The Odd Truth, March 13, 2003

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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.

Celebrity Defense

SAN ANTONIO - A man on trial for murder in San Antonio claims he shot and killed another man in self-defense after being threatened and teased about his resemblance to pop star Lance Bass.

Defense attorneys argued yesterday that friendly ribbing erupted into a drunken fight between 23-year-old Richard Brown and at least two others who had threatened to cut him up because he resembles Bass. Bass is in the boy band 'N Sync.

Fearing for his life, Brown pulled a handgun and fired a single shot that killed 34-year-old Eric Acosta, of San Antonio. That's what defense attorney Ed Camara told jurors.

Prosecutors contend the January 2002 shooting was done in cold blood.

If convicted of murder, Brown faces a punishment of five to 99 years in prison or life, according to the San Antonio Express-News reports.

Anti-War Extra Credit

LOS ANGELES — A college speech instructor was placed on leave for giving extra credit to students who wrote letters to President George W. Bush opposing a war with Iraq but declining any bonus to students who support war.

Louis Zellers, president of Citrus College in suburban Glendora, said adjunct speech professor Rosalyn Kahn was placed on administrative leave with pay starting this week, pending a review.

Zellers said he would send a letter of apology to the White House.

Kahn did not immediately return phone calls seeking comment.

College officials said Kahn also offered students extra credit if they wrote letters to a state senator protesting state budget cuts that would reduce the number of adjunct faculty positions and eliminate some college classes.

"This just demonstrates the level of self-interest involved in the assignment," said Samuel T. Lee, associate dean of language arts and foreign languages at the two-year community college.

Lee believes four to six letters were sent to Bush and more were delivered to the legislator.

Kahn's speech class is required for students wanting to transfer to California State University or University of California campuses.

The Disappearing Nipple

ALTA, Wyo. — Pressure from uncomfortable skiers and other tourists has prompted the Grand Targhee Ski and Summer Resort to cover the second half of the name of one of its mountains.

Mary's Nipple is now just Mary's, and signs with the word "nipple" have been covered with tape. New signs were to arrive in about two weeks.

But the covered signs have rankled some local skiers, who feel a bit of their history has been lost.

"If the name changed, it wouldn't be the same," said Mark Franklin of Driggs, Idaho, who has skied the mountain for 26 years without feeling offended. "It's always been Mary's Nipple to me, and probably 99.9 percent of the people around here will agree with me."

The name dates back three decades to a story about a waitress named Mary, who was working at Targhee's Trap Bar and streaked through it and the resort one night. The U.S. Forest Service has never acknowledged it officially.

Dead Man Receives Phone Bill

AUBURN, Mass. — A man's phone bill has followed him to his grave.

A local cemetery received a phone bill last week for David Towles at his correct address — Hillside Cemetery, Evergreen Section, Auburn, Mass. 01501.

Towles was buried there in December 1997. He died at age 60.

Cemetery Superintendent Wayne Bloomquist says he was surprised to see the Sprint bill for 12 cents, including 10 cents for a call placed on Feb. 16, five years after Towles died.

"Our clients here don't usually get mail," he said. "I wondered if maybe we should start putting mailboxes on the monuments."

A call to Sprint's automated service on March 6 showed that charges on the unpaid account had inflated Towles' bill to $3.95.

The bill was turned over to interim Town Clerk Ellen Gaboury, who said she would hold on to it for a while.

"I'll have to," she said. "Mr. Towles' credit could be affected if it remains unpaid."

Is War Worse Than Jail?

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - A local judge has a new policy when it comes to soldiers stationed at a nearby base arrested on misdemeanor charges: If they are bound for Iraq, case dismissed.

Judge Gloria Dumas said in a memo that soldiers' duties outweigh any punishment they deserve for minor offenses such as vandalism, drunken driving and some types of assault.

The Fort Campbell, Kentucky military base is about 50 miles from Nashville, and many soldiers from the post often visit the city.

Dumas said she recently dismissed a case of disorderly conduct against a Fort Campbell soldier arrested in Nashville.

"If you think that potentially going to die for the country is a free pass, then I guess he does" get a free pass, Dumas said. "I wouldn't think that having to go to sit in the desert and wait for war would be a preferential place he would choose to be."

700 Dead Puffer Fish Wash Up In Fla.

NAPLES, Fla. - Hundreds of puffer fish have washed up on southwestern Florida beaches, and scientists were investigating whether they were killed by natural toxins.

Close to 700 of the striped burrfish were collected Tuesday and Wednesday from a two-mile stretch of Bonita Beach, said beach supervisor Clyde Lanning.

Four were sent to the state for testing. Results are expected next week.

The scientists will test for red tide, an algae that produces toxins fatal to many kinds of fish, and saxitoxin, suspected of causing 19 cases of food poisoning last year in Florida, New Jersey and Virginia, said state scientist Jan Landsberg.

The victims became ill after eating a different kind of puffer fish, also known as blowfish.

'I Love You, You're Under Arrest ...'

BANGKOK, Thailand - Thai law enforcers hope to woo the nation's motorcyclists into driving safely — by threatening them with arrest.

In a campaign called "Because of love ... that's why we're arresting you," police will start strictly enforcing a law that requires bikers to wear helmets, the official Thai Health Promotion Foundation said Thursday.

The idea is to reduce road fatalities during next month's Thai new year holiday. During last year's holiday, 567 people died in road accidents and nearly 38,000 were injured in less than a week. The campaign starts next Monday.

Thailand passed helmet laws in 1996 and their strict enforcement at that time helped reduce the number of head injuries by 40 percent for a period of several months, the health foundation said.

It is now common for motorcyclists to wear helmets in major cities, but many still do not in the countryside, and police often turn a blind eye to the infraction. The punishment is a discretionary fine, ranging between $4.70 and $11.70.

Some 80 percent of road fatalities involve people riding motorcycles, the health foundation said.

Shrimp Bandages

PORTLAND, Ore. - Fried shrimp, shrimp scampi, shrimp gumbo — shrimp bandages?

A company is using crushed shrimp shells in the production of bandages that help stop bleeding wounds on the battlefield.

HemCon, which received U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval for its bandage last November, is gearing up for production as the military prepares for a possible war in Iraq.

Made partly from shrimp shells, the bandage is designed to promote blood clotting and stop bleeding for up to 48 hours so a patient can be transported to a field hospital for surgery. About half of battlefield deaths stem from blood loss.

Cotton gauze and tourniquets remain standard supplies for military medics. But bleeding from serious wounds can't be controlled with rolls of cotton. Tourniquets, while effective at stopping blood loss, can lead to loss of a limb and can't be used on neck or abdominal wounds.

HemCon's bandage is made with chitosan, the building block of chitin, which helps form the hard shells of many insects and crustaceans. The chitosan in the HemCon bandage comes from the shells of shrimp harvested near Iceland.

The Army has ordered 26,000 of the bandages, at $89 a piece; 1,000 of them will be shipped to special forces troops in the Middle East this week.