The Odd Truth, March 11, 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.


Million-Dollar Mistake?

ATLANTA - A woman who tried to use a fake $1 million bill to buy $1,675 worth of merchandise at a Wal-Mart store said it was all just a misunderstanding - she thought the bill was real.

The United States Treasury does not make $1 million bills.

"You can't keep up with the U.S. Treasury," said Alice Pike, speaking from jail.

Pike, 35, was arrested last week at the Wal-Mart. The bill was a novelty item that can be bought at gag shops. Pike told police she got it from her estranged husband, who is a coin collector.

Pike said she first tried to buy the merchandise with two Wal-Mart gift cards. But the cashier told her the cards only had a total value of $2.32. That's when Pike says she pulled out the $1 million bill.

"All I've got is this," Pike said she told the cashier.

"I wasn't trying to pass off the bill," she said. "That's ridiculous."

A police report says Pike tried to pay for the items with the fake bill and even asked for change.

Prosecutors must decide whether to prosecute Pike on charges of first-degree forgery.

Splish, Splash

ADVANCE, N.C. - Two fast-food restaurant employees who bathed in a dishwashing sink took their hygiene a bit too far - but didn't pose a health threat, the county's health director said.

The caper came to light when a photograph developer spotted pictures of the men taking turns posing, in bathing suits, in a large sink full of bubbles, said Barry Bass, director of the Davie County Health Department.

"From a public-health standpoint, you want the employees to be clean," said Bass, though he added the employees may have overdone it.

The sink at the Wendy's has cleaning jets and is used to wash pots, pans and other cookware.

Bass said the restaurant won't be cited for any health-code violations, because no health official directly observed a violation.

The restaurant's manager assured health officials the sink had been sanitized and that it wouldn't happen again, Bass said.

Wendy's officials did not return calls for comment.

Hostess Ho Hos Take A Bite Out Of Crime

HAZLETON, Iowa - The string of charges involved meth, trespassing and fraud, but it was the snatching of Hostess Ho Hos and Crumb Cakes that nabbed the suspect.

Robert Lee McKiernan, 35, of Cedar Rapids, was arrested Tuesday after an incident in which authorities say he stole a box of Hostess Ho Hos and a box of Cinnamon Crumb Cakes from a barn at an Amish farm near Hazleton, in northeast Iowa.

The local sheriff's office said deputies got a description of a car and stopped it about 2 miles from the home.

Deputies found the stolen snack cakes in the car along with materials used to make methamphetamine, the sheriff's office said.

McKiernan was charged with possession of meth ingredients, burglary, theft, criminal trespass, driving while barred, driving under suspension, driving without insurance and fraudulent vehicle registration.

Let The Slurping Begin!

BEIJING - Forget the "iron rice bowl." In today's China, instant noodles are sliding down people's throats in record numbers.

The world's most populous country has become the No. 1 consumer of instant noodles, the official Xinhua News Agency reported Thursday. It cited figures from the 4th World Ramen Summit, which was held in Shanghai on Wednesday.

According to summit information, 65.3 billion packs of instant noodles were consumed in the world last year - 27.7 billion of them in China. That was 4.6 billion more packs than Chinese swallowed in 2002, Xinhua said.

It didn't say which nation was No. 1 in 2002.

Indonesia was No. 2 last year, followed by Japan, the United States and South Korea, Xinhua said.

Chinese typically eat a bowl of either rice or noodles with every meal. Though noodles are traditionally a northern dish and rice a southern one, the lines have blurred as shipping innovations render such regional differences less relevant.

Chinese are racing toward a convenience culture of 24-hour grocery stores, home delivery and microwavable Peking duck in a bag, and instant noodles feed the need for speed.

Police: Meat May Have Contained Human Remains

VANCOUVER - A gruesome possibility has been raised by police in the Port Coquitlam, B.C. pig farm murder investigation.

The Missing Women's Task Force says human remains may have been in meat processed for human consumption.

Police assure meat from the farm was not sold in retail outlets.

However, they called in experts to determine the health implications after they learned a circle of people Robert Pickton gave meat to was larger that first thought.

Detective Constable Sheila Sullivan says the warning is only precautionary, and they have no evidence that contaminated meat left the farm.

Pickton faces 15 first-degree murder charges, with seven more charges pending against him.

Lynn Frey, the stepmother of Marnie Frey whose DNA was found on the farm, is appalled police didn't warn people earlier.

Frey wonders how many people have eaten something from that farm.

Gay Mormons Cause A Stir

SALT LAKE CITY - Some Salt Lake Community College students aren't very happy about a gay photo exhibit. The pictures that are causing the stir show two male Mormon missionaries in sexually suggestive poses. One shot shows one of the guys undoing the other's belt, as a book of scripture lies open nearby. Police were called to calm tempers after a shouting match when one student began to remove the photos. In a compromise, the school has moved the display to a less public place on campus. Photographer Don Farmer tells The Salt Lake Tribune that he's gay and was raised a Mormon. He says the young men in the photos are returned missionaries who became a couple. Farmer says while the photos may upset some people, they depict real life.