Weekly Wire
Weekly Alibi Odds and Ends

By Devin D. O'Leary

JANUARY 24, 2000: 

Dateline: Denmark -- A drunken Danish bather set a real-life sea rescue in motion after phoning in distress calls for his sunken tub toys. According to the Copenhagen daily Sjaellands Tidende, a heavily intoxicated 52-year-old man called in repeated mayday alarms to the Maritime Sea Rescue Command as he sailed his plastic boats around the bathtub. The sloshed Sunday sailor claimed to be the captain of a 12-man freighter in distress just west of the Baltic Sea Island of Bornholm. The would-be Captain Hazelwood told rescue officials that his vessel was listing 45 degrees and that one crewman had already been washed overboard. Authorities responded quickly sending out two rescue vessels and combing the area for nearly two hours. Police in Copenhagen eventually traced the phone calls to the home of the intoxicated man, who admitted giving the false alarm. He now faces fines and compensation claims of 10,000 crowns ($1,400).

Dateline: Spain -- Villagers in the tiny northwestern town of Manganeses de la Polvorosa have bowed to pressure from animal rights activists and will not engage in their annual goat-tossing festival this year. According to local tradition, the annual festival of St. Vincent -- the town's patron saint -- cannot begin unless a goat is thrown 15 meters from the town's bell tower and safely caught in a tarp held aloft by villagers. The event, which has attracted fierce protests from animal rights campaigners in the past, was scheduled to begin on Jan. 23. Protests against the goat-launch caused the local governor to ban the event back in 1992. Revelers that year contented themselves to simply lower a goat from the bell tower using ropes. By 1993, however, excited celebrants had returned to their goat-chucking ways. According to the state news agency EFE, the town was fined 25,000 pesetas ($156) last year by the regional government after the National Association of Animal Welfare and Protection complained about the goat-heave. The origins of the odd religious ritual are unclear, although one legend recounts the tale of a priest's goat that accidentally fell from the tower and was saved by villagers holding a blanket.

Dateline: Taiwan -- An environmental tour by Taipei's mayor was DOA after a boating jaunt turned up a floating corpse. For many months now, Mayor Ma Ying-jeou has spearheaded a campaign to clean up Taipei's polluted Tanshui river. Last Monday, the Mayor and several press representatives took a boating tour of the river to survey evidence of the politician's long-touted cleanup. What they found, instead, was the body of a 56-year-old Taipei man floating face-down in the murky water. After police fished the waterlogged corpse from the river, the Mayor continued on with his tour. "It smells much better than it used to," Ma assessed to the Taipei Times. "But we can't develop water tourism until the river smells normal."

Dateline: Israel -- According to British weekly The Economist, the most expensive place in the world to buy a Big Mac is Israel. Thanks to overvaluation of the Israeli shekel, a Big Mac in the Jerusalem McDonald's will run you approximately $3.50 compared with a base price of $2.44 in the United States.

Dateline: Italy -- An Italian tenor was coaxed out of the audience last week to fill in for a colleague with an ailing voice during a performance of Giuseppe Verdi's famed opera Aida. Tenor Gegam Grigorian was originally assigned the lead role of Ramades in Aida, but a bout of flu robbed the singer of his voice during the first act. Fellow tenor Alberto Cupido, who was watching the performance, was persuaded to give up his seat and step onto the stage as a last-second replacement. The second-string singer performed his role dressed in casual clothing and clutching a copy of the score in his hands. Cupido had never sung Verdi's demanding Egyptian opera before, but completed the work to a standing ovation from a packed house in Parma, the composer's home town.

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