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Sacred cannibalism, trash laws and more 

LEAD STORY: Natives of the Erromango section of the Pacific island Vanuatu recently held a formal "conciliation" with the great-great-grandson of the British missionary whom the islanders' ancestors ate when he came ashore in 1839. Charles Milner-Williams' forebear, the Rev. John Williams, was regarded as the most famous Christian missionary of the era. Vanuatan legislator Ralph Regenvanu told BBC News that cannibalism was traditionally a sacred warrior practice for "vanquishing a threat [and] absorbing the power of the enemy." Nonetheless, he said, the island has long felt "guilt," and even a "complex," from killing and eating Williams. In penitence, Vanuatu symbolically gave the Williams family a 7-year-old girl, who will not be eaten but whose education Milner-Williams promised to underwrite.

Can't Possibly Be True: In November, a Chicago judge ruled that former firefighter Jeffrey Boyle is entitled to his $50,000 annual pension even though he had pleaded guilty in 2006 to eight counts of arson (and allegedly confessed to 12 more). Boyle is known locally as "Matches" Boyle to distinguish him from his brother, John "Quarters" Boyle, who is now in federal prison for bribery following the theft of millions of dollars in state toll-gate coins. Judge LeRoy Martin Jr. concluded that Matches' arsons were wholly separate from his firefighting.

Salvadorean citizen Ernesto Gamboa, who worked for 13 years in the Seattle area as a snitch for federal drug agents and contributed to at least 92 convictions for drug- and weapons-smuggling, was "fired" by Immigration and Customs Enforcement in May after asking the agency for regular employment. Gamboa originally entered the U.S. as a visitor but overstayed and now aspires merely to an "S visa" granted to aliens who assist law enforcement. Not only did ICE deny that request but, according to a November Seattle Times report, the agency informed Gamboa that he should prepare to be deported.

Inexplicable: "It is the Christian commandment to love your enemies and to do good to them. I did that," explained Dan Ross, 61, a retiree in Lehigh Acres, Fla., who in November wired a dozen yellow roses to Maj. Nidal Hasan, the accused Fort Hood spree killer. "Whereas the ministers out there in Fort Hood are praying for [Hasan] ... I went one step further," Ross told the Naples Daily News. The card Ross ordered with the flowers read, "In God's eye, and those who submit, you are a hero!" The Texas florist who received the order notified the FBI.

While reporting on Britain's oldest newlyweds in November (husband, age 94; wife, age 87), the Daily Telegraph also noted that in 2008, Bertie Wood and her husband, Jessie, of Falmouth had decided to end their 36-year marriage, evidently at a point where they felt they needed a fresh start. Both were 97 years old at the time. Jessie has since died, and Bertie lives in a nursing home.

Unclear on the Concept: Michael Yavorski, 52, who drew a three-month sentence in October for having twice fondled a 12-year-old girl and given her a beer, complained through his lawyer that the sentence was too long. "The collateral consequences for Mr. Yavorski here are tremendous," said the lawyer, in that the negative publicity about the case might force Yavorski to close his business in Lower Nazareth Township, Pa., an ice cream parlor.

In a December letter, lawyers for the world-famous Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in New York City threatened litigation against Lincoln County, Miss., which recently changed the name of its Lincoln County Multi-Purpose Facility to "Lincoln Center." The facility, in the town of Brookhaven (pop. 9,800), is used mostly for livestock shows and family reunions.

Almost every Thursday night, Jack Knowler, 61, and his girlfriend, Bev Rogers, enjoy themselves at Hanc's Bar in Bowmanville, Ontario, and then, knowing their limitations, leave their vehicles parked and call A Ryde Home, a local service for the intoxicated. On a recent Thursday night, according to a December report in the Toronto Sun, as Knowler and Rogers waited outside Hanc's for their ride, they were ticketed by police (at $65 each) for being drunk in public. Said a police supervisor, "It's not a 'mixed message.' You can't be intoxicated in a public place."

It's Good to Be a British Criminal (actually, "United Kingdom Criminal") (continued): 1) After pleading guilty in Cardiff Crown Court to forging an uncle's checks worth 41,000 pounds ($65,000), Hayley Price, 42, was fined 5 pounds ($8), given a suspended sentence and ordered to do community service. The judge reasoned that Price was broke, having already spent the 41,000 pounds. 2) Brian Wallace was the victim of a severe beating in Belfast, Northern Ireland, in 2007, stabbed five times and hospitalized with lung and kidney lacerations, and to this day is battling for 7,500 pounds ($12,000) compensation from a government fund. In December 2009, Wallace learned that his attacker, Simon Granhof, who had been mistakenly kept in jail two weeks longer than his sentence, would receive 12,500 pounds ($20,000) from the government for deprivation of rights. (Granhof's sentence had already been cut in half before the mistake.)

People With Issues: Kevin Derks, 53, of Kenosha, Wis., swears that he has never touched an underage girl, even though he admitted to an all-consuming fixation on their "innocence" and beauty. Derks' apartment, according to a detective, appears to be a "shrine" to little girls, with walls covered with posters and photos, including snapshots of celebrity kids and local children, according to a Kenosha News report, and a bed full of stuffed toys and two adolescent-sized mannequins in sexual positions with adult mannequins. Derks was arrested in November and charged with 20 counts of child pornography based on some of his photos and videos. Said Derks, to detectives: "This was my own world. I knew what I was doing. I took a gamble. It's like going to Vegas, except I lost everything. (N)ow my ass is gonna fry."

Alcohol Was Involved: 1) In November, the Seattle Police Department, investigating a complaint about a beating, interviewed a 25-year-old man hospitalized after being found screaming in pain impaled on a metal fence. He said he had run away from a barroom fight and momentarily thought he was a "ninja warrior" capable of leaping the fence. 2) Sean McDowell, 24, was arrested in Ashland, Ore., after attempting to steal a 4-foot-tall stuffed giraffe from the front of a children's store. A police officer had witnessed an inebriated McDowell grab the giraffe and make simulated sexual movements, then walk away, and then return 90 minutes later to snatch the animal for good.

We Have Rules!: 1) Shawnee Mission Northwest outscored the competition at the Kansas Girls State Gymnastics Championship in November, but finished in third place because of a one-point penalty for a rule violation. The school's coach had inquired about a balance-beam score outside the five-minute "window" for inquiries. The two schools that were tied for second place were declared co-champions. 2) Environmentally conscious David and Katie France live 400 yards from their recycling center in Blandford, England, and decided in October to hand-carry their garbage instead of driving their car the short distance. They were refused entry, however, based on a "safety" rule requiring that trash be brought in vehicles.

A News of the Weird Classic (July 1991): In May 1991, Maxcy Dean Filer of Compton, Calif., finally passed the California Bar exam. He had graduated from law school in 1966 but had failed the exam 47 straight tries. (After opening a practice in Compton, he was suspended in 2007 for failing to pass the California Bar's professional responsibility exam. He remains suspended.)

© 2010 CHUCK SHEPHERD

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