CBSN

The Odd Truth, April 12, 2003

SUV hero
CBS
The Odd Truth is a collection of strange but factual news stories from around the world compiled by CBSNews.com'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.

Pub Rage

LONDON - A British businessman who attacked his own pub with a bulldozer has been sentenced to 200 hours community service.

Robert Tyrrell had pleaded guilty to demolishing part of the 16th century North Star Inn, about 60 miles northwest of London, on New Year's Day.

Prosecutors said Tyrrell, who owns the pub, attacked the building after staff refused to serve him a drink after hours.

Students Sue School Over Restroom Peepholes

BOULDER, Colo. - Nine female students at the University of Colorado are looking to give the school a legal poke in the eye — over peepholes in dorm bathrooms. Attorneys for the women filed a lawsuit yesterday naming the school and two construction companies as defendants. The legal action charges the school failed to warn female students about peepholes discovered in a women's dormitory restroom. A construction worker has admitted he used the holes to watch coeds in the shower. The suit asks for unspecified monetary damages and an official apology from CU.

Missing Girl Reappears During Murder Trial

CANBERRA, Australia - Whodunnit? Nobody.

Australian teenager Natasha Ryan, who disappeared four years ago and was presumed dead, has resurfaced — midway through the trial of her alleged murderer.

Ryan, 18, was found Thursday, living with her boyfriend in a house just half a mile from her mother's home in the coastal town of Rockhampton in Queensland state. She was being questioned by police Friday, after being found hiding in a cupboard.

Ryan's reappearance coincided with the trial in a Queensland court of Leonard John Fraser, 51, who was charged with the murder of her and three other women. Prosecutors immediately dropped the charge against Fraser for Ryan's murder.

Ryan disappeared when she was 14. Her family had been so sure she was dead, they held a memorial service for her a year ago.

Ryan's father confirmed his daughter's identity over the phone by asking her to tell him his pet name for her. She answered correctly.

It was not immediately clear if the boyfriend, Scott Black, would be charged with any offense.

The family's lawyer Ross Lo Monaco said that when police phoned the mother, Jenny Ryan, on Thursday to tell her they had found Natasha, she at first assumed they were talking about a body.

"Mrs. Ryan was in shock, she didn't know if she could believe it and she was concerned it may have been a false alarm," Lo Monaco told reporters.

Justice With A Flush

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - The state Supreme Court reprimanded a judge Thursday and ordered him to write letters of apology to 12 people he offended with belittling courtroom remarks.

The court said it would have taken even stronger action for the ethics violations, but Circuit Judge Sheldon Schapiro had admitted fault and was undergoing behavioral therapy.

The court's opinion cited 13 examples of the judge's misconduct.

Once, addressing a defense attorney, Schapiro allegedly said: "Do you know what I think of your argument?" and then pushed a button on a device that simulated the sound of a toilet flushing.

83-Year-Old Jailed Over Land Feud

ENFIELD, Conn. - Augustus J. Simmons would rather go back to prison than give up his land.

The 83-year-old man has been battling for four decades with the state over land at Bradley International Airport.

Simmons was sentenced to a year in prison for his latest legal skirmish. He claims the state illegally took 14 acres of land from him in 1962.

"I have no different penal code for people who are seniors but who want to act like children," Superior Court Judge E. Curtissa R. Cofield said before sentencing Simmons this week.

Simmons was last arrested on March 14 when officials said he roped off a parking lot at the airport and allegedly cursed two Army National Guard members patrolling the grounds. He was convicted of breach of peace, interfering with an officer, disorderly conduct and violating probation.

In 2001, Simmons began serving a sentence for pulling down fencing at the airport. He was released on probation last year.

The state Supreme Court in 1980 had upheld a ruling that Simmons be paid $365,000 by the state for the land, but he refused to accept the check or to cash it. The $365,000 eventually was returned to the state treasury as unclaimed property.

Kid Car Thief

READING, Penn. - Police say a 12-year-old boy who is barely tall enough to see over the steering wheel tried to steal a car this week.

And they say it's the second time he's tried to do it.

A police sergeant says the boy "looks like he should be playing with Hot Wheels cars, not stolen cars."

They say he used a homemade key to unlock the car while another boy acted as a lookout. The car's owner saw the child inside the car and chased him.

The boy is scheduled to appear in juvenile court. Police say he's already on probation for trying to steal a car last July.

