The Odd Truth, Oct. 20, 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.

New Monopoly Champ

ATLANTIC CITY, New Jersey - Pass go - and collect $15,000. Matt McNally is the new Monopoly champ. He won the title over the weekend on a chartered train dubbed the "Reading Railroad." The Irvine, California, man beat nearly 50 other contestants to take the honors - and $15,000. That's real money, not the funny colored Monopoly money. The players climbed aboard in Chicago and started rolling the dice as the train chugged toward Atlantic City, New Jersey, for the finals. McNally also gets to represent the U.S. in the '04 World Monopoly Championship in Hong Kong.

Funny Business

MOUNT HOLLY, N.J. - The familiar black and white speed limit signs in some rural parts of Burlington County aren't getting drivers to slow down. They're also not getting any laughs.

Officials believe new signs going up on a few roads should do both.

The signs include messages like "Free Speeding Tickets Ahead" and "Meet Our Judge - Exceed 25 mph."

Vincent Farias, a Burlington County freeholder, saw similar signs in Long Beach Township and thought they might work in Burlington County too.

"The signs are designed to attract attention by employing humor to make people more aware of speed limits," Farias said.

The signs are destined for places where speeding is a persistent problem. The brightly colored signs are scheduled to go up next week along county roads in Shamong and Medford Lakes.

If they reduce speeding, they might be put up elsewhere in the county, Farias said.

Samurai Sword Or Ninja Sword?

PANAMA CITY, Florida - A man accused of wielding a deadly weapon during a family squabble over a burial plot was acquitted after seven witnesses were unable to agree on whether it was a samurai sword, a ninja sword, a machete, a knife, a long piece of metal or a stick.

Some said the blade was silver, while others testified it was black.

The defendant testified he had no weapon at all and none was introduced as evidence.

A jury took just over an hour Thursday to acquit Thiet V. Pham, 37, of charges that included attempted aggravated battery with a deadly weapon.

The incident took place last January outside Pham's mobile home. Two carloads of relatives had gone there to argue with his wife about an uncle's burial plot.

Two witnesses testified Pham swung at a relative with a sword that they grabbed by the blade before the blow landed.

But defense attorney Bob Pell mimicked an overhead sword motion and said: "If a person with a samurai sword took that kind of swing, there'd be body parts everywhere."

Instead, there were only a few minor injuries, including a cut finger and a faint scratch.

Jerry 'Peace Activist' Rubin

SANTA MONICA, California - Jerry Rubin, the peace activist, wants to be known as Jerry Peace Activist Rubin. He's filed court documents to legally change his name. This Rubin, who's not the late "Chicago Seven" defendant, tried to get "peace activist" listed as his occupation when he ran for the city council in Santa Monica, California in 2000. City officials refused and Rubin took his case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. But the high court turned away Rubin's appeal. So, he's taking a different route. A California court will hear Rubin's name change request on December 11, Rubin's 60th birthday. He says his new name will be a birthday present to himself.

'Teeth King' Sets New Record

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia - A Malaysian claimed a world record Saturday by pulling six railway passenger coaches along a track with his teeth.

Organizers of the event in Kuala Lumpur will apply for V. Rathakrishnan's feat to be entered in the Guinness Book of World Records, the national news agency Bernama reported.

Rathakrishnan, 37, pulled the coaches, weighing 573,760 pounds, for a distance of 14 feet.

The book currently lists Belgium's Walter Arfeuille as the record holder for "greatest weight pulled with teeth." He pulled eight railway passenger coaches weighing 493,570 for 10.5 in Belgium in 1996.

Rathakrishnan, who is just 5' 7" and weighs 180 pounds, is known as the "Teeth King" in Malaysia for his exploits in the past few years in moving heavy objects with his teeth.

His training methods include traditional yoga, gym workouts, jogging and long-distance walking, he told the New Straits Times newspaper earlier this week.

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and Brunei's head of state, Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah - visiting for a summit of Muslim leaders - were among the hundreds of people who watched Rathakrishnan's record attempt on Saturday.

Lawyer Calls Client 'Stinking Thief Jail Bird'

WASHINGTON - A defense lawyer who told jurors his client might be a "stinking thief jail bird" did not fall down on the job, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Monday.

The high court reinstated a conviction in the case of Lionel Gentry, a California man convicted of stabbing his pregnant, drug-addicted girlfriend during an argument.

"To be sure, Gentry's lawyer was no Aristotle," the court wrote in a short, unsigned opinion.

Still, the lawyer's choice of words or strategy did not rise to the level of harming his client, the court said. The lawyer may have had good tactical reasons for presenting the case the way he did, the high court added.

"By candidly acknowledging his client's shortcomings, counsel might have built credibility with the jury and persuaded it to focus on the relevant issue in the case," the court said.

The court reversed a ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that had erased Gentry's conviction on grounds that he had been denied his constitutional right to an effective lawyer.

The lawyer, whose name is not part of the court record, gave a short closing statement asking the jury to remember that Gentry said the stabbing was an accident. That fact was really all that mattered, the lawyer said.

"'The question is, did he intend to stab her? He said he did it by accident. If he's lying and you think he's lying then you have to convict him," the lawyer said.

"If you don't think he's lying, bad person, lousy drug addict, stinking thief jail bird, all that to the contrary, he's not guilty. It's as simple as that."

George 'Beef Man' Bush

MANILA, Philippines - The "beef man" mystery is solved.

The White House on Saturday released the transcript of a Fuji TV interview with President Bush that let Americans in on the joke that Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi shared so publicly Friday with Mr. Bush.

Koizumi had teasingly referred to the president as "beef man" as they talked to reporters after dining at Tokyo's Akasaka Palace. The remark had Mr. Bush chuckling and repeating the moniker. "Beef man," he agreed with a laugh.

But even though the main course that night had been Japanese beef steak, Koizumi's joke baffled President Bush's traveling press corps.

On Saturday, appearing with Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in Manila, Mr. Bush did little to explain, offering only this comment on his new nickname: "It's better than chicken man."

It appears the origin of the joke is a question from Tarao Kimura, who asked Mr. Bush in the Fuji TV interview about the president's well-known dislike of sushi.

"I wonder whether you will bear tasting sushi this time," the reporter asked the president after earlier queries on Iraq, North Korea and currency policy. "I know you're not really particularly in favor of the raw fish."

"Well," Mr. Bush replied, "I'm a beef man."

"I'm also," the president added diplomatically, "hopefully a good enough guest not to demand a particular menu from my host."

Koizumi nonetheless had apparently received the widely broadcast - in Japan, anyway - message about his guest's stated food preferences.