Astrologer For The Military
by Chuck Shepherd

December, 1997

Russian naval captain Alexander Buzinov told a Moscow TV interviewer that he is employed as an astrologer for the military, examining "planetary rhythms' effects on the Earth's surface."

He said such rhythms led him to successfully predict three personnel firings last year, along with terrorist acts in Caucasus, a Siberian transport plane crash, and several of Boris Yeltsen's medical events.

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Preacher: Murderous Lad
"Not An Atheist"
by Chuck Shepherd

December, 1997

Rev. Paul Donner, of the St. Paul Lutheran Church, Paducah, Kentucky, describing accused mass murderer Michael Carneal, 14: "I'm firmly convinced Michael Carneal is a Christian. He's a sinner, yes, but not an atheist."

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Winning Runner Credits
Odd Animistic Blood Rite
by Chuck Shepherd

October, 1997

An Indonesian runner named Ruwiyati won the women's marathon in the Southeast Asia Games and promptly told reporters in Jakarta that the secret to her success is that she drinks blood from her coach's finger before each race.

Said coach Alwi Mugiyanto, "I don't know why, but she just insists on doing it."

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Missouri Law Would
Reward Heterosexuality
by Chuck Shepherd

March, 1998

Two Missouri legislators proposed a law to have the state give $1,000 to any married couple over age 21 who do not have sexually transmitted diseases, who have no children prior to the marriage, who have not aborted a fetus, and who were not previously married.

The law would establish official Missouri policies of chastity and faithfulness.

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Moralist Upgrades
TV Censoring Box
by Chuck Shepherd

March, 1998

Rogers, Arkansas, software developer Rick Bray introduced his TVGuardian sound monitor, which silences offensive words in television dialogue and prints tamer substitutes as captions on the screen.

Bray expanded George Carlin's "seven words you can't say" to about 100, and says his device can analyze surrounding dialogue so that, for example, "God" will be muted only when used irreverently.

An earlier version of the software captioned "Dick Van Dyke" as "jerk Van gay."

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Church Cannot Pay Judgment
by Chuck Shepherd

February, 1998

David Samarzia, 44, who won a $650,000 judgment against the Redeemer Lutheran Church in Duluth, Minnesota, as damages for being molested as a kid by former pastor Daniel Reeb, told reporters that since the church cannot pay the judgment, he most likely would take over the house of worship himself as payment and turn it into a place to help other sex abuse victims.

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Santa Suit Filed
by Chuck Shepherd

December, 1997

Neil Ramirez, behind with child support and moonlighting behind a beard as Santa Claus in Brooklyn, New York, saw his unwitting toddler-daughter wander up to his lap.

The kid recognized him and yelled, "Daddy is Santa!" at which point the ex-wife grabbed some child-support paperwork from her purse and crammed it into Ramirez's Santa suit.

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Prostitution Legal
In Some Bible Belt Areas
by Chuck Shepherd

September, 1997

In Center Point, near Birmingham, Alabama, Tim and Maxine Smith were convicted of promoting prostitution in their massage parlor, but the women who work for them were not charged because the legislature in that Bible Belt state never got around to making prostitution illegal in Center Point or in several other areas of the state.

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Anti-Punk-Rock Sect
Assaults Furriers
by Chuck Shepherd

January, 1998

Clinton Ellerman, 21, was sentenced to two years in jail for vandalizing a mink farm near Salt Lake City as part of an animal rights protest, and his brother, Joshua, 19, is awaiting trial on federal charges of bombing a fur breeders' cooperative. The men are members of the anti-drug, anti-smoking, anti-punk-rock, pro-vegetarian movement called Straight Edge.

Utah officials believe that local Straight Edgers are responsible for more than 40 cases of assault, arson, or vandalism, including the torching of a McDonald's restaurant, all, apparently in the name of saving animals.

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Islamic Court Accepts Payoff
by Chuck Shepherd

March, 1998

The death penalty assessed to Assa Larsanova by an Islamic court in Chechnya for murdering her husband was commuted by the president of Chechnya after the husband's relatives said they would accept 100 cows as law-allowed blood money.

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Wealth Important Here --
And In The Hereafter
by Chuck Shepherd

December, 1997

An Associated Press dispatch from Hong Kong reported on the success of shopkeeper Kwan Wing-ho in offering facsimile objects made of paper (cell phones, computers, Mercedes-Benzes) for purchase by relatives of the recently-deceased, to be burned in Chinese ceremonies in which the object's smoke would waft into the hereafter.

Said Kwan, "Even in the spirit world, [they] think it is very important to show wealth."

