News of the Weird

Lead Stories
*Abdala ("El Loco") Bucaram was elected president of Ecuador in July, six years after he briefly moved to Panama to evade corruption charges. In the campaign, Bucaram reminded voters of his tenure as the rectitudinous police commissioner of Guayaquil in the Eighties, during which he sometimes jumped off his motor scooter to rip skirt hems loose if he thought women were showing too much leg. He downplays his Hitler-like mustache, blaming it on his incompetence at shaving.

*In June radio station WWAX-FM in the Duluth, Minnesota, suburb of Hermantown began an all-commercials format. The general manager said commercials are "an art form that deserves to be respected." The station will air vintage ads, odd local and national ads, and bloopers, in addition to revenue-producing commercials.

*In July in Dadeville, Alabama, Mr. Gabel Taylor, age 38, who had just prevailed in an informal Bible-quoting contest, was shot dead by the loser.

The Entrepreneurial Spirit
*In an April Associated Press story, the Dardanelles restaurant in Philadelphia was profiled, not for its food but for its attitude. According to a sign in the window, the restaurant refuses to serve "negative people" (who are also referred to in the sign as "assholes"). The owners say that includes people who smoke, are rude, demand their food in a hurry, or want the music turned down.

*Malaysian Gurcharan Singh announced in April that he was marketing a breakthrough "disposable circumcision device" approved by Muslim religious authorities. It is described as resembling a corkscrew.

*Recently in Budapest, Hungary, shopkeeper Ferenc Kovacs, age 45, introduced condoms that, when unrolled, play two tunes ("Arise, Ye Worker" or "You Sweet Little Dumbbell"). And Marc Snyder of Oakland, California, has marketed a $3.95 talking condom using similar technology but with message options ("You turn me on" or "I love you" or "Thank you for your business").

*Earlier this year, Michael J. Lewis, Sr., serving time in Missouri for a gas station robbery, called the county attorney's office, just out of curiosity, to find out why he had never been prosecuted for a 1993 bank robbery for which he had been charged. The prosecutor discovered that the file had been misplaced and that only a few months remained to bring Lewis to trial before the statute of limitations expired. In June, Lewis, already serving ten years, plea-bargained for another ten.

*Last year, at a reception for the African-American Summit conference in Senegal (a conference attended by Jesse Jackson and the late Ron Brown), the Club Med Senegal resort staged a skit in which two white staff members appeared to perform a musical number in blackface, with white lips, white gloves, and garish clothes; a riot nearly ensued. (In May offended organizations and individuals filed a five-million-dollar lawsuit against Club Med in New York City.)

*In April a boy drowned in the indoor pool at the Henry VIII Hotel in a suburb of St. Louis, Missouri. The boy had jumped in with several others, but no one noticed that he had gone under -- the pool's water was so murky that visibility was only three to four feet.

Well Put
*A senior aide to Liberian factional leader Charles Taylor explained to the New York Times in April why this year's civil war is more civil than earlier ones: "In the past, fighters would rip out people's intestines and use them to string up roadblocks. This time there has been none of that."

-- By Chuck Shepherd

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Chuck Shepherd