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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.

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.

Girl Marries Dog

NEW DELHI, India - A 9-year-old girl was married to a stray dog in a ceremony attended by more than 100 guests in a village in India's eastern state of Bengal as part of a ritual intended to ward off a bad omen, newspapers reported Thursday.

The girl, Karnamoni Handsa, had to be married quickly to break an evil spell, according to the beliefs of her Santhal tribe in the remote village of Khanyan, the Hindustan Times said.

Karnamoni's tooth had grown on her upper gum, which Santhals consider a bad omen.

The girl's father, Baburam Handsa, a poor sharecropper, could not afford the expenses of marrying his daughter to a boy, so he saved money by making a street dog the groom on June 11, the paper reported.

Other news media also reported on the ritual, which does not interfere with the girl's life. She suffers no stigma and is free to marry later. She doesn't even need to divorce the dog.

800 MPH In A Car?

SPANAWAY, Wash. - Ed Shadle feels the need for speed — and lots of it. He hopes to break the world land-speed record in a 39,000-horsepower jet car. The record now stands at more than 760 miles per hour.

The retired IBM computer technician and his partners have invested a $100,000 in their dream machine, the North American Eagle. The three-wheeled vehicle is built around the guts of an old F-104 supersonic jet fighter. They plan to start low speed test runs at an old air base in Washington state this September.

Shadle says on paper their jet car can do 800 mph. They hope to find out in September of 2004 in a desert speed run.

Pot Shots

NEWPORT, Vt. - If you're going take pictures of your pot plants, you might want to use a Polaroid. David Koslosky of Barton, Vermont was busted after a drug store employee spotted the illegal weed while developing a roll of film.

Police say Koslosky not only posed with the plants, he also put his address on the film envelope. Officers say they found the drying weed and assorted drug paraphernalia at Koslosky's apartment.

He now faces a number of charges, including felony cultivation and possession, and lying to police. Koslosky has pleaded innocent — in the case of the pot shots.

Stolen Love? Not In Missouri

JEFFERSON CITY, Miss. - The idea that a married person's affections can be "stolen" is a very old concept. Now, in Missouri, it's no longer a legal one.

The Missouri Supreme Court has struck down the state's "alienation of affection" law, calling it an outdated doctrine that has no place in modern law.

The court was considering a lawsuit brought by a woman against her husband's alleged girlfriend, which accused the other woman of alienating his affections. The husband later married the girlfriend.

A jury found in the ex-wife's favor, ordering the other woman to pay her $75,000 in damages. The new wife appealed that verdict, and the Missouri high court now agrees with her.

The statute is believed to date back to English common law. It's still a cause for legal action in eight states.

The Missouri court wrote that such lawsuits are usually filed after a marriage is broken. And it said revenge — not reconciliation — is often the primary motive.

Nigeria's 'Insane' Traffic Problem

LAGOS, Nigeria - Nigeria's traffic authorities confirmed Thursday they had ordered psychiatric tests of traffic offenders blamed for "insane" gridlock in sub-Saharan Africa's largest city.

Lagos' legendary traffic jams, known as "go-slows," are being worsened by impatient drivers who brazenly jump curbs and drive on the wrong side of the street, Lagos Traffic Ministry spokesman Ogundeji Adesegun told The Associated Press.

The ministry in recent days ordered police to arrest offenders, impound their vehicles, impose 25,000 naira ($200) fines and order mandatory psychiatric tests, Adesegun said.

Hundreds of drivers had already been punished under the new measures, authorities said.

Their vehicles are being held until they had received a "certificate of sound mental fitness" from one of Lagos' three psychiatric institutions.

"Let us see if these people are mentally balanced. We have to end this insanity," Adesegun said. "If this doesn't work, the next thing we may do is advise the judiciary to impose jail terms."

"We have insane traffic. It is madness, no doubt about it," the official said.

