Odds & Ends
By Devin D. O'Leary
JUNE 14, 1999:
Dateline: New Zealand -- A 77-year-old Irishman was fined about $220 and ordered to pay almost as much in court costs after attempting to smuggle two potatoes into New Zealand. The man, an unnamed resident of Wellington, NZ, was caught with the contentious tubers at the Auckland International Airport. Allegedly, the spud smuggler planned to grow the Irish potatoes at his home in Wellington, as he could not obtain "a floury potato" in New Zealand. According to the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, unauthorized imports of Irish potatoes could bring diseases that would threaten New Zealand's thriving $14 million potato export trade.
Dateline: Japan -- New from Sanrio: "Screw You Kitty!" ... Sanrio Co. Ltd., the makers of the perky prepubescent icon "Hello Kitty," announced last Tuesday it has refused to pay all of its required contribution to Japan's health care fund for the elderly. Sanrio paid out 7.25 million yen (about $59,900) to the Social Insurance Medical Fee Payment Fund in April. The amount is only half of what the corporation is obliged to pay under Japanese law. In 1983, Japan required private companies and local governments to pay more that 70 percent of medical costs for those aged 70 or older. "The older generation should take more responsibility to pay their own medical fees," said Toshimori Mifune, an executive director of Sanrio's health insurance union. Sanrio is the first company to refuse payment, but union officials expect more to follow suit, thanks to Japan's rapidly aging population and prolonged recession.
Dateline: Florida -- Three strippers in Casselberry, Fla., have flaunted a local anti- nudity law by performing Shakespeare's Macbeth in the buff. The three women, who are employed at the Club Juana, performed the opening witches scene from Macbeth, as well as an adaptation of a play by the Marquis de Sade. The women were protesting a Seminole County anti-nudity ordinance which was approved last November. The ordinance forces all dancers to wear at least G-strings and pasties, but makes exceptions for "bona fide performances." According to county officials, "bona fide performances" means legitimate theater. Officers from the county sheriff's department videotaped the club's Shakespeare sans clothes performances and must now decide whether or not to charge the three "actresses."
Dateline: Arizona -- Prosecutors in Phoenix are skeptical that Scott Falater, 43, can pull off his defense argument in a bizarre murder case. Falater has admitted to stabbing his wife 44 times, drowning her in their swimming pool and then conspiring to hide the evidence, but claims that he was "sleepwalking" at the time. On Jan. 16, 1997, a neighbor heard Yarmila Falater screaming and watched over a backyard fence as Falater put on gloves, dragged his wife into the pool and held her head under the water with two hands. While the neighbor called police, Falater changed out of his bloody clothes and hid them, along with the murder weapon, in the wheel well of his car. Falater had a history of sleepwalking, but no previous stabbing/drowning incidents. Opening arguments in the case began last week.
Dateline: New York -- The decor in New York's Washington Jefferson Hotel has turned decidedly cheesy. Avant-garde artist Cosimo Cavallaro has covered every surface of the hotel's room 114 in melted cheese. Over 1,000 pounds of Gruyere, Swiss and other assorted cheeses were used in the unusual art project. The hotel is charging Cavallaro the usual $100 a night fee and will clean up the room when the exhibit ends on June 20. Inspired by the publicity stunt, the Washington Jefferson has already lined up the next guest for room 114 -- a stand-up comic who will tell jokes to anyone who knocks on the door.