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The Odd Truth, Feb. 22, 2005

The Odd Truth is a collection of strange but factual news stories from around the world compiled by CBSNews.com's Joey Arak.

Man Picks Jail Over Girlfriend

RIGA, Latvia - Finding life on the run as restrictive as life behind bars, a Latvian man who escaped from a minimum-security prison five years ago showed up at the prison doorstep asking to be let back in.

Sergei M. -- prison officials would not give his full name -- turned himself in Monday at the Vecumnieki penitentiary, 31 miles southeast of the capital, Riga, where he had escaped from in 1999 with 10 months left on his seven-year burglary sentence.

Karlis Serzants, a spokesman for the Latvian prison administration, said Tuesday that Sergei had been living in Riga with his girlfriend and had worked illegally at various jobs, but was finding it hard to find work and evade the authorities.

Sergei will serve the remaining 10 months of his burglary sentence and could face as long as three more years for his escape, Serzants said.

Bobbit Case Redux

ANCHORAGE, Alaska - A woman upset about an impending breakup with her boyfriend cut off the man's penis and flushed it down a toilet, police said.

Utility workers recovered the severed member Sunday and surgeons reattached it.

Kim Tran, 35, was charged with first-degree assault, domestic violence and tampering with evidence. She was jailed at the Anchorage Jail with no bail set.

Anchorage Police Department spokeswoman Anita Shell said police received a call just after midnight that a 44-year-old man had been dropped off by his girlfriend at Providence Hospital with amputated genitals.

"It was brutal, brutal," Shell said.

The man's name has not been released in keeping with department policy in domestic violence cases, Shell said.

Investigators determined that the man and Tran on Saturday night had argued over a pending breakup. The relationship had lasted a little more than a year but the man no longer wanted to be involved with the woman, police said.

At some point, the pair decided to have sexual relations and the man agreed to have his arms tied to a window handle above their bed.

The woman pulled out a kitchen knife severed the man's penis, police said. She then flushed the penis down the toilet, untied the man and drove him to the hospital.

Officers arrived at the couple's home and found the woman cleaning up the bloody scene.

Swimming Pool Swiped

OSLO, Norway - A Norwegian family's swimming pool wasn't just bolted down, it was in the ground. But that couldn't stop a band of determined thieves.

When the Nicolaysen family visited their mountain cabin over the weekend, they discovered a big hole in the yard in place of the swimming pool that had been installed 20 years ago.

"This can't be, we thought," Arild Nicolaysen told state radio network NRK on Monday. "We didn't think it was possible. No one can steal a swimming pool."

Evidently, someone did.

At some point since early November, when the family closed up the cabin for the winter, their 16-foot-diameter pool and all its equipment was uprooted and stolen.

"It must have been a terrible job to disassemble such a big pool. There is a steel lining all the way around, plus there is a plastic liner and then there was a skimming system, a filter system and a lot of big hoses, and pipes," said Brit Nicolaysen, who owns the cabin with her husband.

"Simple Life" Insults Afterlife

WOOD-RIDGE, N.J. - Some of the hijinks on a recent episode of Fox's "The Simple Life" went too far for some people.

Last week's show had stars Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie working at a New Jersey funeral home -- where they drove a hearse, filled a grave and held a mock funeral. They also appeared to spill what looked like human ashes, and then vacuumed them up.

It was actually cat litter and cement. The producers say no human bodies were used.

But nonetheless, the episode left some people fuming. One woman who held her father's funeral at the same facility called the episode "totally tacky." She tells a New Jersey newspaper that the mock funeral was in the same room where her father had been laid out. She says it was "really horrible" to her.

"Sideways" Sales Effect

BERKELEY, Calif. - Sales of the wine that's featured prominently in the movie "Sideways" are soaring in California.

The movie about two guys on a road trip through California's Central Coast wine country is being linked to an increase in sales of pinot noir.

At one winery in the region where the movie is set, supermarket sales of pinot noir jumped 135 percent. In California overall, the sales spike was 33 percent.

In the movie, the lead character Miles, played by Paul Giamatti, raves about pinot noir. It's made from a challenging grape that only grows in certain regions and demands a lot of attention on and off the vine. Miles turns up his nose at merlot, a consumer favorite that continues to sell well.

"Sideways" is up for five Academy Awards at this year's Oscars. It's also being credited with boosting tourism to the Central Coast.

The Finer Lessons Of Puke

PORTLAND, Ore. - An exhibit called "Vomit Slurpers" may sound disgusting to some people, but that's exactly what seems to be drawing kids to the show. The exhibit is just one of the attractions at "Grossology: The Science of Creatures Gross and Disgusting" now through April at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry. The show's displays turn the gross into a teaching tool, often with indelicate candor. During the "Vomit Slurpers" exhibit a character named Freddie the Fly explains how flies eat by saying: "My wife's cooking is so bad I vomit before I eat." Another part of the exhibit says "RETCH! Kitty hurls a warm hairy hot-dog!" at a display on feline hairballs that also gives a clear diagram of what makes Fluffy tick. And at the Dung-Ball Rally, a much-larger-than-life dung beetle boasts "I can push a ball of poop 50 times my weight uphill." Exhibit visitors also learn doctors were called leeches in Old English, ancient Egyptians linked the dung ball roll to the sun crossing the sky, and Romans thought a poultice of mashed house fly was a cure for baldness -- it wasn't. The show is on a North American tour that winds up at Space Center Houston in June 2007.

Toys: Getting To Know You

NEW YORK - Picture an Elmo or Winnie the Pooh plush doll that knows a child's name and favorite food, and tells stories and sings songs incorporating such personal details. Or a new version of Furby that recognizes voices and reacts with emotions from surprise to dismay, and responds to specific words a child says. Electronic toys that make a child's play more interactive are among the products manufacturers hope will help them reclaim sales lost to grown-up gadgets like iPod music players. More than 1,400 toy representatives from 31 countries are showing their wares at the 102nd annual American International Toy Fair in New York City. The show is a chance for buyers to get a close-up look at more than 5,000 products -- ranging from classic toys to interactive entertainment.

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