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The Odd Truth, Feb. 24, 2003

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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.

Bird Is The Word

NEW YORK - Experts who have studied the history of the raised middle finger - and there are a few out there - have found written references to it as far back as ancient Greek and Roman times. The gesture's sexual meaning has always been roughly the same, and it has always been considered rude.

Those findings, the experts say, debunk a common legend that "flipping the bird" got its start at the Battle of Agincourt in 1415. As that story goes, the victorious British supposedly raised their middle fingers after the French threatened to chop off the middle digits of captured English soldiers. But experts say there is no written proof of the story.

Widely publicized displays of the middle finger have increased in recent years - in some cases, with little consequence to the bird-flipper. But that wasn't always the case, as comedian Jackie Mason learned the hard way.

In 1964, Mason was banned from "The Ed Sullivan Show" - and for a time, network television appearances - after he appeared to flip the bird on live, national TV. Sullivan was livid. Mason denies he made the gesture.

There was, however, no mistaking the middle finger that Vice President Nelson Rockefeller gave in 1976. A now infamous photo - shocking in its day - shows him smiling widely as he returned the bird to student demonstrators in Binghamton, N.Y.

Isaac Newton Predicted World's End In 2060

JERUSALEM - Move over Nostradamus. The BBC says its upcoming documentary on Sir Isaac Newton includes the 18th century scientist's prediction that the world will end in the year 2060.

The British network says it will show a handwritten Newton document that a researcher found in the archives of Jerusalem's Jewish National Library.

In a statement promoting the program, to be aired next Saturday, the BBC says Newton based his calculations on decades of studying the Bible.

A library official said he hasn't seen such a document.

Newton, who died in 1727, won immortality as a scientist and mathematician. But he also was a Christian theologian who wrote well over a million words on Biblical subjects.

Woman Busted For Busty Snow-Woman

KENT, Ohio - A woman in northeastern Ohio may have done too thorough a job with her snowman — or snow-woman, to be exact.

Crystal Lynn says police in the town of Kent told her she had to remove the breasts from her snow woman — after someone complained.

She says she didn't want to do that — so instead, she draped a tablecloth around the shoulders.

The snow woman was too busty to be covered by a shirt.

Lynn says the police officer made her feel as if she'd be arrested if she didn't cover up her creation.

But police say that's not true — they say it was simply a neighborhood dispute, and that no charges were necessary.

Norway, Where The Wildlife Comes To You

OSLO - Driving through southern Norway, Leo and Else Henriksen admired the scenery, but not the 770-pound moose that landed on their car.

Collisions between cars and moose are fairly common in Norway, a Nordic country of 4.5 million, but the large animals don't typically fly out of the air.

The moose struck the Henriksen's red Mazda 232 Sunday after it apparently slid down a mountain and landed on the car's wind shield.

"The hood was practically undamaged, but after destroying my windshield, it rolled onto the roof and swept away the ski box," he told The Associated Press.

The moose didn't fare too well, either, coming to a stop on the two-lane road a few miles south of Vatnestrom, 237 miles south of the capital, Oslo.

The animal was struck and killed by another car.

"Something must have scared it," said Henriksen, a sailor on a Norway-Denmark ferry. "The moose came down a hill behind a mountain, and it came flying through the air."

He and his wife suffered minor injuries, including cuts from broken windshield.

Homeless Man Gets $6 Million IRS Bill

SALEM, Ore. - If John Ramer made enough money to owe the IRS $6 million, he probably wouldn't be homeless.

The IRS mistakenly handed him a big bill, claiming he need to pay nearly $6 million. To owe that much, Ramer should have earned about $15 million in one year.

During a visit to a local IRS office, Ramer was taken aside and asked whether he had done any day trading.

Ramer has a collection of notices from the IRS demanding payment for taxes and interest from 1994. He was making about $7 an hour at the time.

Currently, Ramer is unemployed and getting around town on a mountain bike. He ended up in Oregon after turning himself in for a theft committed in 1998.

For a short time, Ramer helped care for wolves at the Candy Kitchen Wolf & Hybrid Rescue Ranch in Pinehill, N.M.

"If we paid him anything, it wasn't more than $300 or $400 - and he owes me a hundred bucks," said Leyton Cougar, facilities director of the animal sanctuary.

IRS spokeswoman Shawn George said the agency was investigating Ramer's case and taking it seriously.

Nike Spill Off The Californian Coast

ANCHORAGE - It's your chance to score some free Nikes. But good luck in finding a matched pair — and forget about dry sneakers. Thousands of pairs of Nike basketball shoes are washing up on beaches from Washington state to Alaska. Oceanographer Curtis Ebbesmeyer has been tracking the drifting Nikes. He says 33,000 pairs spilled from a container ship off the Northern California coast in December. He says the shoes are still in good shape but Nike forgot to tie the laces. One beachcomber found two Nikes on Washington's Olympic Peninsula about a month ago. One shoe was a ten and a-half, the other an eight and a-half - and both were lefts.