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The Odd Truth, June 6, 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.

Porn In The Classroom

AMERICAN FORK, Utah - What do you do with your pornos if you don't want to keep them at home? The answer for one teacher was the take the X-rated videos to school. Officials at Utah's American Fork Junior High School say the unnamed teacher has resigned. Maintenance workers found three duffel bags filled with the porn tapes hidden above ceiling tiles. School administrators say there's no indication that any kids got a look at the X-rated videos. The teacher won't be prosecuted. One police official says while stashing porn tapes at a school may not be appropriate - it's not illegal.

Cows At Play

BANGOR, Pennsylvania - Sankar Sastri calls out to his nine cows who romp around his farm like children at play.

But it's not just any old farm. The animals live on a cow sanctuary, one of a scattered web of safe havens across the country protecting the animals from slaughter. Cows are considered holy by Hindus and adored by some animal lovers.

For Indians and Hindus, cows are a religious and practical cornerstone of life. Milk is used for nourishment, dung for fuel and cow urine for medicinal purposes. Cows are not used for meat.

Sastri owns a quiet, 42-acre sanctuary for the cows in Pennsylvania. And now the sanctuary has become the solution to a legal battle in Angelica, New York, where a family will soon be moving with their cows so they can worship at will.

Stephen Voith and his family are followers of a form of Krishna Consciousness, whose followers protect cows. A court this week told the family it cannot keep cows on its village property because of zoning rules.

Stuffed Owl Border Stop

BUFFALO, N.Y. - The owners of a stuffed owl seized at the U.S.-Canadian border say they won't give up the fight with the government over ownership.

John Woodfine said the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service wants him and James Faso to donate the stuffed great gray owl to the Buffalo Zoo. The men want to return it to Woodfine's uncle in Ontario, who gave it to them as a gift.

The case has made its way into federal court, where it is known as the United States of America v. One Stuffed Great Gray Owl.

Federal officials said the owl, dead or alive, is a member of a protected species of migratory birds and cannot be brought into the United States without a permit.

"This is ridiculous. ... We'll fight this in the courts as long as we have to," Woodfine told The Buffalo News in Thursday's editions.

The owl was seized at the Lewiston-Queenston Bridge in August. The men were returning from a bear hunting camp in northern Ontario run by Woodfine's uncle.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Hugh Scott met with all parties last week in an attempt to settle the case. Another meeting is scheduled June 11.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard Kaufman said he could not comment on details of the settlement discussions.

'Nemo' Spurs Sewage Company Flush Warning

COSTA MESA, Calif. - Kids be warned: Flushing your pet fish down the drain will not send it safely into the ocean as depicted in the new computer-animated movie "Finding Nemo."

A company that manufactures equipment used to process sewage issued a news release Thursday warning that drain pipes do lead to the ocean - eventually - but first the fluid goes through powerful machines that "shred solids into tiny particles."

"In truth, no one would ever find Nemo and the movie would be called 'Grinding Nemo,'" wrote the JWC Environmental company, which makes the trademarked "Muffin Monster" shredding pumps.

In the unlikely event Nemo survived the deadly machines, the company added, he would probably be killed by the chlorine disinfection.

Lithuanians Enjoy Crow-Eating Revival

VILNIUS, Lithuania - A squawking, garbage-loving nuisance in most countries, the wild crow is under attack in Lithuania not for its reputation, but for its tender meat.

A revival of sorts is enveloping part of the Baltic state of 3.5 million, a dietary demand that more Lithuanians eat crow.

"It may sound like an oddity to many," Audrius Gudzinskas, a 44-year-old Lithuanian lawyer leading the back-to-crow movement, told The Associated Press Friday. "But believe me, those birds are really tasty."

The dish was a common sight on the tables of Medieval noblemen who presided over Lithuania's monarchy, then one of Europe's most powerful. The marinated dish was also embraced by impoverished peasants as a cheap and plentiful food source.

Gudzinskas said the traditional meal of crow remained widespread as late as the 1930s but died out after the Soviet occupation, which lasted from 1940 to 1991.

The dish is prepared now as it was then, boiled in cooking oil over a bonfire and served with various vegetables. The younger the birds the better. Crows that are still in the nest and unable to fly are considered delicacies and "taste like quail."

