The Odd Truth, Oct. 15, 2003

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

Bears Hooked On Candy

NAGS HEAD, N.C. - Hunters who bait bears with large blocks of candy are creating addicts with health problems ranging from tooth decay to lethargy, wildlife officials say.

Now the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission says wildlife officers will cite hunters who use salt, sugar, grain or other products to attract and shoot black bears. Especially under scrutiny are those who use large candy blocks.

Biologists found that addicted bears suffer from tooth decay, hair loss, weight loss and lethargy, said David Cobb, chief of the Wildlife Management Division of the Wildlife Resources Commission.

Though the North Carolina Bear Hunters Association opposes the use of candy blocks, the bait remains popular because of its low-cost effectiveness. The association's secretary, Richard Martin, said a $15 block can be up to four feet square and five feet deep and made of bubble gum, chocolate, licorice and hard candy. Some weigh more than 2,000 pounds.

Martin said many recent blocks have come from Hershey Foods in Pennsylvania. Cobb added that state officials have asked Hershey not to sell to bear hunters.

Martin said some unscrupulous hunters use the blocks to guarantee shots at bears and then guide other hunters to the areas for a price.

Cobb once found a bear lying down in the middle of the road, moaning and unwilling to move out of the vehicle's way. He compared the image to that of humans addicted to cocaine.

A legal and accepted alternative is baiting with corn or peanut butter before the season, Martin said.

Bugged In Pennsylvania

PITTSBURGH - Here's something to bug Pennsylvanians. The state's official insect isn't found in Pennsylvania. A Carnegie Museum of Natural History bug expert says 24 firefly species have been documented in the Keystone State. But John Rawlins says the insect - the Photuris Pennsylvanica - isn't among them. The firefly was named the state's official bug in 1987. It was discovered in 1774 when Pennsylvania was still a British colony and borders were vague. Experts now believe the bug was actually found outside the present-day state of Pennsylvania. Rawlins wants nearly $33,000 from the state to see if he can find the bug inside of state lines.

A Cry For Help?

RENO, Nevada - Want to make a cop suspicious? Try giving him $50,000 in cash. Reno, Nevada police say Ernest Dumpti wanted to pay his landlord a year's rent in cash - $50,000. His landlord happens to be a Reno police officer. Authorities say the officer was even in uniform when Dumpti showed him the money. Detectives then obtained a search warrant and found $90,000. Dumpti allegedly stole the money from an elderly woman who didn't know it was missing. Dumpti and an alleged accomplice have been booked into the county jail for investigation of grand larceny.

Fatty, Fatty, Bo-Batty

FORT LAUDERDALE, Florida - A study in England suggests that just standing near a fat person can make other people think you look worse.

Researchers had people rate a man shown in two pictures. In one, he was next to a thin woman. In the other, the woman was very large.

When the man was shown with the big woman, he was rated 22 percent more negatively than when he was shown with the thin one. He was more likely to be described as miserable, self-indulgent, passive, shapeless, depressed, weak, insignificant and insecure.

A researcher says this shows the extent of the cultural bias against fat people.

The study was presented at a conference of researchers on obesity.

China Boasts Superior Space Food

BEIJING - Now THAT'S Chinese takeout.

Lt. Col. Yang Liwei, China's first human being in space, is spending some of his time miles above the Earth eating from his choice of 20 Chinese dishes - including one-bite nuggets of spicy shredded pork, diced chicken and fried rice cooked "with nuts, dates and other delicacies."

"The astronaut will enjoy himself over a rich variety of Chinese food," the government's Xinhua News Agency reported after Yang was safely in orbit. The agency's rather emphatic headline: "Chinese food for Chinese astronauts."

Yang, who was launched in Shenzhou 5 on Wednesday morning, will also drink medicinal herbs and tonics after his meal to assist digestion.

Even more than most cultures, Chinese take their food seriously. So the repeated mentions of it in reports about Yang's trip are not unexpected, especially from a public-relations perspective: It's what the public can identify with.

Xinhua said any Chinese food engineered for space should "be limited in quantity and size but highly nutritious."

Soviet and American space pioneers consumed some of their meals as liquid or semi-solid food that came from tubes. Today, such novelties as "space ice cream" - dry and crispy, in a foil envelope - are for sale in places like the Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum.

That's changed, China says. "Astronauts now can eat roughly the same way as when they are on earth," Xinhua said.

The Web site was more competitive earlier this week. "It will be more tasty than Western food," it said.

Pet Liberation Fails

HONG KONG - Police are looking for a pet owner who allegedly broke into a government office but failed to retrieve his dog that had been seized on suspicion of being a dangerous breed.

The 21-year-old owner, identified only by his surname Wong, was suspected of getting inside an animal management center of the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department on Tuesday, said police spokeswoman Cherry Yau.

Two friends who were with him were caught and released on bail pending further investigation.

A lock and a chain were missing from the center's main gate, but officials reported no other losses, Yau said. The dog remained in custody.

A spokeswoman for the conservation department, Susanna Ho, said officials seized the dog from Wong on Monday after they suspected it was a pit bull terrier, considered a dangerous breed in Hong Kong and whose ownership is tightly restricted.

Killer Launches Make-Up Battle

MELBOURNE, Australia - One of Australia's most notorious convicted killers is launching a legal battle for the right to wear makeup while he serves his life sentence, enraging the family of one of his victims.

Paul Denyer, 31, was jailed for a minimum 30-year term for murdering three young women in the southern city of Melbourne over seven weeks in 1993.

He is launching an appeal with the Victoria state Civil and Administrative Tribunal against a refusal by Barwon Prison authorities to let him buy and wear makeup.

"The fact that he has demonstrated his hatred of women and now he wants to be one, I find that pretty disgusting," said Victoria state Corrections Minister Andre Haermeyer, who vowed to fight to have Denyer's appeal overturned.

"I think it's a frivolous application and I think it's offensive, terribly offensive, to the families of his victims ... and that's why we're fighting it all the way," he said.

Brian Russell, whose daughter Natalie was strangled by Denyer after slitting her throat, said the case was a "huge shock" and a waste of taxpayers' money and the resources that go into a legal appeal.

"If you kill three people, then you give away all rights and this farce should not be allowed to continue," Russell added. "This has just rubbed salt into our wounds which, after 10 years, are still open."

No date has been set for the hearing.