KGB Jokes Crack-Up Latvia

RIGA, Latvia - What has four legs and 40 teeth? A crocodile. What has four teeth and 40 legs? The Central Committee of the Communist Party.

That joke drew laughs and applause among nearly 70 Latvians gathered amid poster-size portraits of Josef Stalin and grainy photographs of KGB death squads in Riga's Occupation Museum.

Poking fun at elderly Soviet leaders could have landed a joke-teller in jail before this small Baltic Sea state of 2.4 million residents declared independence during the Soviet collapse in 1991.

"In the old days, you only whispered these jokes among your most trusted friends and family," said Heinrihs Strods, host of Wednesday's first-ever Soviet joke night at the museum, which houses artifacts documenting 50 years of iron-fisted Soviet rule.

One of the night's favorite targets was Leonid Brezhnev, the bushy browed Soviet leader from 1964 to 1982 who was famous for his public gaffes.

"Upon hearing the Americans had put a man on the moon in 1969, Brezhnev summoned his cosmonauts," one elderly woman said quietly. "'Comrades,' he told them. 'You will be the first men on the sun.'

"'But comrade Brezhnev, it's too hot on the sun — surely we will die,' they answered," she said. "'Don't worry,' Brezhnev replied. 'We have decided you will go at night."'

From 'French' To 'Freedom,' Then Back Again

WEST HARTFORD, Conn. - There will be no name change at the French Cleaners.

A bit of patriotic fervor had prompted the owners of the 92-year-old dry cleaning business to change its name from French Cleaners to Freedom Cleaners.

Owner L. Philip Cote had said last month that some of his customers had become uncomfortable with his company's name since France began opposing U.S. military action in Iraq.

Cote went to Town Hall to get a permit to operate as Freedom Cleaners and had begun changing the signs on his trucks and parking spaces, but held off changing the big sign on the store.

After taking a poll of his customers, Cote said Wednesday the decision was made to keep the name that has been on the door since 1911.

No Blossoming Bosoms At This Blossom Festival

WENATCHEE, Wash. - City business leaders and police want to keep this year's Apple Blossom Festival under wraps.

They're asking stores not to sell beaded necklaces during the festival, to avoid a repeat of last year when young men offered beaded necklaces to young women, hoping to entice them to bare their breasts, Mardi Gras-style.

"I don't think women exposing themselves is part of family fun," said Craig Larsen, a Wenatchee Valley Chamber of Commerce executive and a city councilman.

In its newsletter this month, the chamber and police urged businesses not to sell the necklaces during the April 24-May 4 event, which attracts about 100,000 visitors to this north-central Washington city each year.

Last year, 21 people were cited for lewd conduct and three for indecent exposure, said police Sgt. Ken Manke.

Gary Cockerham, owner of the Your Dollar Store With More, considers the necklaces harmless. The store sells a pack of four bead necklaces for $2.

"Someone is trying to legislate morality," he said. "I think that's weird."

Salon Clipped For $6,000 In Bad Hair Suit

ST. LOUIS - A jury awarded $6,000 to a woman who sued a hair salon, claiming that bad hair treatment left her depressed and led her to seek early retirement.

Geremie Hoff, 56, of suburban Creve Coeur, sued the Elizabeth Arden Salon for emotional distress, depression, counseling and lost income.

According to testimony, Hoff went to the salon Aug. 9, 2001, seeking to have her curly hair straightened.

Stylist Reye Hudson, who is still with the salon but was not named in the suit, applied a hair relaxer, then washed and styled Hoff's hair.

Hoff testified that clumps of her hair came loose that night, and her resulting bald spots and brittle hair made her depressed and reclusive. Her daughter testified about Hoff's emotions, as did a psychiatrist and counselor.

Hoff's attorney, Paul Devine, said she was so distressed she retired early from teaching at the University of Missouri-St. Louis and stopped working as a tour guide for trips to Italy.

Defense attorney Lawrence Hartstein said Hudson didn't test Hoff's hair before applying the product, but that the stylist could judge who needed one based on her 30 years of experience.

Jurors found the stylist negligent. They did not describe how they arrived at the $6,000 figure.

Burning Down The House

ELMA, Wash. - Police Chief Greg Adams was planning to fix up a vacant two-story house for his ailing parents. Apparently, no one told the fire department.

Firefighters burned the building to the ground believing it had permission to do so for training purposes.

"We're just totally sick at the whole thing," Adams said. "Seriously, the other night we couldn't sleep when we found out about it. It's just devastating."

