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The Odd Truth, June 20, 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.

Chinese T-Shirt Tussle

BEIJING - Police in eastern China briefly detained a foreign man after local residents complained they were offended by his T-shirt, which listed common gripes of foreigners in China, including staring and overcharging, a newspaper reported Friday.

Police were called following an altercation between the man and diners at a restaurant in the eastern city of Nanjing, the Beijing Today weekly reported. The man, whose name and nationality weren't given, was taken to a precinct station and allowed to leave after about an hour after promising not to wear the shirt again, it said.

The newspaper said the back of the man's T-shirt was printed in Chinese with a list entitled "Ten Warnings for Chinese" that included "Don't stare at foreigners" and "Charge foreigners the same prices as Chinese." It said the man told police he bought the T-shirt from a vendor in China.

Parts of China were reduced to virtual colonies by foreign nations during the 19th and 20th centuries and many Chinese remain highly sensitive about perceived slights by outsiders. Nanjing was the scene of mass anti-foreigner demonstrations in the early 1990s sparked by a fight between foreign exchange students and staff at a college campus.

"In my mind, it's an insult to Chinese people," the newspaper quoted Peking University sociology professor Xia Xuelan saying in comments about the T-shirt.

"This event shows people pay a lot of attention to national dignity," Xia was quoted saying.

'Barbie Is A Lesbian' Lawsuit

NEW YORK - The mother of a 14-year-old middle school student who wore a "Barbie is a Lesbian" T-shirt to class is suing New York City in federal court.

Kathleen Hodges says her daughter was humiliated and harassed by schoolmates and staff because she is a lesbian and is open about her sexual orientation.

The lawsuit accuses New York City of failing to protect her daughter, Natalie Young, at Middle School 210 in Ozone Park, Queens.

The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages and a court order barring the school from suspending Young for wearing a T-shirt that said "Barbie is a Lesbian." It also wants the school to establish policies to protect gay pupils.

City lawyers had not seen the lawsuit and could not comment.

Gambling Addict's Winnings Confiscated

ATLANTIC CITY, New Jersey - A compulsive gambler isn't going to get the $1,600 jackpot she won in Atlantic City.

According to officials of the New Jersey Casino Control Commission, the woman was one of the first to sign up for the self-exclusion list. Photos of the people on the list are distributed to the casinos, so security guards can kick them out. But the program requires the compulsive gamblers to forfeit any winnings if they do get into a casino.

The woman — identified only as WI — never collected the jackpot she won in October at Caesars. That money now will be turned over to the state, for anti-gambling programs and prescription drugs for seniors.

Kids' Nudist Camp Under Fire

WEST PALM BEACH, Florida - A Florida congressman sees nothing natural in a nudist camp for kids.

Republican Mark Foley wants state officials to open an investigation of the camp run by the American Association for Nude Recreation. The week-long camp is for children eleven to 18. Foley says a nudist camp for kids could expose them to pedophiles or other dangers. But Steve Vickers disagrees. He went to the camp for five years before becoming a counselor. He says the congressman has the wrong idea. While the campers are naked, Vickers says they aren't fooling around.

Vickers says many of his fellow campers remained virgins far longer than kids at his high school.

Deceased Dentist Leaves 50,000 Light Bulbs

BALTIMORE - Dr. Hugh Hicks' bright idea is becoming a tourist attraction.

The Baltimore dentist collected about 50,000 light bulbs, and had many on display in the basement of his office. After Hicks' death, his family had to decide what to do with all those lights. The collection is now moving to the Baltimore Museum of Industry.

Hicks had everything from some of the first Thomas Edison bulbs to the world's tiniest bulb, which was made for NASA. But Hicks' pride and joy was a giant 50,000-watt light bulb, built on the 50th anniversary of Edison's invention.

Hicks was known to occasionally run downstairs to tend to his collection while patients waited in the dentist's chair.

Museum officials believe the best pieces of the Hicks collection, which drew the attention of the Smithsonian, will tell a tale of human curiosity, and of how museums are made and minded over time.

"We believe it tells a great story of how a museum comes together," said Paul Cypher, the Museum of Industry's executive director. "It shows how the passion and learning turns into forming a collection, how a museum works, how the industry works."

Asleep At The Bench

HOUSTON - A former death row inmate will now spend life behind bars.

Fifty-year-old Calvin Burdine pleaded guilty yesterday to capital murder. He got a new trial because his lawyer had slept through parts of the original proceedings.

Burdine also pleaded guilty, in Houston, to aggravated assault and felony possession of a weapon — in exchange for consecutive life prison terms.

District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal says prosecutors agreed to the deal because of the guarantee that Burdine will die in prison.

Burdine was convicted and sentenced to die for the 1983 stabbing death of his lover and roommate, W.T. "Dub" Wise, in Houston.

A federal judge reversed the conviction and granted a new trial because evidence showed trial attorney Joe Cannon slept during some testimony.

Cannon is now deceased.

Canadians Smoke Weed In Front Of Police

TORONTO - Dozens of pot-smokers partied outside Toronto's downtown police headquarters.

They puffed on joints, bongs and pipes yesterday without being harassed by a single police officer.

Marijuana activist Marc Emery of Vancouver handed out joints to fellow pot enthusiasts and urged them to exercise "the lawful right to possess marijuana."

Emery said "it is permissible under law to smoke marijuana anywhere it is permissible to smoke tobacco in Ontario."

Police forces in Ontario have said they will not lay charges for possession of marijuana under 30 grams until Canada's muddled pot laws are clarified.

The Ontario Court of Appeal ruled on June 10th that it would not overturn a precedent-setting Ontario Superior Court decision that cleared a teenager of marijuana possession charges.

20 Tons Of Hash Bagged In Frozen Squid Delivery

MADRID, Spain - Police found 28 tons of hashish Thursday in a truck carrying frozen squid and octopus, Spain's largest-ever drug seizure involving a motor vehicle, the government said.

The operation occurred at the port of Algeciras, just across the Strait of Gibraltar from Morocco, said the Finance Ministry, which oversees customs operations.

Civil Guard officers found the hashish in a tractor trailer that had come across the waterway in a ferry from Tangiers.

Police had been monitoring the frozen fish company that owned the truck since late last year, suspecting it was running hashish across the strait.

The owner of the truck, a 50-year-old Spaniard, was arrested.

How Do You Say 'Stress' In Japanese?

TOKYO - In a country where worn-out commuters fall asleep on their feet in trains and employees demonstrate their loyalty by passing up vacation, the foreign word most recognized by Japanese is "stress," a government survey said.

Of 2,200 people polled nationwide, 97.4 percent said they were familiar with the word, adopted into the Japanese language as "sutoresu," the Cultural Affairs Agency said in a report released Thursday.

Other foreign borrowings that made the top 20 were "document," "leadership," "staff," "performance," "project," and "full-time." A total of 120 words were on the quiz.

Hard work has long been considered a virtue in Japanese culture. But the zeal with which it can be upheld has sparked concern.

Earlier last week, the health ministry said a record number of Japanese died of overwork last year, showing that the country's economic slump hasn't reduced pressures on Japanese to work long hours.

The poll, which also surveyed participants on changes in the usage of Japanese, showed that 80.4 percent believe the language is not being used properly.

It said that only some 20 percent of Japanese correctly understood commonly used idioms, and singled out the inability of many young Japanese to use "keigo" — the polite form of Japanese used to address elders, superiors or customers.

Some 50 percent of those polled said they were bothered by this trend.

The poll was conducted last November and December among Japanese 16 years or older. No margin of error was provided.

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