The Odd Truth, June 30, 2003

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.

Virgins To U.S.: Wait For Marriage

LAS VEGAS - In a city known more for sin than virtue, a group of virgins from around the country gathered this weekend to send a message: wait until marriage.

It was a clash of the "Good Girls" and the sin-seekers as about 200 teens, parents and youth counselors descended on the Strip to pass out cards promoting abstinence.

"What better place to bring this than Sin City?" said participant Deanna Grimm, 24, of Sioux Falls, S.D. "They need to hear it."

About 750 people traveled to Las Vegas to attend the seventh annual National Abstinence Clearinghouse Conference, which runs through Sunday. Featuring seminars on the history of abstinence and the consequences of premarital sex, the convention's theme is "Beyond the Neon: Creating a Culture of Character."

Say 'Ahhh' (or Woof!)

AUGUSTA, Ga. - An innovative project — having dogs and their owners receive health screenings at the same time — has resulted in a federal innovation award for two medical students.

Sarah Matteson, a Medical College of Georgia student, and Michelle Goree, an Auburn University veterinary medicine student, both received a 2003 Health and Human Services Award for Innovations in Health Promotions and Disease.

They performed on-the-spot screenings at an Auburn, Ala., park, testing dogs for heart worm and their owners for high blood pressure. The team thought that people would be more likely to be tested for high blood pressure in a package deal that included screening for their dogs.

Because park walkers tend to be healthy, not many people tested had high blood pressure. Screening people and dogs at a pet store may be a better indicator of the American population's health, Matteson said.

Bulletproof Bowwow

GRAND ISLAND, Neb. - Annie Tacha, 10, is organizing bake sales, car washes and loose-change collections to help buy a new police dog for the Hall County Sheriff's Department.

She's also trying to raise enough to buy a doggie-sized bulletproof vest.

About $5,000 will be needed to buy the dog and $1,000 for the vest.

"It's my goal to raise as much money as I can by the end of the summer because it will be harder when I'm in school," Annie said.

Annie initially intended to raise money only for the vest, after seeing a New Jersey girl do so on a recent TV show. But she soon learned Hall County's lone police dog - an 8-year-old German shepherd named Blix - was diagnosed with cancer. That prompted her to step up her efforts.

Bus Shelters To Nowhere

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.

Not Exactly Godzilla Vs. The Thing

NASHUA, N.H. - They're mortal enemies in nature - and in competing for affections in New Hampshire. Nashua hosted both the New England Gerbil Show and the Ferret Festival over the weekend.

Both events drew hundreds of fans - with some coming from as far as Kentucky. As a bonus, the gerbil show also welcomed some other creatures - hamsters.

520 Guitarists Strum Away

PORTLAND, Ore. - Stephen Feist threw on his Grateful Dead T-shirt, slipped on some sandals, picked up his Martin guitar and went down in the record books.

Feist strummed along to Woody Guthrie's "This Land is Your Land" with 519 other guitarists Sunday in Portland's Pioneer Courthouse Square in what organizers said was the largest guitar band ever.

Standing in the sun in shorts and tie-dye shirts, the musicians plucked, strummed, tapped their feet and sang verses from the iconic 1940 American folk ballad.

Their hour-long performance set the record for the largest guitar band playing for the longest period of time, according to Steve Einhorn, a Portland music store owner and organizer.

But the claim came with a caveat: The guitarists couldn't help but set the record, Einhorn said, because there was no record. At least that's according to a letter from the Guiness Book of World Records.

Einhorn said the Guinness Book agreed to enshrine Feist and his big band as the record-setters after it received documentation of the jam.