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The Odd Truth, Aug. 7, 2002

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

Totem Pole Vendetta

LIVERMORE, Calif. — A man who put a curse on the city's sewer system said he will remove it if the city apologizes.

Adam Fortunate Eagle Nordwall claims to have put a curse on the city back in the early 1970s, after he said officials mistreated a totem pole he gave Livermore as a gift.

The 20-foot totem pole depicts Robert Livermore, the town's founder, sitting under an eagle, which is supposed to protect the city.

When officials went to install the pole, they cut several feet off the bottom and set it in concrete.

Nordwall said the act desecrated his work of art, and demanded it be restored. When city officials refused, Nordwall said he put a curse on the sewer system.

A week later, sewers in the city backed up.

Workers restored the pole, and in 1995 upgraded it with new paint.

But Nordwall said he will only lift the curse if the city apologizes during an official ceremony.

Mayor Marshall Kamena supports the idea.

"I'd rather not mess with something I don't understand," he said.
(AP)

Tortoise And The Pair

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil — A domesticated tortoise that lost the use of its hind feet after being hit by a stray bullet during a shootout in Rio has won a pair of wheels to move around again.

Doctors at a veterinary clinic in Rio's beachside Copacabana district said the 20-year-old animal was learning to walk, or roll, using its front feet and a pair of wheels from a television rack, attached to the bottom side of its shell with adhesive bandage.

The owner of the animal, who lives in the shantytown where the shooting occurred, cannot afford to pay for the treatment, but one of the doctors is taking care of the reptile, whose thick bony shell failed to protect it from the bullet, for free. (Reuters)

The Koala That Laid The Golden Log

SYDNEY, Australia — A fairy tale goose may have laid a golden egg, but the tiny Australian town of Gunnedah hopes to make money from koala dung.

Gunnedah, the self-styled "Koala Capital of the World," is packaging its bountiful koala droppings and selling them to tourists for one Australian dollar, or around 53 U.S. cents a bag.

Tourism official Chris Frend said his little town in New South Wales state had begun packaging marsupial feces as "Koala Kitsch" six months ago.

"It's early days as far as marketing them is concerned and who knows, we might end up with gold ones, or something like that, as earrings or pendants," Frend told Reuters.

"The mind boggles as far as where we can go with it all."

The aim is to promote Gunnedah, about 300 miles north of Sydney with a population of 13,000, as a tourist destination because of its large, healthy koala population.

Hygiene is not a problem, Frend insisted.

"They're in a plastic bag, a la natural," he said. "Obviously you don't encourage people to take them out of the bag or anything like that but they don't smell, they're just naturally dried." (Reuters)

Depressed Elephant Loses 2,000 Pounds

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Irene was depressed. She ignored her paints and brushes; she stopped balancing tires on her head for fun; she was nauseated and ate dirt, and the only food that interested her was small cottonwood branches to control her upset stomach.

She lost 2,000 pounds.

But these days the five-ton Asian elephant at the Rio Grande Zoo is feeling much better, after recovering from the side effects of medications for tuberculosis.

"It's been a very gratifying, satisfactory effort to see an enormous, incredible animal like this, whose life was really threatened by this infection, do so well," said Dr. Gary Simpson, medical director of the state Infectious Diseases Bureau.

Tuberculosis was discovered in Irene in October 2000, and she was given massive doses of medications for over a year. The treatment ended in January and now she's acting like herself again.

The 38-year-old elephant never showed symptoms of the disease, but suffered from side effects of the drugs — the same ones human TB patients take.

Zoo veterinarian Michael Richard said Irene spat out a dose of a bitter-tasting TB drug called rifampin and then refused — for an entire year — to open up on command.

She also apparently didn't like having her blood taken from her leg. "She tried to sit on me," Richard said.

Now, a year and a half after treatment began, Irene's opening her mouth again on command. But, animal handler Rhonda Saiers said, now Irene always checks to see what you're giving her. (AP)

Don't Try This At Home

TWIN FALLS, Idaho — Jim Guyer let go of the railing on the Perrine Bridge, gave a hearty push with his legs and fell into history.

Guyer, 74, became the oldest person to parachute from a span with his jump from the bridge 486 feet over the Snake River.

"It was terrific, I got to do a 360-degree turn after the chute opened and everything," Guyer said while relaxing after his jump.

The jump could qualify him for a spot in the Guinness Book of Records.

"I used to think, 'Man, when I'm 50, I'll be too old for this crazy stuff,'" said Tony Herring, 42, a friend who accompanied Guyer. "I can't think that with him around."

Guyer's jump drew a small crowd of spectators to both sides of the bridge. Several motorists passing by honked their horns and cheered as Guyer and his party prepared to go over.

"I really hope what I did inspired some 75-year-old guys to come out here," he said. "That's the fun of it. Life is a game. Records are made to be broken." (AP)