Weekly Wire
Weekly Alibi Odds and Ends

By Devin D. O'Leary

FEBRUARY 14, 2000:  Dateline: Zimbabwe -- The lucky customer in Zimbabwe Banking Corporation's recent promotional lottery turned out to be an account holder named Robert Mugabe. "Master of Ceremonies Fallot Chawawa could hardly believe his eyes when the ticket drawn for the Z$100,000 (US$2,639) was handed to him," the bank said in a statement. Robert Mugabe is the president of Zimbabwe.

Dateline: England -- British police have agreed to pay out 55,000 pounds ($88,620) to a group of 11 Kurdish refugees after storming a theater in which the group was rehearsing a Harold Pinter play about state oppression. Back in June of 1996, Metropolitan police raided the Kurdistan Worker's Association community center in north London, fearing that a terrorist group had taken hostages within the building. Based upon a tip from a concerned neighbor, police sent helicopters, armed response units and between 50 and 60 officers to take the community center. After some 4 1/2 hours of manhandling, handcuffing and interrogating the suspects, it was determined that the Kurds had not taken any hostages, but were, in fact, rehearsing a play called Mountain Language by noted playwright Harold Pinter. Pinter, one of Britain's leading dramatists, wrote the play after visiting Turkey and witnessing the persecution of the Kurds firsthand.

Dateline: Canada -- Last Saturday, Canada's Reform Party launched a new opposition coalition with some Conservative politicians, dubbing it the Canadian Conservative Reform Alliance. Unfortunately, an early draft of the party's constitution erroneously tacked on "Party" to the end of the name, giving the new coalition the inauspicious acronym of CCRAP. By early last week, the flood of jokes -- from Canada's prime minister on down -- caused CCRAP to dump its name.

Dateline: New York -- New York officials have hung up the phone on part of a welfare-to-work program that placed at least 15 unemployed women in jobs as telephone psychics. For the past nine months, New York City welfare recipients have been hired to dispense psychic advice to people calling a $4.99-a-minute psychic hotline. "Though HRA (Human Resources Administration) believes people should have the freedom to choose their own employment, HRA ... has decided not to include the Psychic Network as one of its participating employers," an HRA statement said last Friday. The extrasensory jobs, part of Mayor Rudolph Giuliani's 1995 plan to put unemployed welfare mothers back to work, came to light through a story in The New York Times. According to a pamphlet put out by a division of the HRA, anyone with a "caring and compassionate personality" and the ability to "read, write and speak English" could apply for the job. Actual psychic abilities were not a prerequisite.

Dateline: Tennessee -- In an overly successful attempt to improve community relations, police in Nashville found themselves deluged by football-crazed locals. On the Wednesday before the Super Bowl, a Nashville radio station, Music City 103.3 FM, announced that one of the city's uniformed officers was carrying two tickets to the Super Bowl, free for the asking. An hour later, the station was forced to cancel the promotion after every on-duty officer in the Nashville police department found themselves being chased, mobbed and accosted. The problem was compounded by the fact that some officers were not told of the stunt. A police spokesman said the concept "looked good on paper," but turned out otherwise as hundreds of Tennessee Titan backers scrambled for tickets to the big game in Atlanta. According to reports, Super Bowl tickets were being scalped for as much as $2,000 apiece. The two giveaway tickets were taken back from the motorcycle officer who had them -- who hadn't been asked for them -- and were auctioned off by the radio station with proceeds going to the Police Athletic League.

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