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The Odd Truth, Dec. 23, 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.


Man Shares The Wealth

TOKYO - A man who wanted to share his stock market winnings with the public tossed 1 million yen ($9,350) from the observatory deck of a tower in central Japan on Tuesday, causing a scramble for the money in the streets below.

The unidentified man grabbed wads of one-dollar and 100-yen bills from two shopping bags and stuffed them through an open grill from a room at the TV Tower in the city of Nagoya. The room is 330 feet above the street.

The money rained on the sidewalks and streets below, where people chased the wind-blown bills.

Afterward, the man told NHK television that he wanted to give away some of his profits from playing the stock market earlier this month.

"I have too much money. I don't need it," he said. "I wanted to give some back to the world."

Aichi prefecture police official Tatsuyuki Satomi said none of the bills appeared to be counterfeited. The 26-year-old man, who is unemployed and lives in neighboring Gifu city, told police he had exchanged the dollars at Nagoya airport.

He didn't break any laws, Satomi said.

Nuclear Screw Loose

MADRID, Spain - A small screw missing from a tool used to refuel a 35-year-old nuclear power plant led technicians on a fruitless two-day search and has delayed the facility from coming back on line, regulators said Tuesday.

After the monthlong refueling operation at the plant - branded unsafe by environmental groups - operations at the Juan Cabrera nuclear power plant in Almonacid de Zorita, 45 miles east of Madrid had been due to resume Monday.

But that has been delayed while the Nuclear Safety Council investigates the significance of a screw less than an inch in diameter, which was found to be missing from a tool used in the refueling.

"We don't know when we'll let them restart. We're waiting for a report that will tell us that the screw is in a safe place, that it won't move and that it won't cause any damage," said council spokesman Jose Francisco Morales.

The reactor's owner, the utility Union Fenosa, played down the incident Monday. Citing a report from its contractor, Westinghouse, it said the screw was too big to have fallen into the nuclear fuel core. The "hypothetical loss" of the screw was therefore an "innocuous" event that presented no risk, according to the utility.

Staff at the reactor gave up rummaging for the missing screw after an unsuccessful two-day search that involved scouring the vessel holding the nuclear core and dismantling the core with remote-controlled machines in a sealed cell.

"They would hardly go to the trouble of such a complex search if it weren't important," said Greenpeace spokesman Carlos Bravo.

Bravo warned the screw could cause a very serious nuclear accident if it were loose in the nuclear core or in the high-pressure vessel containing it.

The Case Of The Horse Hair Bandit

RAPID CITY, S.D. - Investigators in the Rapid City area are looking into some unusual thefts: horsehair.

Jerry Derr, investigative chief for the South Dakota Brand Board, is investigating reports that two one-and-a-half year-old fillies and another horse have had varying portions of their tails and manes clipped. The thief or thieves probably are selling or trading the horsehair, Derr said.

Caballo, a Spanish mustang, has lost about two-thirds of her dark tail and nearly all of the right side of her mane over the last two months. Caballo's owner, Terrence Aisenbrey, said the double mane is distinctive of Spanish mustangs.

Sundance, a palomino quarter horse also owned by Aisenbrey, has lost much of her mane and tail as well. Another Aisenbrey horse, a 23-year-old black and white paint, has lost much of her mane.

The horsehair thieves have struck several times since the end of summer. The most recent incident was early in December. "It's somebody who knew what they were doing," Aisenbrey said.

He said he's angry because the horses look disfigured and lack protection. "Mother Nature put that on there for protection, whether from the heat or the cold. Without a mane, you have no ball cap. Without a tail, how do you swat a fly?"

Lucky Cat Stows Away In Car Engine

ROCHESTER HILLS, Mich. - For Tracker, the car ride from the Kalamazoo area to Rochester Hills was long, and could have cost him a life or two.

The long-haired gray cat rode unseen in the engine compartment of a female college student's car as she drove home for the holidays. Officials at Pontiac's Michigan Animal Rescue League, the feline's current home, say he probably survived the 150 mile-trip in the Chevrolet Tracker because the woman did not stop.

