Weekly Wire
Weekly Alibi Odds and Ends

By Devin D. O'Leary

DECEMBER 13, 1999: 

Dateline: England -- Scandinavian Airlines System delayed a flight from London's Heathrow airport for more than six hours, thanks to a smelly passenger. The cabin crew on Monday's SAS flight detected a pungent oily odor, which they feared might be a fuel leak or fire. Passengers were evacuated, and technicians searched the plane from stem to stern, discovering nothing. Eventually, it was determined that a passenger's brand new oilskin coat was the source of the mysterious smell. The coat was stashed in the cargo hold for the remainder of the flight.

Dateline: England -- A potty-mouthed parrot named Percy has gotten the pink slip from a British children's theater. Seems the unprofessional parrot has a habit of forgetting his lines and swearing in front of audiences. At first, Percy seemed to behave fine during rehearsals atop Long John Silver's shoulder in the Jakes Ladder Theater Company production of Pirates on Treasure Island. Unfortunately, the 17-month-old Amazon parrot's improvisational skills shocked cast members during a final dress rehearsal at an arts center in Blanford Forum, in western England. Instead of shrieking "pieces of eight" as the script called for, Percy let loose with a string of expletives, including "piss off, mate" and "bugger off." The company decided not to risk a repeat performance in front of an audience and forced poor Percy to walk the plank.

Dateline: England -- A naked man brandishing a three-foot gold and silver sword burst into a London church during a children's service and attacked shocked worshippers. The unidentified man entered Saint Andrews Church in Thornton Heath, South London, and started hacking away at the panicked 400-member congregation until churchgoers overpowered him. Ten people were injured, three seriously. Six of the injured suffered stab wounds, including a man who lost part of his hand.

Dateline: Spain -- The proud citizens of Porrino, a small town in Galicia in northwest Spain, can now boast they're hosts of the world's fattest mayor. According to the Spanish daily El País, Porrino's mayor, Jose Manuel Barros has entered the Guinness Book of World Records as the fattest mayor on the planet. According to the paper, Barros -- who tips the scales at 394 pounds -- has a particular penchant for tripe.

Dateline: Italy -- Sinning has never been easier, thanks to a state-of-the-art confessional booth unveiled in Rome last week. The Venice-based firm Genuflex presented the luxurious $6,250 confessional last week at Rome's major religious merchandise trade fair ArtChiesa. The penitent can now contemplate the unholy flames of hell in a soundproof booth equipped with air conditioning, black leather seats and soft lighting.

Dateline: Mexico -- Police have searched the home of Andres Vasquez more than 300 times looking for criminal activity. They have yet to find anything, but -- according to Vasquez -- they keep coming back for more. Vasquez, 65, makes his living tanning goat and lamb hides in a two-story home in Ciudad Nezahualcoyotl, a working-class suburb of Mexico City. Over the years, scores of heavily armed police have raided the Vasquez house searching for thieves, kidnappers, assassins and drug lords. Eventually, Vasquez began documenting the raids with a home video camera, leaving little doubt about the Mexican man's claims of police harassment. Vasquez's case generated media attention last year, including a report by Reuters, and inspired many human rights activists to bring up claims of police corruption. The late-night police visits stopped in March, and Vasquez thought his nightmare was over. Unfortunately, on Nov. 6 federal anti-drug police came looking for cocaine. On Nov. 18, state investigators searched for a 12-year-old kidnap victim. In between, police came and went frequently without explanation. All the officers have ever found are some animal skins and tanning equipment. Ruben Castillo, commander of the federal anti-drug police, believes a neighbor who doesn't like Vasquez's business has been sending police anonymous tips.

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