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The Odd Truth, July 26, 2004

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

The Bell Finally Tolls

KEY WEST, Fla. - On his eighth try, a North Carolina real estate broker - with a silver-white beard and khaki fisherman's vest - won the annual Ernest Hemingway look-alike contest.

John Stubbings, 65, was crowned late Saturday at a packed Sloppy Joe's Bar, Hemingway's favorite Key West watering hole during his residency here in the 1930s.

"Like everybody else, I thought I was going to win my first year," Stubbings said. "That doesn't happen. You pay your dues, you get to know the judges and make friends with the contestants."

Stubbings beat 135 other prospective Hemingways, judged for their graying beards, ruddy complexion and piercing eyes.

The annual Hemingway Days festival ended Sunday. Festivities also included literary readings, theatrical productions, a marlin tournament and a gala on the grounds of Hemingway's former home.

Stubbings said he favors "For Whom the Bell Tolls" over Hemingway's other novels, and admits feeling a certain kinship with the writer.

"The spirit is there," he said. "I like the outdoors, I tried my hand at writing and I love to fish."

Yawns Contagious In Chimps

TOKYO - Ai, a 27-year-old chimpanzee in western Japan, watches another chimp yawn, quickly rolls back her head and soon is showing the pink inside of her mouth in a gaping yawn of her own.

"It's another good example of how chimpanzees are so like us," Tetsuro Matsuzawa, professor at the Primate Research Institute at Kyoto University who took part in the Japan-based study, told the Associated Press Monday.

The study, published this month in the British online journal The Royal Society Biology Letters, says that out of six chimpanzees under observation, two clearly yawned repeatedly in response to videos of other chimps yawning.

Three infant chimps accompanying their mothers did not respond at all, it said.

Meanwhile, none yawned in response to images of other chimps just opening their mouths.

The pattern fits that of humans, Matsuzawa said.

When people watch yawning videos, roughly half yawn in response, while children under five do not appear to find yawning contagious, he said.

Contagious yawning is thought to be a result of empathy and self-awareness, both of which require a sophisticated intellect, the study concluded.

Previously, it was believed that only older humans yawned contagiously because young children and animals did not have the intellectual development necessary.

But the study said its findings provide further evidence that apes may possess an advanced level of self-awareness and empathy like mature humans.

Matsuzawa said the next step was to see whether chimpanzees found human yawns contagious, predicting that they would.

"Humans have a strong belief in our differences," Matsuzawa said. "Objectively, we should be one member of the apes."

Donkey Elected Mayor Of Colo. Town

FLORISSANT, Colo. - No elephants need apply.

This unincorporated area on Saturday re-elected Paco Bell, a donkey, as its mayor, and that wasn't even close. Two of the four candidates didn't show up.

It's all part of the 15th annual Heritage Days in the town between Divide and Lake George on Colorado Highway 24. Residents like to poke fun at the political process, and they do it by electing a donkey as mayor. Paco Bell won re-election against two no shows and a white donkey named Birdie.

"We had one who was colicky, so he couldn't make it, and another one's trailer broke down, so he couldn't come either," said organizer Tracie Bennitt.

Volunteers the Pikes Peak Historical Society stuffed Paco Bell's ballot box with donations - ensuring him a second term.

Dagney Hales, 8, and Sam Easto, 7, fed the mayor wild goldenrod, green stalks with little yellow flowers, and Teller County Sheriff Kevin Dougherty swore in the incumbent.

"This is good and rural," Dougherty said. "We love doing this kind of stuff."

Dog's Best Friend

FARGO, N.D. - When a 3-year-old chocolate Labrador retriever named Maddy got tangled in a 10-foot rope securing a trampoline floating on a lake, owner Matt Tollefson didn't think twice. Tollefson dove in after her.

When he dragged the dog's lifeless body out, Tollefson again didn't hesitate.

Her eyes were open and her tongue hung to the side of her mouth. Tollefson performed CPR.

"She's part of the family," Tollefson said. "If she's going to go, she wasn't going to go like that."

