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The Odd Truth, Oct. 3, 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.

Mink Liberation Turns Deadly

SULTAN, Wash. - An animal rights group's plan to free 10,000 minks from a farm turned deadly after many of the emancipated mustelids became cannibals while others went on a carnivorous feeding frenzy.

About 9,000 of the freed minks have been returned to Roesler Brothers Fur Farm since the Aug. 25 break-in, but keeping them alive has been a challenge.

Normally, only siblings are caged together, but workers cannot readily determine which of the recaptured minks are related, said Kate Roesler.

"The mink are fine when they're litter mates together, but when they're not they're quite vicious and they're cannibals," Roesler said. "They do eat each other, and that's what we're battling."

Days after the break-in, starving minks attacked a menagerie of exotic birds, a flock of chickens and even a Labrador retriever.

A few minks have been seen recently eating fish along local rivers and one turned up last week at a fruit stand on the edge of this town about 40 miles northeast of Seattle.

About 1,000 are still missing.

The Animal Liberation Front claimed responsibility and the FBI is investigating. No arrests have been reported.

Fur Commission USA is offering a $100,000 reward for information leading to the arrests and convictions of those responsible.

Beeten To The Punch

MOORHEAD, Minn. - This hijacker couldn't beet the rap and ended up in a pickle.

Authorities say a man with a knife hijacked a sugar beet truck and threatened the driver. The truck then collided with another truck before the suspect was apprehended by other truckers.

"It's the first beet truck hijacking I've ever heard of," Clay County Sheriff Bill Bergquist said.

Mandy Fulsebakke, of Fargo, said she was driving a beet truck into a field at a beet piling station early Thursday when the hijacker approached.

"A man pulled in behind me," Fulsebakke said. "As I was getting out of my truck, he got out of his car, came up to me and started asking me some really bizarre questions.

"He showed me that he had a knife, ordered me back to my truck and told me to drive," Fulsebakke said.

The hijacker choked her and threatened to kill her, she said.

"He had the knife held against my head and neck," she said.

Fulsebakke said she was able to signal to another driver and jump out of the truck. The other driver called for help. Authorities say other truck drivers held the suspect until he was taken into custody.

"We were told that (the hijacker) got angry at something or somebody there, and when the manager was called, he had already left the beet plant," Bergquist said.

Set In Stone

LONDON - A peace activist attempted to pay a court fine with a check chiseled on a small tombstone Friday, as a protest at the number of civilians killed in the recent war in Iraq.

Court officials refused to accept the check.

Nick Buxton, a 31-year-old aid worker from London, was fined $200 for blocking the entrance to a military base in January.

His "check," complete with account number signature, was made from cast stone and weighed about five pounds. On the reverse side was written "RIP 25,000 dead in Iraq" - a "conservative estimate," Buxton said, of the number of civilians killed in the Iraq conflict.

The Association for Payment Clearing Services (APACS), the British trade association of banks and building societies, said a check can be written on anything and be legally valid as long as all the proper details are included.

"The classic example was someone who wrote a check on the side of a live cow, while others have written checks on clothing, or on paving stones," said Stephanie Watson, a spokeswoman for APACS.

"However, the payee can always refuse a check, just as a shopkeeper can demand to be paid in cash," she said.

Probation Officer Nabbed In Sex Scam

NEW YORK - A probation officer was charged Wednesday with offering to give a favorable review of one of her teenage clients in exchange for sex with him, the city's department of investigation said.

Nicole Waite, 36, of Brooklyn, was charged with bribe receiving and official misconduct. She could face up to seven years in prison if convicted.

Investigators said Waite was assigned to conduct a pre-sentencing report with the 17-year-old boy in April 2003. The reports typically describe the person's family background, criminal history and statements and are used by judges when determining sentences or probation periods.

Waite told the teen to meet her three times in May. The first time she gave the teen wine and had sex with him, Hearn said. The second time she allegedly ordered him to go to her office at Manhattan's Criminal Court building with a condom. When he showed up without the condom, Waite performed oral sex on him, Hearn said.

The third meeting was at a hotel in Harlem, where Waite smoked marijuana and drank alcohol with the teenager and had sex with him, Hearn said.

She later told him over the telephone to lie to police about what had happened, according to the criminal complaint.

Waite hadn't been arraigned as of late Wednesday. There was no telephone listing for the lawyer the department of investigation said it believed was representing her.

That's How The Cookie Crumbles

LONDON - Why does a cookie crumble? Using a laser beam to closely monitor the fault lines of cookies emerging from an oven, a doctoral student appears to have figured out how bakers can stop disappointing their customers by shipping crumbled ones.

In fact, the discovery could result in the perfect cookie, or "biscuit," as it is called in Britain.

Customers who find crumbled cookies in their packages often blame mishandling by the manufacturer, the shipping company or workers who load supermarket shelves.

But that's not what Qasim Saleem, a doctoral student in mechanical engineering at Loughborough University in Leicestershire, and his colleagues discovered.

The discovery was published Thursday in Measurement Science and Technology, a journal of the Institute of Physics in London.

Saleem and his colleagues closely monitored the surface of cookies as they cooled to room temperature.

Using a laser beam, the students followed the tiny deformations that evolve as the cookie picks up moisture around the rim, which causes it to expand, while losing moisture at the center, which causes it to contract. The resulting strains can pull the cookie apart, or leave it more vulnerable to breakage before purchase.

"We now have a greater understanding of why biscuits develop cracks shortly after being baked," Saleem said.

He said the discovery should help cookie manufacturers adjust the humidity and temperature of their production lines to minimize cracking.

Lotto Victim Finds Justice

POMONA, Calif. - A jury recommended Tuesday that a former convenience store clerk should receive $8 million because her boss allegedly cheated her out of a winning lottery ticket worth millions, attorneys said.

Arwa Farraj was given about $3.98 million for the value of the ticket and $3.98 million for emotional distress in the verdict against the Circle K store chain and her former boss, Gurinder Ruby. The value of the ticket was based on the actual amount before taxes plus accruing interest, attorneys said.

Jurors deliberated for a day after the trial, which began Sept. 17 in Superior Court, and found the defendants liable for fraud and conversion.

"I am grateful to the jury for seeing the truth and for declaring me the rightful owner of the winning lottery ticket," said Farraj, a Jordanian who immigrated to the United States in 1992, in a statement issued by her attorneys. "As a newcomer to the United States, I really have faith in how the American justice system works."

Farraj claimed she bought a Quick Pick California SuperLotto ticket on Christmas Day in 1999 while working as a clerk at a La Verne store.

Ruby allegedly tricked her into believing the ticket was worth $88 instead of $8 million, then cashed it in and received about $2.56 million after taxes, Farraj's attorneys said. Circle K received a $40,000 commission for being the winning store, her lawyers said.