The chief and his wife were away for the weekend when the volunteer fire department burned the structure as part of a weekend exercise.

"Initially, we had made plans to have a controlled burn and have it brought down to the ground," Adams said. But he said he notified the fire department that his plans had changed.

Fire Chief Dave Osgood said he was not told of any change.

"He knew we were going to burn the house down," Osgood said. "He knew it was coming. I don't see what the problem is. It's down on the ground, and the lot is ready for a new house."

Naked Bus Thief Detained

CHESTER, West Virginia - Charges of indecent exposure are the least of Mohammed Jwad Salem's problems. Authorities in Chester, West Virginia, accuse Salem of being the streaker who stole a shuttle bus. Police say Salem was naked when he ran around a parking lot at the Mountaineer Race Track and Gaming Resort.

He allegedly took a bus and drove about a mile before getting stuck in a muddy field. Deputies busted Salem and took him to a place where he could get something to wear - the Hancock County Jail. Salem now faces a number of charges including indecent exposure, grand larceny and resisting arrest.

Lawmakers Oppose 'Real Beverly Hillbillies'

BATON ROUGE, La. - State Sen. Mike Smith's resolution urging CBS to forget about making "The Real Beverly Hillbillies" was approved 23-1 Wednesday by the state Senate.

Smith, D-Winnfield, has joined critics of the proposed program around the country, saying it will hold the rural poor up to ridicule.

"The Real Beverly Hillbillies" purportedly would chronicle the experiences of a rural, lower-middle-class family that moves into a luxurious Beverly Hills mansion.

Smith's resolution still needs passage by the House.

Meanwhile, CBS says the program is still in the development stages and may never air.

1840 Poe Letter Scares Up $20,000

MILWAUKEE - An 1840 letter by Edgar Allan Poe that was found in a Milwaukee church's safe has been auctioned off for $20,000.

The rector of St. Paul's Episcopal Church, the Reverend Amy Richter, says she's thrilled at the discovery and its benefit to the church.

An official at Christie's auction house says the American author's letter was purchased by a New York firm that deals in rare books.

The church volunteer who discovered Poe's letter last year estimates that St. Paul's will get more than $18,000 after paying a commission and other fees to Christie's.

The church plans to use the money for its music program.

Playboy Sues Over 'Sex Court'

NEW YORK - Judge Judy, it's not.

But Playboy Enterprises is so serious about its "Sex Court" television show, it has gone to real court to get an adult Web site to stop using the name.

In a counter-suit, the Web site has claimed it had the name first and should get a piece of the $8.9 million the show has made.

"I feel if I create something, I should have a right to the name," the founder of the site, Mario Cavalluzzo, told jurors Wednesday at the trademark infringement trial in federal court.

The case was expected to go to the jury later this week.

Cavalluzzo testified that he launched his Web site in May 1998 because "it looked like there was money to be made." He described registering the Sex Court domain name, unaware Playboy was developing a show with the same name.

Playboy debuted "Sex Court" on its cable television channel the same year, billing it as a show "brimming with erotic crimes and misdemeanors." It features a scantily clad judge presiding over sexual disputes between couples.

The lawsuit brought by Playboy in 2000 alleges the Web site has tarnished its name by giving consumers the false impression it was "sponsored or endorsed by or originates from Playboy."

U.S. Department Of Peace Proposed

WASHINGTON - There's a Department of Defense, so why not a Department of Peace? That's the thinking of some anti-war Democrats. Four dozen Democrats have introduced a bill to create a Cabinet-level Department of Peace. California Congresswoman Barbara Lee says there's no department in the government that looks at alternatives to war. But the sponsors know they have tough fight to get their Peace Department bill passed. Lee says it's more of a symbolic gesture.

Police Dogs, Yes, Mail Dogs, No

ASPEN, Colorado - There are police dogs, fire dogs and Army dogs — but there won't be any mail dogs. Mailman Terry Trish has been ordered to leave his canine partner at home. Trish's golden retriever Sydney has been pulling a letter cart through the streets of downtown Aspen, Colorado. Trish says Sydney is a hit with people on his mail route. Postal customers give the canine letter carrier doggie treats and tourists want to take snapshots. But the Postal Service says having a mail dog violates safety regulations. One post office official notes that dogs bit 3,000 postal carriers last year.

Dolly The Sheep Doll

LONDON - The preserved body of Dolly the sheep, who gained worldwide fame as the world's first mammal cloned from an adult, went on display Wednesday at a Scottish museum.

