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The Odd Truth, Sept. 23, 2004

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

Judge: 'A Horse Is A Horse'

PITTSBURGH - The state Supreme Court ruled that Pennsylvania's drunken driving law can't be enforced against people on horseback, a decision that inspired the dissenting justice to wax poetic.

The court ruled Wednesday in a case against two men in Mercer County in 2002. Riders Keith Travis, 41, and Richard Noel, 49, were charged with drunken driving along with a man driving a pickup who allegedly rear-ended the horse Travis was riding away from a bar on a dark country road.

All three men failed field sobriety tests, police said, but a judge threw out the charges against Noel and Travis after they argued that the word "vehicles" in the state's drunken-driving law doesn't apply to horses.

Prosecutors said the code specifically includes people riding animals. But the majority justices cited a similar case in Utah, where judges said such a statute is confusing and too vague about which regulations would apply to animals as well as vehicles.

Justice Michael Eakin, who is fond of writing rhyming opinions, summed up the lone dissent with two stanzas mimicking the theme song of "Mister Ed" - a 1960s TV sitcom about a talking horse:

"A horse is a horse, of course, of course,
but the Vehicle Code does not divorce
its application from, perforce,
a steed as my colleagues said.

"'It's not vague,' I'll say until I'm hoarse,
and whether a car, a truck or horse
this law applies with equal force,
and I'd reverse instead."

Elton To Photogs: 'Rude, Vile Pigs'

TAIPEI, Taiwan - Elton John warmed up his vocal cords for a concert in Taiwan by telling photographers they were a bunch of "rude, vile pigs."

The media ambushed the rock star after he arrived by private plane Thursday shortly after midnight at Taipei's Chiang Kai-shek International Airport. John was angry that police allegedly didn't properly restrain the pack and protect him "from the ensuing chaos," said a statement issued by the 57-year-old singer.

ETTV cable news showed footage of John, dressed in a royal blue tracksuit and matching sunglasses, berating the photographers and TV crews as he cleared immigration. The fuming star also was shown clenching his teeth and muttering expletives as he stood with his arms crossed tightly across his chest.

"Rude vile pigs," shouted John, who performed later in Taipei. "Do you know what that means? Rude vile pigs. That's what all of you are."

One of the photographers shouted back, "Why don't you get out of Taiwan?"

John answered, "We'd love to get out of Taiwan if it's full of people like you. Pig! Pig!"

The star, who recently performed in Shanghai and Hong Kong, said, "We had a great tour of the Far East and then we come to Taiwan and (expletive)."

At his concert, he told fans that the photographers at the airport were the rudest people he'd ever met during his travels around the world. He said he meant every word he said to them.

Dumpster Snoozer Escapes Certain Doom

ST. LOUIS - A homeless man sleeping in a dumpster narrowly escaped serious injury early Wednesday after he was accidentally placed into a trash truck.

The driver arrived at a recycling site on the city's north side at around 3:45 a.m. and was surprised to hear a noise from the back of his truck, the driver told KTVI-TV. Police, paramedics and firefighters helped rescue the man from the truck. He was not injured.

Aww, That's Cute: A Robber With A Conscience

SOUTH MILWAUKEE, Wis. - A 3-year-old girl may have saved lives when she and her father walked into a jewelry store while an armed robbery was in progress.

"I think it's a good thing and a bad thing she came in," store employee Beth Barkow said. "You don't want a little girl to experience this, but if she hadn't come in, I don't know if we'd be alive."

Barkow was one of six people tied up in the back of the store during the Sept. 3 attempted heist by two robbers and an accomplice who acted as lookout.

Barkow said she was in a back room when the robbery began. She and two other employees were forced to lie on their stomachs, their hands bound with duct tape. Customers who entered the store were taken to the back room and tied up.

The robbers, meanwhile, went through cases of jewelry and threatened to shoot their captives.

After about half an hour, the girl and her father came in. The man was tied up while the girl sat beside her father.

The father said he was bound for about a minute before one robber said, "Come on, man. Not any kids. We can't do this."

The suspects fled, and were still being sought.

Movers Hospitalized After Breathing Chili Dust

CONOVER, N.C. - Hauling peppers is nothing to sneeze at. Some North Carolina furniture company workers said they felt like they had been hit with pepper spray. And they were right. The employees of Laneventure Furniture complained of burning eyes, skin irritation and difficulty breathing while they were unloading a truck. Three were taken to the hospital. Officials called the trucking company and learned the truck had been used to haul dried hot chili peppers last week from California to Texas. It seems pepper dust was kicked up when the furniture was unloaded.

Whoa Dude, It's Like A Pot Plantation!

VIENNA, Austria - It would be hard to forget to water these plants.

Police said Thursday they seized more than 2,300 marijuana plants that were being grown inside a house in Vienna. The home's owner, whose name was not released, was arrested along with two other people.

Police Maj. Martin Roudny said the bust happened Wednesday night.

Sea God Idol Stolen Despite Possible Bad Luck

HONG KONG - Someone stole a sea god idol from a Hong Kong temple, stumping investigators who said it had little monetary value but that such a theft is traditionally seen as inviting bad luck, a newspaper reported Thursday.

The small, gold-covered statue of sea god Hung Shing Kung was reported missing on Wednesday after a caretaker at the Shau Kei Wan temple briefly left it unattended, the South China Morning Post reported.

Several other statues - which were not covered with gold - were still on the main altar of the temple where worshippers have gone for 120 years to pray for the safety of fishermen at sea, the newspaper said.

Police told The Associated Press on Thursday the stolen statue had been valued at $130.

The Post said investigators were surprised by the theft because "nobody would usually dare steal such a statue, as it would bring bad luck."

Police spokeswoman Carrie So confirmed details of the theft to the AP but said she had no information about any traditional fears of bad luck befalling the perpetrator.

Save $4 On Any Stomach Purchase?

BINGHAMTON, N.Y. - Some drugstore customers in Binghamton, New York, are doing a double-take this week when they receive a bonus coupon after making a purchase.

The cash register coupon distributed by a CVS store promises a discount on the customer's next purchase of - a stomach.

The coupon offers a savings of $4 "on any stomach purchase of 15 dollars or more."

While some CVS customers may have found the offer a bit funny, the store manager didn't sound amused when asked about it.

The manager says the store wasn't selling stomachs - just stomach remedies.

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