The Odd Truth, April 17, 2003

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

Never Mind!

LONDON - It turns out a British Royal Marine hailed as the luckiest commando alive isn't lucky at all - just a little mischievous.

A photo of Eric Walderman wearing his bullet-riddled helmet is famous throughout the world, as is the story that the 28-year-old survived gunfire just inches away from his face.

The bullet holes were real, but now it's clear that the story was wrong. Walderman says he simply posed in a helmet accidentally shot up while it sat on the ground.

He said the journalists who took his picture never asked for details of how the bullet holes got there, and so he let them assume the shots came while the helmet was on his head.

The group of British Marines came clean after a newspaper tabloid, The Sun, tried to do a follow-up.

Stupid Criminal Strikes

CHEYENNE, Wyo. - The suspect in a bank robbery made it easy and very convenient for the authorities to arrest him.

The man allegedly robbed a bank located in the same downtown building as the local FBI office. The bank is also across the street from the city police department.

"If you rob the bank in the same building as the FBI, it won't take long," Assistant U.S. Attorney John Green said.

Jonathan Waldon was charged in federal court with attempted bank robbery. Police said Waldon entered the American National Bank on Tuesday morning, claimed he had a bomb, and demanded $50,000. He was arrested inside the bank.

Hatfields And McCoys Still At It

PIKEVILLE, Ky. - Descendants of both the Hatfields and the McCoys are claiming victory in a sequel to their famed clash of the late 1800s.

The feuding families were at odds over access to a hillside cemetery in eastern Kentucky that holds the remains of six McCoys, including three who were tied to pawpaw trees and executed by the Hatfields in 1882.

A judge has ruled that McCoy descendants have a right to visit the cemetery, despite the objections of a Hatfield descendant who owns the land around it.

"The McCoys win," said Joseph Justice, an attorney and McCoy descendant who represented cousins Bo McCoy of Waycross, Ga., and Ron McCoy of Durham, N.C. "The McCoys have access to the cemetery now."

McCoy descendants claimed they hadn't been able to visit the cemetery in more than three years because it is on land owned by John Vance, a Hatfield heir. Vance had put up "No Trespassing" signs on the driveway leading to the graves.

Vance also claimed victory because the judge's ruling barred the cemetery from being opened to commercial exploitation. He said that means the cemetery can't be opened to tourists.

Tax-Deductible Dope?

HALIFAX, Nova Scotia- Getting to smoke pot legally isn't enough for Jane Parker. Now, she wants to take a tax deduction for her weed. The Canadian woman says she spends $12,000 to $14,000 a year to buy marijuana.

Parker has a permit from health authorities to legally possess the weed. She says she uses it to control symptoms of multiple schlerosis. But she may not get far with her claim of a pot tax deduction. Canadian tax officials note that non-prescription drugs -- such as aspirin or marijuana -- can't be written off as a medical expense.

No Coffee Breaks In Land Of Goshen

GOSHEN, N.Y. - County employees in one upstate New York community will have to drink coffee on their own time. Orange County Executive Edward Diana is canceling coffee breaks for public workers.

Diana says eliminating those breaks will squeeze hundreds of extra work hours from the county staff. He notes there's nothing in union contracts that guarantees a coffee break. But workers will still get their cigarette breaks - and a chance to go to the bathroom on county time.

Holy Lawsuit!

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - A Florida woman who says her former boss fired her because it was "God's will" is suing him for religious harassment.

In her suit, Michelle Subwick claims Mark Kielar blamed her bipolar disorder on "unconfessed sins," and told her that Satan had infiltrated her life. The suit says Kielar advised her to pray daily with him, and that she was fired when she stopped the sessions.

Subwick is asking for back pay and other damages. Kielar heads a TV production company in Boca Raton that produces secular programs for cable television. It's the second religious harassment lawsuit filed against him this year.

He was sued in January by a former producer. She alleges she was fired because she complained about the company's practice of including scriptures inside employees' paycheck envelopes and promoting Bible study sessions in the office.

Snow Job

BOSTON - A question on a test has caused a blizzard of controversy in Massachusetts. Fourth-graders taking an exam last week were asked to write an essay about what they did on a day when school was canceled because of snow.

One problem: In some school districts, there haven't been any snow days this year -- or for that matter, in the last three years. While there was a lot of snow this winter, most of it fell on weekends or holidays.

Parents and teachers complained that the question was unfair because the youngsters had no recent memory of what a snow day is like.

The state Department of Education agreed. They're offering school districts an opportunity to give their fourth-graders a re-test with a different essay question.

That's CAREY, Thank You

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Politicians usually love to hear from the people, but state Sen. John Carey isn't pleased to get messages intended for Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. John Kerry.

Carey has been getting mail intended for the senator from Massachusetts since April 2, when Kerry said the United States, like Iraq, needed a regime change.

At least 28 e-mail messages for Kerry reached Carey's Senate office. One said, "Look at the polls, understand that we get it, you do not and you are committing political suicide with your remarks."

A handful of the messages supported Kerry, and a few correspondents sent Carey a second e-mail to apologize when they found they had the wrong senator.

Carey said Wednesday that it was not the first time he's been mistaken for the Massachusetts Democrat. During a trip to Washington a few years ago, "I got a lot more attention than I thought I deserved," he said with a laugh.

Free Cameras

FARMINGDALE, N.Y. - An insurance company wants its customers to start carrying cameras in their cars - so they can take pictures of the damage if they get into an accident.

State Farm is giving its customers on New York's Long Island disposable cameras in hopes of cutting down on fraud. Some 77,000 cameras will be mailed out.

After taking the pictures, customers bring the cameras to their agents for developing.

The insurer hopes the pictures will prevent the other driver from making claims later on that are based on damage that wasn't caused by the accident. If successful, the program could expand across the country.

A State Farm spokeswoman says fraud in New York state is a billion-dollar business. She says the costs of the cameras -- at about $100,000 - is a small investment compared to the losses from fraudulent claims.