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The Odd Truth, Nov. 14, 2002

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.

Terrorist's Brain Goes Home

BERLIN - The brain of Red Army Faction leader Ulrike Meinhof, preserved for 26 years since her suicide and used for research, will be returned to her family for burial at her twin daughters' request, prosecutors in Germany said Thursday.

Earlier this week, a professor in the eastern German city of Magdeburg acknowledged that he had been studying the brain since 1997.

Bernhard Bogerts' involvement came to light when one of Meinhof's daughters published an article demanding that her mother's brain be properly buried, making public that it was secretly preserved after Meinhof hanged herself in prison in 1976. The daughter took her case to prosecutors in Stuttgart.

Once prosecutors receive the organ, they will arrange with Meinhof's family for its burial, Maak said.

Meinhof, who was buried in Berlin, was considered the intellectual head of the Red Army Faction, a left-wing revolutionary group that spread fear across West Germany in the 1970s and into the '80s after her death.

Bogerts said Tuesday that his research led him to conclude Meinhof was "significantly influenced by abnormal alterations to the brain" as a result of a 1962 operation for a brain tumor, causing increased aggressiveness in her final years.

He said the finding raised doubts over whether she could be considered legally responsible for her actions.

Heartwarming Bank Robbery

THESSALONIKI, Greece - Police in Greece have released a man who robbed a bank to raise money for his critically ill eight-month-old daughter.

Christos Kalafatis will still be tried for using an air pistol to steal about $15,000 from a bank in northern Greece last week.

He told police he robbed the bank to get enough money to pay for the baby girl to have life-saving heart surgery in the U.S.

He was released after authorities studied the girl's medical records.

The man then visited the bank and apologized to its employees.

Man Beheads Thatcher Statue, Pleads Innocent

LONDON - He says it was a political act -- and not a crime.

A man has pleaded innocent to a criminal damage charge in London, after admitting he beheaded a statue of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

Peter Kelleher was arrested in July after hitting the eight-foot marble statue with a cricket bat -- and then using a metal pole to knock off its head.

He said after he was arrested that it was "life imitating art and not wanton criminal damage."

The statue has been returned to an artist, who will try to repair it.

Paid By The Pound

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. — Matthew Mokanyk decided to have a little fun when he ended up on the wrong side of a lawsuit.

To settle a court-ordered tab of $1,853.87, the president of Landtech, a surveying company, dug into his pocket for an extra $1,000 to finance an elaborate prank on his former landlord, Powerhouse Gym.

Mokanyk hired a delivery crew with a truck and forklift to deliver 74 14-pound boxes of pennies — 185,387 pennies — to Powerhouse Gym.

"It took us two weeks to get the pennies," Mokanyk told the Traverse City Record-Eagle. "The bank called us when they were ready and we had to have four guys go over and pick them up."

When Powerhouse owner Norm Schaub was asked to sign for the half-ton delivery, the delivery crew claimed they weren't sure of the contents. Schaub assumed it was gym equipment, said Paul Schaub, Norm Schaub's brother.

"But one good thing is my dad's been a coin collector all his life, so when he got back he just laughed and said, `Oh, it's no big deal,"' said Adam Schaub, the owner's son and gym manager.

Mokanyk arrived at the gym to snap a picture of the penny payload. He said he also dropped off a restaurant gift certificate for the Schaubs to prove he had no hard feelings.

Making Santa Safer

SYRACUSE, N.Y. - A mall in Syracuse, New York, is moving Santa Claus to a safer place.

Santa had set up shop on the ground floor of the Carousel Center every year since the shopping complex opened 12 years ago.

But this year, St. Nick is being moved to the second level, after a series of mishaps involving objects falling from the upper floors.

Last year, a three-year-old girl suffered a concussion when she was hit in the head by a cup of soda while sitting on Santa's lap. In March, another girl was hit in the head by a nickel thrown or dropped from above as she waited to see the Easter Bunny.

Five people have jumped or fallen into the mall's center court since 1998, and four of them have died.

What Would Jesus Drive?

RALEIGH, N.C. — An evangelical group hopes to turn the car-buying decision into a question of conscience with a campaign that asks: What would Jesus drive?

The Wynnewood, Pa.-based Evangelical Environmental Network will begin running television ads this month in North Carolina, Iowa, Indiana and Missouri to urge consumers to park their sport-utility vehicles and buy fuel-efficient cars because Jesus wants the Earth's natural systems preserved.

"Economic issues are moral issues. There really isn't a decision in your life that isn't a moral choice," said the Rev. Jim Ball, executive director of the group behind the "What Would Jesus Drive?" campaign.

The Interfaith Climate and Energy Campaign plans to send mailings this month to 100,000 congregations discussing the relationship between fuel economy and religious teachings about stewardship and justice.

The groups plan to frame their arguments in moral — as well as economic — terms by promoting hybrid and fuel-cell powered vehicles, as well as other existing fuel-saving technologies

"We think he is Lord of our transportation choices as well as all our other choices," said Ball, an American Baptist minister. "When you need a new car, you should buy the most fuel-efficient one that truly meets your needs."

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