Dolly, whose birth in 1996 was heralded as a scientific landmark but triggered heated debate about the ethics of cloning, was put to death Feb. 14 after a veterinarian confirmed she had a fatal lung disease. She was 6.

The Roslin Institute donated Dolly's remains to the National Museums of Scotland, where her skin was pickled and tanned to preserve it before being stretched over a fiberglass mold of her body and mounted on a straw-covered plinth.

Ian Wilmut, who led the team that cloned Dolly, said Wednesday that his pride at seeing her on display at Edinburgh's Royal Museum was tinged with sadness at her death from the lung tumor.

"It's not so many weeks ago since she was alive and in the barn, but we're very proud that's she in here," he said. "She will go on reminding people of the fact that scientific progress was made in Edinburgh which is making people think very differently about this aspect of biology."

Money Down The Drain

TUSCALOOSA - A Tuscaloosa man took the term flushing your cash down the drain literally. Well, almost.

Police say 21-year-old Travis Leon Jackson flooded three hotel rooms when he tried to flush counterfeit bills down a toilet as police officers raided his room Monday.

Jackson was charged with first-degree criminal mischief after allegedly causing more than $1,000 damage to his third-floor room and the ones below while trying to flush the fake cash.

The U.S. Secret Service is investigating and Jackson could also face federal charges.

The money was printed in $20, $50 and $100 denominations. Officers seized a color printer, currency and other items relating to counterfeiting when they arrested Jackson.

Police also say they found large quantities of marijuana at Jackson's home.

Cop Pleads Guilty In Forced Strippings

CENTRAL ISLIP, N.Y. - A former police officer pleaded guilty to charges that he forced four women to strip after he pulled them over for traffic violations.

Prosecutors said Frank Wright, 36, forced one woman to walk home wearing only her underwear. He pleaded guilty to civil rights violations carrying up to five years and three months in prison.

No sentencing date was set, Assistant U.S. Attorney Sanford Cohen said. A telephone call to Wright's attorney for comment Tuesday was not returned.

Court documents filed by federal prosecutors in February accused Wright of mistreating more than a dozen women, while on patrol on Long Island between 1998 and 2000.

Several women said they were driven to isolated locations, sometimes in handcuffs, after they were stopped by Wright. Some were released without being forced to disrobe.

Bad Hair Years

ST. LOUIS - A woman is suing a suburban St. Louis hair salon, claiming failed work on her hair caused her depression and the loss of her job.

Geremie Hoff is suing the Elizabeth Arden Salon, where she went in August 2001 to get her hair straightened or relaxed.

Hoff's attorney, Paul Devine, said Monday that the work on Hoff's hair was so bad that Hoff "shut down. She spiraled into a depression because, right or wrong, looks were important to her."

The salon's attorney, Lawrence Hartstein, told the jury in his opening statement that the stylist, Raye Hudson, had performed "hundreds if not thousands of these procedures" and did nothing wrong in treating Hoff's hair.

Devine alleged that Hudson failed to do a test strand before applying a hair product.

Hoff, now 56, was a teacher at the University of Missouri-St. Louis and a tour guide for trips to Italy. Devine alleged some of Hoff's hair fell out after the treatment, and weeks later she had a bald spot in back, "and her hair stuck out like a bird's nest."

Hoff took early retirement from teaching and stopped taking tour groups to Italy, Devine said. He added that a psychiatrist and a counselor will testify about her depression.

Bird Smokes In Bed, Burns Down Home

HARRISBURG, Pa. - Take one nest-building bird, add a smoldering cigarette butt and officials say they know what caused a house fire.

Fire Chief Donald Konkle said investigators found a large nest in the ceiling of the house damaged in the March 28 blaze. They determined a bird picked up a smoldering cigarette butt to use in building the nest.

Konkle said there were no other possible sources of fire in the area.

"The nest was 60 percent consumed and we weren't able to interview the bird," he said. "I believe he's homeless."

Mayor Stephen R. Reed cautioned residents against flicking lit cigarettes.

"This is at least littering, and if there are nearby birds building a nest, which they do in the spring months because of egg laying, there is a chance the cigarette winds up in the nest," Reed said.

Beethoven's Ninth Up For Auction

LONDON - A piece of music history is up for sale at Sotheby's in London.

The last manuscript of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony could sell for $4.6 million at an auction next month.