Several dozen of the unlikely connoisseurs planned to gather for a crow cookout Saturday in Pakruojis, 99 miles north of the capital, Vilnius.

"Pakruojis will become the capital of the crow eaters," he said.

Some crow-meat lovers recently helped to produce a new light beer called "Young Raven," to wash down the fowl food with.

Raccoon Lured From Tower With Hot Dog

NEW YORK - Stranded for two weeks atop a 253-foot amusement park tower at Coney Island, a wayward raccoon was finally lured to safety with — what else? — a Nathan's Famous hot dog.

"But without the sauerkraut," said Mark Blumenthal, manager of the Astroland Amusement Park, after the masked marauder was lowered to the ground in a special cage Tuesday.

Dubbed Rocky by park employees, the raccoon had climbed to the pinnacle of the observation tower two weeks ago and burgled the elevator motor room — out of fear or an appreciation for the sweeping, 50-mile view of the Atlantic Ocean and four states.

The raccoon was first spotted two weeks ago by an elevator maintenance worker who saw "a pair of eyes looking at him" from the darkness of the motor room, Astroland employee Carol O'Donnell said.

In a check of the tower a few days later there was no sign of the animal. But last weekend, it was spotted anew, and officials at Astroland, home of the Cyclone roller coaster, decided a rescue was in order.

Blumenthal said the raccoon apparently had scaled a narrow metal ladder inside the tower. "The problem was how we were going to get him down," he said.

Astroland employee Manuel Alvarez took an animal-friendly Have-a-Heart cage, baited with the hot dog and some cat food, to the top of the tower. During the night, the hungry 9-pound procyon lotor walked into the cage, bit the bait and was snared, Blumenthal said.

Sputnik As Conversation Piece?

MADISON, Wis. - Seeking a stylish Soviet satellite for the living room?

George Stauffer is selling a sputnik on his Web site for $39,000.

The site, which also promotes his classic car business in Blue Mounds, does not say if the satellite made it into space.

The Soviet Union launched Sputnik I - the first man-made satellite in space - in October 1957. After 1,400 orbits of the Earth, it burned up in the atmosphere. The country later launched other much larger sputniks.

Stauffer said a friend at NASA in Florida obtained the sputnik for him from Russia. He said the friend sold him a second one that is still in its crate.

"I've got two of 'em," he said. "I really don't need two. Do you really need one?"

The crated one was taken out and displayed for six months at the Experimental Aircraft Association Museum in Oshkosh. The first hangs in his car dealership.

Museum curator Alan Westby said the sputnik's authenticity was verified when it was displayed in 2001. Stauffer says it has an aluminum alloy orb 23 inches in diameter with four 86-inch antennas and has a letter of authenticity from a Russian museum director.

The Web site says it would make an excellent investment because of its importance in world history. "Any corporate lobby can have beautiful artwork - how many can boast a genuine satellite?"

Teen Tax Trouble

HARRISBURG, Pa. - When 17-year-old Laurie Hanniford worked as a part-time swim instructor three years ago, she made $316 and paid $3.16 in local taxes. Last month, she was fined $352 for not filing a local tax return.

Hanniford, a high school junior, pleaded no contest and got the fine reduced to $77. But the ensuing outrage from her parents and the parents of about two dozen teens who received the same treatment has prompted officials to consider softening the ordinance.

"It's the stupidest thing I've ever heard of to fine her - she was 14 at the time - for taxes that have already been paid," said the teenager's mother, Sarah Hanniford.

When Laurie read the certified letter containing the words "failure to comply will result in your arrest," she called home from the post office.

"She couldn't drive, she was crying so hard," her mother said.

The Capital Tax Collection Bureau sent three notices for Laurie to the Hannifords' Carlisle residence, asking her to file the return, said bureau director Bill Harbeson.

When the bureau didn't receive a response, it had a district justice issue a criminal complaint. The Hannifords said they received no notices. Harbeson said many people think the letters are junk mail.

Township Council Chairman Tom Faley said he would try to persuade lawmakers to exempt those who make less than $2,000 from taxes. State law already allows tax exemptions for those earning less than $10,000.

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