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The Odd Truth, Oct. 29, 2003

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

Punkin Chunkin Champ

HOWELL, Mich. - Most people prefer them baked in pies or decoratively carved.

But for Bruce Bradford, the preferred method of serving up pumpkin is to have it shot out of an air cannon. After all, that's how he became the world champion of Punkin Chunkin - a sport where winning is a matter of distance, not taste.

This Halloween, Bradford will defend his title at the Punkin Chunkin World Championship in Delaware's Sussex County. His team triumphed in the air cannon division last year after the pumpkin they shot out of their cannon sailed 4,594 feet - nearly nine-tenths of a mile.

The sport began in the late 1990s in Delaware. The objective is to see who can shoot, propel or fling a pumpkin weighing between seven to 10 pounds the farthest.

Bradford, who is president of S&G Erectors in Howell, became interested in Punkin Chunkin in 1998 after reading a magazine article about the sport. That year, he and a few friends went to watch the competition in Sussex County.

They came back the following year, armed with the aptly named Second Amendment - an 18,000 pound compressed air cannon which Bradford built. It sports a 100-foot long barrel.

Their first year in the competition, the group took fifth. In 2000 and 2001, they finished third. The big win came in the 2002 championship, which was televised as part of a Discovery Channel documentary.

Pizza Sting, Extra Cheese

SAN ANTONIO - It's not the kind of delivery a pizza customer had in mind.

The delivery man who showed up at a San Antonio home was actually a police officer - who wound up delivering the customer to jail.

Police say the man called a Little Caesars Pizza outlet and ordered three large pies.

Little Caesars employees were preparing the order when another call came in - from the owner of a stolen credit card. He said he had called his credit card company to report the theft - and was told the card had just been used at the pizza place.

Police were called, and Little Caesars provided a company uniform for an officer to use, along with a delivery bag and empty pizza boxes.

The disguised officer delivered the pizza and arrested the customer as soon as he signed the receipt.

Police say he'd stolen the card from a neighbor's car.

Japan Dems' Guide To Wooing Women Voters

TOKYO - Japan's main opposition party, trailing in the opinion polls ahead of elections next month, is telling its candidates to court female voters.

Their advice: look nice, and don't lie - women can tell.

The Democratic Party has distributed 20,000 copies of a specially commissioned guide on how to appeal to women. The party is hoping its 277 candidates running for Parliament in the Nov. 9 elections - and their aides - will read it and take heed.

Kenichi Suzuki, a Democrat spokesman, said the 21-page pamphlet is based on recent survey results about women's attitudes toward politics and leaders.

"Some of the opinions were quite severe," Suzuki said. For instance, women said they lost interest in what politicians say if their hands or nails are dirty.

The guide has some basic tips: bad breath and dandruff are turnoffs. Shirts must be buttoned at the top and ties kept straight. Sweating is unattractive, but it's OK to get wet in the rain or perspire if you're clearly working hard.

Look people in the eye when shaking their hands. And don't even try to deceive.

"Don't lie under any circumstances," the guide says. "Perceptive women can intuitively detect the essence of a candidate simply from their words."

The Democrats' advice is not just for men.

The party has some 29 female candidates running for lower house seats. The guide warns them to make sure they don't have any runs in their stockings and that their nail polish is an appropriate color.

When Charter Bus Drivers Attack!

GROVE CITY, Pennsylvania - Police have charged a charter bus driver who allegedly stopped on a Chicago-to-New York trip and demanded money from each of his passengers to continue the journey.

Police say 44-year-old Kai Chen of Brooklyn, New York, was driving 25 people, including several small children, to New York for a company called New Oriental Tours Incorporated, also out of Brooklyn.

The passengers told police that Chen pulled into a Venango County rest stop along Interstate 80 late Sunday night, cursed at them and demanded money to continue the trip.

The passengers had already paid $2,800 for the trip and refused to pay more, so police say Chen took his keys and got off the bus. A backup driver who was also on the bus took over for Chen and continued the trip after Chen was arrested.

Chen was charged with disorderly conduct, harassment and not properly filling out his log book.

Errant Emu Gang-Tackled

PENSACOLA, Fla. - A 6-foot-tall emu led a half-dozen pest control workers on a 90-minute chase through woods and brush land before the flightless bird was snared and then gang-tackled.

Gene Ham has caught raccoons, opossums, coyotes, deer, squirrels, foxes and other critters in his job with Jones/Hill Pest Control, but Tuesday's chase was his first encounter with an emu, an ostrich-like bird native to Australia.

"That was by far the toughest thing we've ever caught," Ham said. "It was quick, and it put up a tough fight once we caught it."

The emu, wrapped in a blanket and with shredded duct tape clinging to its clawed feet, was taken to The Zoo near suburban Gulf Breeze after being caught west of Pensacola near Perdido Bay.

The bird will be quarantined for at least 30 days and get veterinary care before joining other emus at The Zoo, said zoo president Pat Quinn.

It may have escaped from an emu ranch or deliberately released, Quinn said. Emus are raised mainly for their lean but beef-like meat. Oil made from the birds' fat can be used to treat joint swelling and stiffness and as a skin thickener to reduce the appearance of aging, according to the American Emu Association.

"Some people mortgaged their farm to start emu ranches and paid too much for them - up to $4,000 a bird," Quinn said. "When the market for them failed, they were stuck. A lot of them just let the birds loose."

Emus feed on grasses, insects and sometimes small reptiles in the wild. They can run up to 40 mph and deliver lethal blows with their feet.

Shotgun Wedding, Sort Of

LEBANON, Ohio - Prosecutors say an Ohio man forced his girlfriend to marry him because he believed it would keep her from testifying against him in a criminal case.

A provision of Ohio law does prevent a court from compelling a person to testify against a spouse.

According to prosecutors, 41-year-old Gregory Hogg dragged his girlfriend, 43-year-old Cheryl Skaggs, from her apartment. He allegedly beat her, threatened to kill her and then made her marry him earlier this month.

But prosecutors say Hogg's plan may not work because, while his wife can't be compelled to testify against her husband, she still can testify against him if she wants to.

The original charges against Hogg involve alleged threats he'd made against four bar employees when he was ejected for disorderly behavior.

Much Ado About A Dead, Frozen Rattlesnake

RUTLAND, Vt. - A man picked up a dead rattlesnake he found on the side of a road and stuck it in his freezer to keep as a souvenir. Now, he finds himself in court.

Timothy Duprey pleaded innocent Monday in Vermont District Court to possession of a species protected under the state's Endangered Species Act.

"Most people aren't even aware we have them in Vermont," said Game Warden Robert Sterling. "They're not on the federal Endangered Species Act, but they are protected under the Vermont Endangered Species Act."

If convicted, Duprey faces a fine of nearly $600 and could lose his right to hunt and fish for three years in Vermont.

Sterling said an anonymous caller reported that Duprey had the snake. The rattler was found in the freezer of Duprey's home in August, according to court records.

He was issued a criminal citation and appeared in court Monday.

"He said he basically picked up the snake and took it home and kept it in the freezer - it was kind of a curiosity kind of thing," Sterling said.

The game warden said it did not matter the snake was dead.

"We're trying to protect the species because they are an endangered species," he said. "Handling them and even having them is a violation. He had it for three weeks so he certainly had enough time to contact authorities."

The snake is now being stored in an evidence freezer in Pittsford, Sterling said.