The Odd Truth, March 18, 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.


Elvis Museum Jewels Swiped

LAS VEGAS - In less than five minutes, thieves swiped $325,000 worth of Elvis Presley's jewelry and kitsch.

But the Sunday night heist at the Elvis-A-Rama museum left behind a million-dollar gem: the King's blue suede shoes.

Museum owner Chris Davidson said the thieves stole up to 80 percent of the jewelry on display.

"By no means am I giving up hope," he said Wednesday.

Police said the suspects stole a tow truck and drove it into the museum's rear door, then used lead pipes to break open three Plexiglas cases. The bandits were in the museum less than five minutes, police estimated.

Among the stolen inventory: a gold-plated handgun, a custom scarf, a bracelet and watch, Presley's Humes High School ring from 1953 and a Louisiana Hayride "E. Presley Day" ring from 1956.

Davidson's personal favorite was an "E.P" diamond pendant and chain, and a ruby and diamond star-shaped ring Presley bought in Las Vegas for $75,000.

"Those two pieces, I'm crushed over," Davidson said. "It's devastating."

Davidson, who opened the museum in November 1999, purchased the items from auctions and Presley's former bodyguards, friends and acquaintances. Presley was known to freely give jewelry and other possessions away.

Two Of A Kind

FARMINGTON, Maine - Perhaps it's no surprise that the wounded collie-shepherd and the disabled Vietnam veteran who rescued him forged a fast friendship.

They share a common bond: Each suffered injuries from a bullet to the head.

The tan and white dog is recuperating at Clearwater Veterinary Hospital, where Elwin Churchill shows up twice a day to walk him on a leash.

Churchill found the dog wounded and bleeding along a road and took him to the hospital. He named him Patterson - after veterinarian Dr. Robert Patterson, who performed emergency surgery Friday.

"This dog and I have a lot in common. I was in Vietnam in '67 and '68 and I still have part of a bullet in my head," said Churchill, who was 18 when he was wounded.

The Vietnam vet suffers from post-traumatic stress syndrome and lives in a secluded home not far from the spot on where he found Patterson while driving into town Friday morning with his son.

"We found him in the middle of the road and when I pulled over, the dog crawled under the truck. He was looking for a place to die," Churchill said.

Churchill coaxed the dog out, gently lifted him up and placed him on blankets in the back of his pickup.

The bullet entered on the right side of the dog's mouth, shattering several teeth and the jaw and tearing the tongue before exiting the throat. Police were investigating.

China Pays Citizens To Stay Alive

BEIJING - Need extra cash? Keep living.

The thinly populated northwestern Chinese province of Gansu has started paying elderly people for staying alive.

"It's a pleasant surprise," Ren Xiuhua, a 102-year-old woman from Lanzhou, the provincial capital, was quoted as saying by the official Xinhua News Agency. "My family and I are all grateful to government's love and care."

Except for partial loss of hearing, Ren is in good health - and more than happy with her $120 annual subsidy from the provincial government. The amount, doled out to each of Gansu's 243 centenarians, is about the same as the monthly pension paid by central government to the average retiree.

The province of 25.9 million people also has 7,166 residents aged between 90 and 99 and more than 680,000 between 70 and 89, according to figures from Gansu's committee on aging.

Xinhua said Tuesday that Gansu is the first province to offer the cash rewards to the elderly, part of the local government's efforts to improve the lives of senior citizens.

People aged between 90 and 94 will get $36, and those between 95 and 99 will get at least $60 a year, Hu Zhaoming, an official with the committee on aging, was cited as saying.

Show-And-Tell Trouble

SANFORD, Fla. - Fourth-grade teacher Stacey Cherry is in trouble for a little too much show-and-tell. Someone snapped a picture of the Seminole County, Florida, teacher flashing at a Super Bowl party. She's been placed on administrative leave with pay, while school district officials investigate. Cherry admits she'd had too much to drink at that party. She says friends encouraged her to lift her shirt, which she did. The snapshot of the topless teach was emailed anonymously to district officials and members of the school board. Cherry says she's being treated unfairly and she's hired a lawyer.

Lucky Battery

BREWSTER, N.Y. - The D'Onofrio family of Brewster keeps its telephones out of the reach of 21-month-old Billy, since he likes to push the buttons and make random calls. There's tape over the television controls to keep him from changing the channel.

But the little boy's inquisitive nature is no longer considered a problem, not since he opened the battery compartment on the TV remote and uncovered a purple battery worth $100,000.

The AAA Duracell was one of 12 labeled "winner" that the manufacturer had slipped into packages as part of a promotional campaign. The D'Onofrios had put it into the remote - which was a replacement for one Billy had accidentally thrown into the trash - without noticing that it was special.

Then, on Jan. 20, Billy managed to open the remote and shake the battery onto the floor, where his mother, Lisa, finally noticed it.

She assumed it would get her a coupon.

"I would have been happy with a year's worth of batteries," she told The Journal News, noting that there's a 9-year-old and a 6-year-old in the house as well as Billy.

But Duracell told her the prize was $100,000.

"I can't believe we won something this big," Lisa D'Onofrio said. The family will use the money to boost the children's college funds and pay a few large bills, she said. The family was to pick up its check Thursday at the Toys "R" Us in Danbury, Conn., where the battery was purchased.

"How lucky was that child?" said Michele Szynal, communications director of Gillette Co., Duracell's parent. "Just thinking about it makes me smile."

Ticklish Fighting Cocks

BANGKOK, Thailand - Thailand's agriculture minister says a plan to embed monitoring microchips in fighting cocks should be scrapped - because the tiny devices could hamper the birds' fighting skills.

Thai authorities decided to start registering the cocks as part of an effort to prevent diseases - after the recent bird flu outbreak that devastated the country's poultry industry.

The Cabinet has already given approval in principle to the plan. But the agriculture minister says the chips "tickle" the birds - and that could slow them down when charging at the opponent during a fight. He also says the birds have short lives anyway.