The Odd Truth, March 23, 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.

W. Va. Gov: It's Not All Relative

CHARLESTON, West Virginia - West Virginia's governor wants a popular clothing store to stop selling T-shirts that read, "It's All Relative in West Virginia."

Governor Bob Wise says the T-shirts sold by Abercrombie and Fitch depict "an unfounded, negative stereotype" of his state.

In a letter to the company, Wise demands that the shirts be removed from store shelves, catalogues and Web sites immediately. He also wants them destroyed to avoid any possibility of resale.

A company spokesman says Abercrombie and Fitch honors all 50 states in the union. But he also says the shirts have been selling well at $22.50 each. He declined to say whether the Ohio-based company would comply with the governor's request.

Burger Flipper Accused In Spitting Incident

RIO RANCHO, New Mexico - A New Mexico police officer charges the burger he got was anything but his way. A worker at a Burger King drive-thru is accused of spitting into the officer's hamburger. Marcus Calderon of Rio Rancho was arrested and charged with assaulting a police officer and altering food, both misdemeanors. A police spokesman says Calderon claimed he was sick and may have accidentally coughed or spit on the burger. He's been fired from the Burger King. Now, the officer is awaiting the results of health tests conducted following the spitting incident.

Neurosurgeon Suspended After Soup Scuffle

LONDON - A hospital has had to cancel operations after a surgeon was suspended in a dispute over a bowl of soup in the staff cafeteria, officials said Tuesday.

Terence Hope, 57, a leading expert in vascular neurosurgery, was suspended March 18 after "allegations about his personal conduct," according to Queen's Medical Center in the central England city of Nottingham. Surgery on three patients was canceled Monday.

The Daily Mail tabloid reported Monday that Hope had been accused of taking an extra serving of soup without paying. He reportedly said he had just been getting some more croutons.

"We would hope that the situation could be resolved quickly and that he could get back to work," said a spokeswoman for the British Medical Association, which is representing Hope.

The hospital has refused comment, saying disciplinary procedures are confidential.

A spokeswoman said Hope had been due to operate Monday on three patients, but none of the cases was urgent and their surgery was postponed. "We are confident that there will be no detriment to their physical health as a result," she said.

Corpse Robbed Of $20,000 In Jewels

BOONVILLE, Kentucky - Her last request was that she be laid to rest with her jewelry on. But it turned out, she couldn't take it with her.

Five people are now accused of taking more than $20,000 worth of jewelry from a woman's coffin in a Kentucky mausoleum. Four of them were relatives of hers.

Investigators say the suspects were arrested Friday night - less than a day after an officer discovered a coffin had been broken into.

Peggy Cornett died of cancer in 1999 - and was interred with her jewelry, as she requested.

Deputies say it appears some of the suspects heard about Cornett's jewelry at another funeral. The items taken included a Rolex watch, earrings and a bracelet. Investigators say there was an attempt to pawn the jewelry.

Violinists Sue For 'Per Note' Pay Raise

BERLIN - Violinists at a German orchestra are suing for a pay raise on the grounds that they play many more notes per concert than their musical colleagues - litigation that the orchestra's director on Tuesday called "absurd."

The 16 violinists at the Beethoven Orchestra in Bonn argue that they work more than their colleagues who play instruments like the flute, oboe and trombone, and also say a collective bargaining agreement that gives bonuses to people who play solos is unjust.

But Bonn orchestra director Laurentius Bonitz said it was unreasonable to compare playing a musical instrument with other jobs.

"The suit is ridiculous," Bonitz said in a telephone interview. "It's absurd."

He also argued that soloists and musicians in other leading roles - like the orchestra's two oboe players - should make more money.

"Maybe it's an interesting legal question but musically, it's very clear to everyone," Bonitz said.

The case is scheduled to go before a labor judge in May.

Cable Car Endurance Champions

SINGAPORE - A marathon competition to see who could live for a week in a cable car plying the skies over Singapore has been won by a couple who said they used meditation to overcome urges to use the restroom.

Clutching pillows and jackets, 19 couples leapt, whooped and punched the air Tuesday as they emerged from the golf-cart sized capsules, where they'd spent the week in hopes of winning an ocean cruise and $11,700 in cash.

Contest organizers confessed they hadn't expected so many of the 33 original teams to survive the stifling humidity, motion sickness, claustrophobic conditions and just 10 minutes to use the toilet each day.

Judges chose a winner by tallying which team spent the least amount of their allotted time for restroom breaks.

The winning couple - Singaporeans Zaiton Majeed, 22, and Abdul Rahman, 29 - spent only 22 minutes and 15 seconds outside the capsule all week.

Majeed, a henna tattoo artist, and Rahman, a music store clerk, said they used meditation to conquer their bladders.

"It's so unexpected," an elated Rahman said. "We didn't think we could win."

The pair plan the use the prize money to open a body painting studio in Nagoya in central Japan, Majeed said. They also won a $17,600 boat cruise.

None of the teams broke the 10-minute toilet break rule, but some were disqualified for vomiting in the cars or for accepting candy offered as a trick by game marshals - violating a rule barring contact with anyone outside the cars.

5-Year-Old Brings Weed To School, Spices Lasagna

MIAMI - A 5-year-old boy took a bag of marijuana to school and was sprinkling it over a friend's lasagna like oregano when a monitor intervened, police said.

The lasagna was confiscated before the other boy had a chance to eat it Monday in the cafeteria at Gratigny Elementary School.

Police said it was unclear whether the boy even knew what he was carrying, although he tried to hide the bag when the monitor approached.

The boy "may have said it was oregano," said Mayco Villafana, spokesman for Miami-Dade County Public Schools.

Police and child welfare authorities were investigating the boy's family. "The focus is on the child's environment and what issues could have led to a child having a bag of marijuana in school," Villafana said. Police also were looking into whether an older friend may have asked the boy to hold the bag.

Also on Monday, authorities in Indianapolis said a 4-year-old boy took crack cocaine that police said was worth up to $10,000 to his preschool class and showed it to classmates, saying it was flour.

Teachers realized it was cocaine and called authorities.

"This could have killed these kids," said police Sgt. Roger Tuchek.

Indianapolis police said Tuesday they were still seeking the boy's parents, Kenneth Lee Green, 24, and Andrea D. Jackson, 23. Jackson was wanted on a warrant for failing to appear in court, court records showed. Green had been convicted of carrying an unlicensed firearm, resisting law enforcement and marijuana possession.

Long Lost Poet's Gate Returned To Grave

AMHERST, Mass. - A cast-iron gate found at a flea market with a $350 price tag has a poetic connection.

The 3-foot-tall gate that connected a metal fence surrounding the grave of poet Emily Dickinson and her family was recovered last month after it was stolen more than 20 years ago from inside the West Street Cemetery.

The 85-pound gate was spotted at an antiques store in Williamsville, Vt., last month with a $350 price tag attached. The name Edward Dickinson, the poet's father, and the year 1858 were cast into the iron.

After contacting the Amherst police, Vermont police retrieved the gate from the antiques store and were told by the owner it was purchased from a Northfield, Mass., auction house more than two years ago.

The gate was traced back to a series of antiques dealers and owners before the trail went cold.

"It's been around," said Robert A. Magovern, president of the Dickinson Family Association, who delivered the gate to the Emily Dickinson Homestead on Monday after picking it up in Vermont three weeks ago. "It's in remarkably good condition."

The association is planning to reinstall the gate at the cemetery in May. A formal rededication is set for June.

"It's a nice story with a happy ending," said Cindy S. Dickinson, director of the Emily Dickinson Museum.