, introduced the ban after a court rejected his plans to build a cemetery in a tranquil setting by the sea.

Bernardi said most locals had obeyed the edict so far, but he was desperately trying to find a resting place for a homeless man who had recently passed away in the town.

"Initially, the decree has been remarkably well followed," the mayor said.

Joy-Riding 2-Year-Old

SPRINGFIELD, Missouri - A Missouri boy has found out that age two is a little young to be driving.

Police say little Shawn Heath took the family car for a short joyride Wednesday morning, with his eight-month-old sister, Sabrina, along.

The car smacked into a neighbor's house after hitting a tree and a parked car, but both kids are OK.

Police say the children's father put them in the car this morning to take them to day care, then ran back inside to get a diaper bag. That's all the time Shawn needed to unfasten his child seat, crawl from the back seat into the driver's seat and put the car into gear.

The case was first reported as a possible abduction. (AP)

Group: 'Buffy' Bad, 'Doc' Good

NEW YORK - As it applauds broadcasters for embracing more family-friendly programming in prime time, a parents group is scolding TV's two most popular shows for being among the raciest.

The Parents Television Council places both "Friends" and "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" on its list of the ten worst shows in prime time.

On the other hand, "Doc" - which runs on little-watched Pax TV - was named the best show on television.

The drama, starring country singer Billy Ray Cyrus, is about a country doctor who moves to New York City. It was praised by the watchdog group for its "uplifting and inspirational" themes.

UPN's "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" was rated the worst prime time show. PTC condemns it for graphic violence and sex, and an element of the occult.

There's been a slight movement recently toward more family-friendly programming in prime time, with ABC and the WB network making it a priority. (AP)

Pay For Play

LONDON - A British mother who offered to pay other children about $7 an hour to play with her 4-year-old autistic son received a gentle rebuke from the British Autistic Society.

Part-time nurse Emma Upfold, 25, stuck an advertisement in a shop window in the central English city of Leicester seeking playmates for her son Jack, whose condition makes it difficult for him to make friends.

"It was a last resort really," Upfold told BBC radio.

"Jack has very poor eye contact and communication skills and finds it very difficult to interact with children his own age and I thought this was worth a try to help him make friends," she said.

But a spokeswoman for Britain's National Autistic Society disagreed.

"We would rather do things in as safe a way as possible and you certainly wouldn't want somebody acting in an inappropriate way with an autistic child," the spokeswoman said.

Autism, a condition marked by sometimes severely limited physical and emotional responses to other persons, affects about 500,000 people in the United Kingdom. (Reuters)

Overextended Family

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — When looking through the papers of Riley Toney Jr. after he died, family members found they had more relatives than they knew about — at least 307.

Toney, who died Sunday at 94, left behind three little black books chronicling the birthdays and wedding dates of his nine living children, 47 grandchildren, 110 great-grandchildren, 106 great-great-grandchildren and 35 great-great-great-grandchildren.

"We didn't know that until we found some of his papers," said granddaughter Cynthia Toney Cotton, 38.

In the part of Huntsville where Toney lived, people knew his family for its size, funeral home worker Celeste Gilmore said Wednesday.

"The church they're having the funeral at will basically fit the family alone," said Gilmore. "No one else will be able to get in."

Toney, a Navy veteran of World War II, went into a hospital with pneumonia and died after developing a blood clot in his leg. He and his wife would have celebrated their 75th wedding anniversary in October. (AP)

Word Warriors

SAN DEIGO - If you love a nice friendly game of Scrabble then this week's National Scrabble Championship in San Diego would not be your scene.

Competitors from eight countries and 40 US states are going all out for the thrill of conquest ... and the 25-thousand dollar grand prize.

Participants are quick to sniff at what they call "kitchen table" Scrabble where 200 points is quite an accomplishment. These folks go for 400-plus.

John D. Williams who heads the sponsoring National Scrabble Association put it this way: "This isn't your grandmother's Scrabble. This is cutthroat." (AP)

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