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The Odd Truth, June 23, 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.

Man On Hold For 27 Years

DHAKA, Bangladesh - After being kept on hold for 27 years, Mohammad Ismail has finally got his dream — a telephone connection to his home in the Bangladeshi capital, a newspaper reported Monday.

Now 60 and retired, Ismail applied and paid the connection fee for a telephone line in May 1976, Manabzamin reported.

But the state-run monopoly Bangladesh Telegraph and Telephone Board lost his application and over the years his repeated requests for a line to be connected fell on deaf ears.

The telephone company suddenly "found" his application after Bengali-tabloid Manabzamin reported his plight last week. The company promptly connected his line on Saturday and even threw in a free telephone set.

"I am so happy. But I am a bit sad, also. When I applied, I was a young man of 33 and had dreams about owning my own telephone. Now all those dreams are gone. My children will use the phone now," Ismail told the newspaper.

A phone company official told the Manabzamin they had not previously been able to give Ismail a telephone connection because of "technical reasons."

Less than 10 percent of Bangladesh's 130 million people have telephones, mostly due to insufficient phone lines, costly fees and often cumbersome connection procedures.

Cherry Bandits Pluck Japan, Stump Police

TOKYO - Japan's finest cherries are ripe for the plucking and the plundering.

A group of midnight fruit bandits has stumped police by making off with 1.4 tons of the juicy sweets in stealthy pick-and-run raids across northern orchards in recent days.

Nine growers were hit from June 9 through Saturday, for a total haul of 2,719 pounds, according to Masashi Suzuki, police spokesman for Yamagata state. The fresh pickings had a market value of 3.7 million yen ($31,355).

Police have no leads in the confounding cherry caper, but say it looks like the work of experts. Only perfectly ripe cherries were daintily plucked from the trees under cover of darkness, then hauled away in bulk before dawn.

On the night of June 16 alone, the culprits collected 1,496 pounds.

Police suspect much of the haul, good for only three to four days after picking, has already been sold on the black market.

"I don't think they are going to be eating all those cherries themselves," Suzuki said.

Yamagata, a mountainous area of northern Japan, is renowned for its succulent cherries. But the stolen variety, dubbed "Sugar Brocades," are among the most prized.

2,000 Year-Old Wine Discovered

BEIJING - Aged wines don't get much older than this.

Archaeologists in western China discovered five earthenware jars of 2,000-year-old rice wine in an ancient tomb, and its bouquet was still strong enough to perk up the nose, the official Xinhua News Agency reported Saturday.

Xinhua said 1.3 gallons of the almost clear, blue-tinged liquor was found, enough to allow researchers their best opportunity yet to study ancient distilling techniques.

Archaeologist Sun Fuzhi was quoted saying the tomb dated from the early Western Han dynasty, which held sway over much of mainland China between 206 B.C. and 25 A.D. Liquor from the period has been found in other tombs but never as well preserved, he said.

Liquor made from rice or sorghum grains was a major part of ceremonies and ritual sacrifices in ancient China, with elaborate bronze cups and decanters cast specifically for its use.

Several drinking vessels, along with bronze bells, more than 100 jade pieces and part of a human skull were found in the tomb, which Sun said probably belonged to a member of the Han nobility.

Better Late Than Never?

COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa - A letter posted with a 10-cent stamp in San Francisco has arrived in Council Bluffs — 35 years after it was sent.

Postal workers were unsure why it took so long to arrive. Workers at a local clinic opened the letter Friday.

"The letter had come unsealed at the flap and it wasn't for any of the doctors," said receptionist Tammy Welch.

The letter dated June 11, 1968, was sent to Donald E. Gallagher at the clinic's address, where the Gallagher home had been located. It was written by son Chet Gallagher, who decided to leave Council Bluffs in 1968 to make a new start in California.

Clinic workers tracked down Chet's brother, Tom Gallagher, in Council Bluffs. He said Chet had been stationed with the military in California before deciding to move.

In the letter, Chet made it clear he was determined to succeed and he wished that he could have his father's encouragement.

Postmaster Jerry Keller said it is unusual for a letter to be lost this long before it's delivered.

Defense Lawyer Nabbed Delivering Weed To Inmates

CHICAGO - A Chicago defense attorney is facing charges after authorities say he tried to slip marijuana to clients in the Cook County Jail.

Alerted by a drug-sniffing dog, searchers found a quarter-pound of pot taped to the lawyer's thighs.

A sheriff's spokesman says Barry Alan Mattes admitted intending to pass the drug to the inmates.

If convicted of smuggling contraband to a penal institution he could face up to five years in the slammer himself.

None of the inmates received any of the weed, so they weren't charged with a crime.

Meetings between attorneys and their clients aren't monitored, and inmates typically aren't searched after meeting with their lawyers.

Underwater Wedding

BOMBAY, India - An Indian couple exchanged marigold garlands Monday in India's first known underwater wedding, and hoped the 38 minutes they spent at the bottom of a swimming pool would set a new record.

Nearly 300 guests cheered the couple, seated on a green carpet 12 feet under the surface, as a Hindu priest submerged with them chanted hymns through a radio transmitter so guests outside the pool could hear.

"It was magic. The wedding ceremony lasted 38 minutes," said Ravi Kulkarni, a former Indian navy commando who trained the couple, two of their relatives and the priest for more than a month.

"The bride and the groom were nervous at first, but thrilled after the ceremony. They never thought they could manage it," said Kulkarni, who runs an adventure club.

He said it was India's first underwater wedding and the couple planned to send a video recording to the Guinness Book of World Records in hopes of being included as the world's longest underwater wedding.

A 10-minute ceremony in Thailand last year holds the record, Kulkarni said.

Indian television network cameras whirred as the couple, the priest, the bride's father and a groom's cousin strapped oxygen cylinders to their traditional Indian clothes before entering the pool.

Chandan Thakoor, 33, then led his bride, Dipti Pradhan, 31, into the pool for the ceremony. The bride wore a traditional pink flowing blouse and loose trousers.

Blame The Billionaire

NORTHEAST HARBOR, Maine - Motorists endured a 10-hour traffic jam on Mount Desert Island, and it was all because of an apple tree.

San Antonio billionaire Charles Butt had the tree trucked from Ellsworth to his Northeast Harbor estate on a flatbed truck Thursday, and the 20-mile trip left traffic backed up as far as the eye could see in both directions.

The problem was the tree's 20-foot height, which meant power lines had to be lifted so it could pass. It also took up two lanes.

Motorists were delayed getting to work since there's only one highway onto the island, home to Acadia National Park.

"The tree is probably going to be cut down with the mutiny I've heard," said Bianca Cooke, who sat in traffic for five hours.

Butt apologized for the transportation nightmare. "I know it's a mess and I know people were furious and I don't blame them," he said.

"We feel terrible about what's happened and we apologize. It's ruined my week to know I've offended people. That's just not something I go around doing," said Butt.