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The Odd Truth, Sept. 7, 2004

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

Close Call

BRISBANE, Australia - When Michael Brown was shot with a crossbow he couldn't use his cell phone to call for help. But he didn't need to - his handset stopped the bolt and likely saved his life.

A prosecutor at Brisbane Supreme Court said Monday that Brown was shot in 2002 by a drug user who suspected Brown was a police informant.

Prosecutor Tim Ryan told the court Brown, 33, was targeted by Robert Troy Scanlon, who wanted to buy marijuana. It was not clear what made him think Brown was passing information to police.

But Ryan said that Scanlon bought a crossbow at an archery store and practiced shooting before luring Brown to a remote spot north of Ipswich and shooting him.

Scanlon fled when the crossbow bolt got lodged in Brown's phone, which he was carrying in his shirt breast pocket.

Defense attorney Sean Barry denied Scanlon tried to kill Brown because he thought he was a police informant, but said he was not able to say what Scanlon's motive had been. Scanlon was sentenced to 12 years after pleading guilty to attempted murder and drug possession.

High On Spider Venom

SYDNEY, Australia - Inmates in an Australian prison have been caught breeding deadly redback spiders that they milked for venom to inject themselves for a high, according to government records.

Four spiders - with venom that can kill children and the elderly with a single painful bite - were found in Grafton maximum security prison in New South Wales state on Feb. 15, documents released Tuesday by state opposition lawmakers said.

Prison authorities suspect inmates found the spiders, which are common in Australia, in the prison nursery. They bred the spiders in jars, milked them of venom - which they diluted with water before injecting - opposition Liberal Party justice spokesman Andrew Humpherson said.

"It just shows how comfortable they are - actually accessing and in this case breeding their own source of venom; their own source of drugs," Humpherson told reporters, in an attack on the Labor-led state government's law and order policies.

The Liberals accessed the state prison records under freedom of information laws.

The records also showed that a 16-inch marijuana plant was found growing in another prison in February.

Porn In The Classroom

IDAHO FALLS, Idaho - Porn's a problem in the Idaho public schools. But it's not the kids who are surfing the X-rated web sites - it's the teachers. The State Department of Education is investigating a growing number of complaints about educators using school computers to walk on the web's wild side. State investigator Keith Potter says one of the teachers had 150 porn movies in a school locker. Another viewed computer porn in the classroom. It's now easier to fire an Idaho educator who surfs cyber-porn in school. A new state law makes such behavior a violation of the teacher code of ethics.

Colombia Moves To Save Fat Buzzards

BOGOTA, Colombia - The closing of a huge garbage dump has thousands of fat and lazy buzzards that used to feast on the trash going hungry, but a move is afoot to save them.

For 20 years, the Veracruz de Santa Marta garbage dump near Colombia's Caribbean coast received about 300 tons of trash a day, giving generations of buzzards so much to eat that most tripled in weight and lost their natural instincts to search for carrion, Bogota's El Tiempo newspaper reported Monday.

"They even forgot how to fly," lamented Alex Rodriguez, a city garbage worker who has taken pity on the estimated 7,000 buzzards.

Since July, only 15 tons of food arrive daily at the dump, and it will shut down for good on Sept. 19, leaving the birds to fend for themselves. Directing the birds to the new high-tech dump won't work, officials said, because it keeps the garbage in the open air for only 15 minutes before treatment begins.

So Rodriguez has launched a campaign on a wing and a prayer to help the birds migrate to other areas and reactivate their natural feeding instincts, the newspaper reported. It wasn't clear how he would convince the plump birds to migrate.

While buzzards are not the most lovable of creatures, Rodriguez says 700 people have called to offer their help.

The Perfect Way To Ruin A Sunny Afternoon

GRAZ, Austria - It was an inelegant intruder on a sunny afternoon: a chunk of ice from a jetliner toilet that broke free and slammed into an Austrian family's garden.

No one was injured when the ice tumbled from the sky Sunday afternoon in Graz, about 120 miles south of Vienna, authorities said. The fragment bore deep into the soil in the garden, where the unidentified family was enjoying a lazy summer afternoon.

Police said the 6-inch ice ball almost certainly came from an airliner toilet, judging from its blue color and its odor. They did not elaborate.

Parking Ticket Trouble

STOCKHOLM, Sweden - A Swedish mechanic said Sunday he won't pay a parking ticket that claims his snowmobile was illegally parked in Britain this summer.

Krister Nylander said he received a ticket Thursday from a British company ordering him to pay a $160 fine for an alleged parking violation in Warwick in central England.

Nylander, who lives on a farm in Bollstabruk, 205 miles north of Stockholm, said he's never been to Warwick and neither has his snowmobile.

"The snowmobile is parked in my barn," Nylander told The Associated Press. "It has never left Sweden."

He said the ticket from the London-based company Euro Parking Collection claims his snowmobile was parked illegally in Warwick for three hours on June 22.

All information in the ticket is correct, such as the make of the snowmobile and the license plate number, he said.

Euro Parking Collection, which collects parking fines issued to foreign registered vehicles, did not answer calls seeking comment Sunday.

'Weird Al' Swarmed By Green Moths

DU QUOIN, Illinois - Things got hairy for parody singer "Weird Al" Yankovic as a flock of unwanted fans rushed onstage during his performance at a state fair in southern Illinois.

Green moths swarmed Yankovic, some nesting in his trademark long curly locks.

"My band asked me if I could find a concert where we would be attacked by insects," Yankovic told his audience Wednesday at the Du Quoin State Fair. "I said I would see what I could do."

Yankovic didn't seem bugged by the uninvited guests, though, as he plugged along with songs and costume changes during his self-described "rock and comedy multimedia extravaganza" to support his recent album, "Poodle Hat."

'Nip/Tuck' Yanked From Prison Airwaves

PENDLETON, Oregon - Television show "Nip/Tuck," which had won fans among inmates for its surgical gore and sexual innuendo, has been pulled from the airwaves at the Eastern Oregon Correctional Institution.

"We decided it was all too much," Doug Harder, a spokesman for the medium-security prison in Pendleton, told The Oregonian recently. "Way too graphic."

During one episode of the FX cable channel show - which chronicles the racy escapades of two Miami plastic surgeons - inmates gathered in a TV room kept "eyeballing," whistling and shouting catcalls to a female corrections officer, Harder said.

The officer filed a complaint with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, and the prison banned the show, Harder said.

Holly Ollis, a spokeswoman for "Nip/Tuck" producer Warner Bros. Television, said she was unaware of another prison in the country that had blacklisted the series.

"It's an unusual show, and I've heard a lot of unusual things," Ollis said. "But this is certainly a new one for me."

It's been about three years since the Eastern Oregon prison pulled a show from its TV schedule. That was a professional wrestling show called "WWF: Wild One."

Since the behavior problems with "Nip/Tuck" only popped up during group viewings, the ban will not apply to the 10 percent of the 1,621 inmates who have personal televisions in their cells, officials said.