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The Odd Truth, Feb. 6, 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.

The Cake To End All Cakes

HARTFORD, Conn. - You can have your cake and eat it too.

That's what pastry chefs at the Mohegan Sun casino are out to prove.

They are building what they hope will be the world's largest wedding cake. The seven-tier cake weighs more than 14,000 pounds and measures about 17-feet tall, and is making its debut at the American Indian casino in Uncasville on Sunday.

"It just keeps going up," executive pastry chef Lynn Mansel said. "I still can't believe we did it."

Mansel is hoping to top the Guinness Book world record set by a 5,334 pound cake baked in June 2003 at Universal Studios in Orlando, Fla.

Mansel and his crew began assembling the massive white cake last Sunday. The top ingredients include 10,000 pounds of cake batter and 4,810 pounds of frosting, he said. The cake rests on a gigantic scale for measuring purposes, and each tier is separated by steel discs.

"I had to think a lot," Mansel said of the design. "I had to think of all the wedding cakes I've already done and then multiply that by 100."

Burglar Steals Kitchen Sink

DES MOINES, Iowa - A burglar who got into a house under construction took the stainless-steel sink and garbage disposal with chrome faucet - but nothing else.

"I can retire now," joked Des Moines police Lt. Ray Rexroat after officers took a report Wednesday from Jerry's Homes Inc.

Kitchen sinks have enjoyed a reputation as the last thing left when all else has been taken away. Maybe it's because most of them are bolted into the plumbing, sealed with caulk, and wedged tightly into a counter.

That's changing.

"They are stealing everything, including the kitchen sink; it's a very prevalent problem," said Steve Staub, executive vice president of the Home Builders Association of Greater Des Moines.

Staub said construction sites are being hit harder and more often, fueled in part by a building boom and the high cost of materials.

Forty-one construction burglaries were reported in Des Moines in the last eight months of 2003.

Staub said thieves have stolen washers and dryers, furnaces, faucets, fixtures, even doors and windows.

"Sinks can be heavy to carry out. And they do it in the middle of the day," he said. "There are so many subcontractors on a job, it's hard knowing who is supposed to be there sometimes.

"Some of these people pull in during the middle of the day, load up, and just drive away."

700 Rodents Scamper After Van Overturns

PEARISBURG, Va. - A cargo van filled with cages carrying more than 700 gerbils, rats, mice and other rodents overturned Thursday, sending the animals scurrying onto a highway and sparking a bizarre large-scale rescue of the small animals.

The accident occurred when the van, driven by Thomas Marcinko of Zanesville, Ohio, hit an icy patch of U.S. 460 and ran off the left side of the road, hit a guardrail, overturned and slid onto the shoulder.

The animals, being transported in plastic cages, made a break for freedom.

"We caught probably 20 or 25 outside the vehicle. We caught another 25 inside the vehicle," said Bill Davis, one of eight members of the Giles County Lifesaving Squad who responded to a call for help. "Then we realized they were everywhere."

Marcinko walked away from the accident, and once he was checked out, the search for the critters was on.

"As cold as it is outside, we couldn't just leave them," Davis said. "I just started throwing them in back of the ambulance."

Judge Returns 18 Ounces Of Weed To Buyers

SANTA CRUZ, Calif. - A judge ordered police to return a stash of weed to two men.

Police pulled over Leo Beus on Sept. 22 because his car had tinted windows. Beus, 47, and his friend, Jon Balesteri, 54, had purchased 18 ounces of marijuana a day earlier at the Oakland Cannabis Buyers Club, said their attorney, Ben Rice.

They didn't have their medical prescriptions with them, but police allowed them to go home and retrieve them, Beus said. However, their $3,000-plus worth of marijuana was confiscated for evidence.

Beus and Balesteri were charged with transporting and possessing marijuana for sale, but the charges were later dropped.

California allows people to grow, smoke or use medical marijuana with a doctor's recommendation.

Rice said Superior Court Judge Art Danner ordered the pot returned because of the December federal appeals court ruling that a congressional act outlawing marijuana can not apply in states with such laws.

Fecal Free-For-All

PALESTINE, Texas - A Texas state trooper pulled over a van and found 23 dogs, three cats and a chicken inside. And, he says the driver and her elderly passenger were covered in animal feces.

Trooper Jim Cleland of the Texas public safety department tells the Palestine Herald-Press that when he approached the van, he could smell the stench from 20 to 30 feet away.

Police say feces was as much as a foot deep in parts of the van. They believe the woman had picked up the animals over several months.

Police say the driver has been arrested on suspicion of drunken driving. Investigators say the elderly, disabled man who was riding in the van was taken to a local motel.

Meanwhile, an official says the animals appeared to be in good condition but would be evaluated at a shelter.

Fawlty Service

LONDON - Shades of Basil Fawlty.

A hotelier who wrote to a client explaining why she couldn't have a free glass of tap water was showered with bad publicity Friday, being compared in some British newspapers to John Cleese's ill-tempered hotel keeper.

Sally Burchell, a guest at the Atlantic Hotel in Newquay, southwest England, complained to managing director Anthony Cobley that she was refused a glass of tap water with her $32 meal.

Staff told her she would have to pay $1.40 for a small bottle of mineral water or $3.60 for 1 liter.

Cobley wrote back: "I buy water from the South West Water company. I buy the glasses that the water is served in. I buy the ice that goes into the water and I buy the labor to serve the water.

"I provide the luxury surroundings for the water to be drunk in and again pay for the labor and washing materials to wash the glass after you have used it, and you think that I should provide all of this free of charge!

"As regards your comment that you will not be returning to the Atlantic Hotel ever again, leaves me to say that customers who only drink water and complain about paying for it, I can certainly do without."

"This is like a letter from Basil Fawlty," The Daily Telegraph quoted Burchell as saying.

"There were a lot of us there and we spent a lot of money on drinks between us. Some people were even staying the night so it seemed a little tight to charge me for water."

Circus Ducks Destroyed In Bird Flu Scare

HANOI, Vietnam - A circus troupe of performing ducks in Vietnam has met a foul end.

The 150 ducks, members of the Cu Chi Ecological Tourism Park circus troupe, were destroyed last week as part of Vietnam's mass cull to contain the bird flu epidemic.

The park's deputy director, Nguyen Hoang Thanh, said the ducks, who have been a star attraction for a year, are to be replaced by a team of racing pigs.

"I am very sad because we trained the ducks for three months, but we have no choice. Tourists, especially kids, were very keen on the show," he said.

It would take at least six months to train another flock of ducks, he said. The web-footed artists were trained to slide down a chute into a pond and assist in other circus performances. Some 50,000 visitors toured the park last year, he said.

Vietnam has already destroyed more than 14 million chickens and ducks in a bid to contain the deadly H5N1 flu virus, which has killed 13 people nationwide.

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