Neighbors: "Ordinary,
Likable People"

Couple Cuts Tongue of
"Demon-Possessed" Baby
by Cliff Walker
adapted from wire copy

March 13, 1998

São Paulo, Brazil -- The parents of a 10-month-old baby girl were charged with cutting her tongue out with a pair of scissors. Brazillian police said the couple thought she was "possessed by the devil." A police spokeswoman in Sorocaba, 54 miles west of São Paulo, told Reuters News Service: "They said the child's body was possessed by the devil and that the tongue was an evil thing."

Apparently, baby Diane Cristina was sick when her mother and father decided they could cure her by cutting out her tongue, thinking "the devil was in it." Police said, "They said they heard voices telling them to cut out the baby's tongue, that the child was the victim of witchcraft."

The parents then took the bleeding baby to a hospital in Sorocaba where doctors said it would be impossible to reattach the baby's tongue.

The parents, Terezinha Silva Francisco, 27, and Jair Francisco, 28, were charged with child abuse and deliberately inflicting grave bodily injuries. A local radio news report said that Jair Francisco was promptly beaten and stabbed by inmates at the jail. He was reported to be in critical condition at a local hospital.

Meanwhile, police said neighbors described the couple as (you guessed it) "ordinary, likable people."

We can expect this assessment from neighbors as long as superstition and religious faith are seen as ordinary and healthy and are equated with goodness in the minds of the people.

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Murderous Boy
Studies The Bible
by Cliff Walker
from various sources

April, 1998

Mitchell Johnson is scared, says his attorney. The 13-year-old boy is accused of the ambush-shooting deaths of five students and one teacher at Westside Middle School in Jonesboro, Arkansas.

"He's a little boy," attorney Tom Furth told reporters. Although Johnson is young, says Furth, he "absolutely understands the difference between right and wrong." The lawyer says the boy has been spending his time in jail reading, including "an awful lot of Bible study."

Considering the vast amount of brutal bloodshed which the Bible describes and of which the Bible approves, Johnson should be right at home reading this book.

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Frenzy of Hatred Fueled

Jamaican Clergy Protest
Gay Vocal Group
by Cliff Walker
from various sources

March 10, 1998

Church officials in Kingston, Jamaica, pumping up the anti-homosexual sentiments already widespread among the Caribbean nations. Their most recent move backwards is to protest against a scheduled Jamaican appearance by the U.S. gay pop vocal group The Village People. The group's hits "YMCA" and "In the Navy" made them icons among gays, straights, and children in the 1970s.

The Village People are scheduled to perform at a music festival at the Negril Beach Resort this weekend. "To promote a music festival of that nature which is going to highlight a behavior repugnant to the majority of people in this country is disrespectful," said Rev. Stanley Clark, president of the Jamaica Council of Churches. Bishop S.U. Thomas of the Emmanuel Apostolic Church also opposes the show.

Homosexuality is illegal in Jamaica and is a source of much controversy. Britain is urging some of its remaining colonies in the region to liberalize anti-gay laws, drawing resentment from many islanders. As usual, the clergy is milking this controversy for all it's worth.

In December, the government of the Cayman Islands refused landing rights to a cruise ship saying the 900 gay passengers could not be expected to uphold appropriate standards of behavior.

Hundreds of demonstrators, in Nassau in the Bahamas protested Sunday against another ship thought to be chartered by gays.

Last August, 16 inmates were killed in prison riots in Jamaica sparked by suggestions that homosexuality was rife in the prisons.

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A New Twist On
The Gypsy Switch

Psychic Sought In
"Evil Spirits" Scam
by Cliff Walker
adapted from wire copy

March 6, 1998

Key West, Florida -- A man was held and authorities were searching for a "psychic" in connection with a plot to charge a wealthy Swiss woman of $200,000 for taming her evil spirits. Louis George, 61, was held on a $1 million bond at the Monroe County jail. Authorities are still searching for 41-year-old self-described psychic Paula Marion.

Marion, who ran a Tarot card and palm reading shop in a small house on Key West's historic Duval Street, and George were alleged to have used counterfeit money to fool Yvonne Cavin, 52 into paying over $200,000 to "appease the bad spirits around her."

In the summer of 1995, Marion lured Cavin through free psychic readings. She eventually convinced Cavin to come up $15,000 in cash to tame the spirits plaguing her. In this scam, the psychic "loaned" Cavin the phony cash, which was burned in a ceremonial bowl druing a ritual. Cavin later wired money to the psychic to reimburse her, police said.

A few months later, Marion beguiled Cavin into putting up another $160,000 to appease the spirits. Marion and George again "loaned" Cavin $160,000 in phony bills in a briefcase left on the steps of a Miami church. Marion instructed Cavin not to look in the case "or it would invalidate the ceremony." Again, she wired money to reimburse the pair. During the course of her dealings with Marion, Cavin lost a total of $200,000 in various scams, police said.

Cavin began to see the light when she saw Marion's husband driving a new Mercedes sports car shortly after one transaction.

"This certainly is a major fraud case as far as we're concerned," Monroe Sheriff's spokeswoman Becky Herrin said. "But this fraud or type of fraud happens all across the country."

One can only wonder if the authorities would consider similar behavior by established, traditional churches wherein gullible people bequeath their entire estates to the churches as a form of "fire insurance" against the mythical terrors of the hereafter.

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Rajneesh Poisoning
Incident Finally Disclosed
by Chuck Shepherd

August, 1997

Doctors writing in the Journal of the American Medical Association in August on a salmonella incident confirmed that the 751 people who became ill in 1984 after eating in one of the 10 restaurants of The Dalles, Oregon, were intentionally poisoned, as criminal investigators suspected in 1986.

