2010's offbeat scenes from the world stage

While the global stage was filled last year with momentous events, it also had a share of the absurd, the perplexing and the just plain weird.

Look, he's at Publix!

King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia suggested that all detainees released from the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay be implanted with an electronic chip that would allow their movements to be tracked with Bluetooth.

With friends like these

In what was seen as a snub to the United States, Israel's closest ally and $3-billion-a-year benefactor, Israeli officials announced a controversial expansion of West Bank settlements just as Vice President Joe Biden landed in Jerusalem for a state visit in March. Biden returned the snub by arriving 90 minutes late to dinner with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and giving his only interview of the trip to the Arab network Al Jazeera.

A spoonful of sugar

Among the juicier tidbits to emerge from the WikiLeaks' dump of U.S. diplomatic cables is that Col. Muammar Gaddafi, Libya's 68-year-old dictator, is followed everywhere by his 38-year-old Ukrainian nurse. One cable described her as a "voluptuous'' blond and said "she knows his routine.''

Maybe she helped him, too.

A Libyan terrorist convicted in the 1988 bombing of a Pan Am jet that killed 270 was released by Scottish authorities on humanitarian grounds in 2009 after doctors said he had cancer and would be dead in three months. A year and a half later, Abdel Basset al-Megrahi is still alive.

Famous last words

When the Burj Dubai, the world's tallest skyscraper, opened in January, an official of the state-owned developer hailed it as "another demonstration of Dubai's ability to achieve what few people thought possible." Just a month later, the 2,717-foot tower had to be closed because of electrical problems.

And you thought our traffic was bad

So many residents of Beijing, China, have traded their bicycles for cars — the city had 4.7 million as of December — that rush-hour traffic moves at a glacial 15 mph. In five years, it's projected to be 9 mph — slower than a bike.

Let's make a deal I

President Barack Obama's offer to give Israel 20 F-35 fighter jets — each worth $130 million — in exchange for a 90-day freeze on settlement building was an offer that one Israeli newspaper said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu "cannot refuse.''

He did.

She's also tres modest

"I'm just a femme fatale, dear,''' replied Carla Bruni Sarkozy, ex-supermodel and current first lady of France, when asked whether she might have an image problem.

Let's make a deal II

Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York, promised an undercover British reporter access to ex-husband Prince Andrew in exchange for more than $700,000. Ferguson later apologized for poor judgment and told Oprah Winfrey that she had been drinking at the time.

Quote of the Year

"Women are lining up to marry me, because I'm a nice guy and I'm loaded.''

Silvio Berlusconi, Italy's 73-year-old billionaire, twice-wed prime minister.

The Spanish one sounded better

In September, the Israeli government announced that it had purchased the Twitter account @israel from the Spanish owner of a pornographic Web site. "We thought we could put it to better use,'' said Yigal Palmor, a spokesman for Israel's foreign ministry.

Calling Admiral Nelson

With thousands of Britons stranded by a volcanic ash cloud that disrupted air travel in April, the British government deployed the Royal Navy to rescue them.

Hmm, bearskin tights?

According to WikiLeaks documents, a U.S. diplomat reported that Russian President Dmitry Medvedev "plays Robin" to Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's "Batman."

It beats an ATM

Afghan President Hamid Karzai shrugged off accusations in October that his chief of staff received "bags of money" --- reportedly as much as $2 million a month --- from Iran. "Let's not make this an issue,'' Karzai told a news conference in which he claimed that the United States had given him bags of cash, too.

And on that note, here's hoping that your bag is full of health, happiness and prosperity in the New Year!

Susan Taylor Martin can be contacted at susan@sptimes.com

2010's offbeat scenes from the world stage 01/01/11 [Last modified: Saturday, January 1, 2011 6:36pm]

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