Weekly Wire
Weekly Alibi Odds and Ends

By Devin D. O'Leary

AUGUST 2, 1999: 

Dateline: Finland -- Nuclear-powered crayfish is the latest delicacy to sweep the frigid nation of Finland. Officials at a nuclear power plant near Finland say they have been able to triple the growth of crayfish by incubating them in waters warmed by the plant's cooling system. According to the plant's environmental protection manager Reijo Sundell, "They don't taste like a nuclear power plant, which after all has no taste or smell to it." Officials at power group Teollisuuden Voima claim the experiment is 100 percent risk-free and has the blessing of safety authorities since the water from their cooling process is "completely isolated from radiation." After Teollisuuden Voima's experiment, some 100,000 crayfish -- which reached a full growth of 10 centimeters in one year instead of three -- were sold off to area fish farmers as livestock.

Dateline: Argentina -- A South American judge has given Argentina's best-known television preacher a choice between going to trial for criminal fraud and cleaning public toilets for two years. Evangelist Hector Gimenez faces charges of defrauding a worshiper at his gigantic "Good Times" shrine in Buenos Aires -- which includes a shopping mall, beauty salon, car rental firm and game room. Gimenez allegedly sold the unnamed worshipper a house using a bogus contract. In some cases, Argentine judges can offer those accused of crimes the option of performing community work rather than standing trial. No word yet on whether Gimenez will appear before a jury or a toilet.

Dateline: France --
The longest layover in French history has come to an end. Fifty-four-year-old Alfred Merhan, a stateless Iranian-born refugee, has spent the last 11 years living on a plastic bench in the shopping mall of Charles de Gaulle airport near Paris. Thanks to the recent delivery of a long-lost identity document, though, Merhan may finally be moving on. Merhan -- whose real name is Merhan Karimi Nasseri -- was told after his father's death in 1973 that he was illegitimate. After his family disowned him, Merhan discovered that his mother was a British nurse. Following his ouster from Iran in 1974 for participating in anti-Shah demonstrations, the man without a country spent years traveling Europe seeking asylum. Finally, in 1981 he was granted a "refugee card" in Belgium. In a "moment of folly," however, Merhan mailed the documents back to Belgian authorities. After bouncing in and out of jail several times for illegal immigration, Merhan ended up in Charles de Gaulle airport, where he has become something of a cult figure.

Dateline: New York -- A federal judge last week barred New York City police from stopping a photo shoot of 75 to 100 nude models in a Lower East Side residential area. Photographer Spencer Tunick, known internationally for his artistic nudes, wanted to form "an abstract shape" out of the multitude of models. Although the city of New York had granted Tunick a permit to conduct the photo session with clothed models, there was fear that Tunick would be arrested if his subjects shucked. Since state anti-nudity statutes exempt unclothed people "entertaining or performing in a play, exhibition or show," U.S. District Judge Harold Baer ruled that the photo shoot could proceed as planned.

Dateline: Washington -- Lance Cpl. Ryan Henderson, part of the peacekeeping force in Kosovo, Yugoslavia, decided to send a letter home on June 28. Undaunted by the lack of stationery, stamps or other epistolary niceties, Henderson ripped a hunk of cardboard from a box of rations and scribbled a quick note letting his father back in Washington, D.C., know that all was well. Henderson then wrote the word "free" in the upper right-hand corner above the address and dropped it in the mail. Miraculously, the makeshift missive arrived at the senior Henderson's household just before the Fourth of July. Such tactics aren't recommended for every overseas correspondent; however, Cpl. Henderson's father is U.S. Postmaster General William Henderson.

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