Lagos, a tropical port city of 12 million, is plagued by nightmarish traffic preventing commuters from reaching work for hours — occasionally, for days.

It is not the first time officials have gone to unusual lengths to clear road congestion in Lagos.

In the early 1980s, Nigeria's then-ruling military imposed a system in which vehicles with odd-numbered license plates could ply roads only on Mondays, Wednesday and Fridays while even-numbered plates were allowed on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

The system failed; most commuters either openly flouted the rules or obtained double sets of plates for their cars.

Cat-Cam In Famous Thai Temple

BANGKOK, Thailand - Authorities have installed surveillance cameras in a bid to prevent people from dumping unwanted cats at Thailand's grandest and most famous temple, an official said Thursday.

Nearly 50 cats have become permanent residents at the Temple of the Emerald Buddha in Bangkok, eluding efforts to clear them out, and officials say they are becoming a nuisance to tourists who visit it daily.

"We feel sorry for tourists who sometimes step on cat poo," temple staff member Samruay Shinkhum said.

She said temple authorities believe that Bangkok residents who come to the temple to listen to weekly sermons have been leaving unwanted pet cats behind, although none has been caught doing so.

"We've done everything. We made a public announcement asking people not to abandon and feed cats. We patrol frequently to make sure they don't cause problems," she said, but to no avail.

She said the dozen surveillance cameras hopefully will deter anyone who intends to abandon a cat at the temple.

The 221-year-old temple on the banks of Chao Phraya River houses more than 100 buildings marked with extravagant and colorful carvings and decor. It is one of the country's top tourist spots.

Samruay said the temple sought help from the city administration to catch the cats, but only "the friendly ones get caught." The more aggressive ones elude capture by sliding into drain pipes and hiding in gaps between walls and doors, she said.

All In A Weird Day's Work

DES MOINES, Iowa - A city police officer showed he'll do just about anything to catch his man — even borrow the suspect's car.

Officer James Butler was working security inside a local Wal-Mart store Monday when he heard the blare of a car stereo in the parking lot. The driver of the car, Derrick Sanders, 25, was wanted on more than a half-dozen warrants.

Sanders jumped out of the car and took off running when he was asked for identification.

Butler said he looked around before quickly deciding his next move.

"I got in his car and started after him," Butler said.

The suspect disappeared into a nearby Radio Shack.

Sanders "looked pretty confused" to see his own car in pursuit, Butler said. "He didn't know what to think."

Butler used the car to block the store's back door. Employees blocked the front door, and minutes later Butler had Sanders in custody.

It wasn't the first time Butler took unusual means to catch his man.

In 1995, he caught a shoplifter after he hitched a ride from a passing motorist, borrowed a man's bicycle and drove a mo-ped the suspect had stolen and crashed.

A Whirlwind Tour Of Paradise

NORMANDY PARK, Wash. - It was a very short trip to paradise for one 13-year-old boy: He flew from Washington to Hawaii and back in less than a day.

The unidentified teen managed to charge the airline ticket online to his mother's credit card — and got himself to the airport and aboard the flight to Maui.

But his mom figured out where he was going at her expense, so a Maui County officer met him on his arrival last week. The boy was booked on a return flight, and was back home before midnight.

Aloha, indeed.

"He expected to get a flower in his ear. Instead, he got a ride in a police car," Normandy Park police Chief Rick Kieffer said.

The boy's mother, whom Kieffer did not identify, realized her son was missing June 11 and checked their home computer, which showed he had ordered a plane ticket to Hawaii.

"He got mom's credit card and punched it in," Kieffer said.

The family lives just over 2 miles from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, not a long walk for a 13-year-old.

His mother sentenced him to "two years of yard work" to cover the cost of his ticket.

"We had a happy ending, from the police side of it," Kieffer said. "How Mom felt about it might be different."