Almost all of the 575 pages of sheet music are noted with Beethoven's revisions. Some are minor tempo changes. But Beethoven's insults at the person who copied the work are also scrawled on the music.

At one point, Beethoven calls the copyist a "damned fool."

Sotheby's head of manuscripts describes the Ninth as "one of the greatest works every written by man." And he adds that this may be the last time a full Beethoven manuscript goes on the market.

Sotheby's says the current owner of the manuscript is a private foundation.

Wipe That Smile Off Your Face!

PALO ALTO, Calif. - The city council is wrestling with a code of conduct that urges elected officials to control facial gestures.

Experts say the council's plan to discourage nonverbal forms of disagreement or disgust is odd, unenforceable and almost an infringement on free speech.

"You'd be thinking all the time, 'What expression do I have on my face?'," said University of Kansas Professor Burdett Loomis, who specializes in political civility. "When is someone frowning? Maybe that's their ordinary look."

Palo Alto is the only city in Santa Clara County without a conduct handbook, according to Mayor Dena Mossar. The council began drafting one almost a year ago.

Council member Judy Kleinberg, who led the committee that drafted the guidelines, believes members should show each other more respect.

The eight-pages of proposed protocols will be reviewed by the City Council May 5.

Easter Bunny Busted In Prison Smuggling Scheme

PORT MANATEE, Fla. - An effort at playing Easter Bunny has put a Manatee County jail employee behind the bars he used to guard.

Authorities say Jesse Penaloza is charged with smuggling Easter candy, Mountain Dew and cigarettes into the jail to sell to an inmate. He's charged with bringing contraband to a correctional facility and other crimes.

Penaloza, who had worked on the jail's farm since 1996, was fired after his arrest. The Manatee County Sheriff's Office launched an investigation last week after receiving a tip.

Investigators say Penaloza twice was seen accepting $100 from an inmate's family member in exchange for soda, tobacco, rolling papers, and Rockin' Rabbit candy. The jail is a no-smoking facility but does sell soda and candy at its commissary.

Laughed Out Of The Bank

PINE BLUFF, Ark. - Police say they aren't sure what charge is appropriate for a man arrested after tellers laughed him out of a bank he apparently tried to rob.

The man entered a branch of the Bank of America about 10 a.m. Monday, with a trash bag in one hand and the other in a pocket, authorities said.

"Put the money in the bag," he demanded.

Instead, one of the two tellers told him the bank was out of money, and the other teller laughed and offered the man deposit slips. She told police that made the intruder angry, and he left without any money in his bag.

Minutes after tellers alerted authorities, a Jefferson County sheriff's deputy picked up Julius Kearney, 23, of Little Rock, as he walked nearby.

No weapon was found, and the man at the bank never threatened anybody, so police are unsure how the case will be handled.

"Technically, it could be robbery, and since it is in a bank, the FBI might also have some regulations about what we can charge him with," said police spokesman Robert Rawlinson.

"Either he'll be (in jail) or we will put him in for mental evaluation," Rawlinson said. "He's not just going to be released."

One Dead, 80 Million Bees Loose, After Truck Crash

TITUSVILLE - A Spacecoast truck driver is dead after his vehicle rolled, spilling its cargo of 80 million live bees on the Interstate 95 median.

Authorities say Conrad Cramer of Cocoa died at the scene of the midday wreck yesterday. But a swarm of bees that circled frantically around the overturned truck made recovery of the body impossible for a few hours.

Cramer had owned Cramer's Honey in Cocoa for more than 50 years. Family members say he was most likely heading to Orlando with a cargo of bees he'd recently collected from hives in Fort Pierce.

Beekeepers from Cramer's business worked to safely remove the bees by nightfall. The northbound lanes of I-95 were closed, and traffic was rerouted around the accident scene for about five hours.

What A Load Of Crap

CHEBOYGAN, Mich. - Police said two people used dog poop to settle a grudge.

Cheboygan County prosecutors authorized littering charges against Frank Scott, 51, and Sharyn Ostroske, 55. State police from the Cheboygan post say they threw 40 plastic bags filled with dog feces and toilet paper on the roadway in front of another person's house.

Troopers said the campaign began last November and extended through January. The suspects each face a $150 fine.

Wrongway Highway

TOKYO - An elderly Japanese man taking the freeway for the first time made it a trip to remember when he drove his pickup into oncoming traffic for 15 miles, ignoring patrol cars in pursuit and sideswiping a vehicle, police said Tuesday.

