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The Odd Truth, July 23, 2004

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

Lightning: The New Atkins

MADISON, Maine - A Madison man who was struck by lightning this week says he feels "lighter and 100 years younger" than he did before Tuesday's accident.

"I'm feeling like my body is light. It's the best I've probably felt as far as energy in 10 years," said John Corson, 56, the day after he was struck by lightning while working outside his home.

Corson thought the afternoon thunder-and-lightning storm had passed his home, and had gone outside to work on a renovation project when the lightning hit him.

"It was like a whitish-blue, but it was so bright," Corson said. "I actually heard the snap, but I was paralyzed. It was like my whole body was just vibrating. It was like, a hell of a sensation. It was like chest pain, with someone's hand on my chest."

The lightning left redness around his shoulders, he said. The bolt went through his body and tripped three breakers in the garage.

"My knees buckled. I was able to straighten out," he said. "Then I was dumbfounded. Just dumbfounded."

Corson, who has had three cardiac surgeries, spent eight hours at Redington-Fairview General Hospital after the accident while doctors tested his blood for any effect on his heart.

Corson said he thought people who are hit by lightning die, and he now believes in guardian angels.

In fact, according to the National Weather Service, most lightning-strike victims survive, although they often report a variety of long-term debilitating symptoms.

An average of 67 people in the United States are killed each year by lightning. In 2003, there were 44 such deaths.

Canine Cocaine Cabal Caught

LONDON - A British couple face a long stretch in prison after being convicted of using their dogs' stomachs to smuggle cocaine from Colombia.

The cocaine was found in the bellies of two Labradors at Amsterdam's airport. An X-ray found 21 canisters of cocaine worth more than $200,000. One dog recovered - but the other had to be put down.

London residents Gregory Graham and Kaye Chapman were found guilty of conspiracy to import the drug. Two others were acquitted.

The dogs came in on a flight from Colombia. Dutch authorities tipped off British police, who set up a sting operation.

High-Speed Chase Ends At Courthouse

WINFIELD, W.Va. - Sheriff's Deputy John Hedrick was surprised when a vehicle he was chasing squealed into a county parking lot and its driver got out and ran toward a judicial annex.

The suspect, it turns out, was late for a very important date - in court.

"I thought it was kind of a weird situation, but it kind of worked out all right," Hedrick said. "He got to court, then he got the ticket."

The chase began Wednesday when Hedrick spotted a vehicle doing 60 in a 35 mph zone on U.S. 35. Hedrick went after the vehicle, with his cruiser's lights flashing and siren blaring. It turned up a hill and headed toward a cluster of county buildings.

The vehicle screeched to a stop in a parking lot outside the sheriff's department and the driver, Daniel Clark of Beckley, ran toward the judicial annex. Hedrick captured Clark and discovered why he was in such a hurry.

"He was late for a court hearing," Hedrick said.

Hedrick let Clark make his appointment - for an arraignment on charges of wanton endangerment - then alerted a bailiff. When Clark left the courtroom, he was taken to the sheriff's department and cited for speeding and driving on a suspended license.

Vantiy Plate Joke Spins Wildly Out Of Control

WILMINGTON, Del. - A vanity license tag chosen as a gag has left its owner holding the bag.

Jim Cara thought the "NOTAG" plate he got for his Suzuki motorcycle would give people a laugh. Instead, he found that the joke - along with more than 200 parking violations - was on him.

The new tag arrived in the mail Saturday, along with an avalanche of city parking violations.

"All the traffic tickets say, 'Notice of violation. License number: no tag,"' Cara explained.

Officials said city computers linked to state Division of Motor Vehicles computers finally found an address for ticketed vehicles that lacked license tags: Cara's home in Elsmere.

"I messed up the system so bad," Cara said. "I wonder if they can put me in jail or something?"

Cara, 43, who works for the American Motorcycle Association, said he's been a lifelong prankster. This time, though, "the cleanup is going to be worse than the joke," he said.

An incorrect computer code used by the contractor that processes the city's parking violations helped land the tickets in Cara's mail, according to John Rago, a spokesman for Wilmington Mayor James Baker. City officials plan to have it corrected, he said.

Fortunately for Cara, Wilmington appeared to be the only jurisdiction with the no-tag computer glitch, said Kelly Pitts, spokeswoman for the state Department of Transportation.

