News of the weird

by Chuck Shepherd

• Pastor John Renken’s Xtreme Ministries of Memphis, Tenn. is one of a supposedly growing number of churches that use “mixed martial arts” events to recruit wayward young men to the Christian gospel. Typically, after leading his flock in solemn prayer to a loving God, Pastor Renken adjourns the session to the back room, where a New York Times reporter found him in February shouting encouragement to his violent parishioners: “Hard punches!” Renken yelled. “Finish the fight! To the head! To the head!” One participant told the Times that fight nights bring a greater masculinity to religion, which he said had, in recent years, gone soft.

Government in Action!

• Over-connecting the dots: At age 8, Mike Hicks is a frequent air traveler with his mother, and while she is seldom noticed by airport screeners, “Mikey” almost always is because he shares a name with someone on the enhanced-security list that is one level below “no fly” (one of 1,600 such Michael Hickses in the US). His mom told The New York Times in January that Mikey has been patted down by security since he was 2. (But sometimes government under-connects the dots. Delaware pediatrician Earl Bradley’s January arrest and February indictment for allegedly sexually

• Too much diversity:

(1) In January, the US Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division posted a job announcement supposedly in line with current affirmativeaction policy. The division is seeking “experienced attorneys” by Chuck Shepherd and was encouraging “qualified applicants with targeted disabilities” to apply. Legally protected “targeted disabilities” include the traditional, such as blindness, but also molesting 103 children came only after he was cleared in two police investigations in three years, involving eight complaints, and despite one ex-colleague’s routinely referring to Dr. Bradley as a “pedophile.”)

• Better late than never? (1) Ten days after Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab nearly brought down the Christmas Day airliner over Detroit, the State Department officially revoked his visa. (2) Eight days after the Christmas Eve demolition of Minneapolis’ historic Fjelde House (as a fire hazard), the Minneapolis Heritage Preservation Commission awarded the site “interim protection” for its historic value.

“mental retardation.”(2) In February, aspirantsfor taxicab licenses in Portsmouth, England wereofficially informed by the city council that applicationforms are available in other languages or in“audio,” “large print” or “Braille.”• When “you lie!” doesn’t quite capture themoment: Legislator Abel LeBlanc was suspendedfrom Canada’s New Brunswick Assemblyin February for giving middle-finger salutesto two colleagues, calling one a “punk” anddeclaring himself ready to “walk outside withany one of yas here.” “Don’t ever laugh at me,”he continued. “Yes, I gave you that [the finger].And I’ll give you that again. And [to anothercolleague] I’ll give you this [finger] if you wantto go outside.”Great Art! • Just after Christmas, the AnglicanChurch of St. Peter in Great Limber, Englandunveiled artist Adam Sheldon’s 6-foot-highrepresentation of the crucifixion consisting of153 pieces of toast. Sheldon browned the breadhimself, then painstakingly either scraped (tolighten) or torched (to darken) each piece tofashion the tableau.Police Report • They don’t make cops likethey used to: Sheriff’s deputy John Franklin ofSan Luis Obispo, Calif. filed a lawsuit in Decemberagainst the Catholic Church and former priestGeronimo Cuevas for the “emotional trauma”he suffered by being propositioned for sex whileworking undercover in 2007. Deputy Franklinwas patrolling a public park near Avila Beachwhen Father Cuevas reached out and touchedFranklin’s clothed genital area. Cuevas was arrestedand convicted, but Deputy Franklin saidhe is not yet over the feelings of “anger, rage,disgust and embarrassment.”• Chutzpah: Former Stoughton, Mass. policesergeant David Cohen was convicted in 2007of attempted extortion and witness-tamperingand sentenced to 30 months in jail. In November2009, he filed a formal demand for payment of atleast $113,000 he said the department owes himfor unused vacation, sick leave and comp time.He also claims extra pay because, while still onthe job, he had to spend 481 hours in court and280 hours preparing in order to defend himselfagainst the criminal charges.Names in the News • Arrested in Januaryin Memphis, Tenn. and charged with havingcarnal knowledge of an underage girl: Mr.Knowledge Clark, 29. Arrested in January inHellertown, Pa., and charged with cashing astolen check: Richard Fluck, 47, and Bryan Flok,47. Arrested in Denver in February and chargedwith using another person’s driver’s license asidentification: Mr. Robin J. Hood, 34. Arrestedin Kingston, Pa., in January and charged withcocaine trafficking: Carlos Laurel, 30, and AndreHardy, 39. Arrested in February in DeFuniakSprings, Fla., and charged with possession ofcrystal meth: Crystal Beth Williams, 21.’ It ’s Goo d to Be a British Criminal(continued) • (1) Victim Debra Wilsontestified that she had been driven nearly intobankruptcy by loan shark Robert Reynolds, 39,who extorted over time the equivalent of about$135,000. In December, Reynolds was convictedin Durham Crown Court but ordered to repayonly the equivalent of about $2,300. (However,the judge warned that if Reynolds failed to pay,he could be jailed for up to 35 days!) (2) InSeptember 2008, veteran criminal Waled Salemand two partners were discovered burglarizingthe home of businessman Munir Hussain. Salem,wielding a knife, restrained Hussain, his wife andchildren and resumed the ransacking. Hussainfreed himself and chased the men away, catchingup only with Salem, whom he then beat with acricket bat. In December 2009 in Reading CrownCourt, Salem was sentenced to probation, butHussain got 30 months in jail for assault.Pervo-American Community • ColtHeltsley, 20, had been spotted by police in 2008at the Preble County (Ohio) Fair, “lookingaround, acting nervous” in the area of a row ofportable toilets and in one 30-minute sequencecontinually moving empty toilets until they wereclose together. He was eventually convicted ofvoyeurism, peeping at a female using the facility.In December 2009, a state appeals court rejectedHeltsley’s defense that police had violated hisright to privacy with their surveillance.Now, Which One Is the Brake?(all-new) • Elderly drivers’ recent lapsesof concentration, accidentally confusing thebrake pedal with the gas: An 89-year-old mancrashed through the front of Sussex Eyecareopticians in Seaford, England (June). A driver“in her late 80s” crashed into the ButtonwoodBakery in Hanover Township, Pa. (September).An 86-year-old man crashed into the CountryBoy Family Restaurant in Dunedin, Fla.(October). An 82-year-old man crashed intothe Egypt Star Bakery in Whitehall Township,Pa. (November). A 78-year-old womandrove off of a 30-foot cliff (but the car’s plungewas halted when it lodged against a tree) nearHannibal, Mo. (August). A 92-year-old mancrashed into the Biscuits ‘N’ Gravy and Morerestaurant in Port Orange, Fla. (January) (butwas not deterred amidst the rubble he created,as he calmly went inside, sat down and orderedbreakfast).A News of the Weird Classic (March1995) • In August 1994, Sanford, Fla., judgeNewman Brock picked up hair clippers andwent to the local Seminole County Jail for hisregular biweekly haircut from his longtimehairstylist, Rick Thrower, who was serving 45days for DUI violations. Said Thrower, “[Thejudge is] a very loyal customer.”’© 2010 Chuck Shepherd Distributed byUniversal Press Syndicate !