Virgin Mary In The Window

MILTON, Massachusetts - Thousands of people are flocking to a Massachusetts hospital to see Mary — the Virgin Mary. True believers say they can see the image of a robed Madonna, in the murky patches on a third-floor window at Milton Hospital. But the cynics say it's just condensation in a window with a broken weather seal. In the last week or so more than 25,000 people have visited the hospital to see the apparition. Dozens of bouquets have been placed beneath the window, along with a large Tupperware container for donations. A spokesman for the Boston archdiocese says church officials haven't yet ruled on the validity of the image.

Car Sex Brings Death, Prison

MONMOUTH, Illinois - An Illinois man has been sentenced to ten years in prison for a crash that killed his girlfriend while they were having sex behind the wheel.

Sonny Morris El was convicted of aggravated driving while under the influence of drugs in the January 2002 crash that killed 25-year-old Kristina Valerio. He was acquitted of reckless homicide.

Tests showed the 32-year-old Morris El had marijuana in his system when his car crossed the center line and collided with a tractor trailer.

The state's attorney had asked for the maximum 12-year prison term, arguing that Morris El was living a life of "total irresponsibility" before the collision.

His public defender had asked for probation, saying his client didn't intend to harm his girlfriend.

Mom Provided Getaway For Bank-Robbing Daughters

TOMS RIVER, New Jersey - It was a little different from driving her kids to the mall.

A New Jersey woman has admitted driving her twin teen-aged daughters to a bank so the girls could rob it last year.

Prosecutors say the family staged the robbery so they could make a mortgage payment. The girls allegedly made off with about $3,000.

Kathleen Jones has pleaded guilty to armed robbery and using a juvenile to commit a crime. She admits knowing the then 14-year-old girls had a toy gun. Jones faces up to 30 years in prison.

The twins are in a youth detention center on armed robbery, theft and weapons charges. Their father has until today to accept a plea deal on charges he tried to cover up the robbery and urged the girls to lie about it.

Old Bomb Found In Used Car Vent

PAPILLION, Nebraska - A Nebraska woman found an unexpected option in a used car she bought — a bomb. The woman was trying to get the air conditioning fixed when a homemade explosive device fell out of a vent. Authorities say the bomb was about a half-foot long and looked like it had been in the car for quite awhile. Investigators are now trying to track down the car's previous owners, but finding the bomb-maker could be more of a challenge. The car was purchased from a dealership and was once used as a rental.

Pea Spill Clogs Highway

LONDON - A truck spilled 18 tons of peas on a busy highway in eastern England, bringing traffic to a standstill for more than 12 hours, police said Tuesday.

The truck overturned Monday night after it collided with a bus near Grantham in Lincolnshire.

The 23 people on the bus were not seriously hurt, but traffic was diverted while authorities cleaned up the millions of peas. The road reopened early Tuesday.

Dart In Head Doesn't Sink Duck

VIRGINIA, Minn. - A duck on northeastern Minnesota's Silver Lake isn't letting a dart in its head stop it from eating, swimming, or paddling away from rescue attempts.

Authorities don't know who shot the duck with a metal blowgun dart.

The bird has been unable to remove the shaft from its left cheek behind its bill — though it has been seen scratching at the dart with its feet.

DNR personnel tried unsuccessfully yesterday to capture the mallard.

The Mesabi Humane Society has received several calls about the duck. Animal control officers also have been checking on the duck, but nobody has been able to get near it yet.

Reeling In Rubbers

MILWAUKEE - It's not the sort of catch a fisherman likes to boast about — hundreds of used condoms floating in the Milwaukee harbor. Officials at the Jones Island Wastewater Treatment Plant say an angler made the rather disgusting discovery. Some suspect a new $8.5 million filtration system isn't up to the task. But officials say there's no proof of just where the condoms came from. The Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District says it will install additional filters. Workers will also be used to scoop condoms out of the wastewater stream with fish nets.

