The Odd Truth, Oct. 30, 2003

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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.

Not So Good & Plenty

CLEVELAND - Baby Boomers can't seem to grow up, at least when comes to their taste in candy.

The Woodstock Candy company is doing a booming business, catering to the boomers' sweet-tooth.

"People are usually thrilled to know that a lot of candy from their childhood is still available," according to Bridget Sweeney-Bell of the Woodstock, N.Y., confections company.

What's big for Halloween for Baby Boomers? "Wax lips are very popular," says Sweeney-Bell, who also listed favorites including candy buttons on paper, Gold Mine Gum, candy cigarettes and Nik-L-Nips.

In the politically correct present, candy that looks like cigarettes often is marketed as "candy sticks," but some old-time favorites still provide a puff of sugar when you blow through a hole in the middle.

Nostalgic candy has become a niche in the $24 billion U.S. candy business, in part because the biggest candy makers have concentrated on fewer items, especially chocolate.

Outfits specializing in nostalgic candies have moved into that retail void, often via the Internet.

Tom Scheiman has 2,500 items in his Cleveland candy store, 200 of which he classifies as "nostalgic," and are hard to find or have limited regional distribution.

"We ship a lot to Florida and Atlanta," he said. "They're transplants."

His top Halloween nostalgic item: wax fangs.

"They're cool. There's nothing like them," he said.

Muslim Court Knocks Miss Afghan

KABUL, Afghanistan - The Supreme Court in Afghanistan is condemning the appearance of the first Afghan woman in an Asian beauty contest.

The 23-year-old has been living in the United States since the 1990s. She says she entered the "Miss Earth" pageant to show the world a different image of Afghan women.

She wore a red bikini during a recent public appearance with her fellow contestants in the Philippines pageant.

But the Afghan court says such a display of the female body goes against Islamic law and Afghan culture.

The woman's entry in the contest hasn't been publicized in Afghanistan, where most people don't have access to outside media.

Who You Gunna Call?

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - Eric Velleca didn't even have to don his Halloween costume to garner some explosive attention.

His getup stashed in a trunk tripped an explosives detector during a baggage screening at Palm Beach International Airport.

Velleca, 28, was pulled off his United Airlines flight to Chicago and questioned by investigators on Wednesday while a bomb squad inspected the trunk carrying three costumes patterned after the outfits worn in the film "Ghostbusters."

The trunk contained PVC pipes, radios, cell phones, batteries with wires attached and car distributor caps to be used to assemble the "proton packs" for costumes he and two friends were planning to wear for a Friday party.

Officials had discussed blowing up the trunk but decided against it, Velleca said. He said officials briefly considered pressing charges against him, but they were polite and professional throughout the ordeal.

Lauren Stover, regional spokeswoman for the Transportation Security Administration, said officials had no choice but to treat the situation as if it were a threat.

"People need to be careful about incorporating simulated bombs into their costumes," she said.

Velleca was able to catch another flight to Chicago later Wednesday - with his costume props.

"It wasn't my idea," he said of the costumes. "I don't even really like the Ghostbusters."

Two-For-One Wedding

NEW DELHI - An Indian groom has agreed to marry his bride's handicapped elder sister in a double wedding ceremony next month, saying it is an act of humanity to ensure the older woman is taken care of, a newspaper reported Thursday.

The sisters are happy, and so is their father, the The Asian Age newspaper reported from northern Uttar Pradesh state, but the groom's family worries that he may not be able to support two wives on his 2,500 rupee ($55) per month salary as a courier.

"When my father sent a marriage proposal for Ragini, her father put forward a precondition," the paper quoted Amar Verma as saying. "He said he would agree to my marrying Ragini only if I also agreed to marry her elder sister Preeti, who happens to be physically challenged."

Verma said he had spoken to Preeti, 21, and Ragini, 18, and has "developed a liking for both."

It is legal in India for Muslim men to have more than one wife, but not for Hindus, as the Vermas are.

