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The Odd Truth, April 23, 2003

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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.

Stutterer Files Human Rights Complaint

ST. LOUIS - A St. Louis man with a significant stutter has filed a complaint with the Missouri Human Rights Commission against a radio station that refused to let him on the air to dedicate a song.

Robert Tart, 36, said the person who answered the call-in line refused to let him on the air to dedicate a song to his ex-wife because of his stutter.

Tart filed a complaint April 2 with the Human Rights Commission against WIL-FM and Jones Radio Networks Ltd., which produces a country music syndicated show from Seattle.

"It's hard enough to go through life with a stutter, but wanting to get on a radio show takes some courage," Tart said. "I talk slow, but they're keeping me off that show because of it."

Tart said a woman named Alexa, who fields calls, told him, "Bobby, we don't do the stuttering thing."

Susan Stephens, sales director at Jones Radio, wouldn't discuss Tart's accusation, saying the network is professional.

"There are so many cases like this," said National Stuttering Association operations director Tammy Flores. "I don't get how people can be so inconsiderate. There is so much teasing and bullying of kids who stutter, and when adults do it, it's even worse. It's a speech impediment. All it takes is compassion."

The song Tart had wanted Lia to broadcast for his ex-wife in Bloomsdale, was Joe Diffie's "In Another World," a wistful memory of lost love.

Tart, a single, unemployed production worker, said his dispute with the radio world was about the dignity of stutterers.

"We have rights, just like everybody else," he said. "All I want to do is dedicate a song."

'Freedom Of Bark?'

SAN JOSE, Calif. - A man accused of barking at a police canine is in the doghouse with authorities.

Richard "Tyson" Dillon, 25, faces a misdemeanor charge that he willfully and maliciously interfered with a Palo Alto police officer's duty by teasing and agitating the officer's dog.

The incident occurred March 5, on Mardi Gras night, when Dillon, a bartender, and a co-worker were walking in downtown Palo Alto and passed a group of officers standing by their patrol cars.

According to Dillon's attorney, Donald Tasto, the police dog in one of the cars was already agitated and barking at other passers-by when Dillon returned a single "friendly bark." Police cited, then released him.

"It's ridiculous that someone could be charged for barking," Tasto said in a phone interview Tuesday, adding that Dillon "doesn't have a mean bone in his body."

"And what about First Amendment rights?" Tasto asked. "Is there no freedom of bark?"

Palo Alto police spokesman Jim Coffman acknowledged that barking in itself may not warrant a citation, but he said the law clearly prohibits actions that harass and agitate police dogs.

Police also accused Dillon of swinging a fist at the dog — something Dillon denies.

Dillon, who could face up to a year in county jail and a $1,000 fine if convicted, pleaded not guilty in a Palo Alto courtroom Tuesday.

Pizzeria Owner Charged With Discrimination

COPENHAGEN, Denmark - The owner of a Danish pizzeria who refused to serve German and French tourists was charged with discrimination Wednesday.

Aage Bjerre, who owns a pizzeria on Denmark's Fanoe island, was investigated by police after he began refusing to serve tourists from Germany and France in February because of their countries' lack of support for the U.S.-led war in Iraq. He called them "anti-American."

No date for his trial was set, but if found guilty, he could be fined $735, said Esbjerg Deputy Chief Constable Steen Boejlund.

Bjerre was unavailable for comment Wednesday, but in an interview with The Associated Press in February, he chided France and Germany for not supporting the United States.

He displayed two homemade pictograms on the shop door, much like the ones that show the outline of a dog or a cigarette with a bar across it.

One featured the silhouette of a man colored red, yellow and black — the colors of the German flag. The second was painted blue, white and red — the French Tricolor. Both silhouettes had a bar across each man.

The island, 200 miles southwest of the capital, Copenhagen, is a popular spot for visitors from neighboring Germany.

Teen Girls Nabbed In Toxic Slush Caper

SYLVAN LAKE, Alberta - Three teenage girls have been charged with attempted murder after seven girls got sick from drinking slushies laced with copper sulphate, police said Tuesday.

"They all attended the same school and they all knew each other," said RCMP Constable Harry Ingram.

Two of the girls charged were among the seven, all of whom received medical treatment, police said.

Ingram said the attempted murder charge was laid "because of some of the danger markings on the chemical … Our investigation takes it out of the prank area."

Police allege the copper sulphate was taken from the school during a science class experiment on April 10. The chemical was mixed into the slushies, a thick icy pop that comes out of a machine, after they were bought at a local convenience store.

Symptoms of copper sulphate, which is used as a fungicide and to control algae in swimming pools, include nausea, vomiting, dry mouth, burning mouth, shaking and headaches. It can also cause kidney and liver damage.

