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The Odd Truth, May 21, 2003

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.

Every Kid's Dream

ALBANY, New York - Two heads may be better than one — except if you're a turtle. Nine-year-old Gabrielle Pascarell found a two-headed turtle at a pond on her family's property near Albany, New York. At first, Gabrielle says she thought it was a cool-looking rock. Then the heads started to move. The mutant terrapin is now living in a fish tank in Gabrielle's home. Dad, Rob Pascarell, says it's pretty weird. He adds the two-headed turtle appears to be thriving. But experts say such mutations usually don't fare well. For one thing, the turtle's likely to be indecisive.

Busted Selling Pot To Sheriff

NAY-TAH-WAUSH, Minn. - If you're going to sell marijuana, you probably shouldn't try to sell it to the sheriff.

Mahnomen County Sheriff Brad Athman said Tuesday he was motorcycling while off-duty over the weekend when a youth tried to sell him marijuana — not once, but twice — on the main street of Nay-Tah-Waush in northwestern Minnesota.

Athman said the youth tried to wave him over twice, and signaled that he had marijuana for sale by placing his thumb and fingers to his mouth in a smoking gesture.

Athman said he had a full-face helmet on, so he was unrecognizable.

The sheriff said he called a deputy who arrested the 17-year-old, and that the teen had 11 marijuana cigarettes in his pocket.

Athman said the teen became "very upset" when he discovered he had tried to sell drugs to the sheriff.

The youth appeared in court Tuesday on a felony charge of attempted sale of a controlled substance. He remained in custody in the juvenile detention center in Moorhead pending his next court appearance. Prosecutors plan to seek to charge him as an adult.

Shh! Don't Tell The Ghosts About This

LONDON - Goodbye, Catherine Howard. Farewell, Mr. Boots.

Two of Britain's most famous "ghosts" are apparently just the effects of drafts or poor lighting, British psychologists said Wednesday.

Hundreds of volunteers were asked to describe their experiences at Hampton Court Palace in southwest London — where Catherine, the fifth wife of King Henry VIII is said to wander — and the South Bridge Vaults in Edinburgh, reportedly home to a cheeky boy specter known as Mr. Boots.

In a report published in the latest issue of the British Journal of Psychology, psychologists concluded that the "spooky" feelings reported in some locations were the result of drafts, poor or variable lighting and differences in electromagnetic fields, rather than denizens of the spirit world.

"Results revealed significantly more reports of unusual experiences in areas that had a reputation for being haunted," said the group, led by Richard Wiseman, a psychology professor from the University of Hertfordshire in southern England.

"Taken together, these findings strongly suggest that these alleged hauntings do not represent evidence for 'ghostly' activity, but are instead the result of people responding — perhaps unwittingly — to 'normal' factors in their surroundings," the report said.

The researchers measured air movement, light, space and local magnetic fields in the areas said to be haunted.

In both tests, some 45 percent of participants reported at least one "unusual experience" such as an "eerie presence," dizziness, headaches, nausea or shortness of breath.

Bronx Man Ticketed Sitting On Milk Crate

NEW YORK - It appears the New York City budget crunch has police writing tickets for things that are moving and not moving. A Bronx man tells the Daily News he was given a ticket for sitting on a milk crate outside the hair salon where he works on the Grand Councourse.

The ticket says "unauthorized use of a milk crate." The fine was not immediately known.

But 19-year-old Jesse Taveras told the News he was flabbergasted when the police officer handed him the ticket Sunday afternoon.

Taveras says the cop told him to "Blame Bloomberg."

Owning a stolen milk crate can cost a $100 fine. But those at the hair salon say the milk crate has been there for years.

A few days ago the Police Benevolent Association charged that street cops were being pressured to meet a quota in writing tickets to collect money for the city. The Bloomberg administration strongly denied those claims.

Beagle's 800-Mile Odessy Still Elusive

SOLOMON, Kan. - A couple whose dog turned up 800 miles from home in Auburn, Ala., won't have to take the more than 20-hour drive to retrieve their wandering beagle.

Another Auburn couple who already planned to travel to Kansas to visit relatives in El Dorado called Tim and Jennifer Cross after reading about their dog Norman in a local newspaper and offered to bring the dog back. The Crosses were scheduled to pick up their dog Wednesday evening.

