The Odd Truth, March 10, 2004

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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.


Monkey On His Back

NEW YORK - A man will have to find a way to live without his prize possessions - six little monkeys and a tarantula.

Two marmosets, two capuchins, two squirrel monkeys and the spider were confiscated from the home of Orlando Lopez on Tuesday, leaving him brokenhearted.

Mike Pastore, director of field operations for Animal Care and Control, said the monkeys were in good condition, but they didn't belong in an apartment.

"They need to be swinging from trees," Pastore said Wednesday.

Each of the monkeys weighed between a half-pound and two pounds, officials said.

Lopez was allowed to keep his Great Dane, a Chihuahua, a cat and a tank of fish. He was issued a summons to appear before the environmental commission.

An anonymous caller tipped off animal control authorities that Lopez was keeping the animals in his apartment on the northern tip of Manhattan. City law forbids exotic animals as pets, and tarantulas are considered a health code violation.

Last October, animal control officers arrested a man for keeping a tiger and an alligator in his New York City apartment. Later that month, officers arrested another apartment resident for keeping 12 exotic snakes.

But officials said that unlike those animals, the monkeys were not a threat. The monkeys will stay at an animal sanctuary until a permanent home is found, NYC Animal Care and Control officials said.

Space: Advertising's Final Frontier

MOSCOW - Orion, the Big Dipper and Andromeda could be joined in the heavens by ads for soft drinks and cigarettes if a Russian inventor's device catches on.

Alexander Lavrynov, a spacecraft designer, said he has patented a device for putting advertising into space that would be seen from Earth, Interfax news agency reported Wednesday.

"Space commercials could embrace huge areas and a colossal number of consumers," he said. "This would literally be intercontinental coverage."

He said the satellites would be visible in the night sky by employing sunlight reflectors, with multiple satellites linked together to create a message large enough to be seen.

"People would be able to see writing in the skies from the Earth no worse than they see the stars," he said.

Pub-Owner Boots Pagan Group For 'Casting Spells'

SYDNEY, Australia - A Sydney bar owner has expelled a group of drinkers after accusing them of casting spells in his pub.

"People found their behavior strange and threatening ... casting spells on bars in the hotel or clearing bars with certain spells," Tony Green, owner of the Greenwood Hotel, told "The Sydney Morning Herald."

"They talk about casting spells and they brought with them, I believe, a small cauldron. I think they behaved as though they are witches," Green added. In Australia, many bars are called hotels.

Green was referring to PaganPages, a group that met at his pub each month to discuss rituals, mythology and other Pagan-related topics until he asked them to leave in January.

Suzanne Maxim, PaganPages coordinator, denies the group was using magic at the bar.

"As far as I know, people don't cast spells, but I can't vouch for everyone," she told the Herald. "It's not a very sacred space."

Something Stinks At Crufts, And It Isn't The Dogs

BIRMINGHAM, England - Organizers of Britain's largest dog show are investigating allegations that a dog favored to win in its category performed poorly because it was given a sedative.

Clive and Nancy Evans, owner of a 22-month-old Doberman named Kerri, said their dog may have been fed a piece of contaminated meat containing a sedative just before she was to compete Saturday at the Crufts Dog Show.

"She was just not herself," Clive Evans said. "She was uncoordinated, listless and lethargic." He said he pulled her out of the contest, fearing she would collapse.

Trevor Turner, Crufts' chief veterinary officer, said he examined the dog afterward.

"She was quiet, subdued and a little bit wobbly on her back legs," Turner said. "She showed signs of sedation, but there is no evidence of this."

Turner said it would be impossible to confirm the allegations without a sample of blood and stomach contents.

Crufts spokesman Phil Buckley said drugging was very rare at the event, with only one case reported in the last 20 years. "If this claim is substantiated it would be a disgrace and treated very seriously," Buckley said.

Norwegians Address Looming Easter Egg Shortage

OSLO, Norway - Norwegian lawmakers couldn't help but cackle when one of their own demanded on Wednesday that the government outline plans for countering a looming Easter egg crisis.

A new law cuts the time stores can keep fresh eggs on their shelves to 28 from 40 days, leading the egg industry to warn that there could be a shortage of eggs over Easter.

Coloring Easter eggs and going on Easter egg hunts is a popular pastime among Norwegian children, who enjoy almost six days off school over the holiday. Easter Sunday falls on April 11 this year.

Oeystein Hedstroem, of the right-wing Party of Progress, found the shortage threat so profound that he raised it in the lawmaker's weekly question-and-answer session with the government.

"We lack 3.3 million eggs," Hedstroem said. "Will the minister of agriculture lower import duties during that period if Norwegian suppliers can't meet demand?"

Agriculture Minister Lars Sponheim, unable to keep a straight face, was summoned by the president the parliament to answer.

"President, it could be tempting to say that every man should have a hen, and then this would be solved," Sponheim said, creating a murmur of laughter in the usually serious parliament.

"Hens generally lay one egg per day, and not significantly more during holidays. And that means they have a little problem meeting the holidays and peaks," he said, as giggles became howls of laughter.

"The government will contribute, to the best of its ability, to the Norwegian people getting eggs at Easter," a deadpan Sponheim promised, to sustained laughter.

Felony 'Temper Tantrum' Charge Dropped

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - A judge threw out a felony case against an 8-year-old boy accused of kicking his teacher.

The boy, a second-grader who stands about 4 feet tall and weighs 60 pounds, was accused of kicking his King Elementary School teacher, Loretta Santos, in November as she attempted to remove him from the classroom for misbehavior.

On Monday, Jefferson District Judge Judith K. Bartholomew threw out the felony assault charge after Greta Noe, the youth's attorney, discussed the case with prosecutors.

Santos, who was not injured, declined to comment. Jefferson County schools spokeswoman Lauren Roberts said the teacher decided she didn't want to press charges but that her wishes somehow didn't get communicated to the court before Monday's hearing.

The boy, whose name was not made public because of his age, suffers from attention deficit disorder. He was charged under a 2002 law that makes injuring or attempting to injure a school employee a felony.

The lawmaker who sponsored the bill, state Sen. Ray Jones, called the case ridiculous.

"I don't envision an 8-year-old who was throwing a temper tantrum as someone who ought to be charged with a felony," Jones said. "That sounds like something that should have been handled in-house."

The bill was triggered by an incident in which a teenage boy slugged a teacher in the mouth, seriously injuring him, Jones said, adding he also was concerned by reports of irate parents confronting teachers.

One expert had said that at his age, the boy probably would have received probation if he had been convicted.

Bus Driver Booted For Allowing Alligator On Board

LACOOCHEE, Fla. - A Florida school bus driver is in trouble for allowing an extra passenger on her bus - an alligator. Middle and high schoolers were riding home from school northeast of Tampa, when they spotted a four-foot gator crossing the road. Officials say the driver allowed the kids to get off the bus, catch the creature and haul it back on the bus, with its jaws taped shut. Driver Sherry Hattaway is on paid leave while officials investigate. Pasco County school superintendent John Long says it sounds like she used some of the worst judgment you can imagine. The father of two of the boys found the kids standing around the gator when he got home. The man called authorities, who released the reptile into a nearby river.