Burned-Out Broker Opens Hot Dog Stand

HOLLAND, Mich. - Former investment broker Jim Piersma is trying to corner a new market — with a corner hot dog stand. He's peddling franks from a cart in Holland, Michigan. He notes it's a lot less stressful than stock speculation. Piersma says he always dreamed of opening a restaurant, but the startup costs were too high. So, he's starting small. In addition to selling dogs to the weekday lunch crowd, Piersma is also the hot dog man at a free concert series in the park. He says it's a natural combination — blankets, music and franks.

Armchairs, TV Remotes At Father's Day Mass

GRAND ISLAND, Neb. - Relax, recline - and pray.

Some worshippers at Evangelical Free Church didn't have to kneel at Sunday's services. They instead sat back in special seats of their own — rocking armchairs.

The royal treatment didn't stop there. They also enjoyed refreshing drinks — pop, coffee or water — and were given TV remote controls to hold so they would feel at home.

It was all part of the church's way of honoring fathers in the congregation on Father's Day, said the Rev. Gary Schulte, an associate pastor.

Among those chosen to sit in the chairs were the oldest and youngest dads in attendance, those who coached numerous sports and the father who most recently changed a diaper.

Seven fathers enjoyed the armchairs at the church's early service, while five more were pampered at the later service.

"It was a total surprise," said Shay McGowan, who was honored for coaching more than five sports for his two sons and daughter.

Justin Rogers also got to sit in one of the seats. He had changed his 1-year-old daughter's diaper an hour and 15 minutes before church started.

"To sit in a recliner in church, what's better than that?" he asked.

Will Work For Pizza

PORTLAND, Oregon - In a tactic that recalls the hiring of unemployed men during the Depression to wear sandwich-board advertisements, a Portland pizza chain has employed homeless people off the street to promote the product.

"I think it's a fair trade," said Peter Schoeff, a 20-year-old homeless man hired to spend 40 minutes holding a sign that read: "Pizza Schmizza paid me to hold this sign instead of asking for money."

Paid in pizza, soda and a few dollars, homeless employees hold signs meant to be humorous, said Andre Jehan, founder of Pizza Schmizza, a 26-restaurant business in Oregon and Washington.

"I got tired of not being able to make eye contact with these people," he said. "I thought, `What skills could they have?' Holding a sign was an obvious one."

From the sandwich board on, companies are forever searching for creative means to reach customers.

An ad agency in London, Cunning Stunts Communications Ltd., has recruited students to wear temporary tattoos on their foreheads while hanging out at bars or trendy stores. Sony Ericsson, the cell phone company, has hired models to lounge at tourist attractions and play with mobile phones to make the gadgets look attractive.

But Gary Ruskin, director of Portland-based Commercial Alert, an advertising watchdog group founded by Ralph Nader, said homeless people are being exploited unless they receive minimum wage. He complained their involvement only contributes to ad clutter.

Waffle House Funeral

JEFFERSON, Ga. - The place Lawrence "Tuna" Clark called his "office" — the Waffle House on Highway 129 — became the site of his funeral as waitresses, cooks and customers remembered the good deeds the longtime regular did for them.

Clark, who died June 6 after a long illness, ate at the restaurant at least once a day and befriended many of the restaurant's employees, who called him "the Waffle House taxi service" because he drove them to work when they had no transportation.

Clark's jacket was slung over his favorite chair, and black coffee, milk and cigarettes sat side by side on the counter, the way he always placed them.

The 67-year-old bachelor's ashes were placed on the hood of a Chevrolet parked in his favorite parking space. Large boards displaying family photos were covered with funeral wreaths and loose flowers.

Clark's niece Joyce Bicksler said that in his last days, he told her he wanted to be memorialized at the restaurant.

"He wanted people to remember him as he was. He didn't want to be in a casket," Bicksler said. "He wanted to be here."

Waitress Terri Treadaway said Clark drove her to the Waffle House every day for three months when her car was broken.

