Radio Martí's news director is out. And the story of his departure is a doozy. William Valdes, one of the most important opinion shapers at the U.S. government station that broadcasts to Cuba, was recently transferred to the wildly unpopular Television Martí. Why? Consider his background. Valdes was fired from TV Martí back in 1990 for allegedly slanting stories. And this last December, exile and former Cuban dissident Miguel Angel Aldana complained to police that Valdes had punched him at a funeral. Maybe Valdes moved because of the recent Martí cell phone mess. Haven't heard of it? Well, according to several unnamed station sources, the snoopy manager secretly listened in by cell phone when employees held a bitch session not long ago. Then Valdes tried to get revenge on participants by threatening to take away travel privileges and more. The angry employees complained. Shazaam! The propagandistas' radio station was in search of a leader.

Next time you're paddling or motoring through North Miami-Dade canals, keep an eye out for a boat with two wires in the water. It may carry hunters of the Asian swamp eel, a two-to-three-foot-long Southeast Asian creature that, according to one researcher, "eats anything in its path." They were discovered here in 1997, and have been sighted as far north as Georgia. They now number in the thousands in local waters and present a danger to native fish, says United States Geological Survey research ecologist Bill Loftus. Scientists electroshock the slimy eels, then haul them onboard, explains Loftus, who is also coauthoring a piece on a crayfish recently sighted in the Glades. "It is really an aquatic zoo around here."

The Taurus Restaurant and Bar, perhaps the last respite of wacky Coconut Grove, is history after a quarter-century. Yes, the home of body bowling and clown racing, the meeting ground for a group of blowgun shooters, the brain center for the aggressively brainless King Mango Strut, will close November 23. The reason: "We can't pay the $18,000 per month rent," says owner Tom Wilson. Then he adds wryly: "I've eaten enough cheese. Now it's time to get my head out of the trap." A public auction is planned for, appropriately enough, November 22, the anniversary of John F. Kennedy's assassination.

The Liberty City Optimist Club may field some of Miami's best young football players, but the city still won't turn on the lights. The group's clubhouse in the old boxing gym at Charles Hadley Park has been without power since Hurricane Irene swept through in October, says executive director Sam Johnson. Four of the club's teams played in last week's Greater Miami Pop Warner Championships. (The 145-pound team's game was delayed after a legal dispute.) Why the repair delay? The city is waiting for delivery of a part, Johnson says. "It's been weeks in total darkness," the director comments. "It is impossible. I don't know how we have been even able to hold on."

Florida International University prez Mitch Maidique takes the cake in the Best Way to Twist Bad News in Your Favor contest. In the November 3 Miami Herald, Maidique referred to U.S. District Court Judge Donald Middlebrooks's recent order that FIU pay $168,000 to former employees Nate Bliss and Gerald Parks. Middlebrooks ruled the university improperly declined to renew Bliss and Parks's contracts after they publicly questioned plans to start a varsity football team. (The pair's opposition was first catalogued in New Times this past August.) Said His Mitchness: "I'm ... pleased the judge recognized we're a staunch defender of free expression and that our record reflects that commitment."

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Chuck Strouse is the former editor in chief of Miami New Times. He has shared two Pulitzer Prizes and won dozens of other awards. He is an honors graduate of Brown University and has worked at newspapers including the Miami Herald and Los Angeles Times.
Contact: Chuck Strouse