Investigators had found that disciples of the late Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh deliberately poured the bacteria on restaurant salad bars to test their plan to incapacitate voters opposed to Rajneesh in an upcoming election so that their own slate would win.

The lead JAMA author said the case has been largely unpublicized since then because the government feared copycat contaminators.

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Ten Thousand Gods
Cast Votes in India
by Chuck Shepherd

June, 1997

Voter officials in the state of Andhra Pradesh, in India, validated ballots for 10,000 gods and goddesses to somehow vote in upcoming plebiscites on water usage. (Those deities are listed on deeds as land owners and are thus entitled to elect their own representatives.)

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Interviewer Quizzes The Dead
by Chuck Shepherd

October, 1997

Ghanan researcher Philip Adongo, explaining to a family planning conference in Beijing why he interviewed spiritual mediums in addition to other tribespeople in his country: "If I only heard from the living, I wouldn't get a very good balance. This study has been the first to be conducted of respondents who are deceased."

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Clinton Rejects
Kama Sutra Book
by Woody Johnson

April 20, 1998

Santiago, Chile -- A mischievous journalist handed President Clinton a copy of the illustrated Kama Sutra, the oldest known treatise on sex written in India 1,500 years ago. The U.S. president, who often stops to chat with crowds, took the book, glanced at a couple embracing on its cover handed it right back.

Clinton had been posing for a hilltop photo of the 34 Western Hemisphere leaders at the Summit of the Americas in Santiago.

A few steps later Clinton accepted a saxophone held by out another journalist. Both reporters work for Argentine satirical television shows and regularly try to embarrass politicians in front of cameras.

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Where Church Equals State

Islamic Civil Law Forbids
Recycling, Shaving
by Chuck Shepherd

September, 1997

Among the recent rules established by the Afghanistan Taliban office formerly known as the Department for Promoting Virtue and Preventing Vice: No paper bags (because the paper possibly could have been recycled from discarded Korans); athletes must grow beards and wear full Islamic dress in the field.

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Town Embarrassed by
Sex-Pervert Pastor
by Chuck Shepherd

June, 1997

James Eric Holmgren, 46, resigned from the pulpit after being charged with sexually administering enemas to a boy; he had been pastor of the Embarrass-Pike Evangelical Lutheran Church in the town of Embarrass, Minnesota.

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Utah NOW Endorses
Multi-Wife Polygamy
by Chuck Shepherd

May, 1997

At a National Organization for Women's gathering in Utah, Elizabeth Joseph, an attorney, and Ellen George, secretary of the NOW Utah office, praised multi-wife polygamy as an alternative for feminists, an idea that was a few years ago denounced by NOW as slavery.

Joseph lives informally in such an arrangement with her husband, six co-wives, and 20 children; some wives stay home, and others work.

Said George, "We fight for lesbian families and single-parent families. I don't know why we wouldn't support this."

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Sex-Ed Opponent's
Daughter Rapes Boy
by Chuck Shepherd

August, 1997

In May, 1997, Kent, Washington, elementary school teacher Mary Kay LeTourneau, 35, gave birth to a baby girl, the father of whom is one of her sixth-graders.

LeTourneau is the daughter of ex-U.S. Rep. John Schmitz, an intense right-wing Republican who was so notoriously opposed to sex education in schools that he would move little Mary out of any school contemplating such a program.

Now, she has pleaded guilty to child rape. (Unofficially, though, she admires the boy: "There was a respect, an insight, a spirit, an understanding between us that grew over time." They met when he was in second grade.)

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New Beer Neutralizes
Radiation Fears
by Chuck Shepherd

July, 1997

The Lomsko Pivo brewery in Lom, Bulgaria, announced that brewmaster Yordan Platikanov has developed a beer that could neutralize any lingering amounts of uranium 134 and strontium in the body after exposure to nuclear radiation.

Platikanov said the new beer should be urged on nuclear power plant workers relaxing at the end of a shift.

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Animism Inspires
Disgusting Chinese Wine
by Chuck Shepherd

June, 1997

The Liquor Control Board of Ontario cleared local shelves of a smuggled Chinese wine that purportedly enhances libido. Three-Penis Wine (deer, dolphin, and dog) has such foul ingredients that authorities wouldn't even dump it in sewers.

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Why Addiction "Medicine"
Is Phony Science

Star-Trek 'Addicts' Get
Physical Withdrawals
by Chuck Shepherd

June, 1997

Psychologist Sandy Wolfson told The Times of London that her research on fans of "Star Trek" reveals as many as 10 percent to meet the clinical definition of addicts, especially when they go through physical withdrawal during their show's absence.

Further, like classic drug addicts, they seem to require ever-increasing doses to overcome their tolerance levels.

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Unclear on the Concept

Minister Supplies
Dope To Needy Junkies
by Chuck Shepherd

August, 1997

Protestant minister Hans Visser announced that he had lined up doctors, social workers, and drug dealers to begin a social program of supplying heroin at discount to hopeless addicts in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, to help keep them away from crime and life-threatening cheap drugs.

Said Visser, "I expect I will [soon] be having a chat with justice officials."

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Almost-900-Foot Jesus

Holy Land Theme Park
Slated In Nevada
by Chuck Shepherd

July, 1997

Quorum International Ltd. announced plans for a $1.6 billion Holy Land theme park in Mesquite, Nevada, along Interstate 15 about 75 miles from Las Vegas, including a 33-story statue of Jesus and large models of Noah's Ark and the parting of the Red Sea.

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