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Partying Important Here --
And In The Hereafter
by Chuck Shepherd

November, 1997

Mexico once again celebrated the Day of the Dead on November 1, in which food and drink are brought to graveyards so that people can party with their relatives' spirits.

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Where Church Equals State

Ten Men Imprisoned
In Afghanistan
by Chuck Shepherd

November, 1997

Ten men were imprisoned by the Afghanistan Taliban regime for watching someone dance.

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Where Church Equals State

More Islamic
Gender Segregation
by Chuck Shepherd

October, 1997

The Malaysian state of Kelantan, which had previously ordered house lights on during movies to discourage couples' making out, ordered supermarket lines segregated by gender and public swimming pools (which previously had run on alternate hours for males and females) to build second pools so each gender would have one.

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Where Church Equals State

Defendant Fails Bible Test:
Cannot Testify
by Chuck Shepherd

July, 1997

Michael Ng, 26, was sentenced to 10 months in jail in Hong Kong for contempt of court, apparently because he drew the skepticism of Magistrate James Lee as he was being sworn in on the witness stand to testify to charges that he sold obscene CD's.

Before Lee would accept Ng's testimony, he asked Ng a series of Bible-related questions to determine his fitness to swear to God (e.g., How old was Jesus when he died? Where was he born?), and Ng failed.

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Officials "Beam-Down"
Security Guards
by Chuck Shepherd

July, 1997

James P. Morrow, a recent resident of an Ohio penitentiary, filed a lawsuit in Dayton against Governor George Voinovich and 300 other officials because they allegedly tried to "beam" security people down to confront Morrow every time he entered a courthouse.

According to Morrow's petition, the only way he could bypass such beaming is if the court granted him "Wallydraggle, Mummery Feg Winple Soupcon-type relief."

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Bigfoot Investigator
Summons Rescuers
by Chuck Shepherd

November, 1997

George Moscatello, 46, a free-lance Bigfoot investigator and novice camper from Woodside, New York, traveled to a remote area in Canada's Northwest Territories province, alone, to research the legendary beast.

At 4 A.M. on his first night in the field, after hearing what he described as "pitter-patter sounds" outside his tent, he set off an emergency beacon, summoning a rescue plane from Toronto to pick him up at a cost to taxpayers of about $8,500US.

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Religious Prep School
Backs Pervert Teacher
by Chuck Shepherd

November, 1997

The Associated Press revealed that the [Roman Catholic] Bishop Guertin High School in Nashua, New Hampshire, may be violating state law by employing as a teacher a man, Shawn McEnany, 35, who had been convicted of sexual assault. McEnany was hired in 1990 despite two misdemeanors for unlawful sexual contact.

A school spokesman said that McEnany was not a risky hire because in 1990, the school was for boys only, and McEnany's 1988 conviction involved a girl.

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Busy Moralist
Steals Women's Clothing
by Chuck Shepherd

September, 1997

Martin Moreno, 33, was arrested in Pomona, California, and charged with stealing, from clotheslines, as much as a half-ton of women's shorts, skirts, and underwear that he thought were too revealing for women to wear on the street.

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Church Awaits Arrival
Of God's Spacecraft
by Chuck Shepherd

December, 1997

Taiwanese pilgrims Pi Feng Chiang and Hon-Ming Chen moved their God's Salvation Church from Los Angeles to Garland, Texas, based on a heavenly revelation (actually, a skywritten ad for the latest James Bond movie).

Garland was chosen because it sounded like "God land" to the pilgrims, who speak halting English.

Hon-Ming then took a crew to Lake Michigan to scout the location for the March 31, 1998, arrival of God's spacecraft, the loading dock for which will be at the Lake Street Beach in Gary, Indiana.

Hon-Ming periodically stares at his hand in public because, he said, that is how he converses with God.

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Dubious Salvation

Mystical Blessings
Offered To Masturbators
by Chuck Shepherd

January, 1998

In Jerusalem, self-described mystic rabbi David Batzri offered specialized blessings in person or by telephone for those who have sinned by masturbation which he said is the principal cause of demons.

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"Knight Of God"
On Breast Patrol
by Chuck Shepherd

November, 1997

In Hong Kong, self-proclaimed "knight of God" Syed Atta Muhammad, 32, was committed to a psychiatric center after he assaulted a 22-year-old tour guide, whose breasts he thought were too big to serve God because they made her look like a prostitute.

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American Football Pro
Passes Big Salary Offer
by Chuck Shepherd

March, 1998

Pro football star Sean Gilbert sat out the 1997 season because the Washington Redskins had offered him only $20 million over the next five years, $1 million a season less than the figure that came to him last summer, he said, as a revelation from God.

