The Odd Truth, April 7, 2003

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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.

Candy Bomber Aims At Iraq

DAYTON, Ohio- The retired Air Force colonel known as the Candy Bomber thinks the children of Baghdad have the same sweet tooth as youngsters in Berlin and Bosnia.

Gail Halvorsen dropped candy and gum to German children around Berlin in 1948. In 1994, he flew a cargo plane over Bosnia and dropped candy bars to the kids there.

Now 82 - Halvorsen says he plans to ask his friends in the Air Force if he can make another candy drop over Baghdad once the war is over.

Halvorsen thinks it would bring "a ray of hope" to the children of Baghdad and would be "a symbol that somebody in America cares."

Haircut Bandit Gets Snipped

LONG BEACH, Calif. - California's so-called "haircut bandit" has been given an eight-year prison sentence.

Michael Lynn Howard, 48, was arrested after a series of attacks between Dec. 4, 2001, and Jan. 1, 2002, in which women and girls were approached on Los Angeles and Long Beach streets.

Prosecutors say he grabbed them from behind and sheared off a chunk of their hair with scissors or a knife before fleeing.

Nine victims were assaulted. The youngest was 12 - the oldest 45.

Husband Charged For Padlocking Wife

SAN ANTONIO - A man was arrested after his wife was found with a 25-foot chain similar to those used for dogs padlocked around her neck, police said.

Jerry Wayne Thomason, 41, was arrested Thursday. A witness had contacted police, saying she noticed the chain around Patricia Thomason's neck as the couple dropped off their two sons, ages 11 and 14, at school.

Police said the witness asked Jerry Thomason about the chain, and he jerked it and said that he used it so that his wife couldn't run off.

Officer Kenny Hagen said police went to the Thomason home and found the 45-year-old woman in her driveway, her face bruised and the chain still around her neck. Her husband was asleep in a car in the driveway, he said.

"She had a really tough time talking," Hagen said. "She was distraught, kind of like beat down, almost like you had accepted your fate in life."

The chain was wrapped around her neck twice and held in place with a padlock, and she was holding the rest of it in her arms, police said. Firefighters used bolt cutters to get it off, and the woman was treated at a hospital and released.

Thomason, who had told police he loved his wife and wanted to take care of her, was in Bexar County Jail on Friday morning. Bond was set at $53,000.

Police said it was unclear how long the woman had been wearing the chain or whether it was ever used to tie her to something. The couple's two children were with their maternal grandmother, police said.

The Six Million Dollar Man

SALEM, Ore. - A homeless man billed for $6 million in taxes by the Internal Revenue Service has been notified it was a mistake.

John Ramer, known as the "six million dollar man" by his buddies at the Union Gospel Mission in Salem, was told Friday that his $5,981,104.02 tax bill was an error and he owed nothing.

The IRS refused to comment on the case, but an agency spokeswoman previously confirmed that they were looking into Ramer's complaints.

Ramer, 30, said the agency's Taxpayer Advocate Service traced the source of the mistake to an employer's computer glitch in 1994.

The problem started with some malfunctioning magnetic tape. Instead of reporting earnings of $35 to the IRS for a few hours work at a bowling alley, the mistake ballooned Ramer's pay to more than $2 million. Penalties and interest boosted the tax amount into the $6 million range.

"It was just the luck of the draw that it happened to me," Ramer said.

Despite wide publicity about the case, Ramer says his financial situation has not improved. He said a television reporter bought him lunch, and someone gave him a T-shirt that says, "I'm not really a bum, but I play one on TV."

Failed Car Thief

MONCTON, New Brunswick - Here are a couple of tips for any would-be car thieves out there.

If you're going to steal somebody's van, make sure it's inconspicuous.

And know where you're going.

Over the weekend, a van belonging to a Moncton, New Brunswick radio station (CKCW-CFQM) was stolen from a store parking lot.

The vehicle is a white P.T. Cruiser with large station logos on it.

The station employee had been in the store at the time.

The would-be thief - a young man - got lost, and ended up driving the vehicle in front of the store twice while the announcer who had been driving the van watched.

Police have charged the suspect with car theft and assaulting a police officer.

RCMP say the suspect had just been released from the local detention centre after serving time for, of all things, car theft.

The Pop-Tart Turns 40

BATTLE CREEK, Mich. - Sometimes an idea just clicks - or make that - pops. Bill Post knew he had hit when his kids kept asking him to bring home more Pop-Tarts. That was 40 years ago when Post was helping to develop the toaster treats for Kellogg. In late 1963, the first run of Pop-Tarts sold out in Cleveland test marketing. The four original, unfrosted flavors - strawberry, blueberry, apple currant and brown sugar cinnamon - have grown to 28 varieties. Kellogg says Americans now eat about two billion Pop-Tarts a year. That's enough to reach half way to the moon.

Wanted: Spare Kidney

PERTH, Australia - "Wanted: Your Spare Kidney."

A 59-year-old Australian grandmother desperate for an organ transplant placed this advertisement in her city's newspaper Sunday.

The woman, called Gaile, said she'd been on a waiting list for a kidney transplant for a decade. She currently needs five three-hour dialysis sessions a week to survive.

"I'm taking this chance to see if anything will come of it, with this advertisement there is a glimmer of hope things could change," she said in a story published in Perth's The Sunday Times, the same paper that ran the ad.

Gaile said her four daughters could not donate their kidneys because two suffered from the same hereditary disease and the other two did not match her tissue type. The newspaper did not name the disease.

Gaile's medical specialist said he expected the advertisement to cause a stir in the medical profession.

"This is way out there but I think she has been driven to do it by sheer frustration," said the specialist, who was not identified in the newspaper report. "It's not what I would recommend but I don't blame her."

Wal-Mart Wedding

FORT MYERS, Fla. - Love was the most popular display item at a local Wal-Mart as two employees exchanged vows in the apparel aisle of the discount department store.

The jittery bride, Sandy Thomas, 54, walked past $11.93 NASCAR hats as the Celine Dion song "Power of Love" played over the intercom.

"This is absolutely fantastic," said the groom, Dan Harbecke, 51, after the vows were exchanged Saturday. "I feel so good right now. I'm so in love."

The pair met last year in the store's break room. She works in women's apparel and he works in dairy.

They originally planned to get married on the beach but the store manager suggested Wal-Mart. It seemed appropriate.

Thomas' brother wasn't surprised at her choice in weddings.

"She wanted to do something different," said George Mabardy, 61, of Cape Coral. "That's what my sister does."