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The Odd Truth, June 27, 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.

Chicken Sent Skyward

SAN FRANCISCO - A chicken that was strapped to 100 helium balloons and sent skyward last weekend in a stunt is resting these days at the city's animal shelter as people vie to adopt it.

The chicken, nicknamed Amelia, was rescued Saturday after getting tangled in power lines. A police marksman shot the balloons with a pellet gun to bring Amelia down to safety.

Authorities said they have yet to identify the prankster, who was apparently imitating an ad that recently aired on a local TV station. The ad has since been pulled.

"This is a great chicken, a friendly chicken, a chicken that is ready for a relationship," said Kat Brown, deputy director of the shelter.

Man Survives Bear Attack

LIVINGSTON, Mont. - A retired Montana railroader-turned-mountain man knew the odds were good he'd have a close encounter with a grizzly bear someday while alone in the back country.

"It finally happened," Bob Johnson said Thursday from his hospital bed in Livingston. "She tried to kill me."

Johnson said he was attacked by the grizzly in the Tom Miner Basin, north of Yellowstone National Park.

He said he couldn't remember how big the bear was. "How can you tell, when the (bear) is trying to give you dental work?" he said.

Johnson, 55, remembers grabbing the bear by the nose with both hands as it tried to bite his face and throat. And he remembers taking an incredibly hard blow to the head. Doctors used 75 staples to reattach his scalp to his skull.

He also has a deep gash under his right arm, claw marks on his chest and back, bruises all over his body and some deep teeth punctures on his left forearm.

Johnson still hobbled several miles to his truck and drove to a guest Ranch for help.

"He was not a pretty sight," said Aaron Davis, the chef at the ranch. "That scalp wound was downright gruesome."

Johnson said he was moving quietly through the woods, looking for petrified rock and believes he probably awakened the napping female grizzly with a cub.

He said he heard a sound, looked up and the bear was coming at him in full charge.

"I thought, I'm gonna fight until I die," he said.

Pigeon Smuggler Nabbed At The Border

REGINA, Saskatchewan - A former Montana man has been fined $2,500 in a smuggling case fit for the birds.

Richard Colson, a former resident of Turner, Mont., who now lives in Calgary, pleaded guilty in provincial court this week to smuggling after he was caught at a Saskatchewan border crossing with four live pigeons tucked under his shirt.

Customs officials said Colson, 56, was caught in January at the Climax, Sask., crossing during a move north. He stopped and was being referred to an inspection bay for further questioning when an agent noticed he was having trouble driving.

Another agent saw bulges under Colson's shirt and thought he might have weapons. When he was told that he was going to be frisked, Colson admitted the bulges were birds.

Debbie Johnson, a spokeswoman with Canada Customs, said his original story was that the pigeons were cold. It was later discovered that he had no health certificates for the animals.

"I'm sure there was a great deal of relief in the examination bay when they discovered they were pigeons, not guns," Johnson said.

The birds had been placed upside-down in individual lunch bags to keep from flapping around, Johnson said.

Johnson said she believes there was a similar case a few years ago in which a man tried to smuggle parrots across the border in a brief case.

That man was caught when the birds made noise.

Mummified Infant Discovered In Locker

TORONTO - Police say the mummified remains of an infant found in Toronto are about 18 years old.

The remains of a baby girl were found in a storage locker in a downtown condominium in June 2001.

Police are now revealing that the infant has been dead since 1985.

An autopsy has been was unable to provide a conclusive cause of death because of the mummification.

However, DNA has confirmed the infant's mother was Joanne Patterson, the owner of the locker.

Patterson died in June 2001 after a lengthy battle with cancer.

The infant was later found by relatives cleaning out her storage locker.

She was wrapped in a brown wool blanket and then a green garbage bag.

Police have also used DNA to find the baby's father in England, who was unaware Patterson had been pregnant.

