By Chuck Shepherd
1:20 PM PST, December 6, 2011
Was Moammar Gadhafi the last of the "buffoon dictators," asked BBC News in October. His legend was earned not merely with his now-famous, dirty-old-man scrapbook of Condoleezza Rice photos. Wrote a BBC reporter, "One day [Gadhafi] was a Motown [backup] vocalist with wet-look permed hair and tight pants. The next, a white-suited comic-operetta Latin American admiral, dripping with braid." Nonetheless, Gadhafi had competition, according to an October report in the journal Foreign Policy. For example, the son of Equatorial Guinea's dictator owns, among other eccentric luxuries, a $1.4 million collection of Michael Jackson memorabilia. North Korea's Kim Jong Il owns videos of almost every game Michael Jordan ever played for the Chicago Bulls.
Leading Economic Indicators
- In March, William Ernst, 57, owner of the QC Mart chain of Iowa convenience stores, excitedly announced a company-wide employee contest with a prize of $10 for guessing the next worker that Ernst will fire for breaking rules. "Once we fire the person, we will open all the envelopes [containing the entries], award the prize, and start the contest again." Ernst added, "And no fair picking Mike Miller from [the Rockingham Road store]. He was fired at around 11:30 a.m. today for wearing a hat and talking on his cellphone. Good luck!!!!!!!!!!" (After firing a cashier who had complained about Ernst's attitude, he challenged the woman's unemployment-compensation claim, but in October, a judge ruled in her favor.)
- Unfortunately, Manulife Financial Corp. is a Canadian firm, and thus it had a very bad year. If exactly the same company had been magically relocated to anywhere in the United States, it would have had an outstanding year. Under Canada's hard-nosed accounting rules, Manulife was forced to post a loss last year of $1.28 billion. However, under the more feel-good U.S. accounting rules, according to the company, it would have shown a profit of $2.2 billion and been flush with $16 billion more in shareholder value.
- Following October arrests by Nigeria's Abuja Environmental Protection Board, authorities learned that local prostitutes earned premium fees by selling their customers' semen to "juju priests," who use it as "medicines" in rituals. Police who rounded up the sex workers found inventories of condoms with the necks tied.
Creme de la Weird
- Police in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia, arrested a much-too-zealous expert on local cemeteries in November, suspected of digging up the bodies of 29 women buried in the city and taking them to his apartment. Local media identified him as prominent historian Anatoly Moskvin, 45, possessor of "certain quirks," including making solitary forays through the hundreds of graveyards in the region. Police found the mummified corpses, outfitted in dresses and headscarves, in Moskvin's home, along with an assortment of plastic dolls wearing frilly dresses.
Our Animal Overlords
• Biologists found a shark fetus with one centered eye inside a pregnant dusky shark off the coast of Baja California Sur, Mexico, in October. A marine sciences lab in nearby La Paz confirmed that the unborn baby, which filled up a researcher's hand, had the extremely rare congenital "cyclopia."