The newspaper quoted lawyers as saying that the Nov. 25 marriage would probably not be challenged, as there is no aggrieved party and it would be difficult to prove which was the second marriage, since both women are being married at the same time.

The groom's father, Ram Swarup Verma, said, "We viewed the situation from a humanitarian point of view. Preeti is confined to a wheelchair and it would be difficult for her to fend for herself alone." He added that Ragini also may have no adjustment problems if she gets to keep her sister with her when she moves from rural Jalaun to her in-laws' home in Lucknow, the state capital.

That's Amore! Berlusconi's Songs Of Love

ROME - Long before his days as billionaire premier, Silvio Berlusconi used to croon on a cruise ship. Now, Italy's leader is coming out with an album of love songs.

Despite governmental duties, the premier has found time to write half the tunes on the album "Better With a Song," which contains 14 ballads in the romantic Neapolitan style. A sunset graces the album cover; inside there is a picture of the Italian leader grinning.

The songs are performed by Mariano Apicella, who earned his keep singing at restaurant tables before being adopted as Berlusconi's favored musical ally. The two met at a restaurant in Naples in December 2001, and began to work together soon after.

Since their 2001 meeting, Apicella has frequently joined Berlusconi at his villa in Sardinia, where the Italian leader passes his summer holidays, entertains visiting dignitaries - and sings.

One verse penned by the premier goes: "With my heart in my mouth/Because your love is everything to me/I know you may make me suffer/But I'll never let you go/Even if I have to fight/I will love you until the end."

Berlusconi's office had no comment on the album. However, Berlusconi has often said he likes to stay up at night to compose Neapolitan love songs.

Film Producer Pleads Guilty In Frog Smuggling

PERTH, Australia - An award-winning British film producer and conservationist pleaded guilty Thursday to 33 charges of trying to smuggle 187 frogs and reptiles out of the country but said he would fight a charge of subjecting them to cruelty.

Michael Linley was arrested at Perth International Airport on Oct. 20, after customs officials found 187 frogs, lizards, snakes, 26 reptile eggs and some insects in his suitcases.

Linley, producer of the British wildlife program, "Survival," pleaded guilty to 31 state offenses for which he could be fined up to $87,000.

He also pleaded guilty to a federal charge of removing animals from Australia, but he entered an innocent plea to a second federal charge of cruelty to animals. Both charges carry a maximum sentence of 10 years in jail.

Prosecutors allege Linley's suitcases had held 27 different species of Western Australian wildlife, including three cockroaches. The reptiles included types of geckos, skinks and snakes. Frogs included clicking froglets, squelching froglets and desert tree frogs.

The court was told that Linley, who has worked for National Geographic and written several books on amphibians, acknowledged to customs officers he knew his actions were illegal.

Judge Wields A Mighty Flower

MEMPHIS, Tenn. - A young man could have his probation revoked and go to prison for failing to plant 10 mums as ordered by a judge.

David Alan Waters, 20, of Bartlett pleaded guilty in September to vandalizing the home of a 99-year-old woman on Jan 9.

As a condition of Waters' probation, Criminal Court Judge Carolyn Wade Blackett ordered him to plant the mums at the home of the victim, Minnie Becton.

Prosecutors are asking the judge to revoke the probation because Waters did not plant the flowers, although someone else did.

Waters could be ordered to do his two-year prison sentence at a hearing Friday.

Waters' attorney, John Dolan Jr., could not be reached for comment.

Foreign Aid Threatened Over Unpaid Parking Tickets

WASHINGTON - Parking tickets are about to become an international incident. But these scofflaws aren't your ordinary deadbeats, they're foreign diplomats. Some in the diplomatic corps owe the city of Washington thousands of dollars in unpaid parking fines. Now, the Senate is applying pressure for them to pay-up. The Senate has passed legislation that would withhold some foreign aid from countries whose diplomats ignore the citations under their windshield wipers. The unpaid fines in D.C. aren't exactly small change. The embassies of Cameroon and Saudi Arabia owe more than $11,000 each. Other countries have racked up bills of a $1,000 or more, too.