Maternity Company Sued For Pregnany Discrimination

BOSTON - A woman suing one of the world's biggest sellers of maternity clothing says the company discriminated against her because she was pregnant.

Cynthia Papageorge says she was stunned when a vice president with Mothers Work allegedly expressed doubts about whether she could fulfill her job duties because of her "condition." Papageorge says she was ultimately fired after returning from maternity leave.

A supervisor who allegedly refused to fire Papageorge says she's also been fired after taking maternity leave. She's suing, too.

The company says it's sure it will win. Mothers Work has created an empire out of maternity clothes bearing the labels Motherhood Maternity, A Pea in the Pod and Mimi Maternity.

Courts On Wheels Target Delhi Litterers

NEW DELHI, India - The next time a picnicker in India's capital carelessly tosses a food wrapper in the park, he could be hauled into a mobile courtroom parked behind the next tree.

Under orders from the Supreme Court to start enforcing antilitter laws and clean up New Delhi, the city dispatched 21 magistrates in mobile vans on Friday to catch offenders in the act.

"They can hold court in open places like parks or markets," said Ramesh Negi, one of the city's sanitation commissioners.

For years it's been illegal to spit on the sidewalk and discard plastic bags and other trash in the street or in green areas.

But the laws are widely disregarded in New Delhi, where it's common for residents to toss trash, expecting the municipal cleaners to sweep up with their brooms each morning.

Stray cows, pigs and dogs pick through mounds of garbage, hindering the movement of cars and buses, especially in congested districts.

Some businessmen and householders simply dump their trash outside the door each night.

The normal process of issuing tickets for litter offenders didn't work, the sanitation department said. Either policemen didn't bother to give citations, or those who received them never showed up to pay their fines.

The Supreme Court order to stop the littering was issued in response to a public interest lawsuit filed by environmentalists.

Magistrates, who will be accompanied by police officers to prevent defiance, will issue an on-the-spot fine of 50 rupees ($1.04) to first time offenders, Uttam Vaswani, a city officer, said. Repeat offenders can be fined 5,000 rupees ($105), he said.

60-Year-Old Wallet Returned

CAMP ROBERTS, Calif. - Willard R. Growth had forgotten his wallet was stolen during basic training in World War II, so it came as a shock when officials at Camp Roberts told him nearly 60 years later that they had found it.

"I was very surprised," said Growth, 79, of Hoyt Lakes, Minn. "I'd forgotten all about it."

At least 25 wallets have turned up in heating ducts and floor boards of old barracks since a demolition project got under way five years ago. Many are found with driver's licenses and family photos, but no money, inside.

"They would swipe your wallet, take all the cash out and ditch the wallet in a heating duct," said Staff Sgt. Tom Murotake. "It wasn't common, but it was a fairly easy crime."

Other mementos found in the wallets include laundry slips, discharge papers, letters from sweethearts and receipts for jewelry.

Growth, who trained in 1944 before a tour in Italy, said his wallet contained an American Legion card and a combination to his locker. The $20 bill, of course, was missing.

All but a handful of the recovered wallets have been returned to their owners. Some may end up in the camp's museum if the veterans who lost them can't be located.

City Officials Miss The Bus, So To Speak

MESA, Ariz. - City officials in Mesa have mistakenly installed two bus shelters where no buses run.

The installation cost $32,000 at a time when the city is cutting its public transit budget to save money.

Both are on Broadway Road and were installed as part of a $7.7 million improvement project finished about a year ago.

Although there is bus service on part of the road, buses turn before reaching the shelters.

"It slipped through all of us and didn't get caught until after the fact," said Jeff Kramer, Mesa's deputy engineer for design.

Kramer told the East Valley Tribune that the shelter locations weren't reviewed in advance by the transportation department because they were a small part of a complex road project.

And although the shelters have signs posted saying no buses pass by, people still wait.

"We see people there daily waiting for a bus until they notice the sign is there and they realize it's not a working bus stop," said Rene Scharber.

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