The Odd Truth, Feb. 6, 2003

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.

A Real Annoying Go-Getter

MEMPHIS, Mich. - A high school senior says he earned an A+, not an A, and has sued to get the grade changed to bolster his chance at becoming valedictorian.

Brian Delekta, who finished 11th grade in 2002 ranked at the top of his class, says he should have received an A+ for a St. Clair County intermediate school district work-experience class in which he worked as a paralegal in his mother's law office.

Memphis schools award grades on a 12-point scale, with an A+ being a 12. The highest grade awarded by the intermediate school district is an A. Memphis High School gave Delekta credit for an A.

Diane Delekta said her son, who filed the suit Friday, fulfilled the district's work program requirements and performed professionally at work.

"I heard ahead of time (that the threat of a lawsuit) was out there, but to worry about that would be wrong," board President Harold Burns said.

The suit names the school principal, superintendent and all seven school board members as defendants. It asks to have the grade changed and to have class rankings, due out Monday, blocked until the case is settled.

A judge is to consider a restraining order request Monday.

Burnt Toast, Mudflap, Mistaken For Shuttle Debris

NEW YORK - "We at the California Highway Patrol are not rocket scientists." So says CHP spokesman Tom Marshall. Law enforcement agencies from coast-to-coast are being flooded with calls from good Samaritans who want to report possible debris from the ill-fated space shuttle, "Columbia." In California, many of those calls go to the CHP, where officers bag the stuff for shipment to NASA. Across the country, some of the mistaken junk has included burnt toast, a truck mudflap and a Chevy alternator. In Louisiana, one elderly woman called 911 asking if the shuttle carried eggs. She reported finding a yolk on her porch.

Man Jailed For Carving Name In Bench

READING, Pa. - A man waiting to appear before a judge on charges of receiving stolen property was thrown in jail after being caught carving his nickname into a court bench, authorities said.

Deputy Sheriff Kenneth J. Seyfert Jr. said he spotted Eduardo Rivera, 43, hard at work in the back row of the courtroom Tuesday.

"I looked back and you could tell he was really working on something back there," Seyfert said. Seyfert said he walked up behind Rivera and saw he had carved his nickname, "Duardy," into the bench with a quarter.

Berks County Judge Stephen B. Lieberman was notified and Rivera was handcuffed and removed from court until the end of the day, when he appeared before the judge.

"I understand you willfully destroyed some of the property in this courtroom, and that will not be tolerated," said Lieberman, who revoked Rivera's bail in the stolen-property case and sent him to jail.

Defense attorney Timothy A. Biltcliff asked Lieberman to delay Rivera's hearing on receiving stolen property and other charges related to a car break-in. A new hearing was scheduled for April 4.

PETA Cries Foul For Bush's Pardoned Turkeys

WASHINGTON - The annual presidential pardon for turkeys may spare them from becoming Thanksgiving Day dinner, but it falls short of keeping them warm and well-fed, an animal rights group says.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals sent a letter Wednesday to President Bush, saying the turkeys he pardoned the past two years as a Thanksgiving tradition are living in "substandard conditions." The group claimed the birds were shivering in a shed without enough food and water at Frying Pan Park, a tourism farm in Herndon, Va.

"One would think that two animals that had been pardoned by the leader of the free world could be given better accommodations," wrote Bruce G. Friedrich, head of PETA's outreach program.

Friedrich asked Bush to seek improvements to the barns and care for the animals.

Judy Pedersen, a spokeswoman for the Fairfax County Park Authority, said the turkeys are treated well and kept warm.

"They are fed and watered regularly," she said. "They do get bedding. In the summer it's sawdust. In the winter it's sawdust and straw."

Polly Wanna Shut Up?

SEATTLE - Seward Park, long known as a nesting site for a couple of pairs of bald eagles, has become the home of a growing colony of very noisy parrots.

No one knows how the long, emerald-colored birds with red freckles first arrived in the Seattle park, a peninsula jutting into Lake Washington west of Mercer Island.

Some believe they are former house pets that escaped from their cages or were released by owners seeking peace and quiet.

Naturalists believe the parrots are nesting in large dead trees that can provide warmth when the birds huddle inside. Park visitors have reported them dining on discarded apples and wild salmonberries.

"They're another Seattle oddity," said Christina Gallegos, Seward Park's naturalist.

The birds can develop a vocabulary of 40 to 50 words and sell for about $400 when there's a buyer - which isn't often because "they're just obnoxious," said Gayle Peters, owner of Just Parrots Etc. in Renton.

"Believe it or not, people buy these birds and get fed up," Peters said. "Then they just leave them outside."

Stripper, Mayor, Convict Fined

EAGLE, Colo. - The stripper-turned-mayor has been fined $100. Former Georgetown, Colorado, Mayor Koleen Brooks was convicted of making a false police report. She claimed she was assaulted by one of her political enemies. But the jury didn't buy the story, after prosecutors noted Brooks' breast implants weren't damaged in the alleged assault. A judge fined Brooks a hundred bucks, plus another $150 in court costs. Brooks lost her mayoral post in a recall election. But she's since posed for "Playboy."

An Ambulance For Really Fat People

PORTLAND, Ore. - Calling for an ambulance? Perhaps you like to "Supersize" your order? A national ambulance company has developed an extra-heavy duty version, for extra large patients. The ambulance created by American Medical Response, based in Portland, Oregon, can carry people weighing up to a half ton. It's equipped with ramps and a winch to help get the patients inside. The company's Mike Bell says the new unit is better for the paramedics and more comfortable for the patients. Ambulance company officials expect to use the big rig at least twice a week.

City May Ban Cell Phones In Theaters

BETHESDA, Md. - Hang up and watch the movie! It may soon be illegal to yap on a cell phone during a movie in one Washington suburb. Montgomery County, Maryland, Councilman Howard Denis has proposed an ordinance to ban cell phone use during concerts and films. Jabbering on a cell phone could cost violators up to $50 in fines. Denis tells a Washington TV station most people are considerate. But he says there are a few very rude people who insist on making and taking calls, especially during a movie.

Two Arrested In Columbia Debris Looting

LUFKIN, Texas - Two people have been arrested for stealing debris from the space shuttle "Columbia."

They're scheduled to appear before a federal magistrate in Texas this afternoon.

Authorities say a 43-year-old woman stole a circuit board Saturday, while a 23-year-old man is accused of taking a piece of thermal insulating fabric.

If convicted, they face a maximum of ten years in prison and a fine of $250,000.

Authorities are also investigating at least 17 other reports of people who took debris.

The government has declared an amnesty period for anybody else who took a piece of the shuttle. If they turn themselves in by tomorrow afternoon, they won't be prosecuted. After that, they're on their own.