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The Odd Truth, Feb. 24, 2004

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.

Polar Bears Green With Algae

SINGAPORE - Life in the balmy tropics has made polar bears Inuka and Sheba go green with algae.

The usually white coats of Sheba and her 13-year-old son Inuka, Singapore Zoo's two polar bears, turned green a few weeks ago from algae growing in their hollow hair shafts, said Vincent Tan, a spokesman for the zoo.

"The harmless algae is the result of Singapore's warm and humid tropical conditions," Tan said.

Polar bears have clear hair shafts which appear white because they reflect light.

Sheba's coat was successfully bleached with hydrogen peroxide 2 1/2 weeks ago and Inuka will be given a similar treatment in 3 weeks time, Tan said.

The zoo wanted to observe Sheba's reaction to the treatment before bleaching Inuka, he said.

For now, Inuka remains mottled with bright grass-colored splotches behind his ears, on his back and legs.

Three polar bears at the San Diego Zoo developed similarly green coats in 1979 but were cured with a salt solution, according to the Web site of Polar Bears International, a nonprofit conservation group based in North America.

Air Screener Sends Himself Through X-Ray

DENVER - A security screener at the Denver airport has been disciplined for sending himself through an X-ray machine.

"I cannot ascribe any sort of motive to why anyone would do this," said Mike Fierberg, spokesman for the Transportation Security Administration.

Fierberg would not release the screener's name or detail the punishment.

"The screener in question did not jeopardize the safety of any passengers or aircraft," he said Monday. "But it was clearly behavior that is not acceptable."

Disney Turns Up The Heat

LOS ANGELES - The glare off the Walt Disney Concert Hall's shimmering stainless steel curves is so intense it's heating up nearby condominiums at least 15 degrees Fahrenheit, neighbors complain.

Before concert hall officials recently ordered a temporary fix, reflections from Frank Gehry's $274 million architectural landmark, which opened in October, hit Jaqueline Lagrone just as she arrived home for lunch.

"You couldn't even see and then the furniture would get really hot," said Lagrone, 42, whose unit faces the new hall. "You would have to literally close the drapes and you'd still feel warmth in the house. You would have the air conditioning on all the time."

One corner of the building, known as the Founders Room, corner is clad in a glossy, mirror-like steel that reflects the sun more harshly than duller brushed steel used elsewhere. Disney Hall officials have put up a temporary synthetic net while they work on a permanent solution - dulling the shine.

"We've chosen a sort of sandblasted finish," Gehry partner Terry Bell said.

Architects considered the impact of the shiny steel on neighboring buildings, Bell said. But during construction, the curving sheets of metal ended up facing a slightly different angle than plans called for, he said.

The End Is Coming ... Sometime?

GARDEN GROVE, Calif. - It sounds like Hollywood science fiction. But a group of scientists actually met in California yesterday to discuss how to defend our planet from asteroids. Mega-asteroid hits only happen about once every million years. But the researchers say it's going to happen someday. It's believed an asteroid impact wiped out the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. A variety of defense strategies are being considered, including using lasers, mirrors or atomic weapons to nudge the asteroid off course. The researchers are calling for creation of a deep space monitoring system - which could give us years of warning about an in-bound space rock.

Man Keeps Eye On Ring

DUNCAN, Oklahoma - Michael Burton is keeping an eye on his ring - in the most literal sense. Burton paid $2,000 for his glass eye 35 years ago after he lost his eye in an industrial accident. Now, he's gotten a new artificial eye - but wasn't about the let the old one to go waste. So, he had his old glass eye made into a ring. Duncan, Oklahoma, jeweler Al Nix did the work. He says it's the oddest piece he's ever made. But Nix says the glass eye makes a mighty nice ring. And Burton is happy with it, too. Burton says he wouldn't even trade his eye ring for a real eye.

Pot-Smoking Judge Up In Smoke

TRAVERSE CITY, Michigan - The career of a judge caught smoking pot is going up in smoke. Michigan District Judge Thomas Gilbert says he won't seek re-election this year. He was spotted smoking a joint at a Rolling Stones concert in 2002. He served a six-month suspension from the bench and entered a rehab program. Gilbert says he's been sober for 16 months and is a different person today. Before the suspension, Gilbert had a limited case load and didn't hear drunken driving or marijuana possession cases. He'll be back at work March 29th. He says he hopes he can help others recover from alcoholism and addiction.

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