News of the Weird

Lead Stories
*Saddam Hussein filed a libel suit in February in Paris against the magazine Le Nouvel Observateur for its September 1996 story in which he was referred to by other Arab leaders as, among other things, an "executioner," a "monster," a "murderer," "a perfect cretin," and a "noodle."

*In February electricity to the refrigerated crypt of former Philippine president Ferdinand Marcos was shut off because his widow Imelda Marcos, now a member of the legislature, is about $215,000 behind in the bill. The government will not permit Marcos to be buried in Manila -- he is suspected of having misappropriated billions of dollars during his twenty-year reign. Shutting off power, said Mrs. Marcos, was "the ultimate harassment, the harassment of the dead."

The Entrepreneurial Spirit
*According to a trade association of prostitutes in Harare, Zimbabwe, unemployment has led to an oversupply of women taking up prostitution and a reduction in men's spending power, causing them either to ignore prostitutes or to visit bars only to drink and flirt. The association recommended in January that prostitutes raise their prices from about $2.80 to about $4.60, but also requested that wives loosen the purse strings to allow husbands to spend more when they go out.

*Locksmith Harley Hudson filed a claim for damages against the city of Wenatchee, Washington, in November, saying that he is owed about $250,000 for lost business because the friendly police department offers free help to motorists who lock themselves out of their cars. Hudson calls this kindness an "unconstitutional gift of public funds."

I've Got My Rights
*In February the Palm Springs, California, Regional Airport Commission imposed rules of hygiene on cab drivers serving the airport, including requiring drivers to shower with soap daily, brush with toothpaste, and use breath mints. After vociferous complaints the commission softened the stipulations. Said cabbie Ken Olson to the commission: "You're not my mother."

*Six nurses at a government health care facility for the disabled in Barrie, Ontario, were fired in December for disobeying countywide rules that compelled them to provide sexual assistance to their patients (e.g., helping them masturbate, positioning couples for sex, and assisting with condoms). Officials said they would reconsider the rules, but the women remain jobless and have filed suit.

*In November the European Commission on Human Rights rejected the appeal of Manuel Wackenheim, a.k.a. "The Flying Dwarf," whose stage show was banned in France because he allowed customers to pay to toss him around. Wackenheim said his show "is part of a French dwarf tradition," but authorities said it "damages human dignity."

*In February the staff of the San Francisco Human Rights Commission found that the Cafe, a gay and lesbian bar, had illegally discriminated against a straight man and woman who were smooching too heavily; they were ushered out the door. According to a witness, the bartender said, "What you're doing is very offensive to people here," even though gays and lesbians freely make out on the premises. (The Cafe says it has since adopted a policy barring heavy kissing by anyone.)

Undignified Death
*In February Santiago Alvarado, age 24, was killed in Lompoc, California, as he fell face-first through the ceiling of a bicycle shop he was burglarizing. Death resulted when the large flashlight he was holding in his mouth (to keep his hands free) rammed against the base of his skull as he hit the floor.

-- By Chuck Shepherd

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Chuck Shepherd