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The Odd Truth, June 13, 2003

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

Chinese Reality TV

BEIJING - Chinese archeologists opened a 1,000-year-old coffin live on national television Thursday, revealing what was believed to be the body of an ancient tribal nobleman.

Titled "the mystery of the 1,000-year-old coffin," the event was shown on the main state television noon news from a research center in the northern region of Inner Mongolia.

Archeologists and police guards in rubber gloves and face masks first lifted off a cover of an outer sarcophagus. They then opened an inner coffin, revealing a body covered in a silk blanket and wearing a necklace, bells around the ankles and a metal-studded mask and helmet.

Both boxes were made of thick slabs of wood with brass handles and decorated with gilt designs of birds, servants and swirling pattern.

Experts would have to decide whether to clean and study the remains inside the coffin or remove them, the head of the recovery team, Ta La, told China Central Television.

The identity of the deceased is unknown, the broadcast said.

CCTV said the coffin dated from the Liao dynasty, established by warriors from the Khitan tribe who seized power in northern China in 907 A.D. during the decline of the Tang dynasty.

It was found in a treasure-filled grave in Inner Mongolia's Tuerji mountain, CCTV said. The report didn't say when it was found.

Shoplift Like A Butterfly, Sting Like A Bee?

SEDALIA, Mo. - A shoplifter caused a buzz in a department store restroom and made off with about $60 worth of CDs, perfume, batteries and scissors.

The man released a swarm of honeybees in a Kmart restroom, creating a diversion that allowed him to escape, authorities said.

Store security spotted the man shoplifting Monday and followed him to the restroom to confront him. When the worker opened the door, about 100 bees buzzed out.

"He probably started yelling 'Bees! Bees!' or whatever the case may be, then created that big diversion, then got out," said police Cmdr. John DeGonia.

Store employees pulled cans of bug spray off store shelves to kill the bees. No one was stung.

Mistaken In Miami

MIAMI - A middle Georgia woman is free to go after being mistaken for a French fugitive and arrested in Miami.

Authorities in South Florida thought they had caught up with Nadine Tretiakoff last Friday. She's wanted for kidnapping her two children from their father. But they had really found Nona Cason of Macon, Georgia, who had to spend six nights in jail before DNA tests cleared her this week.

When officers brandishing guns ran toward her car, Cason thought they were after somebody else. But she was taken into custody and didn't even know what had happened to her kids for a couple of nights.

Even Tretiakoff's former husband thought Cason was the missing woman. But he admits he hadn't seen Tretiakoff in about six years.

Cason moved to Florida in March, seeking nontraditional medical treatment for an autistic daughter. Tretiakoff is still missing, along with her kids.

North Korea Develops Blood-Cleansing 'Jewel'

SEOUL, South Korea - North Korea claimed Friday that it has developed a wearable device that uses a "jewel" to convert the sun's rays into a photo-electromagnetic field to purify blood and heal a range of serious diseases.

The device, worn as a wristband or ring, was tested on more than 500 patients, the state-run Korean Central News Agency reported Friday.

Within hours, it cured 98.8 percent of the patients of a range of conditions, including blood clots in the brain, heart attacks, blocked arteries, the report said. It didn't elaborate.

"It is much better than medicinal therapy, dietary and exercise remedies," KCNA said.

The country remains the world's most isolated country. Its claims cannot be independently verified.

North Korea's communist government is cash-strapped and has been accused of resorting to selling narcotics and missiles to raise money. Alternative health remedies are believed to be popular in the country as health care is poor.

Art, Schmart

BEACON, N.Y. - The phrase, "I could do that" is often heard at modern art museums.

Some electricians working at the Dia:Beacon museum tried to prove it.

After viewing abstract sculptures by John Chamberlain crafted with materials such as crushed automobile parts, a group of electricians created their own work and placed it alongside Chamberlain's.

About a week passed before anyone noticed the addition to the exhibit, featuring such works as "Norma Jean Risen" and "The Privet."

"We saw some artwork upstairs," David Vega, the group foreman, told radio station WNYC in an interview to be aired this weekend. "We tried to imitate it see how long they'd take to find it.

"And a couple of guys who were walking about, around it, they didn't even notice it," he said. "It was just for fun."

Workers setting up the exhibit discovered and removed the piece before Dia:Beacon opened to the public May 18, said Amy Weisser, the museum's assistant director.

"The electricians made a sculpture, an homage to John's work," she said. "When the art installers saw it, they knew it wasn't John's work. This was something that wasn't mistaken as a work of art by anyone other than the electricians."

The museum threw away the electricians' sculpture.

The Dia:Beacon occupies a restored printing plant on the Hudson River, 60 miles north of New York City.

Durian-Scented Condoms A Hit In Indonesia

JAKARTA, Indonesia - AIDS activists are selling condoms that smell like durian — Southeast Asia's popular but pungent fruit — to encourage safe sex in Indonesia.

Foreigners often shy away from the spiky skinned durian, comparing its odor with stale cheese, old gym shoes or a gas leak.

But the perfume is liked by many Asians.

DKT Indonesia, an AIDS group, started distributing durian condoms in Jakarta about two weeks ago to overwhelming demand.

"It's been really good," Christopher Purdy, country director for the Washington-based DKT, an anti-AIDS and family planning organization, said Friday.

"In the first week, we've sold about 150,000 condoms, he said. "We're trying to bring a little humor into a serious subject and break down some of the barriers."

The condom campaign aims to raise awareness about HIV in a country where infection rates have doubled in the past five years to between 80,000 and 120,000 people, Purdy said. HIV infection rates range from 5 percent to 25 percent among high-risk groups like sex workers and drug addicts, he added.

"For many people, the durian might not be a pleasant smell," Purdy said. "But the average Indonesian grows up with that smell and loves that smell," he said.

Iowa Town Turns To Goat Racing For Boost

MYSTIC, Iowa - This dwindling Iowa town is hoping goat races will revive its Independence Day celebration.

The clatter of hoofs on the brick main street will be heard July 5 during the first annual Mystic Goat Races.

Once a bustling coal town of 3,000 people, the town near the Missouri border, now has about 600 residents.

Gone are the stores, its school and many of the town's homes. Also gone are the crowds that once filled Mystic's streets for the Fourth of July celebration.

The Mystic Booster Club hopes to revive those days this year with a parade, Mystic Queen pageant, live music and the goat race.

Promoters say they hope to attract people, and contestants, from all over the state.

There also will be a celebrity goat race, featuring the county sheriff, the dean of the local community college and several local business people.

During a race, a goat jockey runs behind the goat barefoot, holding onto its leash and guiding it with a branch.

Local rules will disqualify anyone who swats their goat. Racers also won't be able to drag or carry their goat. Shoes are optional.

Phone Exec's Contract Bars E-mail Firing

LONDON - The next leader of British mobile phone giant Vodafone Group PLC has signed a contract that prevents him from being fired by text message or e-mail.

If the board of the telecom company wants to sack the new chief executive, Arun Sarin, it will have to send a fax or use old-fashioned paper and ink. The agreement specifically rules out notifying Sarin by "electronic mail or any other electronic messaging service."

The news comes less than two weeks after British newspapers reported that employees of The Accident Group, a personal-injury claims specialist, learned by text message that they were losing their jobs.

Sarin is scheduled to take over from Sir Christopher Gent at Vodafone's annual meeting next month, but Gent is staying on until the end of the year to aid the transition. Gent helped build up the company over the last 17 years, including the last six as CEO.