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Weekly Alibi Odds & Ends

By Devin D. O'Leary

FEBRUARY 23, 1999: 

Dateline: Thailand--Shortly after a ceremony to mark the 50th anniversary of the Samutprakarn Crocodile Farm & Zoo, a glass tank containing two crocodiles and 66.6 cubic yards of water burst, sending onlookers fleeing for their lives. The special tank was built to house two freak crocodiles, one with six legs and one with five. Following the torrent of water, which swept several people from their feet, the two freak crocodiles attempted to escape the broken tank, but were quickly recaptured by zoo workers. The Samutprakarn Farm, located on the outskirts of Bangkok, is home to more than 60,000 crocodiles and is believed to be the world's largest center for breeding crocodiles in captivity.


Dateline: Oklahoma--Nursing students at the Francis Tuttle Vo-Tech College in Oklahoma City got some unexpected hands-on training when a baby decided to crash their class. Pregnant student Elizabeth Atoyebi was determined to take her pharmacology exam, but abruptly went into labor as she walked to class. Health instructors Valerie McCartney, Linda Dawkins and Diane Gremillion led their students through a crash course in baby birthing. Baby Michael was delivered at the school and was later taken to the hospital with his mother. Both mother and son are doing fine. As a birthday gift, the school awarded Atoyebi's 6-pound, 9-ounce son a tuition waver if he ever decides to attend.


Dateline: Kansas--The tiny town of Agra, Kan., has an uplifting new identity thanks to a graffiti artist. About two weeks ago, someone scaled the town's water tower and painted a "v" and an "i" in front of the town's name, resulting in a giant metal billboard that now reads "viAgra"--the brand name of a well-known impotency drug. Mayor Merle Barnes announced last week that the vandalism would most likely stay. "I'm not going to go up there and paint it," Barnes said. The paint job has even landed the small community of 300 a little national recognition. Radio personality Paul Harvey reported it on his program last week.


Dateline: Michigan--Lincoln Park High School, located in a working-class neighborhood south of Detroit, is being sued by the American Civil Liberties Union for not allowing a student to practice her religion--in this case, witchcraft. Seventeen-year-old honor student Crystal Siefferly was banned from wearing a pentacle, a symbol important to her Wicca religion, under the school's new policy which bans "witches, white supremacists and Satanists." The ACLU called the school's actions unlawful and asked the court for a preliminary injunction while the case is being heard to lift the ban against wearing a pentacle or pentagram. The five-pointed star, enclosed in a circle, is worn by witches as a symbol of air, water, fire, earth and spirit. Wicca is recognized as a religion by the U.S. federal courts and the U.S. Army. In a news conference last week, Siefferly said she was "humiliated" by being grouped in with Satanists and white supremacists.


Dateline: Michigan--A 24-year-old man who allegedly shouted obscenities after falling out of a canoe was ordered to stand trial last Monday by a judge who ruled the outburst violated an 1897 state statute against swearing in front of children. Timothy Boomer, 24, was cited by an Arenac County Sheriff's deputy last August after police said he cursed a blue streak within earshot of a woman and her young children on the Rifle River in northern Michigan. Attorneys for the American Civil Liberties Union argued Boomer's words were free speech protected under the First Amendment and lobbied unsuccessfully to have the case dismissed last month. Boomer, who said he did not know the children were nearby when he fell out of his boat and unleashed his verbal displeasure, could be sentenced to 90 days in jail and a $100 fine if convicted.


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