The Odd Truth, May 25, 2004

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

Fred The Parakeet Returns

PARKERSBURG, W.Va. - Fred the parakeet has returned home four years after flying away.

The bird with the chipped beak recently was reunited with its owner, 11-year-old Aaron Edwards of Parkersburg.

"Aaron prayed every weekend, and I finally said to him, 'He ain't coming home.' That was three weeks ago," said Aaron's father, Mike. "Man, did I ever eat my words."

Fred flew away when Edwards took him to his used car lot in Parkersburg.

Ever since, Edwards, who also drives a tow truck, has asked customers from the area if they had seen a green bird.

The family then set up cameras at feeders hoping to catch of glimpse of Fred. But hopes grew dim as the winters passed.

On Friday, Kenny Balderson, a friend of Edwards', saw Fred at his Pettyville home. He called the bird by name and it flew down to him.

"What, Fred," the bird told Balderson.

When Balderson telephoned that day with the news, Edwards thought it was a cruel joke.

The years have made Fred a kinder bird.

"He used to bite everybody he didn't like," Aaron Edwards said. "He's really mellowed down now."

And after four years of eating from bird feeders, Fred has lost his craving for french fries and candy.

"(It) used to be he would tear it up, but now all he wants to eat is bird food," Mike Edwards said.

A Different Kind Of Government Leak

CANBERRA, Australia - Australia's main spy agency has been linked to a damaging federal Cabinet leak - a water leak, that is.

A parliamentary committee was told Tuesday that the Australian Security Intelligence Organization had recommended a special pipe fitting for the high-security room where Cabinet ministers meet, but that it failed, flooding the room with enough water to fill a backyard swimming pool.

ASIO Director-General Dennis Richardson said the agency recommended that a transparent sheet of plastic be fitted to a steel water pipe above the Cabinet room during construction of Parliament House in the 1980s.

Richardson would not confirm or deny that the plastic was installed to allow inspection of the pipe for bugs or other surveillance devices.

The piece of see-through plastic gave way on April 18, flooding the Cabinet room with thousands of gallons of water and causing more than $488,600 damage to carpets, leather furniture and fittings.

Richardson said ASIO was not to blame for the failure.

"We did make a recommendation that the perspex (transparent acrylic thermoplastic) was put in," Richardson told the committee. "We did not install it ourselves."

The deluge left water 10 inches deep in the room, thanks to double-sealed walls and doors, which slowed the drainage.

The room is expected to be back in use again by June 7. The faulty component has been replaced with a metal part.

Palm Tree Pensioner Returns To Germany

FRANKFURT, Germany - A German retiree who provoked outrage last year by getting German social services to pay his rent in Miami, Florida, has returned home - and promptly applied for welfare payments, a city official said Tuesday.

The case of Rolf John, now 65, prompted the German government to make it harder for citizens living abroad to claim welfare. Laws enacted in January meant John no longer qualified to have his $875 monthly rent in Miami paid by the state.

John registered May 13 with the social security office in Frankfurt and was granted a one-time payment of $246 to support himself until the beginning of June, council member Franz Frey said. He gave no address, but turned down an offer of accommodation in a city homeless hostel.

A court last summer upheld John's funding in the United States, arguing that he suffers from depression and needed to continue living in familiar surroundings.

The ruling came as Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder urged Germans to accept cuts to the generous welfare state, part of his efforts to revive the stagnant economy. It prompted the German government to enact new rules to curb what it called "social security under palm trees."

Under the new regulations, John was no longer eligible for any funding in Miami because he had lived abroad for more than 24 months.

Bathroom Buddies Busted

LAFAYETTE, La. - Men ranging in age from 22 to 72 were arrested during a two-day sting at a public park restroom after complaints of lewd behavior there.

Nine men were arrested on obscenity counts for allegedly being caught engaged in oral sex acts, while a 72-year-old from Arnaudville was arrested on a count of sexual battery for allegedly grabbing at an undercover officer's genitals, said Cpl. Mark Francis, a Lafayette police spokesman.

"It's summertime and there's kids and families in the parks and that's the kind of stuff that's going on out there," Francis said. "You have these men, adult men, who are using public restrooms to engage in oral sex ... Surprisingly, a lot of the folks are married."

The sting was simple. Officers watched for two men entering the bathroom together, then waited a short time and followed them into the bathroom to see what was going on, Francis said.

He said city police do infrequent checks on areas such as the Beaver Park bathroom and conduct sting operations when enough public complaints are filed.

"We chase them around from park to park," Francis said.

Man Steals $230K In Gasoline

MIAMI - A man was sentenced to five months in prison for using 270 counterfeit Postal Service credit cards to buy $230,000 worth of gasoline at 203 different stations.

According to prosecutors, federal agents watched one day as Humberto Ulloa, 27, drove his 1992 Chevy pickup to several Miami area stations and made seven consecutive purchases of gas, totaling more than 162 gallons.

His truck's standard fuel tank carried only 31 gallons. The rest was pumped into illegal tanks built into the truck, agents said.

Ulloa was arrested by the Hialeah Police Department on Sept. 9. He pleaded guilty in January to transporting hazardous fuel and possessing and using counterfeit credit cards.

A federal judge on Monday also ordered Ulloa to spend five months in home confinement with electronic monitoring, to serve three years of supervised release, and to pay $2,419 in restitution to the U.S. Postal Service and a $500 special assessment.

Investigations in southeastern Florida several years ago found several individuals who illegally rigged various kinds of trucks to carry stolen gasoline for illicit resale on the street, in parking lots or in driveways of private homes.