The Odd Truth, Feb. 19, 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.

School Bans Anti-Bush Shirt

DEARBORN, Mich. - School officials ordered a 16-year-old to either take off a T-shirt emblazoned with the words "International Terrorist" and a picture of President George W. Bush or go home, saying they worried it would inflame passions at the school where a majority of students are Arab-American.

The student, Bretton Barber, chose to go home. He said he wore the shirt Monday to express his anti-war position and for a class assignment in which he wrote a compare-contrast essay on Mr. Bush and Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

Schools spokesman Dave Mustonen said students have the right to freedom of expression, but educators are sensitive to tensions caused by the conflict with Iraq.

"It was felt that emotions are running very high," Mustonen said.

Dearborn is the center of an Arab-American community of about 300,000 in southeastern Michigan. About 55 percent of the district's 17,600 students are Arab-American.

'French Fries' Changed To 'Freedom Fries'

BEAUFORT, N.C. — You can get fries with your burger at a restaurant here, but just don't ask for french fries.

Neal Rowland, the owner of Cubbie's, now only sells his fried potato strips as "freedom fries" — a decision that comes as Americans watch French officials back away from support for possible war in Iraq.

"Because of Cubbie's support for our troops, we no longer serve french fries. We now serve freedom fries," says a sign in the restaurant's window.

Rowland said his intent is not to slight the French people, but to take a patriotic stance to show his support for the United States and the actions of President Bush.

"It's our way of showing our patriotic pride," he said, noting that his business has a lot of local military troops as customers.

Rowland said the switch from french fries to freedom fries came to mind after a conversation about World War I when anti-German sentiment prompted Americans to rename German foods like sauerkraut and frankfurter to liberty cabbage and hot dog.

Man Plows, Gets Plowed

MUNCIE, Ind. - An Indiana city councilman could be facing prison time, after an argument over a mound of snow.

It seems a Muncie man was mad that a city plow had pushed snow across his driveway.

Charles Stoneburner told police he then used a tractor to pile about four feet of snow into the driveway of City Councilman Sam Marshall -- who is also a supervisor with the city's street department.

Stoneburner says Councilman Marshall confronted him after seeing the pile, hit him in the head and wrestled him to the ground.

Marshall was arrested on a battery charge, which carries a maximum one year in prison. He was released after posting bond.

'Flying Farmer' Does It Again

MAKOTI, N.D. - The man known as the "Flying Farmer" has taken off again.

In his latest stunt, John Smith jumped a car over 25 hay bales - a distance of more than 160 feet - in a field northwest of Makoti. The car landed on its nose and almost flipped over on the frozen ground.

"This one was close," said Smith, who is listed in the Guinness Book of Records for other driving stunts he's performed since 1990. "The runway was rough."

Smith said he told his wife, Melinda, that if he didn't sell the straw bales by Feb. 1, he would jump over them with a car. "She kind of chuckled, but she's not chuckling anymore," he said Sunday.

Smith, 38, said he hopes to set two more world records, and is looking for a promoter.

"I want those two jump records, and I want them this year," he said.

Man Steals Six Cars During Rampage

HANNIBAL, Mo. — A 24-year-old man fleeing police apparently wasn't satisfied with just one stolen car.

Police said Mark D. O'Brien broke into a half-dozen cars and crashed or abandoned them before finally being taken into custody Friday. He was charged with violating his probation from a previous auto-theft offense.

The chase began in Hannibal in northeastern Missouri and ended with O'Brien's arrest in neighboring Ralls County, when he lost control of the sixth stolen vehicle, Hannibal Police Lt. Michael Lawzano said.

Police said the car thefts started about 1 p.m. Friday when a Ford Tempo was stolen and then abandoned. A GMC pickup truck was the next target, which was abandoned on an overpass. Next, a Chevrolet Lumina was swiped near a funeral home.

Authorities said O'Brien next stole a Chevrolet Astro van and left the city of Hannibal. They said he drove it about 10 miles from Hannibal, where the vehicle became disabled.

He left it and stole a Saturn car. As he was leaving, he ran into the same van that he had abandoned. The Saturn then got stuck and he abandoned it, too, authorities said. The suspect then allegedly stole a gray Dodge flatbed truck.

Eventually the driver lost control and officers were able to take him into custody, police said.

House Fire Extinguished With Snow

NEW PARIS, Penn. - Teddy Cordale has a tale of fire and snow.

His house near Reynoldsville, Pennsylvania, caught fire Monday. The record-making blizzard across much of the Northeast delayed firefighters trying to reach Cordale's home about 70 miles southeast of Pittsburgh.

Firefighters from three departments had to wait behind snow plows clearing a path. By the time they got there, Cordale had put out the fire himself - with snow.

A local fire chief says Cordale started tossing snow on the blaze that started in a homemade wood stove. Now, Cordale has a few blisters - and a hot story to tell about a cold day.

Diamond In The Rough

HEBRON, Ky. - It wasn't exactly a diamond in the rough -- more like a diamond in the rock salt.

Michelle Glass lost the $17,000 diamond of her engagement ring at the Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky International Airport. Airport police officer Jeff Knauf managed to spot the gem, among thousands of grains of rock salt.

The diamond was found at a loading area for buses. Glass now has her diamond back. Airport police Chief Chuck Melville says it's one of the most unusual and valuable lost-and-found items they've ever had.