Police aren't sure how much copper sulphate was put into the drink.

Bush's Bad Timing In Alabama

MONTGOMERY, Ala. - Unless Alabama's election law is changed, there could be one notable candidate missing from the state's 2004 presidential election ballot — President Bush.

The problem is that the Republican National Convention is being held later than usual to avoid conflict with the Olympics, and the GOP won't choose a candidate until Sept. 2 — two days after Alabama's Aug. 31 deadline to certify presidential contenders.

Republicans are asking the Democrat-controlled Legislature to change the law and extend the deadline until Sept. 5. That bill is on the work agenda in the House for Thursday, but some Republicans say they are concerned the bill has been placed behind several contentious issues and may not come up for consideration.

"I don't think the people know that if this doesn't pass, they won't get to vote for President Bush," said Rep. Mike Hubbard, a Republican.

He said if the bill doesn't pass, Mr. Bush could be forced to run as a write-in in Alabama.

Mr. Bush received 56.4 percent of the vote in Alabama in 2000 to 41.6 percent for former Vice President Al Gore, a Democrat. Republicans have carried Alabama in the last six presidential elections.

Captured Mermaid Sues City, Gets Settlement

NEW YORK - A mermaid who was captured after parading topless through Coney Island will get a $10,000 check from New York City.

Amy Gunderson, 31, had sued the city claiming her First Amendment rights were violated when she was arrested for wearing only a thong and body paint at the 2001 Mermaid Parade.

In a deal announced Wednesday by Gunderson's lawyer, Ronald L. Kuby, the city will pay $10,000 to settle.

In her lawsuit, Gunderson, a model, said her rights were violated when she was arrested June 29, 2001, for exposing her chest. The charges were eventually dismissed.

Kuby, a longtime judge at the parade, said Gunderson was within her rights to be topless because her float and costume fell within the definition of entertainment.

The parade, a Coney Island fixture for two decades, has traditionally featured floats with topless women dressed as surf-tossed sea creatures.

But in 2001, police issued Gunderson a criminal summons for exposure, and other topless women quickly covered up with seashells, beads and Band-Aids, said Gunderson's lawyer, Ron Kuby.

"The city evaluates cases and makes business decisions every day. We felt it was in our best interest to settle the case," said Deborah Meyer, a city lawyer.

Million Dollar Bills

DRACUT, Mass. - Residents of this New England community have been getting million-dollar bills. And they're not happy about it.

Doris Bellerose said she "almost had a nervous breakdown" when her latest water bill came to $3.9 million. Her previous bill was for $81.50, after her senior discount.

Other Dracut residents have been getting inflated bills, including one of the town's own billing clerks who was charged $3.3 million.

Water district commissioner Bob Corey blamed the error on a computer glitch caused by Dracut's recent switch from a biannual to a quarterly billing system. He said the district has begun mailing new bills to recipients of inflated bills, along with an apology.

"If I would have gotten a bill like that, I would have been screaming, too," Corey said.

Washington To Ban Up-Skirt, Kilt Photography

OLYMPIA, Washington - The Washington state legislature wants to make it a crime to take pictures up a woman's skirt. The lawmakers acted after the state Supreme Court ruled that using a hidden camcorder to shoot under a skirt was "reprehensible" — but not illegal. A bill passed by both houses of the legislature would make the up-skirt videos a felony. One lawmaker notes the bill also applies to filming up a man's kilt. The measure now goes to Governor Gary Locke for his signature.

Don Quixote's Round The World Reading

MADRID, Spain - Politicians, school children and even sailors at sea lined up Tuesday to take part in a nonstop reading of Don Quixote — all 1,100 pages — in a two-day literary marathon.

The seventh annual reading began at noon in Madrid and, through telephone lines and videoconferences, was to leapfrog around Spain and the world, with stops in such unlikely spots as Hawaii and Vietnam.

Each of an estimated 3,000 orators reads one paragraph, or, in the case of lengthy ones, reads for a minute, from Miguel de Cervantes' tale of a windmill-tilting dreamer and his trusty sidekick Sancho Panza.

As is the custom, the first sentence goes to the previous year's winner of the Premio Cervantes, the Spanish-speaking world's most prestigious literary award.

This time it was up to Spanish novelist Jose Jimenez Lozano to intone the famed line, which has been translated as: "In a certain village in La Mancha, which I do not wish to name, there lived not long ago a gentleman — one of those who have always a lance in the rack, an ancient shield, a lean hack and a greyhound for coursing."

The scheduled readers included fishermen trawling off the coast of Galicia in northwest Spain.