Chuck Shepherd’s News of the Weird
The other “Fight Clubs” are for sissies: At the August Dog Brothers “Gathering of the Pack” in southern California, it was “[A]nything goes,” according to one warrior (look ing to fight with “blunted knives”). A Reuters reporter witnessed two men without padding beat each other with heavy sticks and two others fight with electrically charged knives. The latter duel ended when, during a wrestling hold, one slipped a hand free and planted a 1,000-volt surge. The action seems exhilarating. Said one, “I’ve never felt better than when I’m doing this.” Another: “Honestly, I wish I could find a church with the same spirit of support and love [as I feel here].” Said “Crafty Dog” Denny, it’s “higher consciousness through harder contact.”
Government in action
• Florida’s nation-leading epidemic of mortgage fraud was facilitated by state regulators who permitted 2,200 people with finance-crime records to become pro fessional “loan originators,” part of the total of 10,000 with rap sheets allowed to work in the industry over an eight-year period, according to a July investigation by The Miami Herald. At least 20 registered brokers kept their licenses after fraud con victions. A 2006 state law required criminal background checks for broker licensing, but fewer than half were ever done, reported the Herald. And the crisis continues, according to a Virginia research firm, which found in August that almost one-fourth of new mortgage fraud in the US emanates from Florida (mostly on scams exploiting people who face foreclosure). • A cautionary note about “early voting” was registered in the Dallas suburb of Carrollton, Texas in May, when Mayor Becky Miller built a nine-point lead in early balloting before a Dallas Morning News report on fanciful parts of her biography caused election-day voters to cast her out. In her campaign, she had emotionally referred to a brother killed in the Vietnam war, but her father said her only brother is still alive and was never in the military (which Miller “explained” by alleging that dad has Alzheimer’s). She later gave a name for her brother, but the Morning News found that that soldier, unlike Miller, is black. Miller also claimed to be a backup singer for Linda Ronstadt and Jackson Browne (and once engaged to the Eagles’ Don Henley), but spokesmen for each said they never heard of her (which she “explained” by saying she was earlier known as “Pinky”). • An Insurance Institute for Highway Safety spokesman said in July that “billions” of dollars are unnecessarily spent annually because the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration still fails to regard SUVs and light trucks as “passenger” vehicles. One result, according to an MSNBC report, is that otherwise-benign bumper-to-bumper nudges (harmless because passenger-car bumpers are required to be of standard height) turn into major repair jobs when higher-bumpered SUVs crush the headlight assemblies of lower-bumpered passenger cars.
• Two cheers for Democracy: (1) Angela Tuttle was elected constable in Hancock County, Tenn. in August, simply because she showed up and voted. There were no candidates on the ballot, and thus her own write-in vote for herself carried the elec tion, 1-0. (2) After Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s party retained control in India in the July elections, supporter (and Assam state legislator) Kishor Samrite decided to give traditional Hindu thanks for the victory. He sacrificed 200 goats and four buffaloes at a temple in Gauhati.
• Paul Baldwin, 48, was ordered held on $10,000 bail in Portsmouth, NH in May after his arrest for stealing a can of beer, which seems expensive except that it was Baldwin’s 152 nd arrest. When a judge asked if he wanted a lawyer appointed for him, Baldwin said, “I don’t need a lawyer. I’ve been in this court more than you have.”
• Crimes From All Over: (1) A gentle armed robber was being sought in July in Pop lar Bluff, Mo.; he took $25 from a man at gunpoint, but then hugged him before he left. (2) Arrested in Tampa in the span of 23 hours on July 1 and July 2: Mr. Telly Savalas Cheatam (grand theft auto) and Mr. Telly Savalas Wimbley (trespassing).
Unclear on the concept
• (1) In July, St. Mary’s Airport on the Isles of Scilly (off the southwest coast of Eng land) posted a vacancy announcement for air traffic controller that added, helpfully, that applications were available in alternative languages, “in larger text [or] Braille.” (2) Police were called to a home in Wichita, Kan. in June after two young men had been arguing over which was more deserving of the street name C-Thug. The fight ended when a woman old enough to be their mother came along and stabbed one of the “thugs.” • Illinois requires all state employees to pass an annual 10-question, multiple choice “ethics” test (whose format lends itself to simplistic answers that, for instance, most college students might handle easily). In January, state ethics officials declined to accept the passing grades of 65 Southern Illinois University professors because they finished “too quickly.” Asserted a reviewing state official, anyone who failed to spend at least 10 minutes on the test was being unreasonable.
Creme de la Weird
Charlie Van Wilkes Jr., 31, was arrested in Danielsville, Ga. in August and charged with possession of drugs and burglary tools. The arrest report noted that Wilkes had a “large lump in the front of his blue jeans, with wires running from inside his pants and hanging down dragging the ground” as he walked. Wilkes explained that he was wearing a “homemade vibrator,” hooked to a battery. Wrote the officer, “[A] small motor had been removed from an item and placed inside a pill bottle, and then wrapped in a piece of pipe insulation before being placed inside [Wilkes’] pants for a pleasurable sensation.”
Least competent criminals
Oblivious: (1) In August in Billings, Mont., federal officers recognized Wyoming fugitive Sterling Wolfname, 26, on the street, but the man tried to give a different name, seemingly oblivious that “Wolfname” was tattooed on the side of his head. (2) Fugitive Willie Vickers, 46, was arrested in Cleveland Heights, Ohio in July on old burglary warrants after he volunteered to help a woman and a police officer get into her locked car. Vickers said he had lots of experience with locked cars, seemingly oblivious of tipping the officer to run his name through the computer.
The economic slowdown and rising prices for scrap metals have provoked despera tion and creativity among down-market criminals. A 42-year-old man was arrested in his car heading for a metals-recycling center in Miami in July with a 40-foot-long municipal street lamp strapped to the roof. And police in Williamsburg, Ky. easily tracked the stolen railroad rail in August, which was so heavy that it left gouge marks in the pavement as the thieves dragged it away. And the badly burned man found in July by police on a utility pole in northwest Dallas died days later (one of several who so far this year have tried, unsuccessfully, to safely remove copper wire from power poles).
Names in the news
Arrested in Tampa in June and charged with possession of cocaine with intent to sell: Mr. God Lucky Howard, 39. Convicted in Kansas City, Mo., in June of 31 counts including 12 rapes and other non-consensual sex: Mr. Shy Bland, 52. Arrested in Broomfield, Colo., in August in a raid on a “massage parlor” that police said was a brothel: Ms. Mi Sook You, 48.
Copyright 2008 Chuck Shepherd Distribute by Universal Press Syndicate