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The Odd Truth, Aug. 23, 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.

Opera Audience Gets The Fingers

MILAN, Italy - Heartfelt performances are expected in opera but emotions spilled off stage in Sicily this week when a tenor stormed out, sticking two fingers up at the audience.

Complaining the conductor was taking Pietro Mascagni's "Cavalleria Rusticana" too slowly, tenor Franco Bonisolli broke off and started yelling abuse at the orchestra pit of Taormina's ancient Greek theater.

When the audience started whistling in disapproval, he stuck two fingers up at them -- a vulgar gesture in Italy -- and stormed off stage.

Bonisolli will be replaced as the rogue lover Turiddu for the rest of the opera's run at the theater, perched on a cliff overlooking the sea with Mount Etna smoking silently in the background.

The singer was not reachable for comment. (Reuters)

Emu Mistaken For Naked Man

HAMBURG, Germany - An escaped emu caused confusion in Hamburg after a woman called police to report what she thought was a bare-chested man with two big white dots on his forehead staring into her window, police said on Friday.

The large, flightless, Australian bird resembling an ostrich has been on the run from a local zoo since Thursday.

"The woman heard someone tapping at the window at night and when she looked out she saw a head with two big eyes and a bare chest," a Hamburg police spokesman said.

Officers said they knew there was an emu on the run and put two and two together after they found no one suspicious.

"We're still looking for either a naked man with huge eyes or an emu," the spokesman added.

The bird has escaped twice in two weeks. Last week it ran away and frightened a horse, but was eventually captured. (Reuters)

Tax-Deductible Smack

SYDNEY - An Australian court has given a convicted heroin dealer the all-clear to write off $118,800 in stolen drug money from his tax bill.

The Federal Court ruled that as jailed felon Francesco Dominico La Rosa had earned his taxable income through selling drugs, he was likewise entitled to deduct from his taxes expenses incurred as part of his criminal endeavors.

Perth resident La Rosa was jailed for 12 years in 1996 for importing and selling heroin.

As soon as he was behind bars, Australia's meticulous tax authorities pounced and presented him with a $243,000 tax bill based on what court proceedings had revealed about his estimated illicit income.

La Rosa fired back with a claim to deduct the $119,000 he said he had buried in the garden of his daughter's home and which he intended to use to buy more drugs. He said the money had been stolen by other criminals when he went to make a deal. (Reuters)

Once, Twice, Four Times A Baby

SEATTLE — When Scott Hulford heard about the odds of his newborn quadruplets being two sets of identical twins, as it appears they are, his reaction was somewhat understandable.

"I kind of wish I had bought a lottery ticket that night instead," the Bellingham sheet-metal worker said.

Hulford's 28-year-old wife, Korie, gave birth to four girls Wednesday.

The odds of having quadruplets are low to start with, about one in 729,000 births. The odds of the four infants being two sets of identical twins are roughly 1 in 25 million, doctors say — though it happened to a Kansas couple in April. Neither couple used fertility drugs.

Doctors at the University of Washington Medical Center say they believe the four Hulford babies are two sets of identical twins, though there's also a chance the girls are identical quadruplets.

The girls won't go home for another six or seven weeks, which is probably just as well. With the sudden arrival of four daughters in addition to two older boys, the Hulfords find themselves moving into a bigger house and wondering how they're going to cope.

"We're scared," Korie said in a hospital interview. "I don't know what to expect with this. I haven't had time to think about it."

Her sons don't need much time to formulate their thoughts.

"I'm not going to change any diapers," said 6-year-old Chris. (AP)

Flea-ing The Scene Of The Crime

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Police summoned to a home where the front door was standing open found the house abandoned — except by thousands of fleas.
Sgt. Marc Dopp said the three officers discovered they were covered with the bugs as they left the two-story house on Tuesday.

"He sat down in the car and said it looked like his pants were moving," Officer James Yoder said of a fellow officer.

The infestation spread to five officers and five police cars. The Sixth Precinct substation had to be closed.

The officers were taken to University Hospitals East, where they were vigorously scrubbed down.

Exterminators were called in to fumigate the police cars and substation. (AP)

If You Can't Beat 'Em, Race Humans

ROCHESTER, New York - Zippy Chippy doesn't do well against other horses but he can still win a race.

The losingest horse in the history of thoroughbred racing zipped past Rochester Red Wings outfielder Larry Bigbie in a 45-yard race at the city's minor league ballpark last night.

Bigbie, added after two teammates scratched, stumbled out of the gate, and lost by an estimated four lengths.

Zippie Chippy now has two career victories against human athletes, but in 93 races against his own kind, has yet to win. (AP)

Mr. Potato Head, Noted Philanthropist

PROVIDENCE, R.I. - A 50-year-old plastic spud with holes in his face is about to have his head served up on a plate -- an automobile license plate, that is.

Mr. Potato Head soon will appear on a special license plate in Rhode Island, state officials said as they unveiled the plate design.

Proceeds from the $40 license plates will go to the Rhode Island Community Food Bank to help feed the estimated 20,000 people who experience hunger in the state, officials said.

The plates, due to appear in January, feature an image of the mustachioed tuber next to the words "Help End Hunger."

Launched in 1952 as the first toy advertised on U.S. television, Mr. Potato Head is manufactured by Pawtucket, Rhode Island-based toy maker Hasbro Inc. Mr. Potato Head also appeared as an animated character in the "Toy Story" movies. (Reuters)