Colorful Characters 

A sassy judge, a het-up churchgoer and more

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Isn't That Their Skill Set?
In November, lawyer Michael Petersen of Appleton, Wis., was ordered by county judge Philip Kirk (in a sentence for contempt of court) to inform every client he acquires in the following 12 months that Petersen is a "crook," "cheat," "thief" and "liar." Kirk concluded that Peterson had lied about a plea deal with the prosecutor and created phony documents for backup, leading a client to plead guilty to armed robbery when the prosecutor said there was never such a deal. According to the Appleton Post Crescent, Kirk (after dressing down Petersen in colorful language) told him, "I want you to have as much business as a pimp in a nursing home."

Can't Possibly Be True
Pastor Thom Miller, 60 (of the United Christian Ministries International in Mansfield, Ohio), told an international news crew recently that he had "married" his 19-year-old pregnant girlfriend (Reba Kerfoot), but that some in his congregation disapprove—because Miller is already married (though his incumbent wife, Belinda, 44, apparently does approve). Said Belinda, "Thom is the love of my life and Reba is the blessing of my life, so it all works." Said Miller, "Sexually I have no preference and look forward to my time alone with both wives." (Bonuses: 1. Miller was an enforcer for organized crime in Cleveland until he "found God" in prison. 2. He is annoyed that Ohio recognizes same-sex marriage but not polygamy. 3. The local Mansfield News Journal was apparently scooped on the story but is now catching up.)

• Mexican artist Renato Garza Cervera's work usually involves realistic-looking figures created to startle (e.g., a "piggy bank" as a scowling hog of a man down on all fours), but his recent "gang member" floor rugs seem a career peak. Rejecting bear rugs and lion rugs, Cervera's "Of Genuine Contemporary Beast" project features exquisitely constructed, life-size, snarling, naked, heavily tattooed men's bodies (as if skinned) as rugs, representing "modern" beasts—Salvadorean gang members. Actually, Cervera told Vice.com he intended sympathy: "Societies always invent new beasts in order to make others responsible for their problems."

• Las Vegas police continue to investigate Kimberly Knight after a video surfaced on her fetish pornography website purporting to be of a medical doctor performing a breast-enlargement procedure and then immediately having sex with the patient. KTNV-TV has questioned Knight on the authenticity of the claims, and she seemed to back off slightly, describing the surgeon as a "medical student," then characterizing the whole thing as a "mistake." As of early December, Knight had not been charged with a crime.

The Finer Points of the Law
Justice! In September, federal judge Cathy Seibel ordered the town of Liberty, New York (100 miles from New York City), to stand trial for failure to teach police and prosecutors proper free-speech law—thus giving plaintiff Willian Barboza revenge for his arrest for writing a "crude" message on the speeding ticket he paid three years ago. Seibel ruled that Barboza's phrase (urging intercourse upon the manure-like town) posed no "imminent" threat and, besides, was obviously just a complaint about government services. Seibel also raised the possibility that money damages will come from the prosecutor's own pocket.

• Dr. Bilgin Ciftci was fired in October from Turkey's Public Health Institution and later charged with violating one of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's favorite laws—against "insulting" the president (which carries a maximum four-year prison term)—because Ciftci had joined a Turkish Facebook thread that was denouncing Erdogan with facial images comparing him to the Lord of the Rings character Gollum. The judge, admitting his unfamiliarity, appointed a five-person group of experts to advise him whether the Erdogan-Gollum comparison was "insulting." (The Lord of the Rings film director Peter Jackson immediately protested that the images depict not Gollum but his benign alter ego Smeagol, making the comparison obviously uninsulting.)

The Job of the Researcher
Scientists from Australia's University of Queensland have developed "swimsuits" to act as diapers for six giant loggerhead turtles as they study their diets by examining their feces. "To our great surprise," said one researcher, they "worked perfectly." The suits were easy to put on, comfortable for the sea turtles to wear (according to the researchers, not the turtles), looked great (ditto), and we were "able to collect the entire fecal sample," he bragged to a London Daily Telegraph reporter in Sydney.

• After all, leeches are interesting and thus someone has to study them, and Mark Siddall, curator of invertebrates at the American Museum of Natural History, is that person. These leeches are easily found, but only in the rear ends of hippopotamuses, he noted, and told Wired.com in August that if a creature can exploit a niche others cannot, it has a monopoly on food. "The only part on the hippo that's vascularized enough to get a good blood meal (is) the rectal region." (Making life worse for these leeches, they lack the strong jaws of other leeches and must instead use a nose-like organ that, writes Wired, it "snakes" into the vascular tissue.)

Least Competent Criminals
Damon Matthews, 19, surrendered to police in Bay City, Michigan, in November and confessed to robbing a 7-Eleven. His sister had convinced Matthews that police would soon arrive to apprehend him because, even though he wore a ski-mask "disguise," Matthews is 7-foot-4 and a former high school classmate of the clerk. It was left unreported why Matthews thought the mask would help him.

Recurring Themes
Once again, someone minding his own business here became royalty elsewhere. This time, it was a 32-year-old Vancouver, British Columbia, man with a wife and baby, working as a gardener—until he learned that a 6,000-person tribe in Ghana wanted him for their king. Thus, Eric Manu, a nephew of the king who died in 2013, was asked in July 2015 to come take over (part-time, at least), and by tradition, Manu's Canadian wife will join him as queen ("mother of all mothers"). Eric said the couple will do whatever they can to improve lives in their village.

• Achan Agit presents a worst-case scenario for the weirdness in how some state governments over-regulate professions, and she is currently suing the Iowa Board of Cosmetology Arts & Sciences for burdening her right to make a living. As Forbes.com reported in October, Achan was a war refugee from what is currently South Sudan and is now a permanent resident of the United States—and skilled in braiding hair, which she learned from elders when she was five. However, a licensed braider in Iowa (maximum penalty if caught unlicensed: prison, plus a $10,000 fine) needs a high school diploma or equivalent and 2,100 hours of cosmetology coursework—more than the combined training for dental assistants, bus drivers, EMTs, child care workers and security guards—and for which Iowa's 27 cosmetology "schools" might charge up to $22,000.

• Undignified Death: On Dec. 2, a 48-year-old woman in Alicante, Spain, who according to neighbors had suffered from depression and was likely trying to commit suicide, leaped from her seventh-floor balcony—but failed. She was hospitalized in stable condition after landing on an elderly gentleman sitting on a bench (who did not survive the collision).

A News of the Weird Classic (April 2011)
Scientists Just Wanna Have Fun: A team of whimsy-loving researchers at the University of Osaka (Japan) Graduate School of Frontier Biosciences has produced a strain of mice prone to "miscopying" DNA—making them susceptible to sometimes-unexpected mutations, such as the recently born mouse that tweets like a bird. Lead researcher Arikuni Uchimura told London's Daily Telegraph that he had expected to produce, instead, a mouse with an odd shape, but the "singing" mouse emerged. Previously, the team produced a mouse with dachshund-like short limbs.

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