Byzantine Catholic Church in Atlanta burned

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Before and After

AJC.com:

The Roswell Fire Department responded to the fire at the Epiphany Byzantine Catholic Church on Old Alabama Road around 1:30 a.m. Sunday.

Parts of the church and about an acre of woods surrounding the building were in flames when firefighters arrived, according to Channel 2 Action News. The fire cause heavy damage to the building. A passerby spotted the fire and called 911, Channel 2 reported.

I would guess the leading suspect is already in custody. Juan Carlos Ramirez was arrested near the scene. It was reported that

Police told Channel 2 the man was “running around naked” and saying he either was Jesus or knows him. Ramirez had not officially been connected to the fire as of Sunday afternoon.

A nearby Orthodox church is letting Epiphany use their building for Masses.

From the church website:

Byzantine Catholics are in union with Rome. We share the same basic faith and the same sacraments; however, the way of expressing them differs. The Byzantine church is one of many Eastern churches, each with their own heritage of theology, liturgy and discipline developed with their own respective languages and ecclesiastical organizations.

The parish is part of the Byzantine Eparchy of Passaic.

Eleanor Holmes Norton to appear in “The Nutcracker”

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Judy Kurtz of The Hill reports that Eleanor Holmes Norton, Democratic Delegate to the U.S. House from DC, is making her third appearance Saturday in the Washington Ballet production of the Tchaikovsky ballet The Nutcracker. Norton will play The Merry Widow.

In the past, Mayors Marion Barry and Vincent Gray have also appeared in the ballet. Tickets still remain for both Saturday performances at The Warner Theatre, but the report doesn’t note whether Norton will perform in the matinee or evening performance.

Ex-Coastie charged in fraud scheme

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WBAL TV reported on this story and here’s the Anne Arundel Police Department statement:

On December 2, 2014, the Anne Arundel County Police Department was contacted by the Coast Guard Investigative Service (CGIS) out of the Coast Guard Yard located at 2401 Hawkins Point Road in Curtis Bay in reference to a fraud scheme being conducted by 28-year-old Sterling Orlando Scott, a recently discharged military member. Eastern District detectives immediately began investigating and collaborating with Coast Guard Special Agents.

CGIS agents indicated that they received information from a Chief Warrant Officer on December 2, 2014, who reported receiving a phone call from an individual that identified himself as “Sergeant Major Reese from Army Emergency Relief” on December 2nd around 1:00 p.m.

The person claiming to be “Sergeant Major Reese” indicated that he had an Army member flying to Baltimore that needed emergency travel assistance. In addition, “Sergeant Major Reese” contacted the Coast Guard Mutual Assistance Program at 2401 Hawkins Point Road in Curtis Bay asking for assistance for a soldier named “Orland Scott”, whose wife was reportedly killed in a car accident. The person calling was believed to be the defendant posing as “Sergeant Major Reese”. CGIS agents had developed information that the individual posing as “Orlando Scott” was actually Sterling Orlando Scott who had committed similar schemes under that name at military installations in Galveston, Texas, Yorktown, Pennsylvania, Savannah Georgia and Elizabeth City, North Carolina.

On December 4, 2014, the suspect showed up at the Hawkins Point Road location to receive the funds approved for his alleged crisis. Once he signed for the funds, he was immediately taken into custody by detectives and agents conducting surveillance. The funds the suspect was attempting to fraudulently obtain are to be provided to active military members. Mr. Scott was discharged from the military in November.

Suspect: Sterling Orlando Scott, 28, of 745 Ridge Circle, Chesapeake, VA. The suspect was charged with Theft, Fraud and Document Use to Imply Government Association.

He was charged with defrauding organizations that provide emergency financial support to service members, including his former Coast Guard comrades. Throw the book at him if he’s found guilty. After this post went up, it was written about and linked to by This Ain’t Hell.

Report: MD man lied about being a POW in Vietnam

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Steve Barr (pictured above between Delegate Nic Kipke and new Anne Arundel County Executive Steve Schuh) lives in Pasadena and claims he was a prisoner of war in Vietnam. He was honored – along with other veterans – by the Lake Shore Volunteer Fire Company last month and Kipke tweeted the above photograph, which Schuh retweeted.)

Unfortunately, This Ain’t Hell reports that Barr is lying about being a POW. TAH has his service records which show he did serve in Vietnam honorably, but that he wasn’t a POW. Barr even fooled Voice of America News and told them a story about a supposedly fallen comrade who died well after Barr’s service in Vietnam. TAH also notes that only one POW in Vietnam had the last name Barr and his remains were repatriated to the US in 1995.

I have written things that were less than flattering about both Kipke and Schuh in the past so I want to make sure to emphasize that I am not doing that here. They, along with everyone else Barr lied to, are among the victims in this situation. As a veteran, I am astounded that someone who went to Vietnam and was honorably discharged would betray his brothers who were held prisoner and, in many cases, died in captivity. It seems to me in some way that people who actually have a service record and embellish it this way are guilty of a worse offense than people who make their service up from whole cloth. Either way, people who commit this offense of stolen valor are reprehensible people.

Stolen Valor was in the news earlier this week after video emerged of Sean Yetman, a fake Army Ranger who never served, being berated in a Philadelphia-area mall last Friday by a veteran who saw him for the phony that he was. Officials are looking into whether Yetman benefited from his lies so that they can decide whether to charge him. A federal law that banned lying about your military service was struck down by the Supreme Court, so getting people for fraudulently obtaining benefits is the only avenue now in most cases.

