Weekly Wire
Weekly Alibi Odds and Ends

By Devin D. O'Leary

DECEMBER 20, 1999: 

Dateline: Argentina -- An Argentine governor has come up with a novel solution for saving money in his cash-strapped province: He's going to release at least 10 percent of the local prisoners. Felipe Sapag, governor of the Patagonian province of Neuquen, signed a decree last week cutting sentences for the 600 prisoners held in Neuquen's jails by up to 15 percent. "This was inspired by the teachings of His Holiness Pope John Paul II," Sapag wrote in his decree. The govern-or's mass pardon plan was also inspired by the fact that the government does not have enough money to pay for prison expansions and renovations. About half the prisoners in Neuquen jails have been on a hunger strike for the last two weeks to protest crowded conditions. The head of the province's Supreme Court warned that he would not allow mass quantities of criminals to be released on to Argentina's streets.

Dateline: Iran -- Overwhelmed by the rising tide of drug traffic, Iran's drug agency has agreed to break a centuries-old Islamic taboo and accept drug sniffing dogs into the force. Five Alsatians, trained by French police to sniff out hidden drugs, will now be placed at border crossings, airports and cargo terminals. Iran is a major drug-running hub between Afghanistan, the world's largest opium producer, and the oil-rich Gulf Arab states. Iranian officials had previously refused to employ the drug-sniffing dogs because Muslims traditionally have avoided all breeds of the animal since they are considered to be unclean.

Dateline: Tennessee -- A 48-year-old blind man attempted (and failed) to rob a bank in Memphis last week. Bruce Edward Hall entered the bank on Tuesday where a security guard helped him to a teller's window. As the guard stood by, Hall handed the teller a note demanding money. The teller mouthed the words, "It's a robbery" to the guard and then handed the money over to Hall. Hall was stopped by security personnel as he attempted to leave the building. Hall was not carrying a weapon and was charged with robbery.

Dateline: Nebraska -- In other robbery-related news, 18-year-old Keylen Thornton decided to undertake a life of crime by robbing an Omaha bank recently. Unfortunately, Thornton happened to choose a bank where one of his former high school classmates worked. Thornton entered the bank, handed one of the tellers a note reading, "Give it here" and made off with $1,772. One of the other bank employees recognized Thornton, but could not remember his name. Police showed the witness a copy of the Omaha North High School yearbook, and the woman quickly identified Thornton from his class picture. The familiar felon has now been sentenced to three years in federal prison.

Dateline: Mississippi -- Decatur, Miss., resident Tom Carson didn't pay his water bill on time -- but he has a pretty good excuse. Carson dropped off his bill, payment enclosed, along with a large stack of mail at the city's post office recently. Somehow, instead of being sent across town to City Hall, Carson's check wound up in the hands of an American missionary in Peru. Carson's unpostmarked bill had been stuck in the middle of a booklet that the missionary received. The missionary wrote to Carson, including the wayward bill and check, and the Decatur water association accepted Carson's excuse for late payment.

Dateline: Nevada -- A veteran pilot for Northwest Airlines was fired last week after abandoning his plane at a Las Vegas airport gate for 90 minutes while he searched for food. Captain Floyd Dean of Reno, Nev., apparently did not like the in-flight meal and told the crew of the Boeing 757 that he was leaving to find something else to eat. Unable to find anything he liked at the departure lounge, the famished flyer took a cab into town to search for sustenance. Some 150 frustrated passengers were left sitting on the tarmac waiting for their flight to Detroit to leave. Dean, a 22-year veteran of Northwest Airlines, was terminated shortly thereafter.

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