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The Odd Truth, Nov. 7, 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.

America's Great Grandma

SAN PABLO, Calif. - She's always astounding her doctors. That's what Sharon Hanney says about her great-grandma, Mary Christian of San Pablo, California. At 113 years old, Christian is now the oldest American. She was born in Taunton, Massachusetts, on June 12, 1889. She now lives in a Northern California care center and is in surprisingly good health. Hanney says the matriarch of her family loves KFC chicken dinners and Twinkies. What's the secret of her longevity? Doctor Stephen Coles of the UCLA school of medicine says it's good genes. Doctor Coles is part of the research group that verified Christian's age. He says super-centenarians live as long as they do, because they don't have weak links like heart disease.

Small Town Politics

DENNISON, Minn. — The 81 voters in this small town liked Dave Nash so much that they elected him to his first public office on Tuesday. In fact, they elected him to two of them.

Nash, 62, was elected to the City Council post to which he had been appointed last December. He got 26 votes. He also got 36 write-in votes for mayor — enough to win the job.

"This (election result) is real good, because there's lots of work to do here and we need a whole City Council to do it," Nash said. "We've got 168 people in town and we ought to be a growing community."

Things didn't look good for Dennison city government going into Election Day. There were only two candidates listed for four seats on the City Council and nobody was on the ballot for the mayor's job, since being mayor means being city dog catcher and weed inspector for only $100 a month.

In the end, it turned out all right. With write-in candidates, the new City Council will have just one vacancy: Nash's, when he steps down to become mayor.

Red Hot Roundabouts

LONDON — Other towns boast about their piers or grand civic buildings.

But a printing company creating a 2003 calendar for the unremarkable central English town of Redditch chose traffic circles — and found it had a hit.

Critics derided the calendar, which features a fresh circle each month. But when comic Graham Norton featured it on his nightly show on Channel 4, the calls came from as far away as Australia and the United States. Some 2,000 copies have already been sold, and the original print run of 100 has had to be increased.

"It's hard to believe that photos of roundabouts in Redditch could cause such a stir, but they appear to have put the town on the map," said Jason Holmes, who produced the calendar.

"We can't believe they have sold so well. We are thinking about doing roundabouts by night next year!"

Condom Fit For A King

COLOGNE, Germany - Gold is good, especially if you're trying to sell condoms in Kenya. The German-based company Condomi is now the largest condom maker in Europe. It started as a one-store boutique, founded in 1988 by a couple of college buddies. The company says the secret of its success hasn't changed over the years -- listen to the customer. Condomi has been listening to customers in Kenya, who didn't like the standard latex variety. Now, the company is producing a golden colored condom, scented with vanilla. It notes that gold means something very valuable.

Iran Bans U.S. Advertising

TEHRAN - Iran is banning the advertisement of American goods to demonstrate criticism of the U.S. support of Israel.

State television says the Iranian government imposed the ban at the recommendation of a non-government body called the Society for Defending Palestine.

Tehran often criticizes what it sees as Washington's bias in favor of Israel. Iran does not recognize the Jewish state, and it doesn't permit Israeli goods into the country.

President Bush included Iran in his "axis of evil" category of nations backing terrorism.

U.S.-Iran trade has been at a low level since the 1979 takeover of the U.S. Embassy by radical Iranian students. The ad ban comes just as advertising for American goods had been increasing.

Earthquake Simulator Not A Simulation

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Susan and Jerry Wortley decided to visit the Alaska Experience Theatre for a tour of its earthquake simulation auditorium.

So when a magnitude 7.9 earthquake shook Alaska on Sunday, they simply marveled at how authentic it felt.

"We got our money's worth," Jerry Wortley said.

The theater has one auditorium with a 180-degree screen showing Alaska scenery and a smaller auditorium devoted to one of the state's defining events: a major earthquake in 1964.

Customers watch a 20-minute show during which a hydraulic system shakes the floor to give them a taste of sitting through an earthquake.

"Apparently there are two simulations," Wortley said. "We had three."

With summer over, business was slow, and the Anchorage couple were the only visitors to the downtown tourist attraction at the time.

Even afterward, as they viewed displays in an adjoining gallery and aftershocks made the ground shake again, the Wortleys didn't catch on.

Susan Wortley thought her wobbly legs were a residual effect of the simulator — something like a seaman getting his land legs back.

"We thought, 'This was really good,"' she said.

Skinny-Dipping Ban Overturned In Vermont

WILMINGTON, Vt. - It's a little cold to go skinny-dipping in Vermont. But in one town, it's not illegal. Voters in Wilmington, Vermont, have overturned a ban on public nudity at a popular local beach. The town select board had voted to outlaw skinny-dipping there after some residents complained about X-rated behavior. But fans of the all-over tan mounted a petition drive, and took the issue to the voters Tuesday. The nudists promise they'll patrol the beach to make sure everyone behaves.

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