The Odd Truth, March 2, 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.

Time Well Spent?

WINNIPEG - A 73-year-old man has successfully begged a Winnipeg judge to increase his jail sentence and send him to a federal prison where he can continue to smoke.

Angelo Foti's request came just moments after he was sentenced to 20 months in jail for shooting an intruder in the backyard of his Winnipeg home in May 2000.

Foti, who has no prior record, was clearly agitated after learning he would be serving his time in a provincial jail where smoking was recently banned under Manitoba legislation.

His family pleaded with him to stick with the original sentence.

But the owner of Italian Concrete and Excavation wouldn't budge.

His defense lawyer requested the sentence be changed to 24 months and the judge agreed.

The longer sentence means Foti will now be sent to the Stony Mountain federal penitentiary where smoking is still allowed.

'Virgin Mary' Windows Destroyed

CLEARWATER, Fla. - Office building windows that thousands of visitors believed bore the 60-foot tall image of the Virgin Mary have been broken. The three top panes of nine that showed what appeared to be the Virgin Mary's veiled head were destroyed, with just shards of glass remaining in the window frames. The damage was discovered yesterday and investigators say they're reviewing a security video. The image first appeared a week before Christmas in 1996. More than 500,000 people came to see the windows within a few weeks. The site still draws visitors. Glass experts believe the image was created by a chemical reaction and corrosion of the metallic elements in the glass coating, but they could not explain why it took the shape it did.

Drink Beer, Feel Sexy

WINNIPEG - Can you really brew a love potion from Saskatchewan barley?

Molson U.S.A. is pushing that idea to American beer drinkers.

It has launched an advertising campaign to provoke speculation about the Prairie grain's aphrodisiac powers.

It includes magazine ads, radio spots, and bar leaflets that have a maple leaf and the headline - "Aphrodisiac? - Saskatchewan Barley."

The radio ads feature adult film star Aria Giovanni discussing whether Saskatchewan barley is an aphrodisiac.

The theory is that Saskatchewan barley contains high levels of zinc - all barley does - and zinc is a key ingredient in aphrodisiacs like oysters and truffles.

The campaign was invented by a U.S. ad agency, but farmers and politicians in Saskatchewan seem happy to play along.

Saskatchewan Party agriculture critic Lyle Stewart says he thinks "there's probably something to it."

He notes, "the cattle seem to like it."

Barley grower Joe Armbruster says "When you drink beer, do you feel sexier? Sure you do."

'Voting Is For Old People' Shirt Criticized

WASHINGTON - A Harvard political institute criticized the hip retailer Urban Outfitters on Monday for a new T-shirt campaign declaring that "Voting is for Old People."

The institute chided the Philadelphia-based clothing chain for appearing to wear its apathy on its chest, calling the T-shirt slogan "the wrong statement at the wrong time" in the pivotal presidential election year.

"The shirt's message could not be further from the truth," wrote Harvard Institute of Politics director Dan Glickman, the former congressman and Clinton administration agriculture secretary, and student chairman Ilan Graff in a letter to Urban Outfitters CEO Richard A. Hayne.

"We would be eager to work with you to suggest alternative products that send the right message to America's young people, and better reflect the considerable social conscience and political participation of today's youth," the letter said. "You might consider 'Voting Rocks!"'

Urban Outfitters defended the slogan as a "statement meant to draw attention to the growing rift between politicians and their platforms and the concerns of young people in this country."

"However 'open-ended' and 'ambiguous' some have felt the message to be, by offering it for sale in our stores, we clearly never intended to discourage anyone from actually voting," the company said in a statement.

Between 1972 and 2000, the so-called youth vote - among people aged 18 to 24 - declined by 13 percent in presidential elections, according a September 2002 study by the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement at the University of Maryland.

In 2000, 42 percent of the youth vote turned out at the polls, compared to 70 percent of voters over age 25, the study reported. However, asking a young person to vote raises the likelihood that they will by 8 percent to 12 percent, according to the center's data.

Bedmaking Championships

OGALLALA, Neb. - Well, Ida Doggett made her bed... and now she's $4,444 richer.

Doggett, head housekeeper at the Ogallala Super 8 motel, used her skills at making a bed quickly to take third place out of 28 contestants in the Super 8 Motels International Bedmaking Championships in Minneapolis on Jan. 31.

She changed the sheets and did the necessary tucking and folding in two minutes, five seconds.

"To me, it's just fun," Doggett said. "It's a part of my job that I like doing - making beds."

In the final round, misfortune struck when one of Doggett's pillows fell on the floor, resulting in a five-second penalty. She lost to the first-place winner by less than two seconds.

Doggett said she takes pride in making beds, whether in competition or her daily housekeeping work.

"We're in the bedmaking business. It's something that needs to be done right," she said.

Surfer's Long Pledge Comes To An End

BODEGA BAY, Calif. - Thanks to Leap Day, Dale Webster finally gets to kick up his feet.

Webster went surfing the last time Leap Day fell on a Sunday, and he pledged he would surf every day until the next Feb. 29 came around on a Sunday.

That was back in 1976, making last Sunday the first day in 28 years that the extra day fell on a Sunday.

True to his word, Webster, 55, completed his 28-year surfing streak, undertaking 10,407 consecutive days of surfing.

Some 40 friends and writers and photographers from surfing publications surrounded him as he brought his bright red and white board to shore. A buddy, Rick Potter, poured champagne on Webster's head, then passed him the bottle.

"What were the odds of being able to do it all these days?" Webster asked. "I feel blessed. I have a wonderful family that understands me and lets me do this. It's so amazing it all worked out and my dreams came true."

Last year, after his 10,000th day, the Guinness Book of Records accepted Webster's feat into its 2004 edition for the Most Consecutive Days Surfing.

He admitted he's "afraid of not surfing," but he's looking forward to having his mornings free.