The incident Monday was first reported by a motorist who said he saw the pickup truck heading the wrong way down the three-lane Kanetsu Expressway north of Tokyo.

The driver, 76, didn't respond to patrol cars signaling him to pull over and brushed the corner of one oncoming vehicle as he drove at about 60 miles per hour, said a spokesman for the Gunma prefectural (state) highway police on condition of anonymity.

The driver told police he had been driving for 40 years but was taking the freeway for the first time, to visit relatives. He said he made a u-turn after missing his turnoff and didn't initially realize his mistake or notice the police cars following him.

He was fined $75.

Stolen Pompeii Frescoes Recovered

POMPEII, Italy - Police have recovered two Roman frescoes stolen from the ancient city of Pompeii last week, officials said Tuesday. There were no immediate arrests.

The frescoes were located Monday night in an abandoned building less than half a mile from the ruins. They were reportedly lightly damaged.

Police said the frescoes were found covered in protective packaging, perhaps destined for shipment out of the country.

One of the frescoes is a round depiction of Cupid, the winged god of love, with a diameter of 13 inches. The second is a 17-inch-by-19-inch depiction of a rooster pecking at a pomegranate.

"Even if they are not too damaged, the thieves destroyed the murals around them to get what they wanted," said Raffaella Leveque, spokeswoman for Pompeii's archaeological authority.

The pieces of art had been stolen from the ground floor of an "insula," a Roman apartment building, and were made just a few decades before the city was buried under layers of ash when Mount Vesuvius erupted in A.D. 79.

A Little Taste Of Prison

BANGKOK, Thailand - Thailand's Cabinet ministers got a taste of prison life Tuesday when they sat down for a lunch prepared by convicts being trained with new job skills.

The lunch, all Thai cuisine, was the first catered for the Cabinet by prisoners, said Corrections Department Director-General Kwanchai Wassuwas. It was cooked by female inmates from Bangkok's Lard Yao prison, he said.

"It's very delicious," Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said during the meal, which was served after the weekly Cabinet meeting. Usually, different restaurants in Bangkok supply lunch each week.

Thailand's prisons are grossly overcrowded, and the Corrections Department has promoted various activities in the past year to ease tensions and try to rehabilitate prisoners.

In addition to occupational training, it has staged beauty contests and soccer tournaments and established a choir, which has performed outside prison for the general public.

Rhino's Dogs Are Barking

BUFFALO, N.Y. - A 2-ton Indian rhinoceros at the Buffalo Zoo will be treading a little more lightly with the donation of a few truckloads of topsoil to cushion his aching feet.

The rare rhino's foot problems have forced the zoo to halt attempts at breeding him until he is able to endure pressure on his hind feet.

Dr. Frank Ridgley, a zoo veterinarian, said the problem is common with rhinos in U.S. and European zoos. The rocky soil Henry is now exposed to has caused cracks in his skin, which widen with each step. He is being treated with oral antibiotics and daily footbaths.

In their natural habitat, rhinos spend a lot of time wallowing in mud and water, and walk on much softer soil.

The zoo also is working with a tire maker that has offered to produce custom-made Kevlar boots for Henry.

Zoo officials have been seeking high-quality topsoil to counter the erosion of the limestone beds on which the zoo was built. Amherst agreed to donate 60 cubic yards from the town's compost facility, worth about $5,300.

Zoo President Donna Fernandez said the zoo would try to raise private funds to buy some more.

Heinz To Introduce Blue Ketchup

PITTSBURGH - Blue cheese, blueberries and chicken cordon bleu, but blue ketchup?

The H.J. Heinz Co., which has sold the condiment in red, green, purple, pink, orange and teal, is adding blue to its palette of crazy-colored ketchup. The Pittsburgh company unveiled Heinz EZ Squirt "Stellar Blue" on Monday, just in time for spring and summer - hot seasons for condiments.

Based on the success of the other colors, the food giant expects the new color to provide a boost to all ketchup sales, not just the oddly tinted ones, said Heinz spokesman Robin Teets.

Since Heinz introduced its first shade, "Blastin' Green," in October 2000, the company sold more than 25 million bottles of colored ketchup. Last year, Heinz controlled 60 percent of the American ketchup market, an all-time high for the company, Teets said.

Every time the company introduces a color, its share of the market bumps up a bit, Teets said.

"It's the time of year when overall sales goes up. There's a nice bump in volume from EZ Squirt products, but we tend to have a halo over ketchup, overall," Teets said.