-- Saddam Hussein filed a libel lawsuit in February in Paris against the magazine Le Nouvel Observateur for its September 1996 story in which he was described by other Arab leaders as stupid and incompetent and referred to, among other things, as an "executioner," a "monster," a "murderer," "a perfect cretin" and a "noodle."
-- In March, a judge in York, Pa., sentenced a woman to a first-offender rehabilitation program for assaulting her 10-year-old son by giving him what she called a "titty twister." According to a police report, she asked the boy, "What's worse than a tornado?" and then pinched and twisted his nipples, causing soreness and noticeable damage.
-- In February, the electric co-op in the Philippine province of Illocos Norte shut off power to the refrigerated crypt of former president Ferdinand Marcos because his wife, now a member of the legislature, is about $215,000 behind in the electricity bill. The government will not permit Marcos to be buried in Manila because he was suspected of having appropriated billions of dollars during his 20-year reign that ended in 1986. Shutting off power, said Mrs. Marcos, was "the ultimate harassment, the harassment of the dead."
THE ENTREPRENEURIAL SPIRIT
-- Each December for four months, the Ice Hotel residential igloo opens in the Lapland region of Sweden, housing about 40 people at about $130 a night for a double room, and with a bar, restaurant, conference facilities and a bridal suite. Room temperatures range from 27 to 45 degrees Fahrenheit, and sleeping bags are used, cushioned by spruce boughs and reindeer skins.
-- According to a trade association of prostitutes in Harare, Zimbabwe, massive layoffs in the economy have 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 before going home to the wife. To save their jobs, the association recommended in January that prostitutes raise their price from about $2.80 to about $4.60, but also requested that wives loosen the pursestrings to allow husbands to spend more when they go out.
-- The Associated Press reported in February on the Time Machine lounge in Tokyo, and the "relief room" at the Yamanakako resort, in which stressed-out workers pay from about $80 to $125 for a few minutes of satisfaction by smashing fake ceramic antiques in a museumlike sitting room. Often, say the proprietors, the names of tyrannical bosses or unfaithful spouses will be yelled out as the destruction takes place.
-- A February Associated Press story described how two midcareer, Berkeley, Calif., professionals (nurse Raphaela Pope, 52, and lawyer Sam Louie, 36) became prosperous telepathic "pet psychics." Pope charges $40 per half-hour by telephone, which sometimes includes talking directly to the pet. Said one of her customers, "I learned (from Pope) that Scarlette (the cat) thought I didn't want her around. Scarlette changed immediately after talking (sic) to Raphaela, and we're happy again."
-- Locksmith Harley Hudson filed a claim for damages against the city of Wenatchee, Wash., in November, saying that he is due about $250,000 in damages for lost business because the friendly police department helps for free motorists who lock themselves out of their cars. Hudson calls this kindliness an "unconstitutional gift of public funds."
I'VE GOT MY RIGHTS
-- In February, the Palm Springs (Calif.) Regional Airport Commission issued hygiene rules for cab drivers serving the airport, including requiring drivers to shower daily with soap, brush with toothpaste and eat breath mints. After vociferous complaints, the commission softened the specifics on "fresh breath" and "pleasant body odor." 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 new countywide rules that required them to provide sexual assistance to their patients (e.g., helping them masturbate, positioning couples for sex, assisting to put on a condom). In January, the agency said it would reconsider the rules, but the women remain jobless and have filed a lawsuit.
-- In November, the European Commission on Human Rights rejected the appeal of Manuel Wackenheim, aka "The Flying Dwarf," whose stage show was banned in France because it consisted of allowing 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."
-- According to an October Chicago Tribune report, Illinois and most other states interpret the federal "motor voter" law to require mental health agencies to help all clients register and vote in national elections, even those with mental ages down to 5 or 6. The only ones who cannot vote are clients formally declared by a court to be mentally incompetent (about half of Illinois agencies' clients). One woman in the Tribune story, now qualified to vote, took 20 minutes to write her first name at the registration desk; another was registered despite the fact that his only communication ability seemed to be to repeat the last words he hears. Relatives fear the clients will be ridiculed at the polls and that agencies' personnel, while "assisting" them to vote, will simply complete the ballots as they wish.
-- In February, the staff of the San Francisco Human Rights Commission found that The Cafe, a gay and lesbian bar, had illegally discriminated in an August incident in which a straight man and woman were ushered out the door for smooching too heavily. According to a witness, the bartender told the couple, "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.)
In November, attempting to influence an Arlington, Va., jury to give him a light sentence for 20 counts of credit card fraud, Oludare Ogunde, 28, at first asked for mercy but then said the jury should keep him out of prison because if he were locked up, he would just teach other inmates -- the "hardened criminals" -- how to commit credit card fraud. "And," he reminded the jury, "we're trying to prevent crime in America."
In February, Santiago Alvarado, 24, was killed in Lompoc, Calif., as he fell face-first through the ceiling of a bicycle shop he was burglarizing. Death was caused when the large flashlight he had placed in his mouth (to keep his hands free) crammed against the base of his skull as he hit the floor.
(Send your Weird News to Chuck Shepherd, P.O. Box 8306, St. Petersburg, Fla. 33738, or Weird@compuserve.com. Chuck Shepherd's latest paperback, "The Concrete Enema and Other News of the Weird Classics," is now available at bookstores everywhere. To order it direct, call 1-800-642-6480 and mention this newspaper. The price is $6.95 plus $2 shipping.)
4520 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. 64111; (816) 932-6600