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The Odd Truth, Aug. 8, 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.

Close Shave For Polish Leader

GDANSK, Poland — Legendary Polish pro-democracy leader Lech Walesa, who once turned down a million-dollar offer to shave his trademark moustache, has at last taken a razor to his upper lip.

But he's not happy with the results.

"I wanted to cause a bit of a fuss over the summer holidays, but my wife Danuta and I realized it wasn't a good idea," said the former shipyard electrician and leader of the Solidarity trade union which toppled communism.

Walesa's drooping walrus moustache became a symbol of defiance when he refused to shave during the Gdansk shipyard strikes of 1980 that marked the beginning of the end for Soviet-backed communist rule.

He later turned down a $1 million offer from a U.S. razor firm to shave the mustache for an ad campaign.

Walesa, 58, did crop his graying moustache during his five-year stint as Poland's president in the early 1990s but, until this week, never went all the way.

Wife Danuta said Walesa had shaved the moustache without telling her. But she said it was already growing again and "will already look natural" in time for a speaking tour to Venezuela starting this weekend. (Reuters)

Pooh Bear Comes Home

PANAMA CITY, Fla. — A dog missing for six years was reunited with her family, thanks to a microchip about the size of a grain of rice that was implanted in her skin when she was a pup.

A stranger found Pooh Bear, a 13-year-old black Pomeranian, roaming the streets in Cincinnati and used the chip to trace her back to north Florida. Implanted microchips can be scanned to identify a pet and its owner.

Pooh Bear's owner, Bambi Lesne, of Panama City, said she was heartbroken when the dog disappeared in 1996.

"She went everywhere with us, she was like one of my children," Lesne said.

After three years, she and her daughter, Codi, now 19, gave up hope of seeing their dog again.

Then a dirty and matted Pooh Bear was spotted July 5 walking near a marina in Cincinnati — 620 miles north of her home. A woman who found the dog took her to a veterinarian, who scanned the microchip.

"And I've been able to track dogs before, but not down to Florida," said the veterinarian, Dr. Cheryl Devine.

Lesne met the woman at Birmingham, Ala., to reclaim her pet July 17. The dog has a few more gray hairs on her muzzle and needed an operation for a hernia, but is otherwise healthy and happy to be home, Lesne said.

"When I got home that evening, she saw my daughter Codi and howled with joy," Lesne said. "It gave me chill bumps. I've never seen anything like it." (AP)

Stolen Diamonds Go Down Throat, Up For Auction

BOCA RATON, Fla. - A 16-inch diamond necklace apparently swallowed by a jewel thief has been put up for auction on the Internet by its owner, who hopes to cash in on the gems' unusual provenance.

Police said they recovered the necklace, studded with 83 diamonds, from a man who was charged with grand theft after X-rays showed the missing necklace and two loose diamonds in his digestive system last week.

The incident was widely reported by the news media and the necklace became the subject of jokes on the talk shows, prompting a flood of phone calls to Harold's Jewelers in Boca Raton.

"We have been getting so much attention over the matter, we decided to auction the item on eBay," store owner Lee Mendelson said on Tuesday.

He set the minimum bid at $75,000 for the necklace, which contains nearly 30 carats of diamonds. He said he expected it to sell for well over $100,000 in the 10-day auction.

"It's a valuable piece on its own regardless of its provenance," store employee Josh Stefanoff said.

The suspect, Mark Kennedy, 38, went to the store on July 31 and asked to see a ring, police said. While the store owner was distracted, Kennedy grabbed the jewels, stuffed them into his shorts and left in his car, according to the arrest report.

Police pulled Kennedy over on Interstate 95 but could not find the missing jewelry on his person or in his car. They did find the end of a marijuana cigarette and arrested him on a drug possession charge, the police report said. (Reuters)

Rest In Peace On Your Favorite Recliner

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — Golf clubs are propped upright and a basketball hoop hangs nearby. A recliner sits in front of a television set showing sports highlights. Together, it makes a perfect setting — for a sports fan's casket.

Funeral directors say "sets" personalized for anglers, film buffs and sports fans have gained popularity as a way to give viewings a personal touch.

"We really bought into the idea that funerals should be a meaningful experience reflective of a person's life," Silvy Edmonds Cotton, president of Perpetua told The Press of Atlantic City.

Perpetua, a Tucson, Ariz., company that acquires funeral homes, showed examples of its sets at the annual convention of the National Funeral Directors & Morticians Association.

Early versions of Perpetua's sets consisted of a living room furnished with personal items from the deceased. But they're becoming more elaborate.

One, titled "Big Momma's Kitchen," had cabinets and a stove, table and chairs positioned on a linoleum floor. Another offered a fishing scene with a pole cast into a pond stocked with goldfish and sign that said, "Gone Fishing."

"People didn't know they could do this, but now they've embraced it," said Deborah Kellom, Perpetua's director of operations. "It's changed our whole visitation mood. There's still grieving, but there's more laughter now." (AP)

Mineral Lobby: 'Celestite Is Outta Site'

HARRISBURG, Pa. — Thirty middle-school students from Northern York School District took time from their summer vacations to lobby the Pennsylvania General Assembly on behalf of their favorite mineral.

The students want to see celestite, commonly found in limestone formations in 12 Pennsylvania counties, become the official state mineral.

Seven of the students testified Tuesday before the House State Government Committee.

"It was a little scary at the beginning. I really didn't want to look up," said student Sarie Tocket. "The more I talked, the more comfortable I got."

In March, 57 students — then at Wellsville Elementary School — began the push by writing a letter to state Rep. Bruce Smith as part of a persuasive writing project for English class. They then took their case to Smith and the 25 members of the committee during a tour of the Capitol, giving each legislator a sample of the pale blue and white crystal gemstone.

Smith introduced a bill in May to grant official status to the mineral. (AP)

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