"He was very lucky," Patricia Verduin, the league's board president told The Daily Oakland Press of Pontiac.

Verduin said when the woman, who declined to give her name to the league, reached home "she heard this intense kitty-crying."

"She thought she'd run over a cat," Verduin said.

The woman and her family searched around the car. When they finally lifted the hood, they found a cat sitting on top of the engine.

"He was sitting very still," Verduin said. "It was like he didn't know what to do."

Tracker, a Russian Blue-angora mixed breed who emerged from his experience unscathed, may have slipped into the engine compartment to keep warm.

With a house full of pets, the woman turned Tracker over to the Michigan Animal Rescue League, where he is waiting to be adopted, shelter officials said.

"He's a very friendly cat," said Kayla Allen, the shelter's manager, who believes Tracker still is quite young. "He's a healthy eater, loves to play and interacts well with other animals."

Crocodile Attack

DARWIN, Australia - A crocodile killed a 22-year-old man and then kept his body in its jaws while his two friends watched in horror from a nearby tree.

Shaun Blowers and Ashley McGough, both 19, recounted on Tuesday how the reptile snatched Brett Mann at Finniss River, which cuts through a flooded tropical wilderness about 50 miles southwest of Darwin in the Northern Territory on Sunday.

Blowers said the 13-foot saltwater crocodile also lunged at them, but they scrambled up a tree in the swollen stream. A police search party found them still in the tree 22 hours later.

The three friends had been riding quad bikes along a muddy trail, and stopped by the river to bathe.

Mann was swept away by a strong current. As his friends swam out to help, he was taken by a crocodile that had been lurking in the waters.

"We both jumped in and swam after him and we got in front of him and were leading him back to the bank," Blowers said. "I went past the croc. I didn't see it. Ashley screamed out `croc, croc'... we just swam to the nearest tree and straight up we went.

"Two minutes later the croc brought Brett to the surface and pretty much showed him off to us and off he swam.

"Five minutes later he was back stalking the tree around us. He just hung around us all night and pretty much all the next morning."

A police helicopter took the two survivors to Darwin, where they were treated for shock and exposure.

Authorities Tuesday searched the river for Mann's remains and for the man-eating crocodile.

Saltwater crocodiles are among the world's largest reptiles. They became a protected species in 1971 after they were nearly wiped out over the last century. There are now an estimated 100,000 saltwater crocs and there have been growing calls for a reintroduction of limited hunting.

German Skinhead Band Gets Jail Time

BERLIN - Three members of a German skinhead rock band were convicted of a being a criminal group because of their hate-filled songs, a ruling that prosecutors hailed as a precedent in efforts to crack down on neo-Nazi music.

Band leader Michael Regener, 38, was sentenced Monday to three years and four months in prison. Presiding Judge Wolfgang Weissbrodt said he was the creative force and songwriter behind Landser - the group's name, drawn from an old German word for foot soldier.

Bassist Andre Moehricke, 25, and drummer Christian Wenndorff, 27, each received one year and nine months' probation. The judge said they helped investigators and expressed remorse. All three were fined and ordered to perform community service.

The charge of forming a criminal organization was unusually severe charge for the alleged offenses. The court also found all three men guilty of incitement.

"This is the first time that a band has been found to be a criminal organization," prosecutor Joachim Lampe said.

Prosecutors say the band produced CDs in the United States, Sweden, Britain and Poland to skirt German laws that make publication of neo-Nazi materials a crime.

The band members were arrested in Berlin in 2001 as part of a German crackdown on the far right to combat rising neo-Nazi crime. They went on trial in June.

Prosecutors have said their albums contain "racist, nationalistic and anti-Semitic tirades of hate" and called for violence against foreigners, Jews and people with other political ideas.

Landser albums include "Ran an den Feind," or "Get the enemy," where the title song calls for bombing Israel. Other tunes glorify one of Adolf Hitler's top aides, Rudolf Hess, and, in "Grandpa was a Sturmfuehrer," pay tribute to a grandfather who was a Nazi SS officer.

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