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The Odd Truth, Sept. 20, 2004

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

Guns & Booze: Together At Last

LONDON - A new product introduced here Monday brings together two of Russia's most famous exports: vodka and the AK-47 assault rifle.

What ties them together? Both are named after Gen. Mikhail Kalashnikov.

Kalashnikov, 84, who invented the AK-47, was in London for the official release of Kalashnikov Vodka, which is distilled in St. Petersburg, Russia, and imported to England.

The vodka retails for about $24 for a 22.5-ounce bottle, and is available at several clubs throughout the British capital with a U.S. release planned for next year.

"We're marketing this as a premium brand," said Kalashnikov Vodka spokeswoman Sophy Geering.

It is the brainchild of entrepreneur John Florey, a graduate of London University, Cambridge University, and London's Imperial College.

Florey found the Russian general in the town of Izhevsk in Siberia, where he works as a mechanical engineer at the Izhmash Mechanical Engineering Plant. Kalashnikov agreed to lend his name to the brand and was named honorary chairman of the new vodka company.

Though Kalashnikov vodka has yet to reach the United States, some U.S. anti-gun-violence organizations are wary of the vodka's association with the assault rifle, particularly at a time when the U.S. national assault weapon ban has expired.

"We'd hope the general would agree that his weapon was never intended for civilian use, just as he'd agree that his vodka should be consumed responsibly," said Peter Hamm, communications director for the Washington-based Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.

"And obviously, we'd hope he'd agree that the people enjoying his vodka should not have anything to do with his weapons."

Kalashnikov, a former tank commander, designed the AK-47 assault rifle after being wounded in World War II, out of fear that the Germans were better equipped than their Allied foes. The Red Army adopted his design in 1947, with the weapon's short name meaning "Automatic gun of Kalashnikov, 1947."

The weapon went on to become the weapon of choice for both communist armies and many criminal and guerrilla groups worldwide. Some estimates say there are now 100 million AK-47s in existence.

McDonald's Bombed Over 'Bad Milkshake'

LAKELAND, Fla. - Police in Lakeland, Florida, say three men upset over a bad milkshake set off a small bomb inside a McDonald's.

No one was hurt and damage was minor. A customer sitting ten feet away wasn't even hit.

Two of the men are brothers serving in the military. All three have been arrested on felony charges of making and discharging a destructive device. They were identified on a surveillance video.

Investigators say the men mixed toilet bowl cleaner and aluminum foil in a plastic soda bottle, capped it and left it to explode. An officer says the toilet bowl cleaner has an acid base that can burn skin.

A sister of two of the men calls it a "stupid prank" and says they wish they could take it back.

Shrink Sics Pit Bulls On Hurricane Refugees

STUART, Fla. - Police say a Florida man - whose job is to help people - deliberately ordered his pit bulls to attack hurricane refugees inside their office building.

Ryan Moore is a mental health counselor who treats anger management problems and addictions. He was arrested and charged with aggravated battery.

Police say he released his dogs with the command "go get them" while he and the others were riding out Hurricane Frances earlier this month.

One man suffered deep bites to his stomach, face, throat and hands. A woman was bitten on one leg. They called 911 - but police couldn't respond because of the storm.

This isn't Moore's first brush with the law. He's been arrested before for domestic violence, sexual assault and aggravated assault with a weapon.

Golfer Found Innocent After Ball-Assault

CARLISLE, Pa. - A golfer plunked in the face by an errant ball was unable to convince a jury that the duffer who hit him failed to yell "Fore!" and thus was negligent.

James A. Tomkins of Lower Paxton Township outside Harrisburg had sued fellow golfer George Long, claiming Long didn't yell the standard warning when he hit a wayward shot that struck Tomkins on the Cumberland Golf Course in 1999.

The ball hit Tomkins in the right eye, knocking him out of his golf cart.

A Cumberland Court jury, having heard two days of testimony, deliberated two hours before deciding Tuesday that Long was not negligent.

"I'm happy that the jury decided in my favor," Long, who lives near Carlisle, said Wednesday. "I'm sure that all golfers in Pennsylvania are happy for that. A lot of people I talked to said it never should have gone to trial. When you play golf, you take a risk."

Tomkin's lawyer, Gregory E. Martin, said his client won't appeal.

"Obviously, the jury felt (Long) gave an adequate warning," Martin said.

Tomkins claimed he was playing on the 14th fairway when Long hit his fateful shot from the tee for the parallel 15th hole. The shot traveled 140 yards before hitting him, Tomkins said. He said he heard no warning shout, a claim disputed by Long.

Potential jurors were asked if they were golfers, and about half of those picked to hear the case said they were either casual or serious about the game.

Beer: Essential To Hurricane Survival

PENSACOLA, Fla. - Tavern owner Tippy Larkins knows what's essential for hurricane survival - beer. He was able to reopen Tippy's Tavern in Pensacola, Florida, shortly after Hurricane Ivan blew threw. Larkins says he's proud Tippy's never ran out of cold beer. He figures he's got enough for a couple of more days until a beer truck arrives. Larkins says the people in his area appreciate the break an ice cold beer provides. He adds he's been getting thank-you cards from his grateful patrons.

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