Weekly Wire
Weekly Alibi Odds & Ends

By Devin D. O'Leary

MARCH 1, 1999: 

Dateline: Florida--Faced with a shortage of both parts and money, NASA is taking back part of an exhibit it gave to an Alabama museum for use again in the U.S. space program. The contractors for NASA's space shuttle program last week contacted the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Ala., and asked it to return the forward assemblies from the shuttle's solid rocket boosters--currently part of the museum's full-size space shuttle exhibit. Several of the forward assemblies, which serve as propellant motors for the spacecraft during lift-off, have been damaged or lost since the space shuttle program began in 1981. The Clinton administration's fiscal budget for next year represents a decline in NASA funding for the fifth straight year in a row. Building new forward assemblies would take three years and cost $5 to $10 million each. The used equipment taken from the museum will eventually be replaced with mock-ups.

Dateline: Alabama--Two very polite girls stand accused of robbery in Birmingham, Ala. The two teenagers walked into a shoe store and handed a note demanding money to an employee. "I'm sorry to do this," said one girl. "You're so nice." The worker told the girls he was waiting on a customer at the moment, and they kindly offered to wait. The worker then calmly walked to the back of the store and triggered a silent alarm. The police arrived several minutes later and arrested the teenagers, who were probably quite congenial to officers.

Dateline: Alabama--Elsewhere in Alabama, women aren't so polite. A group of decidedly unsatisfied women took the state of Alabama to court last Wednesday over a state law that bans the sale of vibrators and other sex toys. The American Civil Liberties Union spearheaded the suit in U.S. District Court on behalf of Sherri Williams and other women who say their privacy rights have been violated. Williams runs two "romance boutiques" in Alabama, featuring candles, chocolates, lingerie and the occasional sex toy. Last year, the Alabama Legislature outlawed strip clubs and added language that barred the sale of items to enhance sex, including vibrators and certain kinds of condoms. There is currently a $10,000 fine and a year in jail for anyone caught selling such items.

Dateline: New York--John Davila of Brooklyn, N.Y., was indicted last Tuesday on charges of burglary, grand larceny and criminal possession of stolen property. His crime? Stealing a now-dead parrot from the Central Park Zoo. Davila, 24, boosted the bird, a thick-billed parrot worth $20,000, from a cage in the Central Park Wildlife Center last December. The rare green parrot was recovered on Jan. 27 when Davila allegedly sold it for $500. Unfortunately, the bird was on antibiotics for a respiratory condition when it was stolen and died a few days later. Although the bird is now--to use the immortal words of Britain's "Monty Python"--defunct, no more, gone to meet its maker, Davila faces up to seven years in prison if convicted in the theft of the ex-parrot.

Dateline: Nevada--A 69-year-old man stands accused of murder after beating his 73-year-old pal to death during an argument over who was the better fighter. Owen Finnegan and Frank Ortiz Ortega were drinking when they got into a squabble over who was the better battler. The two punch-drunk seniors each bet $100 and went outside to decide the issue. Finnegan allegedly struck Ortega, who then fell backwards and hit his head on the pavement. Ortega suffered severe head trauma and died a day later. Finnegan has been charged with first-degree murder--but on the plus side, he won the bet.

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