The Odd Truth, May 5, 2004

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

You've Come A Long Way, Baby

MINSK, Belarus - A woman believed to be the oldest in the world celebrated her 116th birthday Wednesday in the former Soviet republic of Belarus.

"I'll drink to my own health with pleasure," said Hanna Barysevich, a former farm worker who lives in a house outside the Belarusian capital Minsk.

"I'm tired of living already, but God still hasn't collected me," she said with a smile.

Barysevich was born on May 5, 1888, in the village of Buda, 37 miles east of Minsk, according to her passport. Her parents were poor, landless peasants.

"From my early childhood I didn't know anything but physical labor," said Barysevich, who never learned to read or write. She worked in a kolkhoz, or collective farm, until age 95, then moved to the house she shares with her 78-year-old daughter Nina.

Barysevich lived through the Bolshevik Revolution, two world wars and the collapse of the Soviet Union. The worst period for her was the reign of dictator Josef Stalin: Her husband Ippolit was declared an "enemy of the people" for allegedly harming the collective farm, arrested and taken to Siberia. He was never heard from again.

She raised her three children on her own, including throughout World War II, when she used to take her family to the woods outside the village to hide from the Nazis.

Today, Barysevich moves with difficulty but unaided. She complains of occasional headaches and worsening vision "but nothing else bothers me."

She attributes her longevity to genes: Her paternal grandmother was 113 when she died. As to diet, Barysevich prefers simple village food: homemade sausages, pork fat, milk and bread.

"Throughout my long life, I understood that it isn't worth it to get upset and take everything too close to the heart," Barysevich said.

Monkey Poo Closes Highway

MILWAUKEE - Two busy highways in Milwaukee are open again after being closed for about four hours by a spill of monkey droppings and algae.

The smelly mixture was being trucked from the Milwaukee County Zoo.

A zoo spokeswoman says, "From a scale of one to ten, the smell's a nine."

The accident happened when a latch broke on a tank holding the dark, sludge-like waste.

The mixture had been removed from a moat.

The droppings were then "aged" for two days to destroy any viruses before being loaded into the truck.

Zoo officials say it doesn't pose any health problems.

Man Attacked With Swordfish

SAGINAW, Mich. - A woman was arrested on accusations she used a mounted fish with a pointy nose to assault her live-in boyfriend, police said.

A state police trooper responded Monday to a domestic dispute and found a 25-year-old man who claimed he was the victim of a knife assault. The man had several small cuts on his arms, right leg and left shoulder, as well as a bite wound on the same shoulder, a Saginaw police report said.

But when questioned, a 25-year-old woman told authorities she bit her boyfriend back after he bit her first. And she said she never used a knife on him. She said the man threw her down and hit her several times. That's when she grabbed the fish.

"She could not get away, so she grabbed a decorative fish off the mantle of the fireplace and hit him several times until he let her go," the police report said.

Investigators could find no evidence of knives used at the scene, but did find a mounted fish that was "something like a swordfish," The Saginaw News reported.

The woman had not been charged Tuesday.

N.J. Town Renames Itself After Cocktail

TRENTON, N.J. - Here's a new Bacardi recipe: Take a small community near Atlantic City, add $5,000, and for half a month, you've got a locality named after a cocktail.

For the first half of May, the Richland section of Buena Vista Township will be called "Mojito," named for a traditional Cuban drink made of rum, mint leaves, lime, sugar and club soda.

With a large amount of mint used in mojitos coming from Dalponte Farms in Richland, New York-based Baddish Group, which runs Bacardi's marketing, decided getting the community renamed would make for a great promotion.

Baddish brought up the idea with Dalponte Farms and Buena Vista officials. Area residents, clergy and the local Drug Alliance Commission were all consulted, and there was little worry about promoting an alcoholic drink, said Buena Vista Mayor Chuck Chiarello.

"No one is against alcohol," Chiarello said. "People are against alcohol being misused, especially by people under age."

The township committee voted 5-0 on April 26 to authorize the new name after Bacardi offered to give it $5,000 for recreation projects such as new playground equipment in public parks.

A road sign along Route 40 promoting mojitos has already been raised. And Bacardi plans to use images from Richland in advertising promotions.

Township Administrator Ron Trebing also thinks the promotion is a good deal.

"It'll improve recreation in the area," Trebing said. "Anything helps out."

Cat Jumps 14 Stories, Lives To Meow About It

HALIFAX - Someone needs to tell a cat named Jagger that felines can't fly.

The eight-month-old marmalade cat jumped out of a 14th-floor window of a Halifax apartment building yesterday - and lived to meow about it.

Musician Rocky Boudreau later found Jagger wandering around the base of his building.

Boudreau was in the process of moving from one apartment to another nearby building when the cat took the leap.

A trip to the vet turned up nothing unusual, and Boudreau says nothing seems to be broken.

Wasp Attacks Shut Down Buddhist Fortress

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka - A 5th-century fortress that's one of Sri Lanka's top tourist attractions reopened Wednesday, days after a rampaging swarm of wasps attacked visitors and forced it to close.

Several dozen tourists from Sri Lanka and abroad were rushed to hospitals with swollen lips and limbs after the insects struck on Saturday at the Sigiriya fortress, a World Heritage Site about 100 miles north of the capital, Colombo.

Officials believe the wasps were provoked when visiting school children hurled stones at one of their nests.

Saffron-robed Buddhist monks lit hundreds of oil lamps and incense sticks at the site on Tuesday and chanted prayers to placate the insects.

But numerous wasps were still hovering in the area, and parts of the monument remained off-limits to visitors. There are about a dozen wasp nests at the site, said Thilak Dunuwilla, the government's chief research officer in the area.

"We are hoping they will settle down soon, so that we can reopen the fortress fully," he said, noting that this is the site's busiest time of year. Predominantly Buddhist Sri Lanka is currently celebrating the Vesak festival, which marks the Buddha's birth, death and enlightenment.

433 Manholes Stolen In Hong Kong

HONG KONG - More than 430 manhole covers were stolen from a water reservoir in suburban Hong Kong, police said.

An employee who went to the reservoir early Tuesday discovered that the gates had been pried open and 433 manhole covers stolen, said police spokeswoman Carrie So.

The covers were worth about $10,256, she said, adding that police are still investigating the case and no arrest has been made.