I would suggest to Delegate Kipke and other members of the General Assembly that they might want to explore their options to pass a state law dealing with this issue. It might not help in the case of Barr (although it could – I’m just not sure what specific benefits he might have received solely because of the POW claim) but it’s something that needs to be looked at and would likely enjoy bipartisan support.

Stolen valor cases in this area are a topic I will continue to cover in the future.

Here’s the original tweet from Kipke:

JFK’s niece explains why government knows best

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Bryan Sears of The Daily Record notes:

Maryland residents who fail to save for their own retirements are like drivers who speed or children who won’t do what you tell them to do, according to former Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend.

Kennedy Townsend, who leads a task force studying the problem of retirement savings for private sector employees, made the comparison during a hearing in Annapolis.

The group is looking at the possibility of recommending the creation of a mandated retirement program where nongovernment employers would be required to offer a retirement plan or enroll employees into a state managed plan. Employees would be automatically enrolled and as much as 6 percent of their pay deducted for retirement (under one proposal) in a defined benefit plan unless the employee opted out.

The troubling part of her remarks during the hearing (emphasis added):

“Education is great…but it is not enough,” said Kennedy Townsend. “It won’t get us to where we want to go.

“I love education but why do drivers stop speeding? It’s not because they were told ‘This is bad for you’ but because things happen to make you quit speeding. I’m a great believer in education but I know as a mother of four children, I can tell kids what to do or I can tell them they have to go to their room if you don’t do it.”

The task force was established by Gov. Martin O’Malley and its authorization expires in February. Governor-Elect Larry Hogan says he won’t re-authorize it

Former Dem US Senator: “Michael Brown caused his own demise” #ferguson

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Former United States Senator (D-SC) Fritz Hollings wrote a letter to the editor that was published by The Post & Courier in Charleston (emphasis added):

I don’t know Michael Brown or Officer Darren Wilson. I haven’t seen the grand jury report or heard any witnesses. But from the news coverage, Michael Brown caused his own demise.

To begin with, as Deborah Saunders writes in her column in The Post and Courier on Nov. 30: “Video of Brown shoving a convenience store clerk in what has been described as a strong-arm robbery minutes before the encounter adds credence to Wilson’s account.”

Brown was 18 years of age, was over six feet tall and weighed 285 pounds. If you’re walking in the middle of the street and told by a police officer to move to the sidewalk, you move to the sidewalk.

You don’t attack the officer, punching him and preventing the officer from getting out of his car. You don’t grab for the officer’s pistol. And when the officer follows you on foot to prevent your escape, you don’t turn and charge the police officer.

After the struggle for the pistol in the patrol car, Wilson knew what Brown was after when Brown charged him. The best evidence that officer Wilson was in fear for his life is that he emptied his pistol.

Now after the Ferguson Police Department received several threats, Wilson quit his job. He and his family will have to move from Ferguson. The media’s one-sided treatment of the event has put Wilson and his family in jeopardy.

When the evidence shows that the officer is doing his job, we’ve got to support the officer. We ought to respect law enforcement more.

It will be interesting to see the reaction to the Hollings letter.

Burt Reynolds auction includes pro wrestling memorabilia

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You probably saw the news story Monday about Burt Reynolds selling personal items at auction. The 1978 Smokey and the Bandit Trans-Am got most of the attention but there are several other interesting items in the auction catalog.

One item that caught my attention was a Burt Reynolds Islanders WWF jacket (pictured above.)

From the description:

A black satin jacket embroidered “Burt” in yellow stitching at right breast and the “WWF” logo embroidered at left. The back is embroidered with an image of two palm trees and reads “The Islanders.” The Islanders was a professional wrestling tag team. Size extra large. The jacket was part of Burt Reynolds’ personal wardrobe.

The Islanders were a tag team in the WWF from 1986-1988 consisting of Haku and Tama. I did a pretty thorough online search to try to connect Reynolds to the duo but had trouble finding anything, so I am making the educated guess he was just a fan. Reynolds was the guest ring announcer for a match at Wrestlemania X in 1994 between Bret Hart and Yokozuna and he celebrated in the ring after Hart won. (Jennie Garth was the guest timekeeper for the match and Roddy Piper the guest referee.)

Aside from Wrestlemania X photographs, I was also able to find other photographs of Reynolds with wrestlers including the Bushwhackers, John Cena,and Ric Flair.

The Hollywood Reporter notes other details:

Hundreds of personal items belonging to the Deliverance star will be auctioned off at The Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas next month. Julien’s Live auction house is running the event.

The auction’s catalog, entitled Property From the Life and Career of Burt Reynolds, lists over 600 items, including such movie memorabilia as a jacket and shirt he wore in Smokey and the Bandit II, a football helmet from The Longest Yard and even a pair of monogrammed boots from 1996’s Striptease, for all those diehard Striptease fans out there.

Also on the block: several vehicles, a wide selection of artwork and sports collectibles and even a number of awards, including his 1991 best actor in a comedy Emmy for Evening Shade and 1998 best supporting actor Golden Globe for Boogie Nights. 

The sports collectibles, some of the celebrity memorabilia, and the autographed books are personalized to Reynolds. That usually makes the value less for an item, but in this case it would probably enhance them.