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The Odd Truth, Aug 9, 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.

Naked Gardener Makes A Point

PITTSBURGH — Chalk up another victory for the naked gardener.

The Pennsylvania Superior Court has overturned the harassment conviction of Charlie Stitzer, who has a habit of tending his backyard garden in the nude.

Stitzer, 64, of Pleasant Gap, was convicted in December 2000 of indecent exposure after a neighbor, Pam Watkins, complained that she and her 15-year-old daughter had seen Stitzer gardening in nothing but shoes and a wristwatch. Stitzer was sentenced to two years probation.

The Superior Court threw out that conviction in March, saying Stitzer's backyard was private and that the neighbors were too far away — 65 yards — to have seen anything offensive.

The separate harassment charge stems from three letters Stitzer wrote to Watkins. The Superior Court, in its ruling Monday, said Stitzer used the letters "to establish a dialogue with his longtime neighbor in an attempt to mediate their ongoing conflict. ... He used these letters as a forum to make peace."

Stitzer said he first started gardening in the nude to persuade Watkins to dim the outdoor floodlights that shone toward his property, a few miles northeast of State College, Pa. (AP)

Dude Looks Like A Lady

POPLAR BLUFF, Mo. — The denim dress and hair extensions were a nice touch, but they didn't fool police.

Officers in this southeast Missouri town captured escaped murder suspect Milton Roy Taylor on Tuesday, acting on an unusual tip.

"We received information that Taylor was there in the area and was seen wearing a blue denim dress and hair extensions, dressed as a female," said Lt. Paul Clark. Taylor was found in a house hiding in a bedroom closet, he said.

Taylor, of Poplar Bluff, was jailed without bond on the escape charge.

Taylor escaped Saturday from the Dunklin County jail's exercise yard with the assist of two other inmates who helped pull back security wires, Sheriff Bob Holder said. Charges were expected against the inmates who helped Taylor escape, the sheriff said.

Taylor was recently arrested for drug trafficking. That arrest came while he was free on bond after being charged with killing a man.

Taylor is scheduled to stand trial Nov. 20 on the murder charge. (AP)

Biblical Plagues? Investment Bankers? Close Enough

LONDON - Investment bankers may have been called smug self-serving pests before now, but in the industry's worst slump in years, they are openly throwing insults at one another.

French bank BNP Paribas asked readers of Europe's top business papers, "What do you want, a banker or a locust?" in a full color advertisement showing a grinning locust in a suit in a field of ravaged maize plants.

The locust is leaning casually against a flashy American automobile.

Another ad, which shows a bespectacled caterpillar slouched across a desk, tells potential clients they need a bank with backbone.

Investment bank advertisements usually emphasize creativity and concern for clients. Ads often have references to integrity but rarely disparage competitors' lack of it.

BNP says the advertisements, which also depict a "here one day and gone the next" mayfly with a briefcase, are aimed at conveying the bank's focus on long-term relationships.

Global head of communications Antoine Sire said the aim was simply to use humor to make the ads more eye-catching.

"The first reaction of clients was good," Sire said.

The reaction from rival banks, most of whom have been slashing jobs and bonuses as fee income dried up, was less positive.

"It's not going to win them any friends in the investment banking community, and a lot of business is built on reciprocity," said a banker at a rival firm. (Reuters)

'Sex Is Good For Women Athletes,' Says Man

BERLIN - Women sprinters who have sex before competing generally perform better but men should avoid amorous exploits before taking to the track, the trainer of Germany's men's sprinting team said on Friday.

"With women, it's not true that sex before competitions has negative effects. On the contrary, we have scientific evidence that women who have sex shortly before competing run better. It boosts performance," Uwe Hakus told Germany's Fit for Fun magazine.

"With women the testosterone levels rise when they have sex. But, unfortunately, male testosterone levels fall after orgasm. And their muscles are less able to contract," Hakus said.

However, Hakus said sexual intercourse before running could hit any athlete's concentration.

"Everyone has to make their own decision on what their goals are. And this decision they make on their own," Hakus said. (Reuters)

Wild Animals Overtake Texas High School

DALLAS - Nature ran amok at a Dallas high school over summer vacation, bringing alligators, poisonous snakes and bobcats to campus grounds, school officials said Thursday.

Beavers apparently dammed up a stream flowing near A. Maceo Smith High School, creating a 15-acre swamp that became home to two alligators that moved in while classes were out for the summer.

Dallas animal control supervisor Tim Hawkins told reporters that he has seen two alligators, about four feet to six feet long, in the swamp.

Principal Dwain Govan asked animal control to remove the alligators from the school's back yard, so they stay off the school's football and softball fields. Heavy rains over the summer caused the swamp to encroach on the fields.

"We have asked the city to put up some fencing to make sure that the alligators do not come up on to our practice fields," he said.

The fences will be up before classes start at month's end. But those students who have returned early for extracurricular activities, such as band member Likiesha Edwards, found something more than the return of classes to worry about.

"I think it's very dangerous for football players and people like me in the band, to go out there and practice," she told reporters.

Hawkins said that besides the gators, the swamp is home to poisonous water snakes, bobcats, coyotes, gray foxes, raccoons, beavers, possums and a rookery of egrets.

Animal control officials said they did not know where the alligators, rarely found in north Texas, came from. (Reuters)