The Odd Truth, Feb. 21, 2003

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.

China's Sticky Problem

BEIJING - The Ministry of Science and Technology is involved. Eight Chinese research institutions want a piece of the project. It's even part of a code-named project: "863 program."

All to tackle a problem that has been bedeviling the Chinese government for many months now: how to clean up little wads of discarded chewing gum from public places like Beijing's Tiananmen Square.

It's no small affair in China, where 2 billion pieces of gum are masticated annually, according to the state-controlled China Daily newspaper.

The project is designed to develop a special "gum-removal lotion" that can effectively dissolve the discarded gum, China Daily reported Friday.

During the National Day holiday last year, 600,000 tiny wads of chewed gum were left in Tiananmen Square by tourists.

Duct Tape Madness

CLEVELAND - It's 24-7 for the folks behind Trust E. Duck. Trust E. is the duck on Duck brand duct tape. Duct tape has been flying off the shelves since the government suggested it should be part of every American's terrorism survival kit.

John Kahl of Ohio-based Duck brand says he's never seen anything like the current demand. He notes they have three shifts a day turning out rolls of the handyman's best friend. They're trying to resupply the retail outlets that have been picked clean in the run on duct tape.

Pentagon Gas Problem

WASHINGTON - The Pentagon will soon be handing out gas masks - or "emergency escape hoods" as they're known -- to more than 23,000 of its employees.

The announcement came at a town-hall-style meeting -- about two weeks after the nation's terror alert status was raised from yellow to orange, the second-highest level.

Officials say the masks, which cost $180 , will be handed out at a rate of 500 a day at the Pentagon and the 46 other properties it leases in the Washington area.

The device includes a hood that fits over the head with a plastic face covering, a nosepiece clamp and a fitted mouthpiece with a filter to breathe through.

Not America's Most Wanted

CADILLAC Mich. -- It was a high-speed chase that ended in the jail parking lot. Police say a speeder refused to pull over. The chase began when the driver nearly struck the rear of a Michigan State Police car.

The man eventually came to a stop in the parking lot of the Wexford County Jail. As he was being arrested, the man told officers he figured he was going to jail anyway. Troopers say the 54-year-old driver is expected to be charged with third-degree fleeing and eluding. The felony carries a sentence of up to five years in prison.

Of Worms And Weasels

PARIS -- A British tabloid has hit newsstands in Paris -- featuring a caricature of President Jacques Chirac as a worm.

French Cabinet ministers denounce it as "vulgar" and "pathetic."

The Sun tabloid says France has forgotten how much it owes America and Britain for coming to its aid in two world wars.

One minister says he believes in free speech, but he feels the special edition is an attack.

France has become the butt of jokes in Britain and the U.S. for opposing war with Iraq.

The New York Post recently doctored a front-page photograph to show French and German foreign ministers as weasels.

Full-Service Hotels?

NEW YORK - New York hotels may soon have to offer more than mini-tubes of toothpaste in their gift shops. Two state senators have proposed a law requiring that hotels and motels make condoms available for sale to their guests.

The lawmakers argue that hotel condoms would help prevent sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies. But some lawmakers aren't so hot on the idea.

A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno says putting chocolates on the pillows and condoms underneath them aren't the best ways to raise awareness about AIDS.