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The Odd Truth, May 23, 2005

The Odd Truth is a collection of strange but factual news stories from around the world compiled by CBSNews.com's Joey Arak.

Dogs Sniff Wrong Powder

CANBERRA, Australia - Fair warning for all those planning to sneak talcum powder into Australia: The cops will be waiting.

Seven police sniffer dogs have failed to ferret out cocaine for the simple reason that the sample used to train them over the past three months was talcum powder, Victoria Police Assistant Commissioner Paul Evans said Friday.

"I'm sure our dogs have got very soft, nice smelling noses at the moment, but they are in fact trained in detecting talcum powder so that means that they will have to be retrained in detecting cocaine," he told reporters.

Evans said police did not believe cocaine had been stolen and blamed an administrative error for the mix-up. Internal investigations have been launched both within Victoria police and the Australian Federal Police.

"If there are any missing kids out there, we'd find them fairly quickly, I should think," Evans quipped.

IDing Dog Doo Through DNA

VIENNA, Austria - A local Vienna politician wants to use DNA technology to chase down owners of dogs that leave their droppings on streets and sidewalks.

Manfred Juraczka, a councilor in a Vienna district, said Monday he wants the city to register all dogs' DNA so that droppings left where people walk can be tested and the owner of the guilty dog punished.

"This method offers a multitude of unbeatable advantages," Juraczka said in a statement, adding that all who fail to pick up after their dogs "must count on being caught."

Vienna's sidewalks are littered by dog droppings, and campaigns trying to persuade owners to pick up after their pets have made little difference. The city is home to almost 50,000 registered dogs, but the true number is believed to be much higher as many owners ignore the registration requirement.

Dog owners already can be fined if their dogs soil sidewalks or other pedestrian areas, but tickets are rarely issued because the pet has to be caught in the act.

Under Juraczka's program, owners of dogs found to have left droppings in the wrong places would have to pay for the costs of the DNA analysis in addition to fines of up to $284.

Dog owners in Vienna must pay dog taxes amounting to 15 cents per day. But removing just a single dog heap costs the city $3.80 to $6.30, Juraczka said, adding that amounted an "intolerable situation."

Bad Math On Football Question

RALEIGH, N.C. - The state's test writers tried to come up with a math question about football and ended up with a fumble.

On a test this month, seventh-graders had to calculate the average gain for a team on the game's first six plays. But the team did not gain 10 yards on the first four plays and would have lost possession before a fifth and sixth play.

The team opened with a 6-yard loss, a 3-yard gain and a 2-yard loss, which would have made it fourth down with 15 yards to go for a first down. The team's fourth play was just a 7-yard gain, yet it maintained possession for a 12-yard gain and a 4-yard gain on two additional plays.

"Whoever wrote it didn't think it through," said Gene Daniels, athletics director of Salem Middle School in Apex.

Mildred Bazemore, chief of the state Department of Public Instruction's test development section, said the question makes sense mathematically and was reviewed thoroughly.

"It has nothing to do with football," Bazemore said. "It has to do with the mathematical concepts that you're studying."

Lonely, Quick High School Graduation

OUTLOOK, Mont. - Jamie Gatz took center stage at her high school commencement and tailored the ceremony to her liking, choosing burgundy and sky blue as the colors for the Class of 2005.

Gatz didn't have to compromise, and didn't have any rivals for the title of valedictorian. The young lady from a farm in northeastern Montana was the lone graduate in the weekend ceremony.

When Outlook School closes its doors Wednesday, they won't shut just for the summer. The school in this shrinking farm community that had a population of 82 in the 2000 census is closing for good. There aren't enough students to keep the doors open.

"Two weeks before school started, we had 27 kids enrolled," said school clerk LaVerle "Bunky" Wirtz. "A week before school started, we had four."

Last summer, parents of most children transferred them to the larger school system in Plentywood, 18 miles away. "When a few started going, it just started snowballing," said Loren Dunk, Outlook superintendent.

For Gatz, highlights of her senior year included an eight-day school trip to the East. She and the three other students raised money for the journey that took them to New York, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C. Now Gatz is preparing to attend college.

Sex Offenders Get Free Viagra

ALBANY, N.Y. - An audit shows that convicted sex offenders in New York state have been getting Viagra -- paid by for taxpayers.

The audit by the state comptroller's office shows that between January 2000 and March 2005, 198 sex offenders in New York received Medicaid-reimbursed Viagra after their convictions. Those included crimes against children as young as two years old.

The problem is an unintended consequence of a 1998 directive from federal officials telling states that Medicaid prescription programs must include Viagra, a male sexual potency pill.

New York's two senators say the problem should be corrected.

Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton and Charles Schumer say they're prepared to offer legislation if needed.

'Star Wars' Gets Lost In Translation

BEIJING - Fans of the "Star Wars" series can buy a copy of the latest movie from counterfeiters in Beijing.

Priced at about $2.50, the DVD's of "Star Wars: Episode Three - Revenge of the Sith" are a bit blurry and confusing. The English subtitles match the 2003 Dolph Lundgren movie "Detention."

In one scene, Anakin Skywalker is dueling with light sabers. But the subtitle reads, "I have enough trouble with students having sex like rabbits."

China has promised to crack down on pirated products that foreign companies say cost them billions of dollars a year in lost profits.

Torture Device Up For Sale

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. - Joel Gonzalez wants $50,000 for the guillotine he used to cut off his fingertip. The activist chopped off the tip of his left index finger outside the Connecticut state Capitol in 1994. He says it was a protest against efforts to weaken gun control laws. While police investigated the finger-chopping incident, Gonzalez was never charged. Gonzalez promises to use the money he gets in the guillotine sale to continue his activism for a number of causes. But so far he says he hasn't gotten any bids.

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