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The Odd Truth, Nov. 29, 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.

'Turkey Terrorist' Ad Under Fire

NORFOLK, Va. - The nation's largest animal rights group is under fire for a television campaign featuring a "turkey terrorist" taking hostages in a supermarket. It is appearing on only one station.

The commercial by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals depicts a store manager being bound and gagged and shoppers taken hostage, while an unseen terrorist threatens to beat, scald and dismember anyone who resists.

The terrorist is revealed to be a turkey puppet, which urges people to stop eating meat.

"I think it is always inappropriate to promote propaganda that puts fear in anyone's mind," said Sherrie Rosenblatt, spokeswoman for the National Turkey Federation.

Norfolk-based PETA did not apologize for the commercial, despite a pledge following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks that it would play down its incendiary messages.

"A fake supermarket takeover has zip to do with the events of Sept. 11," spokeswoman Lisa Lange said. "You'd really have to be a big grump not to see the humor in all of this."

Lange said only one television station, in Minnesota, had accepted the commercial.

Unable To Fly, Pelican Walks South

OTTAWA, Wis. - A white pelican rescued from the cold North this week had a broken wing, but its sense of direction appeared to be fine.

Phil Thieme found the bird trudging south, first along his driveway and then down the road near southeastern Wisconsin's Horicon Marsh. Fearing for the pelican's life, he and his neighbors corralled it Monday using a net and a blanket.

"It was bound and determined to go south. It kept walking down the middle of the road," said Jean Seinke, one of the rescuers.

The pelican was taken to Ottawa's Wildlife in Need Center, which will try to repair the wing surgically, said Judy Budnick, the center's executive director. She said it was not known how the protected bird was injured.

Tom Erdman, curator of the Richter Museum of Natural History at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, said the pelican would have an urge to go south this time of year, but probably had more immediate motivations.

"It could theoretically be walking south. It's a delightful thought," Erdman said. But he added that "survival was probably the first thing on its mind — looking for open water and fish."

Father Dollar Bill Delivers

LOS ANGELES - Some folks on L.A.'s Skid Row are thankful for Father Dollar Bill. The 83-year-old retired priest spent his Thanksgiving handing out dollar bills to the homeless. It's something Reverend Maurice Chase has been doing for 20 years. In the process he picked up the nickname Father Dollar Bill. He says he started out giving away about $500, but as the homeless population grows he has had to carry as much as $4,000. He also brings $5, $20 and $100 bills for people with special needs. Why do it? Chase explains that Mother Teresa once said "touch the poor," and that's what he's trying to do.

Turkey Thieves Nabbed

SHAFTER, California - It wasn't exactly a trail of bread crumbs. But police in Shafter, California, did manage to find the people they say nearly ruined Thanksgiving for a bunch of seniors. Officers followed a trail of footprints to an apartment near the Walker Senior Center. Inside, police found about $2,000 worth of food and equipment that had been slated for the center's Thanksgiving dinner. Most of the food, including the turkeys, had to be tossed because it hadn't been properly refrigerated. The senior center bought replacement food for Thanksgiving. But officials say the loss will put a big dent in its budget. Three of the alleged thieves have been busted and police are looking for a fourth.

In Defense Of Fruitcake

CORSICANA, Texas - Fruitcake is the Rodney Dangerfield of desserts. Now bakery owner Bob McNutt says it's time for fruitcake to get some respect. His Collin Street Bakery in Corsicana, Texas, shipped 1.5 million fruitcakes last year. He predicts he'll sell even more this season. But McNutt feels fruitcake is getting a bad rap. He says fruitcake is like steak, everything depends on the quality. McNutt believes the fruitcake haters have only tried inferior varieties. He adds fruitcake is a comfort food, but don't wait to eat it. McNutt says fruitcakes don't last forever.

Cyber-Porn Bandit On The Loose

GILLETTE, Wyoming - Some folks in Gillette, Wyo., got a surprise when their computers started logging into porn sites. It's not a case of cyber-possession — but of breaking and entering. Police say they're looking for a burglar who's been breaking into homes. Apparently, the guy is just using the homeowners' PCs to go to X-rated Web pages. In some cases the crook also used stolen checks to buy memberships in the porn sites. The owners only discovered the break-ins after the computer settings were changed to automatically log on to the porn Web pages.

Thanksgiving Proclamation Lightens Up

HARTFORD, Conn. — To some churches, Gov. John G. Rowland's Thanksgiving proclamation seemed as old as the holiday itself.

The governor had issued the same proclamation since he was sworn in for his first term in 1995. In it, he urged people to "reflect upon all they have, remember the sacrifices of others and express their gratitude in gestures of assistance toward those in need."

But Rowland changed the statement for this Thanksgiving in response to complaints from the public, said Dan Moreland, a staff assistant for the governor who writes state proclamations.

"Many churches have lobbied against the old proclamation. They are tired of reading the same one," Moreland said. "I think the governor just really liked the old one."

The new result?

"The cheerful ambiance of the holiday season embraces our senses, warming our homes as it soothes the heart and soul," the latest proclamation reads.

"Visions of long bountiful tables filled with generations of family evolve into the resonance of stories and laughter. Tantalizing aromas linger through our subconscious, provoking reminiscence of gatherings from years past. All of our hard working and earnest efforts throughout the year seem to have culminated on this day."

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