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The Odd Truth, Dec. 17, 2003

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.


Final Final Meal

LIVINGSTON, Texas - Wondering whether a condemned inmate picked steak or a burger and shake for his or her final meal?

You'll have to keep wondering, in Texas.

The state Department of Criminal Justice will no longer post an inmate's final food request on its Web site.

The Houston Chronicle reports details of the final meals were a popular feature on the site for years. But critics have complained that the information is demeaning and tasteless.

Python The Road

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia - Diners at a roadside stall in Malaysia were surprised to see an 8-foot python drop from a passing car then slither under the hood of another vehicle parked nearby.

The snake was more likely seeking a warm place to hide than another ride, fire officials called to capture the animal hitchhiker said.

Ismail Abdul Rahman said he saw the snake fall from beneath a moving car in front of his coffee stall on Wednesday morning in Seremban town, 40 miles south of Kuala Lumpur, the national news agency, Bernama, reported.

The python immediately made for another car parked nearby, crawling into its engine compartment.

Firefighters gingerly probed under the hood to catch the snake, which they said weighed 18 pounds, before releasing it into a nearby forest.

Unwanted Fruitcakes Accepted Here!

BUFFALO, New York - There are some people who really want your holiday fruitcake. And they promise to eat it, too. Buffalo, New York, is hosting the National Fruitcake Round-Up. On December 30th, some of the biggest eaters around will compete in a fruitcake-eating contest. They'll have to wolf-down as many fruitcakes as they can in just 12 minutes. The leftovers will be given to a local food bank. Buffalo's mayor promises a good-natured amnesty to the fruitcake-haters who send in their unwanted and unopened gifts. Organizers say there could be as many as 100,000 neglected fruitcakes in the country.

Fruitcakes should be mailed to: Fruitcake Amnesty Campaign, Food Bank of Western New York, 91 Holt St., Buffalo, NY 14206

Bull's Last Stand

MADRID, Spain - A 1,100-pound bull fell off a truck headed for a slaughterhouse, blocking rush-hour traffic Wednesday, charging at anybody that approached and shaking off tranquilizer darts until police shot and killed it.

A two-mile backup of traffic formed in both directions on a highway serving Madrid as maintenance workers and the trucker tried in vain to shoo the rust-colored bull through a gate in a fence along the road, said Iberpistas, the company that manages the highway.

As the truck approached a tunnel about 30 miles northwest of Madrid, the bull fell off because the door of its cage broken open, highway patrol spokesman Alejandro Rubio said.

Several other bulls in individual cages on the truck did not escape.

Police killed the bull by shooting it in the head with a pistol, Rubio said.

Preacher Sentenced After Damning People To Hell

CLINTON, Iowa - A man who calls himself a street preacher has been found guilty of disorderly conduct for repeatedly yelling at a crowd of people watching a Halloween parade.

A jury took less than an hour on Monday to convict Mike Anderson, of Clinton. He was fined $100 plus court costs for refusing to follow police orders to lower his voice Oct. 27 during the city's annual downtown Mardi Gras parade. He had been yelling "you're damned to hell" to parade-goers.

"I refuse to pay," Anderson said after his trial. "I'm not going to pay a dime to a city that arrests a preacher for preaching the Gospel. I'll sit in jail. I'll rot."

The judge said Anderson could be charged with contempt of court and jailed for up to 30 days if he fails to pay the fine within 60 days.

Anderson was arrested after a police officer saw him standing on a decorative fountain and shouting into a crowd at the Halloween parade. Anderson refused to stop yelling at people, telling them they must repent or go to hell, the officer said.

The crowd applauded when officers took Anderson into custody.

Police said Anderson crossed the line from free speech to disorderly conduct with his volume, language and the location of his message.

Anderson often stands in front of the Clinton County Courthouse holding signs with religious messages.

Stuck In The Muck, Mired In The Marsh

BRIDGEWATER, Mass. - Mike Hill was out on a hunting trip when he got stuck in the muck. His would-be rescuers had similar luck - one after another, after another, after another.

Hill, who waded into waist-deep water Monday in a marshy area, grew cold and realized he was lost. He pulled out his cell phone and more than two dozen rescue workers from Bridgewater and surrounding towns arrived to search.

But the rescuers couldn't reach Hill. Three firefighters set out on an airboat, but the boat got stuck. The firefighters themselves got mired in the marsh as they tried slogging on foot toward Hill, said Bridgewater Fire Chief Roderick Walsh.

Another firefighter and a police officer with a rescue dog set out on an all terrain vehicle from another direction. They, too, got stuck in the swamp. Even a hovercraft brought in by a neighboring town got bogged down, Walsh said.

"We had a lot of trouble locating him because he couldn't orient with anything. It was difficult for us to get in there," Walsh said.

Ultimately, it was a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter that managed to pluck Hill, three firefighters, the police officer and the dog from the marsh - hauling them up, dripping, through the trees to safety in a wire basket.

"It was a pretty big mess," said Coast Guard Lt. Chris Zorman.

A Nutty Little Mix-Up

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - One choosy mom didn't choose Jif.

When Mary Rickard opened a can labeled Maxwell House coffee Tuesday, the container was full of creamy peanut butter instead of coffee granules. Her son then examined the 34.5-ounce coffee container and found a 4-pound Jif jar wedged inside the otherwise empty coffee can.

"I tasted it to make sure, and I said `Yep, that's Jif peanut butter," Rickard said.

Officials of both Jif and Kraft Foods, which owns the Maxwell House brand, are investigating the mix-up.

"This is very unusual, and we don't know at this point what happened," said Kraft spokesman Abbe Serphos. "Nothing like this has ever happened before, certainly in regards to peanut butter."

Kraft does not manufacture any brands of peanut butter. Jif produces peanut butter only in Lexington, Ky., and Kraft has no operations center in that city.

"It sounds very funny to me," said Sheryl Seitz, a spokeswoman for Jif, Smuckers and Crisco.

Rickard said she will continue to brew Maxwell House each morning.

"Maxwell House is still my favorite," she said. "It's just a weird thing."

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