He was known for ordering scrambled eggs on lightly toasted bread, but he would eat just about anything on the menu.

Clark also was known at several other Waffle Houses, in part because he continued to help employees after they got transferred or moved.

"You could go from Braselton to the South Carolina line, and people in Waffle House will know him," Treadaway said.

Airline Flushed In 'Blue Ice' Suit

SANTA CRUZ, Calif. - A Santa Cruz man won a suit against American Airlines alleging that one of the company's planes released two chunks of toilet waste, known euphemistically as "blue ice," onto the skylight his boat.

After the chunks came crashing down and damaged his boat, Ray Erickson tracked down the plane — American Airlines Flight 1950 — and sued in small claims court.

He received the court's ruling in the mail Friday. A judge ordered the airline to pay him $3,236 — almost the entire amount Erickson had sought.

Mike Fergus, a spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration, was surprised at the decision.

"I'll be darned," said Fergus, who hadn't heard of any similar suits succeeding before.

The airline has 30 days to appeal the ruling. Airline officials could not be reached to comment Saturday.

David Nelsons Caught In Terror Dragnet

LOS ANGELES - David Nelson is not an easy name to have these days, even if you're a former child star.

The nationwide dragnet for terrorists across the country has caused men with this name to be pulled off airplanes, questioned by FBI agents and harassed when traveling by air.

Even the former child star of ABC TV's "The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet" was stopped by a ticket agent at John Wayne Airport in Orange County in December while en route to visit his daughter in Salt Lake City.

Now a Newport Beach film producer, 66-year-old David Nelson told the Los Angeles Daily News that after airline ticket agents stopped him, two police officers quickly recognized him, and he was allowed to board his flight.

A so-called "no-fly" list was introduced after the September eleventh terrorist attacks and is meant to prevent potential terrorists from boarding planes. The TSA gets names from law enforcement officials and hands the list over to airlines to screen passengers.

A spokesman for the Transportation Security Administration would not say whether the name David Nelson was on the list.

Amusement Park Bans Penis-Shaped Lollipops

COPENHAGEN, Denmark - A Danish amusement park on Monday banned the sale of lollipops molded in the shape of male genitalia.

The four-inch multicolored lollipops were sold for 20 kroner ($3) under the name Dillermaend, Danish slang for the male organ.

The Bakken amusement park, nine miles north of Copenhagen, ordered Flemming Barfod, the maker of candy, to stop producing and selling the sweets.

"We considered it tasteless," said Tina Baungaard-Jensen, a spokeswoman for Bakken, which was founded in 1853 and claims to the world's oldest amusement park.

The lollipops sparked harsh reactions in Denmark, a usually tolerant Scandinavian country of 5.3 million that was the first in the world to legalize pornography in 1969.

The chairman of the Danish Family Planning Association, doctor Christian Graugaard, said the lollipop could be considered "pornographic" and was unsuitable for children.

Some 2.5 million people visit Bakken every year.

Neurosurgeon Accused Of Drugging Colleagues

ATHENS, Greece - A neurosurgeon was accused Friday of heavily sedating two hospital colleagues in an apparent reprisal for being assigned unpopular shifts, authorities said.

The 48-year-old surgeon was arrested late Thursday carrying a box of sedatives.

He was charged Friday with intent to cause serious harm and suspended from the state-run Tzanneio hospital at Athens' main port of Piraeus. His name was not announced.

Police said they were investigating claims that the two colleagues, also surgeons, had been drugged on several occasions. The suspect allegedly slipped sedatives into their coffee at the hospital canteen.

Panayiotis Mellas, director of the regional medical board, said one of the alleged victims had once been taken into intensive care after being drugged.

"His life was in danger. He was in a coma for 36 hours," Mellas said. He did not say when that incident occurred.

Tzanneio hospital said the surgeon had been suspended indefinitely while it investigated his alleged reprisals and whether the doctors' sedation had caused any operations to go wrong.

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