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The Odd Truth, June 12, 2003

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.

Wanted: Smart Sperm

BEIJING - China's first "smart sperm" bank, which accepts only highly educated donors, says it has 400 women on a waiting list for fertilization.

Now it needs donors. Four years after it was set up, the center says it has fewer than 20.

"The biggest problem we are facing is the lack of suitable donors," its director, Huang Ping, told the official Xinhua News Agency.

The creation of the center in the southwestern city of Chengdu set off a debate in the Chinese press over its focus on the sperm of highly educated men.

Donors are required to have academic qualifications equal to a university associate professor, and the selection process can take up to six months.

"Potential donors are usually busy men," Huang said. "They have little time to spend on this."

Most of China's family planning efforts are aimed at reining in the growth of its population of 1.3 billion people. But the government has begun to support research into fertility treatments, sperm banks and other ways to help childless couples conceive.

Four couples have had children with the help of the Chengdu sperm bank, Xinhua said. It said the center was tracking the oldest — a 2-year-old — with plans to issue a research report later.

Fake Cop Pulls Over Real Cop

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - A man impersonating a police officer was arrested after he tried to pull over a motorist — who turned out to be a real cop.

The off duty officer became suspicious because the lights on the imposter's car were blue. Kansas City police use a combination of blue and red flashing lights, said police spokesman Capt. Rich Lockhart.

The officer called a dispatcher and a nearby patrol car tried to stop the suspect, who was driving a blue Crown Victoria, a vehicle commonly used by police.

The suspect led police on a six-mile chase that ended after officers used "stop sticks" to puncture the suspect's tires. The man lost control of his car and crashed into a utility pole, Lockhart said.

The 30-year-old suspect, who was not identified, jumped out of his car and ran a short distance before he was captured.

Authorities were questioning the man Wednesday and had not released a possible motive.

Kid Sent Home From School After Prop Musket Scare

MILL CREEK, Washington - Authorities feared the worst when the report came in of a kid with a gun at a Washington state middle school. But it was just a homemade prop used in a Civil War presentation. Police in a Seattle suburb locked-downed Jackson High and Heatherwood Middle schools, after a parent spotted what looked like a rifle. It was actually a prop musket, made from broomsticks, foil and wood. Mill Creek police spokeswoman Becky Erk says everyone is relieved it's just a case of mistaken identity. The 14-year-old boy was sent home. School officials are deciding if he'll be allowed to finish the term, which ends next Wednesday.

Koosh Ball Injury Prompts 'Rosie' Lawsuit

NEW YORK - A 71-year-old Westchester County woman has sued the producers of Rosie O'Donnell's defunct talk show for $3 million, saying she was hit in the mouth with a hard rubber ball while she was in the studio audience.

Lucille DeBellis, of Hartsdale, N.Y., said she was at a taping of "The Rosie O'Donnell Show" in Manhattan on Nov. 29, 2001, when a show staffer used a slingshot-type device to fire an object called a "cuzball" - or koosh ball - into the audience during the warm-up.

DeBellis says in papers filed in Manhattan's state Supreme Court that the ball struck her "squarely in the mouth, causing her to suffer pain and swelling, as well as bleeding in her gums."

DeBellis' lawyer, William J. Dealy, said Wednesday that by the time his client arrived home, the injury had worsened and she had swelling and lumps in her mouth. He said a doctor gave her steroids, antibiotics and cortisone injections to reduce the lesions.

DeBellis' physical discomfort and embarrassment about her appearance caused her to turn down holiday parties and other social events and spend the 2001 Christmas season in her home, court papers say.

"Furthermore, the pain and soreness around plaintiff's mouth adversely affected plaintiff's relationship with her boyfriend," court papers say.

DeBellis' lawsuit names the show's producer, Warner Bros. Television, its affiliated companies AOL Time Warner Inc. and Turner Broadcasting System Inc., and two unknown individuals as defendants. O'Donnell is not a defendant.

A Warner spokeswoman and vice president, Kate Chilton, did not immediately return a telephone call for comment.

Picnic Gives Way To Rescue Mission

CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. - Call it a case of picnic plans gone adrift.

A couple who boated out to a sandbar for a late lunch Monday afternoon became stranded overnight when their boat floated away.

The couple tried to flag down passing watercraft for help, but no one responded.

"Several other boats went by," said Fire Capt. Mark Starnes. "But they must have thought they were waving just to be friendly."

Early next morning, an observer spotted the couple and called authorities. Cape Girardeau firefighters boated out and rescued them, Starnes said.

Bono Praises Orrin Hatch's 'Beautiful' Music

WASHINGTON - Irish rocker Bono has some surprising things to say about Senator Orrin Hatch, who does some moonlighting as a songwriter.

He's praising the Republican's songs as "beautiful." But he says they're not likely to get a lot of play. The singer for U2 says the conservative Hatch might have more luck if he changed his name to "Johnny Trapdoor."

Hatch showed off his songwriting talent when he met with Bono to discuss hunger and AIDS in Africa.

Last year was Hatch's most successful year as a songwriter. He took in just over $18,000 according to his Senate financial disclosure forms.

Hatch has written dozens of hymns and flag-waving soft-rock ballads, including "America United" and "America Rocks!" Entertainers from Gladys Knight to Donny Osmond have recorded his work.

Iowa Man Heads For Sheep Shearing Championship

BATTLE CREEK, Iowa - An Iowa man plans to compete for a world sheep shearing championship — and at least one Montanan is on his team.

Paul Hoffman of Battle Creek, Iowa, is one of five people who will represent the United States at the international competition June 19th in Edinburgh, Scotland. Hoffman says teammates also come from Minnesota and Pennsylvania. A roster wasn't available.

Competitors must be able to shear six sheep in less than five minutes. Hoffman says competitors are penalized for cuts or blemishes left on the animals.

He says tough competition is expected from Australia and New Zealand. Those countries have more sheep shearers and more than five times as many sheep as the United States, where the herds total only about five million head.

Woman Sues Church After 'Satan' Comments

DES MOINES, Iowa - The Iowa Supreme Court on Wednesday revived a defamation lawsuit brought by a woman who was offended when a church official wrote a letter warning that "the spirit of Satan" was at work in her congregation.

The seven-member court unanimously said that it was extremely reluctant to intervene in internal church disputes, but that in this case the letter had been circulated outside the congregation, and a trial is needed to resolve the matter.

The case involves a Methodist church in Shell Rock and an internal dispute that drew the attention of church officials. The Rev. Jerrold Swinton, then a district supervisor for the Iowa Conference of the United Methodist Church, attended services at the church and heard comments about the dispute, which centered on differing views about the church pastor.

Court records said that Jane Kliebenstein, a church member, made comments to him during the visit that prompted a letter he sent to the congregation.

"Folks, when is enough, enough?" he wrote. "When will you stop the blaming, negative and unhappy persons among you from tearing down the spirit of Jesus Christ among you?"

His letter also called on members of the congregation to acknowledge that "the spirit of Satan" was at work in the church.

The letter did not specifically mention Ms. Kliebenstein, but she and her husband sued the church and the Iowa Conference, seeking unspecified damages.

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