The Odd Truth, Feb. 14, 2003

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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.

Give The Gift Of Valentine

TERNI, Italy — Police gave an unusual St. Valentine's Day present Friday: a religious relic that is believed to be part of the saint's skull.

The relic — a fragment of skull 4-by-3 inches — was stolen 24 years ago from the cathedral in Terni, about 40 miles north of Rome. Police found it two weeks ago in the possession of an antique dealer.

They confiscated the piece of skull, but held onto it until a handover Friday to coincide with St. Valentine's Day, police Lt. Michele Miulli said.

No arrests have been made in the case, but police said they were investigating the antiques dealer.

Authorities have still not found the entire stolen relic, which consisted of a silver box studded with precious stones that held the piece of skull.

The precise origins of St. Valentine's Day celebrations are unclear. But locals in Terni say the St. Valentine who originated the day of love was born there and was executed as a Christian martyr in the 3rd century.

Cockfighting Cancer

BUTLER, Georgia - If they'd tried a bake sale, or if they'd sold candy, that would have been fine.

But authorities in Georgia have a problem with the fund-raising plan allegedly developed by friends of a man who has colon cancer.

They say last month's fund-raiser was a cockfight. It was raided by police, and it resulted in arrest warrants for 52 people on charges of aggravated cruelty to animals and gambling.

The Taylor County Sheriff says organizers claimed it was being held as a benefit for a cancer victim -- who they said would get the proceeds.

The sheriff calls it an "illegal fund-raiser."

No money was recovered.

A Brief History Of Duct Tape

WASHINGTON - For the handyman, it's what aspirin and Band-Aids are to the medicine cabinet. Duct tape, the new tool of homeland defense, has a way of sticking to everything — including the public's imagination.

"Some people are really addicted to duct tape," said Melanie Amato, spokeswoman for Henkel Consumer Adhesive in Avon, Ohio, a German-owned company that makes the brand known as Duck tape in Hickory, N.C.

It's been scientifically shown to remove warts more effectively and less painfully than a common treatment, liquid nitrogen.

Now the government has found a new use for duct tape: a defense against terrorists.

First manufactured in 1942, duct tape was invented for the U.S. military during World War II. The original use was to keep the moisture out of ammunition cases.

Because it was waterproof, people referred to it as "duck tape." Also, the tape was made using cotton duck. Soldiers discovered its versatility and used it to fix guns, jeeps, aircraft and other things.

After the war, the tape was used in the housing industry to connect heating and air conditioning duct work, and the color was changed from Army green to silver to match the ducts. People started calling it duct tape.

Now, there is a Duct Tape Ball held annually in Anchorage, Alaska, where guests design gowns, accessories and tuxedos. They show off their flashy ductwear while walking on a 'silver' carpet of tape.

Garrison Keillor, host of the radio show A Prairie Home Companion, makes much of duct tape. He calls it "the old reliable" and suggests people clean their kitchen floors by attaching double-sided tape to their feet and walking around.

Lions And Tigers Next Door, Oh My!

TONASKET, Wash. — The first roar woke Dick Riddle at 1:14 a.m. Another jolted him awake at 2:28 a.m., and one more at 5:05 a.m.

"It'll make the hair on the back of your neck stand up," said Riddle, recalling the "gut-wrenching" sound and a sleepless night a week ago.

The noise was coming from the yard of Riddle's neighbor, Stacey Storm, who keeps two big cats — Jonathan, a 600-pound African lion and Selena, a 500-pound Siberian tiger — in her yard.

Riddle has complained to the sheriff's office and the County Commission, and has testified at a House Judiciary Committee hearing last month in favor of a bill that would allow only trained professionals or certified institutions to own dangerous wild animals.

But Storm compares Jonathan's bellows to the barking of a dog.

Last November, Okanogan County cited Storm for a noise ordinance violation. The county prosecutor wants her to pay a $150 fine and keep the lion quiet for a year. But Storm said she won't do it.

"I'm being harassed," she said. "It's an invasion of my constitutional rights."

County Prosecutor Karl Sloan said it might take a new state law to solve Riddle's problem.

Tenth Time's A Charm?

CLEVELAND — Connie Post has seen an awful lot of dresses, wedding cakes and bouquet tosses.

No big surprise: Post, wed 10 times, is apparently Ohio's most-married woman.

"I do believe in marriage and I think the way I've lived my life proves it," she said.

A review of Ohio marriage licenses issued in 2000 found brides as old as 90 and as young as 15, couples with 12 prior marriages between them and couples with a 50-year difference in their ages.

In 1970, the median age for first marriages in the United States was 20.8 years for women and 23.2 years for men. People marry later now: in 2000, it was 25.1 for women and 26.8 for men.

Howard Boettcher of Cincinnati was 96 when he married 79-year-old Alma Eppler. Neither minds the jokes about robbing the cradle.

They never seriously considered living together before they got married in 2000.

"It's just a matter of being old-fashioned if you want to call it that," he said.

EU Takes Up Breast Implant Issue

STRASBOURG, France - The European Union may not be ready to fight Iraq -- but the EU will fight breast implants. The European Parliament is calling on member governments to ban implants for girls under the age of 18.

The non-binding resolution would permit implants in young woman only for what's termed medical reasons. The measure would also ban "before and after" pictures in implant advertising. One legislator says the implant prohibition is needed to protect the young.