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The Odd Truth, July 9, 2004

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

Prison Time For Tiger-Eaters

SHANGHAI, China - A Chinese court sentenced two men to prison for killing and eating a Siberian tiger, a highly endangered species whose population in the wild is only about 500, an official newspaper reported Friday.

Zhang Lichen was sentenced to nine years and Gong Weisheng to five years, the Shanghai Daily reported.

It said the tiger was caught in a trap set by the two men in the mountains near their village in northeast Heilongjiang province early last year. The pair waited for six days until the tiger died, then butchered it and ate the meat, the report said.

Siberian tigers are one of the world's rarest species, with only about 500 believed to remain in the wild in the forests of northeastern China and eastern Russia, according to the World Wildlife Federation.

The Chinese government's Forestry Administration placed all breeds of tigers under "key state protection" in 2001.

Still, the tigers remain threatened by habitat loss from logging and from poachers killing them for their pelts and other body parts used in traditional Chinese medicine.

Kitten Rescued From Gulf

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Stranger than a fish out of water: a kitten in the bay.

When Maggie Rogers spotted something bobbing in the water three miles into the Gulf of Mexico while on a scalloping trip with friends, she assumed it was a turtle, or a piece of sea kelp.

But as the boat got closer and slowed down, she discovered it was a tiny, apricot-colored kitten. Nine inches long and screeching, the cat was paddling furiously.

"We scooped him up and he sat on the boat with me for eight hours," said Rogers, who is the finance director at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium.

"He was exhausted and stressed," Rogers said. "His heart rate was high."

The boaters on the 17-foot Scout Current Drift did not know how the kitten arrived in the Homosassa Bay. There were at least 40 boats in the crowded area where he was found, they said.

On Tuesday, three days after he was found, a veterinarian said the 10-week-old, 1-pound kitten had worms, but was otherwise healthy.

He was adopted by Rogers' sister-in-law - and named Nemo.

Fizzy Fruit

PORTLAND, Ore. - Your kids want soda pop, but you want them to have fruit.

Some Oregon State University researchers are working on a compromise that will keep everyone happy: fizzy fruit.

The researchers are working on carbonated apples, pears and other juicy treats.

Texas neurobiologist Galen Kaufman discovered fizzy fruit by accident. He was on a sailing trip and bit into a pear that had been chilled with dry ice. The fruit had absorbed the CO2 and had a fizz like soda pop.

Now Kaufman is working with OSU professor John Henry Wells. They hope to find a way to carbonate fruit on a commercial scale. The researchers say fizzy fruit should be a big hit with kids and their parents.

Pelicans Crash-Land In Desert Mirage

PHOENIX - Pelicans in the desert? Blame it on a mirage. Game and Fish officials in Arizona report nearly two-dozen endangered brown pelicans have crashed onto sidewalks and roads. The sea birds have been spotted from Yuma to Phoenix. The experts say the birds mistake the heat-induced shimmer of pavement for lakes and creeks. One official says the birds think they're landing on water - then bam - it's asphalt. The pelicans are being treated for dehydration and sent off toward wetter climes.

Way To Go, Riordan

LOS ANGELES - The head of California's NAACP wants the state's education secretary to step down.

During an event at a Santa Barbara library on July first, Richard Riordan told a six-year-old her first name meant "stupid dirty girl." The comment was recorded by a local TV station.

After nervous laughter in the room, the girl reiterated to Riordan that her first name, Isis, means "Egyptian goddess."

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who's a longtime friend of Riordan's, says the statement to the girl was quote "unacceptable in any context." However, he didn't give any hint that Riordan's job is in danger.

Riordan has apologized, saying he was only teasing.

Her mother has accepted the apology, saying she doesn't intend to sue for therapy bills.

Ronald McDonald Imposter!

OSLO, Norway - Diners at a McDonald's in southern Norway were stunned when a man dressed as the U.S. fast food chain's mascot Ronald McDonald launched into a diatribe criticizing its policies and food, the outlet's owner said Friday.

The man - a performance artist - was arrested by police summoned by restaurant staff when he refused to leave and continued his tirade against the Oak Brook, Illinois-based fast food chain. The incident made national news in Norway on Friday.

"He was screaming and yelling. It was very unpleasant," said Alf Floernes, owner of the restraurant in the southern town of Kristiansand, by telephone. "It was supposedly some sort of art. If that is art, I'm a truck."

Floernes said the McDonald's was crowded with customers, including children, when the man came in wearing an exact copy of the Ronald McDonald clown costume on Thursday.

"It was very organized," he said. "A big gang came in with him and was laughing and shouting in the back."

The stunt was organized by a troupe of alternative artists as a "sort of a demonstration against McDonald's," Norwegian media reported.

The imposter was identified by the Norwegian news agency NTB as Ole Bernt, which also said he was likely to be fined by police for causing a disturbance.

Younger restaurant patrons were shocked to see him dragged away by police.

Finally, Bald Guys Get Some Respect

LODI, Calif. - Bald is beautiful in Lodi - at least to Gary Arnold, a restaurant owner who charges customers according the amount of hair on their head.

A full head of hair will get you nowhere with Arnold, who sports a naked noggin himself.

But customers who come to Gary's Uptown Restaurant and Bar on Wednesdays with less than 50 percent of their hair get up to 50 percent off their food.

The real thing - a totally hairless head - will fetch a clean 100 percent off.

Arnold doesn't care if the customer shaves, or is naturally endowed with a lack of hair. The bald eat free - even the repeat customers, he said.

Not only that, but they get to chose from a special menu, which includes filet of snapper, flat iron steak and chicken fettucine.

Arnold calls it a "win-win" situation. News of the place has reached beyond Lodi to Modesto, Sacramento and Stockton. The hairless of the region congregate in his dinning room, which can look like an advertisement for Hair Club for Men on any given Wednesday, he told the Lodi News. This has doubled business on what used to be his slowest day.

And the men can feel at ease in a supportive environment that nurtures their lack of cover.

"Years ago, being bald was looked down upon," Arnold said. "Now I think it's trendy."

Stockton resident Rich Handel, finishing off a discounted Caesar salad - the 50 percent reduction mirroring his half-gone locks - agreed, saying this was the first time he benefited from being bald.

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