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Man Sues Church:
Seeks Exorcism
by Chuck Shepherd

September, 1997

Mr. Anoki P. Sultan filed a lawsuit in Washington, D.C., against Roman Catholic Archbishop James Hickey, claiming that the Church was responsible for the devil's taking over his body in 1983.

Sultan said that would account for his being out of work so much, dropping out of college, seeking mental-health treatment, smoking cigarettes, speaking in tongues, and engaging in homosexual acts.

He sought either $100 million or an exorcism.

The lawsuit was dismissed.

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American Hindu Bites
Burrito, Sues Taqueria
by Chuck Shepherd

January, 1998

A Hindu man, Mukesh K. Rai, filed a lawsuit in Ventura, California, in January against Taco Bell for causing him to do "the equivalent of eating his ancestors," said his lawyer, by negligently substituting a beef burrito for a bean burrito. Rai thus required medical attention, he said, was forced to miss work, and will have to travel to India for "purification."

Taco Bell offered to calm the anguished Rai by exchanging the beef burrito for a bean one but, according to Rai, refused to refund him the price difference between the two.

According to the New York Post, "The crowd responded with polite applause."

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Bambi Baseball?

Latest Church Youth Activity
by Chuck Shepherd

November, 1997

The Sacramento Bee reported that a group of young people from the East Valley Foursquare Church in Orangevale, California, were recently observed playing what they called "Bambi Baseball," supervised by youth minister Robin Gattis. The name came from what was used as a bat: the frozen leg of a deer. A frozen cow tongue was the ball.

It was also reported that an earlier version of the game was played by swinging a frozen trout to hit a frozen squid.

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When Government Stumblebums
Administer Religious Matters

Netanyahu: Wall Owned
By Muslim Group
by Chuck Shepherd

November, 1997

An adviser to Israel's Prime Minister Netanyahu conceded that, due to a bureaucratic oversight, the Western Wall in Jerusalem is not owned by the government but by an organization called the Islamic Trust, which administers various Muslim holy sites.

After capturing Jerusalem in the 1967 Mideast war, Israel apparently formally appropriated the land beside the Wall, but not the Wall, itself.

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What Goes Around,
Comes Around

All-Female Battalion
To Fight Taliban
by Chuck Shepherd

November, 1997

Since taking control of most of Afghanistan in September 1996, the religious Taliban army has enforced strict, conservative Islamic rule, especially regarding the work, recreation, and dress of women.

Now, according to a report in the London Daily Telegraph, a splinter Muslim group about 200 miles north of Kabul has begun to train a women-only battalion to fight the Taliban. Females from the Hazaras, a Turkic Mongol ethnic group, have been training at a secret location and will soon begin a major recruiting campaign.

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Don't Tell Goddess Bath

Gastronomic Kitty
Festival Cancelled
by Chuck Shepherd

September, 1997

A celebration of Saint Efigenica in the small town of Canete, Peru, was to include the "Great Gastronomic Kitty Festival" (a cat-tasting event), but animal-lover organizations won a successful last-minute appeal.

Cats remain a delicacy in town, though; as one citizen told a reporter, "The street cats are the best. They have more flavor."

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Catholics School Program
Updates Definitions
by Chuck Shepherd

October, 1997

London's Daily Telegraph reported that a Catholic Church-supported teaching program for schools in Ireland and Northern Ireland has suggested eliminating references to "daddy" and "mummy" in lesson plans, for fear of confusing or offending kids ages 4 and 5 who are not raised in traditional homes. Suggested alternatives include "the people who look after you."

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Robertson to CC:
Emulate Chicago Politics
by Chuck Shepherd

September, 1997

At a meeting of Christian Coalition leaders in Atlanta, founder Pat Robertson said the religious group should raise its political intensity by looking to the notorious machine politics of Chicago and New York's Tammany Hall as models and that it would be God who would personally select the Republican best suited to advance the Coalition's agenda in the next Presidential campaign.

Robertson had begun his remarks by noting that he assumed he was talking only "in the family" and that if any members of the press were present, "would you please shoot yourself?" (The speech was recorded without his permission and leaked to the press.)

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Religion Exploited
To Thwart Will
by Chuck Shepherd

September, 1997

Edward Caudill, 32, filed a lawsuit in September in Greenup, Kentucky, against Our Lady of Bellefonte Hospital, claiming its personnel hastened his father's death from an auto accident in 1996 by not giving him blood, allegedly because the man's wife said not to on religious grounds. The wife herself died from her injuries about four hours after the husband.

