Odds and Ends
By Devin D. O'Leary
JANUARY 17, 2000:
Dateline: Swaziland -- Swaziland's parliamentary speaker has been asked to resign after a scandal implicating the politician in the theft of cow dung from the royal yard. Speaker Mgabhi Dlamini insisted, however, that the royal poop was taken only in order to perform rituals to protect the king. Dlamini told a weekend hearing, presided over by the Swaziland National Council, that he had experienced a series of prophetic dreams in which he was warned that King Mswati III was in danger. The speaker apparently made off with the cow flop -- which is associated with witchcraft ceremonies in the landlocked southern African nation -- to conduct magical rituals designed to make the king invincible.
Dateline: Germany -- Mad scientist alert! Scientists at five German zoological institutes are proposing a revolutionary plan to boost research money -- they intend to sell sponsors the right to name newly discovered plant and animal life. To launch this new venture, a German researcher and tennis fan has dubbed a new species of sea snail "Bufonaria borisbeckeris" -- after retired tennis great Boris Becker. The snail was named free of charge as a publicity stunt, but all future species will be sold off for 5,000 deutschemarks (about $2,770). Half the money will go to further research of the new species. The other half will be used to promote conservation projects in tropical countries, where many of the new plant and animal species are being discovered.
Dateline: Peru -- In what must surely be Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori's worst nightmare, the politician's ex-wife has announced plans to run against him in April's elections. Susana Higuchi wants to run for a small opposition party that has accused the two-term president of dictatorial rule and civil rights abuses. Fujimori divorced his wife after a highly publicized and extremely messy separation. During the separation, Fujimori locked Higuchi out of the presidential home after she accused him of corruption and authoritarianism. Higuchi attempted to run against her husband in the 1995 elections but failed when Fujimori's ruling party in Congress passed a law preventing presidential family members from running for office. The divorce now allows Higuchi to challenge her former husband, currently Latin America's longest-serving democratically elected leader.
Dateline: New York -- Although the dreaded Y2K bug did not incite nuclear war, destroy financial institutions or bring about the complete collapse of civilization, it did lead to a few amusing inconveniences. In Colonie, N.Y., for example, a customer at the local Super Video store returned a John Travolta movie on New Year's Day only to be greeted with a $91,250 bill. The store's computer apparently misread the year 2000 date, and mistakenly assumed that The General's Daughter tape was 100 years late. Instead of charging the customer the sizable late fee, the store's owner simply gave the customer a free video rental and wished him a Happy New Year. Life went on.
Dateline: Florida -- A Florida woman is suing Universal Studios because their haunted house was "too scary" and caused her emotional distress. Cleanthi Peters, 57, brought her 10-year-old granddaughter to Universal's annual Halloween Horror Nights back in 1998. According to Peters, she and her granddaughter were approaching the exit of the theme park's haunted house when an employee with a chainsaw -- minus the chain -- leaped out and pretended to attack them. Peters and granddaughter fled toward the exit with the frightening Leatherface clone giving chase. The terrified duo then, allegedly, slipped on a wet spot on the floor and went down for the count. After they fell, the lawsuit says, the employee continued his attack, crouching over them and thrusting his chainsaw in a menacing manner. According to Peters' lawsuit, the ordeal inflicted "extreme fear, distress and mental anguish" -- the kind of mental anguish that only $15,000 in cash will alleviate. Universal Studios has not yet responded to Peters' lawsuit.