The Odd Truth, May 24, 2004

The Odd Truth is a collection of strange but factual news stories from around the world compiled by's Brian Bernbaum.

Arnold's DNA On EBay

SACRAMENTO, Calif. - A seller on eBay tried to auction off a cough drop that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger allegedly used, then tossed into a trash can - listing the item under the heading "Schwarzenegger's DNA."

But the ad posted on the popular Web site Friday was quickly yanked after eBay decided it fell into the category of "body parts," which the Web site will not list for sale.

The original listing was accompanied by two photos of a half-consumed cough drop and the words, "Own a piece of DNA from the man himself." The seller indicated she or he had seen Schwarzenegger discard the lozenge at a recent public event and had retrieved it.

"Like many people who collect items from international stars this is a must have," the ad stated.

The California governor's office confirmed Schwarzenegger routinely sucks on cough drops, but would say little more.

An eBay spokesman said the seller, identified only as "AMF814," could put the item back up for sale if he or she reclassified it as a collectible. As of Saturday, it was not among the 115 Schwarzenegger collectibles listed.

Las Vegas Battles Stench

LAS VEGAS - Something is raising a stink in Las Vegas.

City officials, fearful that the smells emanating from downtown alleys are hampering the area's economic resurgence, have launched an assault on stench.

"People are walking downtown and holding their noses," said David Semenza, Las Vegas' neighborhood response manager. "What good is redevelopment when you have this stench?"

The stinky problems involve everything from rotting food to people relieving themselves wherever they please.

Since April, crews from the city's Rapid Response Team have spent thousands of dollars a week clearing out debris from alleys and spraying them with an odor-eating, enzyme-producing bacteria.

The enzyme, which the maker claims is nontoxic and biodegradable, has an odor akin to laundry detergent, some say. Others, like Deputy City Manager Betsy Fretwell, whose nose the city relied on in choosing among several deodorizers in tests, describe it as antiseptic.

The deodorizing of downtown is scheduled to end July 1.

"It's very expensive but it's part of what a city has to do," Mayor Oscar Goodman said. "You don't want noxious odors to affect the experience of people who come downtown."

Moose Steals Bicycle

STOCKHOLM, Sweden - The massive moose didn't take it for a joyride, but she did run off with Bjoern and Monica Helamb's bicycle, the couple said Monday.

The married couple was ready for the moose, which has visited their yard in Vuoggatjalme in northern Sweden annually since 1995 to snack on their roses. This year, though, they put their bicycle in front of the flowers in a bid to protect them.

"So we thought we would at least protect our favorite roses from her appetite by making it harder for her to get to them," Bojern Helamb told The Associated Press.

It didn't help.

The moose, dubbed "Droopy Ear" because of her deformed ears, slid her head through the bike's frame and munched on the roses last week, sating her appetite with a flowery feast.

"Then she disappeared, with the bike hanging around her neck," Helamb said.

He found the bike later, about 1,600 feet from the house, bent apart and beyond repair.

Despite purloining the bicycle, Droopy Ear came back over the weekend for roses, but was chased away by the couple.

Woman Avoids 'Attempted Poisoning' Conviction

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - A Miami woman cannot be convicted of attempting to poison her boss simply because there is no such crime, a state appeals court ruled.

Femesha Foster, a former technician who worked for optometrist Mark Caruso at the Pembroke Pines Wal-Mart, was caught on a surveillance videotape putting the poison in her boss's can of Dr. Pepper in January 2000. Caruso decided the soda didn't taste right, and drove himself to the hospital, where he was treated for poisoning and released.

Foster, 36, was sentenced to 20 years in prison - 15 for attempting to poison, and five for grand theft, after she admitted to writing checks to herself from Caruso's account.

But the 4th District Court of Appeal in West Palm Beach overturned Foster's conviction for attempted poisoning on Wednesday because it is a "nonexistent crime." The crime is poisoning, the court said.

Prosecutors can retry Foster on the charge of poisoning.

Robot Origami

PITTSBURGH - Robots can scamper across the surface of Mars, defuse bombs and vacuum floors. Now they also can fold small pieces of paper.

Officials at Carnegie Mellon University are excited about a graduate student who has developed a robot capable of doing origami - the traditional Japanese art of folding paper to make figures or sculptures.

"Origami is way out there - it's like a space shot," said Matthew Mason, a professor of computer science and robotics. Doctoral candidate Devin Balkcom has created a robot that can make paper airplanes and hats.

Origami has important research applications because although robots have been taught to manipulate rigid objects such as golf clubs, they struggle when the objects are flexible, like paper or the human tissues that surgical robots must navigate.

Balkcom's robot uses a suction cup to pick and move paper, which is manipulated over a gutter on a metal surface. The paper is then pushed down into the gutter using a straight-edge ruler attached to the robotic arm, and the gutter closes on the paper to crease it.

Balkcom is scheduled to earn his Ph.D with the project in August.