News of the Weird 

NYC soup kitchens, condom thieves, and more!

LEAD STORY: New York City has more than 400 soup kitchens but nothing else like the Broadway Presbyterian Church's, where master chef Michael Ennes presides three days a week, turning leftover restaurant ingredients into gourmet meals. In fact, one pre-Christmas meal included octopus, as well as day-old bread from Le Bernardin restaurant. Ennes told London's Independent that he is motivated by the chance to help troubled people get "real nutrition," but he also likes serving "famous" homeless people, such as diners who claim to be, among others, George Bush, George Washington and Jesus Christ.

Can't Possibly Be True: Buddy, a 6-year-old German shepherd mix, wandered into the emergency room at the Kaiser Permanente Hospital in Bellflower, Calif., in October after having just been hit by a car, and resisted efforts to remove him, waiting until someone attended to his injured hind leg (which turned out to be broken), according to local animal control officials interviewed by the Whittier Daily News. Owner Fabian Ortega was called (by virtue of Buddy's implanted microchip), and a vet fixed him up.

In October, in front of other people, town manager Bonilyn Wilbanks-Free of the upscale village of Golden Beach, Fla., referred casually to her black female assistant as "Mammy" (which is not her name) and then, when the assistant took offense, tried to soften the gaffe by telling her how much she "loved Aunt Jemima." (A subsequent investigation suggested that someone besides Wilbanks-Free might have made the latter comment, but Wilbanks-Free nonetheless resigned in December.)

Unclear on the Concept: National Public Radio reported in October that perhaps thousands of prison inmates are using cell phones (which are contraband in all correctional facilities) and that the problem has gotten so bad that Maryland State Sen. Ed DeGrange said an inmate called him on a cell phone with a list of general complaints. Also, a warden in Texas reported getting a call from the mother of an inmate, demanding that the warden do something to improve cell-phone reception in the prison so she can chat more easily with her son.

Condoms are proving such an attractive target for shoplifters, according to Phoenix's Arizona Republic, that some stores are putting them in locked display cases that require a customer to call a clerk for help. However, as an official of the Arizona Public Health Association pointed out, condoms are a purchase that consumers choose to make in low profile. A spokesperson for a condom maker mentioned a recent incident in a CVS pharmacy in which a clerk, assisting a customer, shouted several times, "Who's got the key to the condoms?"

Questionable Judgments: Official Judgments: 1) In October, a judge of Scotland's Greencock Sheriff Court released Hui Yu, a college student from Beijing, from a traffic charge by disregarding two police officers' identification of Hui. Said the judge, "[A]ll Chinese people can look the same to a native Scot. It's only when you have time to look that you begin to see the differences." 2) The chairman of the Canadian Broadcasting Corp., Guy Fournier, resigned in September after giving an interview to a French magazine in which he expounded on, as The Associated Press put it, "the joys of bowel movements."

People Different From Us: James Joseph Dresnock, 65, a native of Norfolk, Va., who has lived the last 44 years in North Korea, again pledged his allegiance to Kim Jong-Il, whom he refers to as the "Great Leader" in scenes from a British documentary to be shown at Utah's Sundance Film Festival in January. According to an October New York Times report on the film, Dresnock (who defected from the U.S. Army in 1962) has probably lived a heartier life in Pyongyang than he would have lived in the United States, given his abandonment by his parents, his teenage turmoil and his limited education. Said Dresnock, "I wouldn't trade [the North Korean] system for nuthin'."

According to prosecutors, Irenia "Lamb" Cotner, 34, managed to enlist four adults in rural Claremont, Ill., to help her murder a pregnant 16-year-old girl, by convincing them they all had hexes on them that could only be lifted by killing the girl before a candle with her name on it melted down. (They failed, but a man died fighting off the attackers.) One defendant said the hex was real because she got migraines every time Cotner came by. Another defendant said he learned about hexes and spells so that people would like him and said Cotner planned the murder for a remote location so that the gates of hell could open for the mother and fetus' souls. In December, Cotner was sentenced to 57 years in prison, and two others go on trial soon.

Least Competent Criminals: An unidentified man fled after an unsuccessful attempt at robbing a Git-N-Go convenience store in Des Moines, Iowa, in December, which was foiled when the clerk noticed that the "gunman's" thumb was visible from his pocket, where he was holding his hand to pretend he had a gun. The clerk said he actually had to argue with the man, who continued to insist that it was a gun in his pocket. Said clerk Terry Cook later, "I know what a gun looks like."

Recurring Themes: One of the legendary American lawsuit successes is the 1970 award of $50,000 to Gloria Sykes, whose injury on a San Francisco cable car left the previously modest Midwestern woman with an unrestrained libido. In 2005, warehouseman Stephen Tame, now 29, of East Bergholt, Suffolk, England, won a judgment against his employer when he was injured at work and left with an aggressive sexual disinhibition that has exhausted his wife (and annoyed her) and led to infidelity and a resort to pornography. The church-going wife said that Stephen is not the man she thought she was marrying eight months earlier. In December 2006, a court awarded him the equivalent of about $5.9 million.

More Christmas Mania: 1) The U.K. Noise Association and a British labor union may take legal action against the "torture" of retail clerks, who are forced to listen to continuous holiday music. 2) According to a Reuters report, Christmas is widely celebrated in non-Christian countries with "traditional" dishes such as bats in coconut milk in Sulawesi and Kentucky Fried Chicken in Japan.

© 2007 CHUCK SHEPHERD

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