The Odd Truth, March 15, 2004

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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.

Largest Ball Of Paint Honored

ALEXANDRIA, Ind. - A man who's spent years applying layers of paint to a baseball that's grown to enormous proportions is hoping to have it declared the world's largest ball of paint.

For the past 27 years, Mike Carmichael has been painting a baseball that hangs in a shed behind his home. It now weighs 1,300 pounds, is more than 35 inches in diameter and has a 111-inch circumference due to more than 18,000 layers of paint.

On Saturday, Carmichael watched as a crew took a core sample from the green ball that's needed before it can earn a spot in the Guinness Book of Records.

In honor of Carmichael's work, Saturday was declared Ball of Paint Day in Alexandria, about 25 miles northeast of Indianapolis. It starting with a proclamation honoring Carmichael on the steps of City Hall, followed by a photo exhibit and ending with the core sample taken at Carmichael's home.

"I am not going to start any more baseballs," Carmichael declared.

Deadly 'Dihydrogen Monoxide' Alarms City

ALISO VIEJO, Calif. - City officials were so concerned about the potentially dangerous properties of dihydrogen monoxide that they considered banning foam cups after they learned the chemical was used in their production.

Then they learned, to their chagrin, that dihydrogen monoxide - H2O for short - is the scientific term for water.

"It's embarrassing," said City Manager David J. Norman. "We had a paralegal who did bad research."

The paralegal apparently fell victim to one of the many official looking Web sites that have been put up by pranksters to describe dihydrogen monoxide as "an odorless, tasteless chemical" that can be deadly if accidentally inhaled.

As a result, the City Council of this Orange County suburb had been scheduled to vote next week on a proposed law that would have banned the use of foam containers at city-sponsored events. Among the reasons given for the ban were that they were made with a substance that could "threaten human health and safety."

The measure has been pulled from the agenda, although Norman said the city may still eventually ban foam cups.

"If you get Styrofoam into the water and it breaks apart, it's virtually impossible to clean up," Norman said.

Granny Busted With Crack Denies Charges

KINGS MOUNTAIN, N.C. - A 96-year-old woman facing drug charges said she does not know how the crack cocaine deputies found on her got into her wheelchair.

Julia Roberts was charged with possession of crack with intent to sell and deliver, and with possessing a crack pipe, sheriff's officials said. She was freed pending a hearing March 30.

"I've never seen (the drugs) in my life," she told The Charlotte Observer for a Saturday story. "I don't know how they could get there."

A search warrant for the arrest said it's the third time Cleveland County deputies have seized crack at the mobile home Roberts shared with her son.

Harold Roberts, 61, was charged with possession of stolen goods. Harold Roberts' brother, James Roberts, 58, who lived nearby, was charged with possession of moonshine. A neighbor, Donald Eugene Bridges, 56, was charged with possession of stolen property.

Cleveland County Sheriff's Office Capt. Bobby Steen said Roberts and the three men traded crack for stolen property, mostly jewelry and guns.

The affidavit said an informant told deputies that Julia Roberts hid crack in her prosthetic leg during a previous search.

Roberts said she has kicked her son out of the house.

They're Alive!

BOSTON - The undead live! No, it's not some Hollywood horror flick - but a new way to market lobsters. Connecticut-based Trufresh is showing off its freezing technology at the International Boston Seafood Show. The company's Barnet Liberman says some of their frozen lobsters come back to life when they're thawed. The crustaceans are flash-frozen in minus-40 degree brine. Liberman says the freezing takes place so quickly there's minimal tissue damage. His company is looking for investors. But some people aren't convinced. Bonnie Spinazzola of the Atlantic Offshore Lobstermen's Association says the undead lobster might actually be a robo-lobster.

Satellite Dish Guy Exposed As Panty Thief

MUSKEGON, Mich. - A satellite dish installer is in trouble for stealing panties. Authorities in Muskegon, Michigan, accuse Nicholas Lee Hinkley of taking souvenirs from his female customers. He's charged with larceny in a building, a felony punishable by up to four years in prison. Investigators say a duffel bag found in the home where Hinkley is staying contained 78 pairs of women's panties, sex toys and home videos. Hinkley has pleaded innocent and is free on $5,000 bond. He's due back in court next week for a preliminary hearing.

Porno Director Swings Both Ways, Professionally

LOS ANGELES - Just because he makes his living directing pornographic films doesn't mean James DiGiorgio wants children watching them.

That's why the veteran director took a recent day off from filming his usual adult fare to make a public service announcement for a Christian anti-pornography group. Its message: Parents, keep your adult videos and magazines out of the hands of your children.

"This stuff is not for kids, like liquor and cigarettes are not for kids. We have to take extraordinary steps to protect them from it, said DiGiorgio, himself the father of two children.

Still, the irony of making a film starring children's puppets instead of porn stars wasn't lost on him.

"It's kind of like you stepped into an alternate reality," he said.

Making the film for, he said, has led some members of the porn industry to denounce him as a turncoat.

Singapore To Partially Lift Chewing Gum Ban

SINGAPORE - Singapore is set to partially lift its famous ban on chewing gum this week, but those yearning to blow bubbles or freshen their breath will have to settle for a chewy nicotine substitute.

Starting Thursday, the tightly controlled city-state will allow the sale of Nicorette - a nicotine gum for smokers trying to quit.

The government last year agreed to relax its 12-year ban on chewing gum to allow the sale of brands that health authorities consider "therapeutic" as part of a free-trade agreement with the United States that took effect Jan. 1.

Pfizer, the company that makes Nicorette, will send senior executives to Singapore to officially launch the gum, the company said in a statement.

Squeaky-clean Singapore outlawed the import, manufacture and sale of chewing gum in 1992 because of complaints that spent wads were fouling the city-state's tidy pavements, buildings, buses and subway trains.

Attempted Murderer Hired As Ethics Teacher

LONDON - A scientist who served seven years in prison for trying to poison his wife has secured a job teaching ethics, university officials said Wednesday.

Paul Agutter, who tried to cover up his crime by spiking products at branches of the supermarket Safeway, has been employed part-time by the University of Manchester.

Agutter, 57, from Athelstaneford in Scotland, was released from jail in 2002, after serving seven years of a 12-year sentence for the attempted murder of his wife Alexandra.

He spiked her gin and tonic drinks with doses of atropine and tried to cover his tracks by placing bottles of tonic injected with the poison on supermarket shelves. The incident sparked a nationwide alert and left eight people ill, including Agutter's wife.

The prosecution said Agutter had plotted to murder his wife and marry his lover, Carole Bonsall, a mature student at Edinburgh's Napier University.

Agutter was arrested after closed-circuit TV footage showed him placing the poisoned tonic on the shelf of a branch of Safeway in Edinburgh, Scotland.

A spokesman for the University of Manchester confirmed Agutter was employed on a part-time basis.

"He was contracted to teach philosophy and medical ethics two hours a week at night classes a couple of months ago," he said on condition of anonymity.

"All we can say in relation to his appointment is that he applied for the job, we took up his references and he was appointed to the post after due process," he added.