"It's crazy," Tim Cross said Monday. "I don't know what in the world he did. If he could only talk."

Cross last saw Norman on March 28, when he took the 8-year-old beagle and the couple's other dog on a walk, off-leash, about a quarter-mile from their home, which is near Interstate 70. Norman showed up Friday outside an Auburn University computer repair shop.

"Sometimes he likes to go hunting, and he puts his nose down and takes off," Cross said. "He doesn't always watch where he's going. Usually he'd go out hunting and 10, 15 minutes later, here he'd come. He usually found his way home."

The couple's best guess as to how Norman found his way to Alabama was perhaps in the company of a truck driver or an Auburn University student returning east from a spring break skiing trip to the Rocky Mountains.

"I really can't see a short, round dog (walking) between 20 and 23 miles a day," Cross said. "He was two pounds heavier than he was when he left."

What's It Take To Get A Pardon Around Here?

NEW YORK - More than 35 years after Lenny Bruce's death, the comedian's supporters are still trying to clear his name.

Ron Collins and David Skover, authors of a Bruce biography that came out last year, are asking New York's governor to issue a posthumous pardon.

Bruce was convicted of using obscene language in a 1964 show. He died two years later, while his appeal was still pending.

Robert Corn-Revere, the First Amendment lawyer who wrote the petition, says this is a good time to reverse what he sees as an injustice.

As he puts it, "The United States is seeking to instruct the rest of the world what it means to live in a free society." And he adds, "It would behoove us to live up to our own standards."

Woman Fined For Petting Killer Whale

GOLD RIVER, British Columbia - A woman has pleaded guilty to petting a killer whale in the first case of its kind in Canada. Sandra Bohn was fined $74 during a court appearance yesterday in Gold River, British Columbia. Under Canadian law, she could have been fined one thousand times that much. Marine mammal experts say touching or petting a whale may change its behavior and lessen its chances of reuniting with its pod, or clan. Judge Peter Doherty says the next sentence for that offense could be much heavier.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police Corporal Jacquie Olsen says the size of the fine was not the point. She says bringing the case to court was important to let whale watchers know there are limits. Olsen says there have been reports of people swimming with the whale, a three-year-old male known as Luna, and even giving him beer.

Make Love, Not War

SAN FRANCISCO - The ad might read something like this: "Tall, blonde, `No Blood For Oil' activist seeks same. Let's have fair-trade coffee sometime."

Online personal ads such as this fictitious one are in the offing thanks to ActForLove.org, a Web site matchmaking service launched Tuesday that looks to connect the hearts of progressive activists.

The fledgling Washington, D.C.-based service describes itself as the place to "Take action. Get action."

Pining activists can enter their profile and photos for free. Their profiles will be lumped in with 1 million other singles, activists or not, from personals compiled by Salon, The Onion and Jane Magazine — but advanced search features can filter out those less politically inclined.

There's a $1 fee to make initial contact with a potential match, said founder John Hlinko. A minimum $25 worth of credits is required to begin contacting other members through the service, Hlinko said.

What are the political leanings of participants?

"I'd say it's mostly progressive, to be honest," said Hlinko, who welcomes conservatives and liberals alike. "We love the idea of a good healthy debate."

Tim Kingston, a spokesman for the human rights group Global Exchange, said activists are a natural target audience.

"Global Exchange has been involved in organizing many demonstrations and many campaigns and many relationships have also ensued," Kingston said. "Remember the old slogan, `Make love, not war."'

Legal Glitch Lets 16-Year-Olds Vote

BALTIMORE - Turn off MTV and unplug the Walkman — some 16-year-olds will be voting in Baltimore this September. It's a one-time-only opportunity because of a quirk in state law. City voters decided in a referendum a few years ago to move the mayoral general election from this year to next year to coincide with the presidential election. But only the legislature can make it official and state lawmakers never voted on the issue. As a result, there will be a 14-month gap between Baltimore's primary September ninth and next year's general election. Maryland law allows voters to participate in a primary, if they'll be 18 on election day. High school junior Andrew Brown can't wait. He says he'll be up early primary day — and he'll make sure his parents vote, too.