The Odd Truth, March 12, 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.


Burglar Caught Snoozing

RAVENNA, Ohio - Sleeping on the job could be costly for a suspected burglar.

Eric L. Palmer, 34, of Akron, was arrested Thursday by police in nearby Brimfield Township after he apparently fell asleep on the garage floor of a home that police say was trying to burglarize.

Brimfield Police Chief David Blough said Palmer, allegedly armed with a handgun and two knives, has been charged with aggravated burglary with a gun specification.

Police arrived at about 6 a.m. after a home health care worker called to report a suspicious person in the garage of the home where she worked 10 miles east of Akron.

"We approached him very silently and had the handcuffs on him before he even woke up," Blough said. Police think Palmer fell asleep while waiting for someone to open the door so he could enter.

Palmer was held in the Portage County jail on a $100,000 bond.

Cup Of Ice Costs Man $4,500

DECATUR, Ala. - A Decatur man arrested during an argument with a store clerk over the price of a cup of ice has won an 18-month court fight.

But he says the dispute that began over a $2.40 cup of ice has left him with a $4,500 legal bill.

Cecil Parker, who was acquitted of a disorderly conduct charge by a jury March 3, wants the city to pick up the legal tab.

Parker's ordeal began in September 2002 when he tried to buy a bottle of Mountain Dew and a cup of ice at a convenience store. Parker and the clerk argued over the nearly $4 cost of the purchase, with Parker saying he was overcharged $2.40 for the ice, which he thought was advertised for 25 cents.

A sign in the store at the time said ice cost 25 cents. But the sign did not specify which size cup was 25 cents, and Parker said he filled the largest size cup with ice.

In haggling over the cost, Parker said he wanted to leave the cup of ice with the clerk and walk out. But Police Officer Tim Burleson told Parker to pay for the ice, and when Parker refused, he was handcuffed and taken to jail for disorderly conduct.

He was convicted in city court but was found innocent when the case went before a jury.

Parker told The Decatur Daily that he spent about $4,500 on attorney fees and court costs. He said he also paid $100 to pick up his vehicle that was towed away from the store where he was arrested.

Parker said he filed a court complaint for false arrest against police.

Catch Of The Day

ANCHORAGE - Fisherman Ray Dushkin Junior found himself as the catch of the day. A sea lion snatched the 19-year-old Dushkin off the deck of his grandfather's fishing boat, which was docked in Anchorage, Alaska. His dad, Ray Senior, saw it all. He says he feared he would never see his son again. But the animal released Dushkin after just a few moments underwater. Dushkin says the only sign of the sea lion attack is a scrape on his left butt cheek and some torn coveralls.

China: Great Wall Isn't Visible From Space

BEIJING - It was a textbook case of wishful thinking.

For decades, the Chinese have clung to the myth that their most famous creation, the Great Wall, is visible from space. Even today, elementary school textbooks in the world's most populous nation proclaim that the structure can be seen by the naked eye of an orbiting cosmonaut.

But those schoolbooks are being rewritten after China's first man in space, Yang Liwei, shattered the myth when he returned from 21 1/2-hours orbiting the earth last year, saying he couldn't see the wall, the Beijing Times newspaper reported Friday.

A Ministry of Education official in charge of teaching materials for China's schools said the textbook publisher has been told to stop printing the essay that recounts the falsehood.

"Having this falsehood printed in our elementary school textbooks is probably the main cause of the misconception being so widely spread," the paper said.

The myth "is a disadvantage to the real knowledge acquired by our elementary school students," Wang Xiang, a delegate to the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, an advisory body to the national legislature meeting in Beijing this week, was quoted as saying.

The wall stretches thousands of miles across northern China, but it's only a few yards wide.

Do Hot Dogs Really Count As Meat?

BOSTON - Fans of the Boston Red Sox are asking the Boston archdiocese to relax the rule that says Catholics can't eat meat on Good Friday.

This year, it happens to be the day the team opens its schedule at Fenway Park. And what's a ballgame without a hot dog or two?

But church officials tell the Boston Herald that baseball fever isn't a good enough excuse to bend the no-meat rule.

Reverend Christopher Coyne, spokesman for the archdiocese, says he thinks the scheduling of the game was insensitive to the huge number of people who are Christians and fans.

Coyne says he, for one, won't be watching the game.

Hospital Performs Operation On Wrong Patient

SARASOTA, Fla. - The wrong patient received a heart catheterization at Sarasota Memorial Hospital, officials said Thursday.

Dr. Duncan Finlay, the hospital's chief executive officer, declined to say how the mistake occurred, only that it was discovered immediately after the invasive diagnostic procedure was completed Monday.

"The patient had no harm done to them," Finlay said. "But let me emphasize that any mistake of this nature is just as important as one that might have done harm.

"We all live in dread that they might happen."

The hospital is not releasing the name of the patient or the doctor due to privacy laws, but Finlay said an investigation is under way, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune reported.

Heart catheterization is a generally routine procedure that involves using a catheter to insert dye into arteries to detect blockages.

PETA Criticized For 'Chicken Chump' Trading Cards

FORT WAYNE, Ind. - An animal-rights group ruffled some feathers Thursday by handing out chicken-themed trading cards to children after school.

Representatives from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, including a person dressed in an 8-foot-tall chicken costume, passed out "Chicken Chumps" trading cards to Lincoln Elementary School students. The cards showed unhappy-looking children with names such as "Cruel Kyle," eating chicken.

Carol Mills, who walks her children home from the school every day, questioned the tactics of PETA.

"How mature are these people to come harass elementary school kids because they eat chicken nuggets?" she said. "Are they serious?"

Ravi Chand, a PETA campaign coordinator, said the oversized chicken accompanying him brought a message of caring and compassion to the children.

But school board Secretary Jon Olinger said an elementary school was the wrong place for PETA to spread its message.

"I think it's pathetic that they're aiming a political message at 8-, 9-, 10-, 11-year-olds," he said. "It's a professional terrorist organization as far as I'm concerned."

Olinger said he would not mind if PETA targeted high school students, but that trying to get at parents through young children is wrong.

PETA often stages demonstrations to push its message of better treatment of animals. The group's visit to Fort Wayne was part of a multicity tour, and the group picked Lincoln Elementary because it is one of the largest elementary schools in the city, Chand said.