The Odd Truth, March 24, 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.


Daughter Fraud

EAST CONEMAUGH, Pa. - A man was charged with fraudulently using the identity of his 8-year-old daughter to get telephone service.

Cecil E. Cole III could not get service in his own name because he already owed Verizon on four separate phone bills, said Cambria County Detective Ron Portash. He used his daughter's name to obtain service between August and October, investigators said.

Cole could receive a maximum of five years prison and $10,000 in fines. He could not be reached for comment because his number had been disconnected.

Juror Busted For Pot

CHARLESTON, S.C. - A juror was arrested after officers noticed he was trying to carry marijuana into a courthouse, police said.

Jimmy Andre Thompson, 30, was trying to re-enter the Charleston County Courthouse Thursday when he was asked to empty his pockets before going through a metal detector, police said.

Officers saw Thompson pull out a small plastic bag containing a green, leafy substance, police said. He quickly shoved the bag back into his pants and pulled out a bag of peanuts.

Police said Thompson had about 18 grams of marijuana worth about $90.

"This is a first," said prosecutor Ralph Hoisington. "We've had an occasional pocketknife before, but no jurors have ever brought drugs in as far as I know."

At The End Of The Day, It's The Worst

LONDON - At the end of the day, it's the most irritating cliche in the English language.

So says the Plain English Campaign which said the abused and overused phrase was first in a poll of most annoying cliches.

Second place went to "at this moment in time," and third to the constant use of "like," as if it were a form of punctuation. "With all due respect" came fourth.

"When readers or listeners come across these tired expressions, they start tuning out and completely miss the message - assuming there is one," said Plain English Campaign spokesman John Lister.

"Using these terms in daily business is about as professional as wearing a novelty tie or having a wacky ring-tone on your phone."

Lister said people should follow the 1946 advice of writer George Orwell: "Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print."

The Plain English Campaign, which offers annual awards for good use of the language, surveyed its 5,000 supporters in more than 70 countries for the poll.

Other terms that received multiple nominations included: 24/7; absolutely; address the issue; around (in place of about); awesome; ballpark figure; basically; basis ("on a weekly basis" in place of "weekly" and so on); bear with me; between a rock and a hard place; bottom line; crack troops; glass half full (or half empty); I hear what you're saying; in terms of; it's not rocket science; literally; move the goal-posts; ongoing; prioritize; pushing the envelope; singing from the same hymn sheet; the fact of the matter is; thinking outside the box; to be honest/to be honest with you/to be perfectly honest and touch base.

Formed in 1979, the Plain English Campaign is an independent group that campaigns against cliches, jargon and obfuscation, particularly in official and public documents.

Really Big Fish

JANESVILLE, Wis. - It only took 45 minutes for avid fisherman Dave Tilton to set what could be a world record.

He caught a 73-pound, 1-ounce buffalo head fish on Monday. The world record for big mouth buffalo is a 70-pounder caught in Louisiana.

"I knew it was a big one," he said. "I wish it could have been a muskie or a walleye, but I'll take it."

Tilton had been fishing with his uncle off Lake Koshkonong's shore when he felt a tap on his jig. After a 30-to-45 minute struggle, Tilton and his uncle beached it.

State Department of Natural Resources fisheries biologist Al Byla examined Tilton's catch when he brought it to a DNR station and called the International Fishing Hall of Fame to inquire about how to officially verify Tilton's catch.

"They said you had to have the brand name and number for the scale used to weigh the fish," Byla said. "Setting a world record is a big deal, a very big deal."

Up In Smoke

CLINTON, Tennessee - Authorities charge that Michael Corder tried to send his smoke - up in smoke. The Clinton, Tennessee, man allegedly set fire to his mobile home in an effort to hide an indoor pot-growing operation. Deputies say they found more than a hundred plants in Corder's trailer, after the firefighters put out the flames. Corder is now free on $10,000 bond. He's charged with growing marijuana and felony possession of drug paraphernalia.

Hot Air Balloon Reaches 42,000 Feet

DENVER - David Hempleman-Adams says he's gone where no man has gone before - at least, not in the open wicker basket of a giant balloon.

The British balloonist says he reached 42,000 feet in the Colorado skies yesterday. That would be a world record for a balloon using both gas and hot air.

When he took off this morning, Hempleman-Adams was trying to break the balloon class record of just under 35,000 feet. But when he reached that point, he kept going up.

He says, "I just decided to go for it."

Getting his exact altitude verified could take several months.

Hempleman-Adams made his journey in an open basket, bundled up against bitter cold and breathing through an oxygen mask. To cut down on weight, there's one thing he didn't take: a parachute.

Singapore Wages High-Tech Rat War

SINGAPORE - Armed with thermal-imaging devices, closed-circuit television cameras and ultraviolet urine detectors, Singapore authorities are preparing for an eight-month war against rats.

An estimated 12,950 rats are being targeted in the $165,950 campaign, which begins next week in five neighborhoods across the city-state, the National Environment Agency said in a statement Wednesday.

More than 40 people were infected last year with typhus and leptospirosis, a bacterial disease that causes fever, the agency said.

Environment officials will be prowling the island's neighborhoods, sewers and garbage cans in an attempt to trap and kill two-thirds of the 12,950 rats believed to inhabit exactly 8,631 rat holes identified across the island, the statement said.

Rodent hunters will position cameras and thermal-imaging devices outside the rat holes and anywhere else rat activity might be taking place, the agency said. The ultraviolet urine detectors will be used to track the rodents.

Singapore has stepped up hygiene measures since the outbreak a year ago of severe acute respiratory syndrome, which crippled the country's economy and killed 33 people in the city-state.

Granny Grifter

CHICAGO - A 75-year-old woman is suspected of using her age and apparent frailty to fleece about a dozen auto dealers, police and prosecutors said.

Over the past four years, Betty A. Gooch has walked into several Chicago-area dealerships with a cane and an oxygen cart, then paid for cars with bad checks, police said.

"She'll say she's sick and going to be hospitalized, or that her stockbroker is sending the money, or promises they'll have the money next Friday," said Tony Kotlarz, an investigator for the McHenry County state's attorney's office.

In the latest case, Gooch allegedly wrote a check for $36,534 for a new Toyota Sienna and another check for $20,041 for a new Toyota Matrix during a November visit to one dealership, said Cook County state's attorney's spokeswoman Marcy Jensen.

Gooch is to be arraigned April 8 on charges of theft by deception and passing bad checks. She is out on bail and declined to comment Tuesday.

Gooch was sentenced to a year of court supervision in October after admitting she wrote a bad check to buy a motorcycle in 2001. She is scheduled to appear in court later this month on charges she wrote a bad $22,000 check last year for a Mazda sports utility vehicle.

She is being investigated for other possible crimes, police said.

Police: Dentist Traded Drugs For Sex, Labor

MONTICELLO, Ky. - A Wayne County dentist has been charged with illegally dispensing prescription drugs, which police say he traded for sex, marijuana and labor.

Dr. Raleigh Andrews was indicted Monday on ten counts of unlawful dispensing of a controlled substance and four counts of wanton endangerment.

Police said Andrews also hired an assistant with a ninth-grade education to perform "dental procedures on many of the patients," a statement from Monticello police said.

Officials searched Andrews' Monticello office on July 3 and found "several items of evidence," the statement said. His office has been closed since July.

The grand jury also charged Andrews on Monday with two counts of violating administrative regulations to establish security requirements for prescriptions, a misdemeanor.

Police and the Commonwealth's Attorney's office are still investigating.