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The Odd Truth, Sept. 10, 2004

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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.

Happy 50th Guinness!

LONDON - The Guinness Book of World Records is marking its 50th anniversary, with the latest edition of its trivia book out today.

It includes everything from the biggest and smallest dogs to the lightning-fast serves of tennis star Andy Roddick.

Other new entries include Hollywood star Will Smith, who holds the record for the highest annual earnings by an actor after making an estimated $33.5 million in 2002.

The special collector's edition has interviews with celebrities and extraordinary record holders, including computer mogul Bill Gates, cartoonist Matt Groening, mountaineer Sir Edmund Hillary and pop legend Paul McCartney.

One record still standing tall since the first edition is that of Robert Wadlow - still listed as the world's tallest man at eight feet, eleven inches.

Too Much Boom

CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. - It's an explosion that worked a little too well. Demolition crews set off charges yesterday intending to bring down one section of an old bridge across the Mississippi River at Cape Girardeau, Missouri. But a crowd of onlookers gasped as the explosion took out the rest of the bridge, too. Engineers aren't exactly sure what went wrong. River traffic had been stopped for the planned blast. Officials say the unexpected debris is blocking shallow water not normally used for barge traffic, anyway. The bridge - built in 1928 - has been replaced by a new span.

Assault With A Deadly Reptile

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - A man who swung an alligator at his girlfriend during an argument was sentenced to six months in jail.

David Havenner, 41, pleaded no contest to misdemeanor charges of battery and possession of an alligator, said Linda Pruitt, spokeswoman for the State Attorney's Office. He changed his earlier plea of not guilty, she said Wednesday.

He was sentenced to six month in jail with 48 days credit for time served during the Sept. 1 hearing, according to court records.

Sheriff's officials said Havenner was keeping the 3-foot gator in his bathtub and swung it at his girlfriend, Nancy Monico, 39, during an argument on July 16.

Monico told investigators that Havenner beat her with his fists, then grabbed the gator and swung it at her as she tried to escape. The gator struck Monico at least once. Havenner then threw empty beer bottles at her and kicked her out of their mobile home, she told investigators.

Havenner told investigators that Monico bit his hand because she was upset that they had run out of alcohol.

The alligator was later released into the St. Johns River, wildlife commission officials said.

City Hall Bandit: 'It Didn't Feel Like Stealing'

AUSTIN - You may not be able to fight city hall, but you can steal from it - at least for a while.

John David Woods has been sentenced to 40 years in prison for stealing more than $100,000 from 24 city halls across Texas to pay off Internet gambling debts.

Prosecutors said Woods, 34, had developed a system during the three-year string of thefts: He would rent a car, drive to another town, sneak into the city hall and take all the money he could find.

"He said he felt like it wasn't stealing from people because it was money possessed by the city," Williamson County District Attorney John Bradley said.

Woods, who agreed to the sentence Wednesday, was caught in December at the city hall in the Central Texas town of Cedar Park. A city employee saw him there at about 9 p.m. and called police, said prosecutor Doug Arnold.

Cedar Park police broadened the investigation to more than 30 cities after Woods confessed to similar burglaries.

Arnold said the burglaries began when Woods, a self-employed home appraiser, got into debt by playing craps on an Internet gambling site. His losses were electronically debited from his bank account.

Draft Dodgers Honored In Canada

NELSON, British Columbia - U.S. draft dodgers who fled to Canada are finally getting some recognition - in Canada.

Artists and activists in this picturesque lakeside town have announced plans for a bronze monument and festival to honor them.

"This will mark the courageous legacy of Vietnam War resisters and the Canadians who helped them resettle in this country during that tumultuous era," said Isaac Romano, director of Our Way Home, a celebration set for 2006.

Dennis Klein, a sculptor and teacher at Kootenay School of the Arts, and artist Naomi Lewis have been chosen to make a memorial depicting Canadians embracing the hands of American resisters.

"I've met so many draft resisters over the years and some of them are local peers of mine that are artists and others are a part of the community," Klein said. "It would be nice to honor them and all those that actually took a step toward peace."

Lucky, Drunk Man Passes Out On Train Tracks

LE MARS, Iowa - A man who police say was intoxicated was unhurt after a train drove over him.

Shawn M. Polley, 44, of Bowling Green, Ky., was passed out between the rails of the train tracks last week, police said.

The train's engineer hit the emergency break and notified authorities that the northbound train may have hit a pedestrian. Two of the train's engines passed over Polley's body without hitting him, Officer Jay King said.

Authorities woke Polley and removed him from the tracks after the first engine was disconnected.

"He was sleeping, passed out, whatever you want to call it," King said. "He's just a lucky guy."

Polley was arrested for public intoxication and interference with official acts.

Thief On Wheels

BOZEMAN - Police in Bozeman are looking for a man who roller-skated into the Bozeman Deaconess Hospital, and stole a patient's wallet containing $800.

Surveillance cameras caught the suspect on tape last week. He was on in-line skates, and was seen skating through the maternity ward, before heading to the second floor and into the patient's room.

Police officer Sam Hasz says the victim was in town for a wedding, and was hospitalized with neck pain. The man was not in his room when the burglary happened.

Police don't know how the suspect knew the man had money, or what room he was in.