by Chuck Shepherd

• In Somalia, which is without acentral government to speak of andwhere very little functions beyond anIslamic resistance and individual warlords’fiefdoms, a robust “stock market”has emerged in the city of Haradheerefor “investors” in the seagoing pirate“industry,” to raise money and suppliesfor kidnappers in exchange for ashare of the bounty once a ransom ispaid. According to a December Reutersdispatch, 72 “companies” are listed onthe exchange, enabling “venture capital”to fund greater piracy traffic and moresophisticated looting. There even seemsto be a financial “bubble” at work, in thatsince the “exchange” opened, pirates’ransoms have doubled to about $4 millionper ship.Cultural diversity• Afghanistan’s national game, buzkashi,is attempting a marketing transformationinspired by pro football’s andbasketball’s growths in the United Statesover the last several decades, accordingto a November USA Today dispatch. Themain hindrance is that buzkashi is oftenlittle more than violent anarchy. A teamof 12 men on horseback tries to carry agoat carcass the length of a field, arounda goal and back, through an opposingteam “defense” that includes almost anytactic short of murder. Spectators areoften trampled by riders disregardingboundaries, and horses have droppeddead on the field from abuse or fatigue.The head of the Buzkashi Federationsaid he aims to present the game for considerationto the International OlympicCommittee.Latest religious messages’ • Carried away: (1) Since March 2008,the Cathedral of Christ the King in Phoenixhas been ringing its bells every halfhour,24 hours a day, enraging neighbors,and a showdown with city officials waslooming at press time, according toABC News. (2) Martina Rabess, 52, wassanctioned by Britain’s Sevenoaks MagistratesCourt in October after neighborscomplained about her loud, continuousrecitations of the Lord’s Prayer in earlymorning hours around her apartmenthouse. (3) Atlanta municipal bus driverLeroy Matthews was suspended inNovember for a recent incident in whichhe suddenly stopped the bus and refusedto open the doors until the alighting passengerjoined hands with him in prayer.• The Scranton (Pa.) Diocese, needingconfession: Father Edward Lyman ofthe diocese was removed as a parishadministrator in November afterhe inadvertently (using his personalcomputer during early Mass) clicked onphotos of four bare-chested young menin provocative poses. Also in November,the diocese disavowed Father VirgilTetherow’s behavior for offering Massat a breakaway church in York, Pa. andtoo-aggressively protesting at a PlannedParenthood clinic (incidents on top ofTetherow’s 2005 conviction on a chargethat was originally child porn possessionbut downgraded in a plea agreement).And yet another diocese priest, FatherRobert Timchak, waived a preliminaryhearing in November on charges of havingchild porn on his computer.• Aggressive christianity: (1) Rev.Marc Grizzard, pastor of the AmazingGrace Baptist Church in Canton, NC,staged an October book-burning of“Satan’s” literature, including works byMother Teresa and Rev. Billy Grahamand any Bible besides the original KingJames version. (2) In October, MikeyWeinstein, a former military lawyerwho served in the Reagan White House,filed a lawsuit against Gordon Klingenschmitt,head of a Dallas chaplains’association, to stop Klingenschmitt frompublicly reciting Bible verses implyinga smiting of Weinstein, along withWeinstein’s family and descendants for10 generations. Said Klingenschmitt: “Inever prayed for anyone’s death. All Idid was quote the Scriptures.”Karma• (1) Shannon Broome, 15, of Jacksonville,Fla., with her leg in a cast andstill laid up from a June rollover accidentin an SUV, was hit again in Decemberwhen another out-of-control SUV camethrough her bedroom wall and re-brokethe leg (among other injuries inflicted).(2) Recently, at the Abergele Hospitalin North Wales, Geraint Woolford, 52,was moved into a room to await a partialknee replacement and discovered thathis roommate was Geraint Woolford,77, who was awaiting a hip replacement.According to a December report in theDaily Mail, they are not related, but bothare retired police officers.The simplest musicalinstrument• Rajeev Kumar of Calcutta, India iswell-known locally for playing the harmonica,specifically, using only his rightnostril. For added show, Kumar playstwo harmonicas simultaneously, withnostril and mouth. A BBC News reporterwatching him (for a December dispatch)said Kumar’s strain was obvious. “[T]he veins running through his nose andneck bulge, his eyes pop out, and hisface looks red and stretched.” And atBritain’s West Midland Safari Park, theAfrican elephant “Five” spends portionsof almost every day puffing away at aharmonica she found in her enclosure.Said a park spokesperson, “Five wasmaking tunes within a few weeks.” (Thetalented Five also paints on canvas.)Questionable judgments• Michael Sampson, who was in courtin Salina, Kan. in November merely oncharges of littering and driving with asuspended license, was arrested after ajudge spotted him at the defense table,making threatening gestures to witnesses.Sampson was seen holding his thumband fingers in the shape of a gun, “firing”at a witness and making a slashing motionacross his neck.• In November, Father Joe Vetter,head of Duke University’s CatholicCenter, criticized a research team seekingstudentvolunteerson female attitudestowardsex toys andparaphernalia.FatherVetter said theproject wouldaffect students “in this developmentphase [of their lives], and I don’t thinkit’s a good developmental practice tojust tell somebody to just sit around andmasturbate.”People with issues• Sara Foss, 39, the mother of 13 inDerby, England who is scheduled todeliver No. 14 in March, told the DailyMail in November of her vow to continuegetting pregnant until she fulfillsher desire to have twins. Her longtime,live-in boyfriend works as a boat-builder,but their main income is governmentbenefits worth the equivalent of about$80,000 annually. (Foss, apparently alsoa fan of literature and movies, has kidsnamed Artemus, Morpheus, Voorhees,Baudelaire, Blackbird, Echo, Malachaiand Frodo.)Least competent criminals• Not ready for prime time: (1) AndreStoltzfus, 17, was arrested in Saugerties,NY in October after he allegedlycounterfeited a $1 bill that a familymember later used toward the purchaseof a pack of cigarettes. (2) BandannacladJason Zacchi, 27, was arrested inDearborn Heights, Mich. in Novemberafter, according to police, pointing ashotgun at a Wendy’s employee at thedrive-in window and demanding money.Moments later, the shift manager angrilyapproached the window and yelled atZacchi, “What the hell are you doing?”(The manager had recognized Zacchithrough his bandanna. Zacchi is her son.)Update• Ragnar Bengtsson, 26, the maleSwedish student who vowed in Septemberto pump milk from his nipplesevery three hours for 90 days, drop bydrop, to show that it could be done, quitin November, concluding that it can’t.Said a TV producer following Bengtssonaround, “All he got was sore breasts.”Copyright 2010 Chuck ShepherdDistributed by Universal PressSyndicate !