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The Odd Truth, June 2, 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.

Alien Baby Hoax

CASPER, Wyoming - The headline raised some eyebrows, but authorities in Wyoming and Colorado say there's no alien baby in Casper.

The Weekly World News tabloid said Casper rancher Phil Merleson found the scaly skinned infant on the floor of his barn May Seventh.

The story added that mysterious lights were seen in the area the previous night and a humming sound was heard coming from the barn.

Natrona County Sheriff Mark Benton and the FBI say the story is humorous, but untrue.

The paper says it heard about the story from the Merlesons themselves. But no one by that name is listed in the Casper phone book or on the Internet.

145,000 Cases Of Rum Dumped

MEYERSDALE, Penn. - Environmental officials in Pennsylvania are considering levying fines and other penalties against whoever dumped more than 145,000 cases of stagnant rum at a western Pennsylvania farm.

Thousands of cases of discontinued Captain Morgan Gold was found piled on a farm in Elk Lick Township, about 70 miles southeast of Pittsburgh near the Maryland border.

According to state officials, the liquor was discontinued last August by London-based Diageo, which hired Houston-based shipping company Satellite Logistics to dispose of some of the 4 million cases of the rum left over.

A state official says it was a mess and a bad situation just waiting to get worse.

After discovering the illegal dumping, state environmental officials said Satellite Logistics quickly cleaned up the mess. The alcohol was taken to landfills within a week.

Singapore To Rate Toilets

SINGAPORE - Singapore plans to rate public toilets using a five-star system similar to that used to grade hotels as part of a new campaign called "Happy Toilet," an official said Monday.

Auditors will rate toilets on cleanliness, layout and ergonomics, said Jack Sim, president of the Singapore Restroom Association, which developed the rating system alongside the Health Ministry.

"We came up with this program because today when you go to a public toilet you do not know what to expect inside," Sim said. "Sometimes you are very happy, but sometimes you are very shocked — disgusted."

"When toilets are clean, people are happy and healthy," he added.

Plaques bearing star ratings will soon appear outside many of Singapore's 70,000 public toilets, which are found in food courts, shopping centers, industrial buildings and army barracks, Sim said.

The tightly controlled island nation of 4 million people is well known for its behavior improvement campaigns targeting gum chewing, spitting and people who don't flush toilets.

A three-star rating will mean a toilet is regularly cleaned and restocked with toilet paper, soap and paper towels. Restrooms that fail to meet the minimum three-star standard will receive no rating.

To received a five-star rating, a restroom has to have an especially well-designed layout so that traffic flows smoothly from the toilets to the sinks, Sim explained.

"It has to have a very good ambiance, probably with plants and pictures," Sim said.

The program is voluntary and rated restrooms will automatically be considered for the newly created Singapore Loo of the Year award, Sim said.

Taking The Dill Out Of Pickles

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. - If you've noticed your pickles have less and less dill flavoring, you're not alone.

Researchers at the University of Arkansas' food science department say they've spotted a downward trend in one of America's favorite garnishes. Pickle makers, they said, aren't using as much dill as they used to.

"There may not really be much in their manufactured products," said Ron Buescher, who heads the department. "Some companies just don't want a lot of dill."

Evaluating the nation's pickle producers' products is the task of the university's pickle research program, founded in 1978 and funded by grants from Pickle Packers International, a trade group of the pickled vegetable industry.

The scientists measure the amount and type of dill contained in the products of about 90 percent of the country's pickle producers. They rate the pickles' dill content, flavor, texture and color, and provide confidential reports on how each company stacks up to the competition.

Buescher said last week that the downward trend of dill use goes back many years. It can partly be explained by regional tastes, like how Texans prefer a spicier pickle.

"So a dill pickle in California will taste different than a dill pickle out of New York City," said Richard Hentschel, executive vice president of Pickle Packers International, based in St. Charles, Ill.

Trent Lott Bust Missing, Again

PASCAGOULA, Miss. - Trent Lott is missing — again. A bust of the Mississippi senator has been swiped from in front of the middle school named for the Republican. The 50-pound bronze bust was discovered missing Saturday morning. It is the second time Lott's likeness has been stolen from the school in Pascagoula. The first was in August of 1997 shortly after the dedication. Artist Don Smith, who had sculpted the original, created a second bust. No word yet whether there will be a third. Lott resigned his Senate leadership post late last year, in a controversy over racially insensitive remarks.

Kissing Convict Caught On 'Kiss Cam'

CINCINNATI - A wanted man was arrested after his parole officer spotted him kissing his girlfriend in a live crowd shot displayed on the scoreboard at a Cincinnati Reds baseball game.

David Horton and his parole officer attended the same May 7 game when the smooching couple were caught by the "Kiss Cam" at Great American Ball Park.

The parole officer and a police officer arrested Horton, 24, in his front-row seat.

"Out of all the coincidences, we had 20 or 30,000 people at the ballpark and who do they put on the 'Kiss Cam'? And then, who is there but his parole officer?" said Richard Goldberg, Horton's attorney.

Horton, of Cincinnati, was convicted of felonious assault in 1999 for stabbing two men. He was granted release after serving two years of a four-year prison sentence.

Horton had been arrested March 27 and was indicted for trafficking and possession of cocaine. He is accused of failing to appear in court on those charges.

If convicted, he could face up to 18 years in prison.

'Flunk-Out U' Reunion

FAIRFIELD, Iowa - It wasn't exactly Yale or Harvard. Not with a nickname like "Flunk-out U."

But proud alumni of Parsons College have reunited — 30 years after the Iowa school went bankrupt.

About 100 Parsons graduates returned this weekend to the former campus, which is now occupied by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi's Maharishi University of Management.

Parsons was focused on teaching kids who had either been tossed out of other schools or couldn't meet stricter admission standards. Hence, it became the haven dubbed "Flunk-out U." Life magazine blasted it as a place for "rich dumb kids" who were trying to avoid being drafted and go to Vietnam.

But the students loved it. One man who is now a Chicago insurance executive says his time there was "a hoot." Another man who took classes there for ten years finally graduated. He won't say what his grade-point-average was — only that it was "enough to get a diploma."