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The Odd Truth, April 28, 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.

Massive Candy Spill

LAKE STATION, Ind. - It was a sweet accident Saturday in northwest Indiana.

A truck smashed into a guard rail on a toll ramp and spewed ten tons of candy.

Officials say 20,000 pounds of Kit Kat and Reese's Peanut Butter Cup candies spilled out onto the ramp and on a highway below.

The trucker was ticketed for speeding.

Pilots Fired For Flying Naked

DALLAS - Southwest Airlines has fired two pilots who reportedly took off all or part of their clothes in the cockpit while in flight, then summoned a flight attendant to bring them paper towels and soda water.

"We conducted a thorough investigation and terminated the two pilots involved for inappropriate conduct," Southwest Airlines spokeswoman Ginger Hardage said Friday.

The pilots may appeal their firing. They argued that one of them removed his uniform after spilling coffee, and that the flight attendant saw them when she complied with their request to bring paper towels to the cockpit.

It was unclear why the second pilot was believed to have removed his clothes.

The names of the male pilots weren't divulged. They were dismissed earlier this month, but the incident, first reported in Friday's editions of USA Today, happened months ago.

Man Loses Alleged Feces-Burger Suit

LEWISBURG, W.Va. - A Greenbrier County man hoping to collect damages for being served a burger allegedly topped with filth, lost his lawsuit.

The verdict came at the end of a three-day civil trial in Greenbrier County Circuit Court.

Jim King testified that he purchased two Whoppers from the Burger King franchise at Fairlea on June 21st, 2000. King says one bite of the burger made him sick and when he lifted the bun he found a foul-smelling substance.

A laboratory analyst testified at the trial that the burger had a high fecal coliform content.

King's attorney told the jury that one of the restaurant's employees must have placed feces in King's food.

John MacCorkle, attorney for Burger-King and franchisee ERW Incorporated, said the contamination could not have happened at the restaurant. He suggested someone that toppings may have been tampered with after the burger was served.

After an hour-long deliberation, the jury ruled Thursday that Burger King could not be held liable.

Potato Guns Face City Ban

ORTING, Wash. - A few years ago, officials of this small town successfully outlawed Silly String and stink bombs. Now there's a new threat to public order — the spud gun.

The City Council is considering banning the toys that shoot small chunks of potato after pistol-packin' revelers left a mess at the city's Daffodil Parade earlier this month. The streets were littered with spent spuds and two residents were tatered.

"It seems like a drastic measure, but it seems like a safety thing we have to consider," said Mayor Dale Jones, who has received several complaints about the guns.

There are two types of potato guns. Those used during the parade were small, plastic toys that force potato pieces out of the gun with air pressure. The other type is a device with a tube such as a plastic water pipe, a combustion chamber and an igniter. Potatoes and other objects can be launched several hundred feet from the tube when a propellant such as hairspray is ignited in the chamber.

The latter version was responsible for blinding a Texas teen earlier this month. He was looking down the barrel of a potato gun that was loaded with a frog when it went off, shooting the animal into his face.

The National Rifle Association doesn't consider spud guns to be firearms, and has no position on the toys. Antigun advocates also aren't sure what to think.

"We have our hands full with dangerous guns that fire bullets," said Peter Hamm, a spokesman for the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. "I don't think it is likely to be in our top tier of issues here any time soon."

Fragrance-Free Zone

SHUTESBURY, Mass. - People who attend Shutesbury's upcoming town meeting will be segregated by scent to avoid disturbing those hypersensitive to chemicals and odors.

Splitting the meeting hall into three sections May 3 is part of a two-year-long effort that also has produced "fragrance-free" hours at the library.

One section of the room will be reserved for people who never use perfumes or scented deodorants, detergents or other products. The second will be for those who sometimes wear fragrance but not on the day of the meeting, and the third will be labeled, "Seating for those who forgot and used cologne and perfume."

Police Chase Ends In Police Parking Lot

MEDFORD, Long Island - A fleeing suspect made a wrong turn — right into the police station parking lot. According to officers in Suffolk County, New York, Troy Stephani refused to pull over. He eluded police for about ten minutes, by switching lanes and allegedly running red lights in his pickup. But the chase came to end, when Stephani turned into the parking lot of police headquarters. He told the arresting officers he didn't stop because he wanted to finish the crack cocaine he was smoking. Stephani now faces a number of charges including driving while intoxicated and resisting arrest.

Spoof Politics

LONDON - When a newspaper asked the leader of the opposition Conservative Party to pose with a spoof election poster claiming that "it rained less under a conservative government," it expected him to say no.

But the affable Iain Duncan Smith agreed — and The Guardian on Monday published a picture of him and his wife Betsy apparently taking the whole thing seriously.

The photograph illustrated a piece arguing that the Tories — trailing well behind the governing Labor Party in the polls — have lost their way.

"Surely the Tory leader would stay well away from a slogan like 'It rained less under a conservative government' — or at least his minders would make sure he did," the newspaper said.

But MacLeod reported that the Tory leader simply wondered aloud who had organized the poster. "The cogs were whirring but he clearly thought it was one of theirs," MacLeod said.

A spokesman for Duncan Smith later said the party was "delighted that the Guardian has the best interests of the Conservative Party at heart.

"You may have stumbled across a fundamental truth that Britain does better under the Conservatives," the spokesman said.

Mob Of Angry Villagers Kill Rampaging Bear

DHAKA, Bangladesh - Hundreds of villagers used arrows and bamboo sticks Sunday to kill a wild bear after the animal rampaged through four villages in northern Bangladesh, wounding at least 50 people, a news report said.

Forty people have been hospitalized, three of them in critical condition, after the attack in Sherpur district, 90 miles north of capital Dhaka, United News of Bangladesh reported.

The animal mauled and bit whoever came across its path as it rampaged through the villages of Bharura, Gazarikura, Haldibata and Dharapani, the report said, quoting Lutfar Rahman, a local government official.

A mob of nearly 1,000 armed villagers ran after the bear, caught and killed it, the report said.

Love Letter Contest

MADRID, Spain - Cell phones and e-mail may have largely made love letters things of the past. But flowery writing is alive and well in Spain.

A government worker has won an annual love letter contest in central Spain — a contest aimed at keeping romance alive in a technology-driven world.

The winning entry was an imaginary letter from a ten-year-old secret admirer named David to Vanessa, a girl two years ahead of him in school. In it, David writes that going through Christmas vacation without seeing her was "torture" — and that he never would have imagined actually wanting to go back to school.

The winning writer says she was inspired by her young nephews. She takes home a prize of about $1,600.

Reporters Punished For Conspiring With Tabloid

SALT LAKE CITY - Two reporters for the Salt Lake Tribune have been disciplined for helping the National Enquirer on the Elizabeth Smart story.

The two reporters had a dinner meeting with a reporter from the tabloid, at which they outlined the investigation into Elizabeth's disappearance.

Elizabeth was taken from her bedroom last June and found in March in a Salt Lake City suburb with her two alleged captors.

The Tribune reporters were paid an undisclosed amount for their help to the Enquirer — without their newspaper's permission.

The Tribune editor says he "verbally wrung their necks" and formally disciplined the reporters, but did not accept their offers to resign. The reporters say that in hindsight, they made a "bad decision."