Because Caudill's father died first, his estate was inherited by the wife (and on her death, by her family) and not by Caudill. Caudill pointed out that his father had never signed any document declining life-saving procedures and thus that the hospital was legally required to try to save him.

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Trespassing On Mars?
by Chuck Shepherd

July, 1997

Adam Ismail, Mustafa Khalil, and Abdullah al-Umari filed a lawsuit in their native Yemen against NASA, claiming that the Pathfinder Mars probe is trespassing on the planet they "inherited from our ancestors 3,000 years ago."

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Latest Disorder to
Hit the Courtroom

"Unchecked Religious Fervor"
Now A Syndrome
by Chuck Shepherd

September, 1997

In Philadelphia, a federal judge sentenced John G. Bennett, Jr., 60, to 12 years in prison for a fraudulent charitable fundraising pyramid scheme, eight years less than the minimum he should have gotten under sentencing guidelines.

The judge was persuaded that Bennett committed fraud only because of a delusional disorder characterized by "unchecked religious fervor," that he believed that any conduct was justified as long as it served God through philanthropy.

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I Don't Think So ...

Er, Nude Church Softball!?
by Chuck Shepherd

June, 1997

Lee Walter Nance was arrested in Hood River, Oregon, in June on suspicion of public indecency when police found him nude in a parking lot on the complaint of a woman who said Nance was harassing her. According to police, Nance explained that he was merely working on his tan because he was on a church softball team and was afraid that if he didn't have a base tan, he would get sunburned.

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The Dead Look Up
by Chuck Shepherd

September, 1997

The city of Kansas City, Kansas, joined four Indian tribes in court to protest an economic development plan by a fifth tribe, the 3,800-member Wyandotte Tribe of Oklahoma.

The Wyandottes plan to build a casino on pillars above a 150-year-old tribal burial ground it owns in downtown. Said one dissident: "Imagine our relatives lying here, looking up at the floor of a casino."

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Baptist Antics
by Chuck Shepherd

July, 1997

Baptist minister Larry Roach decided to leave Clover, South Carolina, and move his New Life Christian Fellowship (motto: "A Church on Fire") to Springfield, Missouri, and he was able to convince almost all of his parishioners to give him the church's assets to take with him, including $65,000 in cash.

A few days later, five or six parishioners objected, but Roach dismissed them: "They're idiots. If they mess with me, I'll have their homes and cars. It's a good thing I'm a Christian. They're gonna owe me [even more money] by the time I get done with their butts."

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Vatican Bilks
City Of New York
by Chuck Shepherd

October, 1997

On New York City's list of unpaid parking tickets issued to United Nations missions, incurred during the first three months of the year, the Holy See (diplomatic arm of the Vatican) incurred eight tickets, totaling $500 in fines.

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Demons Hiss At
Police Chief's Rebuke
by Chuck Shepherd

August, 1997

Police chief (and, in fact, the only paid officer on the force) Katie Holmboe of Gold Hill, Oregon (population 1,000), was fired based on complaints about her excessively Christian law enforcement.

Holmboe once reported that a man jumped into a squad car, acting strange. Said she, "Being a former Bible student, I knew what I was up against. I prayed, and I said, 'I denounce you in the name of Jesus.' It hit the floor. It looked up at me and [hissed]."

The Town Council was also displeased that she sold Mary Kay cosmetics while on duty.

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But Won't They Enjoy It?

Sexual Deviants
To Be Whipped
by Chuck Shepherd

August, 1997

The Johor Baru Religious Affairs Department in Malaysia announced that convicted sexual "deviants" would, in addition to serving prison time as punishment, be bound and whipped.

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Where Church Equals State

Two Men On Iran's
Death Row Granted New Trials
The Associated Press

June 3, 1998

TEHRAN, Iran -- Iranian judges have ordered new trials for a German businessman and an Iranian journalist who were sentenced to death, state-run media reported Wednesday.

Helmut Hofer, a German businessman and non-Muslim, was convicted in January of having sex with a Muslim woman, a violation under Iranian law. Hofer contends that he converted to Islam before having sex with the woman, a 26-year-old Iranian medical student, state radio said. The retrial has already started.

Morteza Firoozi, an Iranian journalist, was convicted of espionage and adultery. Iran's Supreme Court said it had "major objections" to his conviction, the official Islamic Republic News Agency reported, quoting the chief justice's spokesman, Ali Abbassifard. He did not elaborate.

The Bonn government has warned the Iranian leadership that German-Iranian relations will deteriorate if Hofer, 54, is executed. Germany is Iran's biggest trading partner in the European Union.

Firoozi, 40, is a former editor of the Iran News. He has been detained since May 1997.

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