The Odd Truth, March 22, 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.

Man Caught With Seal Head

BOSTON - Airport security agents stopped a biologist after discovering the severed head of a harbor seal in his luggage.

The man, whose name was not released, told investigators he is a biology professor and that he found a dead seal on Revere Beach and cut off its head so he could use it for educational purposes. He was catching a flight to Denver from Logan International Airport on Friday, Massachusetts Port Authority spokesman Phil Orlandella told The Boston Globe.

Federal wildlife laws make it illegal to disrupt or remove body parts from a dead mammal, or to transport any illegal fish or wildlife product.

"He indicated that he was aware that he needed a permit and that he didn't have a permit," said Andy Cohen, a deputy special agent in charge for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Fisheries Office for Law Enforcement.

Authorities allowed the man to board his plane, but they kept the seal's head.

The man could face charges that carry criminal fines of up to $20,000 and imprisonment of up to a year, said Mark Oswell, spokesman for NOAA's Office for Law Enforcement.

Town Bakes 24,000-Pound Cake

LA TRINIDAD, Philippines - A northern Philippine town is attempting to bake itself into the Guinness Book of Records with what it claimed was the world's biggest strawberry buttercake.

The northern town of La Trinidad, which calls itself the Philippines' strawberry capital, has been baking giant cakes for the last three years.

But Mayor Nestor Fongwan said the town has outdone itself this time with the giant dessert weighing 24,572 pounds.

At 18 cents a slice in the town hall, the massive cake was expected to feed 55,000 townspeople.

About 6,614 pounds of strawberries were used in baking the cake, which measures 8.43 feet high and 8.69 feet wide, Fongwan said.

The Guinness Book of Records doesn't have an entry for strawberry buttercakes but organizers said they would seek a new category for their massive creation.

Plant City, Florida, holds the Guinness Record for biggest strawberry shortcake.

Soup Stirs Cannibalism Questions

PARSIPPANY, N.J. - Victor Salazar went to the hospital with back pain and had an X-ray that raised questions about his diet, not his spine.

When a doctor asked if he had eaten any bones, Salazar said no, forgetting about the soup he had the day before that included pieces of chicken feet.

He left, but radiologists and the Morris County medical examiner wondered if the film showed bits of finger bones. A police investigation began.

Newark homicide investigators went to Salazar's home in Newark on Thursday, and he agreed to have another X-ray at Morristown Memorial Hospital.

Salazar also mentioned the soup he made Tuesday, made with a whole chicken. "That's my favorite food, you know," he said.

So police took along some chicken from his kitchen and X-rayed the feet. Film comparisons confirmed Salazar's account.

Authorities said he was very cooperative. Salazar said he was glad the back pain was gone.

Officers had to check it out, said Joseph Devine, chief of investigations for the Morris County Prosecutor's Office.

"We had medical professionals telling us that a patient may have ingested what appeared to be body parts," he said.

Jurors Robbed During Testimony

BALTIMORE - After listening to testimony in a murder case, jurors returned to their jury room to find that they had become victims of a crime - a thief had stolen their money, cell phones and car keys.

"They were angry, hot, livid," lawyer Warren A. Brown, who was in the courtroom on another matter. "Here they are, jurors in a murder case, and we can't even trust the court to protect their belongings from thieves. It's mind-boggling."

Police think it was an inside job.

"We believe it was an employee of the courthouse," said Detective Donny Moses, a Baltimore police spokesman.

The crime occurred about 2:30 p.m. Friday when a thief used a set of keys to slip into Circuit Court Judge John N. Prevas' locked jury room, said Maj. Henry Martin, a spokesman for the Baltimore Sheriff's Department.

Defense lawyer Maureen O'Leary made a motion to have the case declared a mistrial, but the motion was denied.

"If the crime that occurred to the jurors was the same as the crime they were deliberating on that would be one thing," the judge said. "But this incident is too remote."

Lovable Loser Draws 10,000 Horse Race Fans

TOKYO - "Glorious Spring" is the undisputed darling of Japan's racetracks. Thousands pack the stands to watch the thoroughbred run, a new pop song sings her praises and a movie is in the works.

The eight-year-old has earned all the attention with an ignoble feat: she's lost more than 100 races in a row.

Glorious Spring - or "Haru-urara" in Japanese - was out doing what she does best on Monday, losing her 106th consecutive race, even with Japan's top jockey on her back. More than 10,000 fans braved the rain to watch her come in 10th out of 11 horses.

A horse that has never won a race is an unlikely hero, but Haru-urara's struggles have struck a cord with the Japanese fondness for the hopeless but determined underdog, a trait only reinforced by the past decade of economic troubles.

"It's better if she loses," said Noriyuki Fukui, 21, who came to the Shimbashi Wins off-track betting outlet in Tokyo to drop $9.30 on Haru-urara. "If she won, it wouldn't be so interesting anymore."

Oops! Robber Forgets His Wallet

COMFORT, W. Va. - An accused robber left a little something at the scene of the crime - his wallet. According to authorities in Comfort, West Virginia, Terry Lee Romine pulled a stick-up the V-Mart convenience store. Investigators say Romine ordered a slice of pizza, then told the clerk he had a gun and demanded cash. He's accused of grabbing the cash register after the clerk had trouble opening it. The clerk says Romine crashed into the wrong door before finding his way out. The clerk then looked down and saw the suspect had forgotten his wallet on the counter. Deputies busted Romine a short time later. He's been freed on $50,000 bond.

Spry Old Man Outwits Robber

WILMINGTON, Del. - A spry old guy managed to get the best of a robber - by asking to use to the bathroom. Police in Wilmington, Delaware, charge Charles Dale forced his way into the home of an 87-year-old man yesterday morning. According to authorities, Dale tackled the man and went through his pockets. The elderly victim asked the robber if he could go to the bathroom. The 87-year-old man then climbed out of a window and called 911 from a neighbor's house. Dale was busted nearby and now faces a number of counts, including robbery and burglary.

Balinese Singles Celebrate Kissing Festival

BALI, Indonesia - Dozens of Balinese singles locked lips in a steamy kissing festival Monday that ended with village priests dumping buckets of water over the couples to douse their passions.

Locals believe the festival, held yearly in a small village on the Indonesian tourist island, ensures the good health of those taking part and prevents bad luck hitting the village.

The ceremony, which dates back to the late 19th-century, took place even as some Islamic lawmakers in Indonesia moved to ban public kissing and punish it with five-year prison terms.

But in the village of Sesetan on Monday, the only debate was on how long participants should kiss for - not whether they were breaching morals on the island, which is a Hindu enclave in the world's most populous Muslim nation.

Around 70 young men and women dressed in traditional sarongs prayed in the local temple before parading in lines through the street and choosing a partner.

As a gamelan orchestra chimed in the background and with hundreds of cheering locals and foreign visitors looking on, they kissed for around 15 seconds before priests stepped in, soaking them with buckets of water.

"I am kind of uncomfortable what with all these people watching but I came along with my friends," said one female participant, Kadek Ari.

Members of Indonesia's parliament committee on pornography introduced a bill earlier this month that would ban kissing on the lips and making love in public places, a reflection of the growing influence of religion in Indonesia.