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The Odd Truth, Dec. 3, 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.


Glow-In-The-Dark Pets

SACRAMENTO - Starting next month, the nation's first genetically altered household pet - a fish - will start appearing in stores, except in California.

The "GloFish" is altered to glow in the dark, but environmental and public interest groups call it "Frankenfish." They oppose an exemption to the state's ban on lab-engineered species.

State wildlife officials say the Florida-grown Zebra fish poses no danger. Officials say the fish, which scientists turned green or red by inserting genes from other species, are less tolerant of cold water and would probably die if they escaped.

Some environmentalists fear some might survive and establish themselves. They also fear the GloFish could open the door to other genetically engineered species.

Primates Get Pampered

DENVER - The Denver Zoo's four orangutans are smelling pretty good these days - they're getting daily aromatherapy treatments.

That means the 20-year-old ape Mias gets chamomile on his right ear, basil and angelica on his nose, and fennel, eucalyptus and frankincense on his forehead.

Keepers says the treatment has helped alleviate symptoms from allergies and an upset stomach.

In Allie's case, the 8-year-old primate became depressed when her mother died two years ago. She stopped acting like the silly adolescent she was before her mother's death, but that changed when she started receiving daily aromatherapy.

"When you see how goofy they are, this is how it should be," keeper Rhonda Pietsch said as Allie played in her cage after an oil treatment.

Practitioners of aromatherapy say their oils extracted from plants promote physical, spiritual and emotional health.

The Denver Zoo is believed to be one of the first to try it out on animals.

One-Night Prison Sentence, 15-Year Commitment

WEST PALM BEACH, FL - A man responsible for the death of his friend in a drunken driving accident will avoid prison time by giving speeches to teens for the next 15 years.

The prosecutor and a Florida judge agreed to the plea deal.

Billy Negron was celebrating his 21st birthday in April and was only a few minutes from his home near Boca Raton when he lost control of his car and crashed. His 17-year-old friend, Dominic Bolton, died at the scene.

Negron had a blood-alcohol level of point-one-three percent.

As part of the plea deal, Negron must spend his birthday night - the anniversary of the crash - in jail. He will pay $2,500 hundred dollars and help produce a video for a new drunken-driving prevention program. He also will speak to teens about the dangers of drunken driving over the course of his 15-year probation.

It's A Tough Job ...

ONTARIO, Canada - Ever wonder what your government is up to some days?

Well inspectors with Ontario's Ministry of Consumer and Business Services seemed obsessed with keeping close tabs on porno movies.

Ontario's auditor says the inspectors did nearly 1,600 inspections on adult video stores last year, even though they received just eight complaints.

But the inspectors weren't as interested in the 4,000 complaints about bill collectors - they only followed up on 10 of those.

Spider Surprise

BOSTON - It's scary to find poisonous black widow spiders on store-bought grapes. But food safety specialists and growers say it's less frightening than the alternative, which is a return to harsher pesticides.

At least three people have found black widow spiders on bunches of red seedless grapes from California purchased recently at suburban Boston supermarkets.

Grape growers and grocers say their efforts to use fewer or softer chemicals are to blame for more bugs reaching consumers. But food safety experts say an occasional beetle or weevil or spider is a reasonable price to pay for safer foods.

Texas A&M biology and chemistry Chairman Dan Mott says he doesn't think changes in pesticides would do much about the black widows.

Mott, who also edits the Journal of Arachnology, says he'd hate to think pesticide-reduction efforts would be discouraged because of the spiders. He says, "Black widows just aren't a problem for us, generally."

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