Tollefson alternated compressions on Maddy's chest and blowing air in through her snout.

"Instincts just took over at that point."

Tollefson said he took a first responders course in college but is not sure how he knew to blow air through her nose. He said he may have seen it on TV.

Two minutes into it last Monday, Maddy showed signs of life.

A veterinarian the next day diagnosed Maddy with aspiration pneumonia and a chip fracture in her shoulder from the compressions.

The dog is a little swollen and is taking two steam baths a day to help her recovery. She also is on antibiotics.

"Maybe she doesn't, but it seems like she looks at me differently," Tollefson said. "She's still the same dog. There's just more of a bond now."

Man Found Dead In Hospital Lounge

MIDDLEBURG HEIGHTS, Ohio - A man was found dead on a couch in a hospital lounge, and a nurse told police that nobody had checked on him for at least 17 hours because he appeared to be asleep.

Robert F. Johnson, 55, who had emphysema, was found Thursday at Southwest General Health Center, police said. It was not clear when he died; an autopsy was planned.

Police Chief John Maddox said Johnson probably had been dead for several hours and most likely died of natural causes.

"It's just unbelievable," his wife, Robin Johnson, said Friday. "Somebody out at the hospital didn't notice that a man was laying there for such a long period of time and not moving? Why didn't anybody check?"

A hospital spokeswoman, Kelly Stanford, declined to comment on the death. "It's an unfortunate situation, but we're cooperating fully with all levels of investigation," Stanford said.

Nurse Lynette Chihil discovered Thursday morning that Johnson was dead. She told police that Johnson, who was fully dressed and curled with his face buried in a cushion, was discolored and cold, and that she had seen him on the same couch 17 hours earlier. Another nurse said she saw a man reclining on the couch late Wednesday.

Robin Johnson said she had not seen her husband since he left home Monday morning after an argument. Police believe he camped out at the hospital rather than return home.

Burglars Get A Run For Their Money

OVIEDO, Fla. - Janice Gentry is not to be trifled with.

When four suspected burglars tried to make off with her belongings, Gentry and her sons outfoxed them by fashioning a tripwire out of a fishing line and blocking the suspects until authorities arrived and arrested them, deputies said.

Burglars struck Gentry's Oviedo home Saturday afternoon, loading her belongings into her Ford Explorer and searching for another vehicle when it didn't all fit in the SUV, according to the Seminole County Sheriff's Office. They tried to steal the neighbor's van but were scared off, deputies said.

Officials say the burglars left, intending to return later that night.

Gentry returned home, found her things loaded in her Explorer and alerted the sheriff's office.

The burglars returned about 3 a.m. Sunday and tried to drive off in the Explorer.

By then, Gentry and her two sons had tied a fishing line from her bumper to a bicycle in the garage, and the bicycle came crashing down and alerted Gentry and her sons.

The woman and her sons blocked the driveway with their cars to prevent any escape, said Steve Olson, spokesman for the sheriff's office.

Suspects Whitney D. Davis, 24, Reginald M. Hudson, 19, Patrick Doreus, 19, and Geraldo Rivera, 16, were charged with burglary, larceny, loitering and prowling. Davis was charged with car burglary and petty theft.

Hotel Workers Urge Porno Ban

OSLO, Norway - Claiming some hotel workers are being urged by guests to do more than turn down the bedcovers, a Norwegian union wants X-rated pay-per-view programming turned off for good.

The Norwegian Hotel and Restaurant Workers Union, which represents most of Norway's 10,000 workers in the industry, says many of its female members have complained they're being propositioned by amorous guests aroused by what they order on television in their hotel rooms.

"Porn must be removed from pay TV because of our members, who regularly work alone, are being harassed," union leader Elin Jjunggren told state radio P4 on Monday.

Though no incidents of assault or rape have been reported, Jjunggren said many of the hotel workers - often immigrants from the Middle East - feared for their safety.

Norwegian law forbids hardcore pornography on video, in theaters and on broadcast television, but it can be shown legally on pay-per-view television.

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