Pitts said Cara's best insurance against future problems would be to change the "NOTAG" plate.

No way, said Cara. "I think it's awesome."

16 Feet Of Pure Public Nuisance

VERO BEACH, Fla. - A 16-foot-long Burmese python was captured on a city street after a passing motorist spotted about three feet of it hanging over a curb and called police.

The brown-and-yellow snake was wrestled into a body bag and taken to the home of Animal Control Officer Bruce Dangerfield.

"This is a very irresponsible owner to let something loose like this," Dangerfield said of the capture late Wednesday. "Either it escaped - all snakes are escape artists - or someone let it loose."

Dangerfield said he has picked up dozens of loose Burmese pythons and boa constrictors over the years, but this was the biggest.

Dangerfield said the responsibilities that come with owning a giant reptile become too much for some people. Within a few years, a 20-inch hatchling bought for $100 at a pet store will become a rabbit-munching giant.

"Some people should just watch Animal Channel or something, not own one," he said.

The snake will probably be euthanized if its owner doesn't come forward, said Ilke Daniel of the Humane Society.

"There is such overpopulation, no zoo wants them," she said.

Barracuda Jumps Into Boat, Bites Fisherman

TYBEE ISLAND, Ga. - A man fishing off the Georgia coast has discovered that when the fish are biting, it can really hurt.

A 30-pound barracuda jumped into his boat and bit him.

The Coast Guard says the 65-year-old man was aboard a charter fishing boat about three miles off Tybee Island when it happened.

The boat owner says the fish wasn't hooked or anything - it just leaped about 30 feet from the water to the boat. She says the barracuda was "sailing like he had wings."

The man was treated at a hospital for a serious cut on his finger.

Mailman-Shaped Dog Treats Yanked

TORONTO - Some dog biscuits are being pulled from the market after growls of protest from Canada Post.

More than 290 Pet Valu stores across Canada sold Bark Bars.

They're dog biscuits that come in the shapes of a canines' age-old prey - letter carriers and cats.

Canada Post says that's in "extremely poor taste," given the fact there are many letter carriers who are attacked by dogs.

That includes one Chatham, Ontario letter carrier who had her right ear ripped of by a pit bull last month.

Pet Valu president Ed Casey says he received a diplomatic letter from Canada Post asking his company to stop selling Bark Bars.

He says he will comply.

Casey adds he has yet to receive a formal complaint from cat lovers.

Like 'The Ring' But For Cell Phones

LAGOS, Nigeria - Oluchi Azubogu took no chances after receiving an ominous text message stirring fear in Nigeria.

The message warned that she would die if she took calls from two listed phone numbers.

"I switched off my mobile phone and took no calls at all," the 22-year-old university student said. Quickly she alerted her parents and six friends.

The text-message rumor has been spreading this week through Africa's most populous country: "Beware! You'll die if you take a call from any of these phone numbers: 0802 311 1999 or 0802 222 5999."

Telecom firm VMobile insisted Thursday the messages are merely a hoax, stressing that only one of the alleged "killer numbers" even exists. The other is fictitious.

"This is an absolute hoax and should be treated as such," VMobile spokesman Emeka Opara said in a statement.

Police also urged the public to ignore the rumor, with national police spokesman Chris Olakpe saying authorities are seeking the source of the hoax and investigating whether criminal harm was intended.

Many Nigerians spoke of their heart skipping a beat whenever their cell phones ring.

Azubogu said she switched her phone back on after her parents reassured her the message was the work of scaremongers.

"Still whenever my phone rings, I scrutinize the numbers on the screen before I press the OK button," Azubogu said.

Others are amused by the stunt. Bayo Awe, a Lagos banker, never believed the rumor for a moment.

"I think people have taken a practical joker more seriously than he ever expected," Awe said.

Sticky Situation

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - When Joyce Stewart of Martinsburg, West Virginia, got stuck the other morning - it wasn't just a figure of speech. She was having a cup of coffee and doing a little first aid on her foot. Stewart was using 3M's liquid bandage on her heal and didn't realize the fluid had dripped down toward her toes. Within minutes, Stewart's left foot was glued tight to the floor. Family members couldn't help and had to call 911. It took three paramedics over an hour and a bottle of baby oil to free her. She says it was all so embarrassing. Martin adds the worst part was that she was still in her bathrobe.

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