Forensic Report Says
Human Blood Leaked
From Jesus Statue
by Cliff Walker
from wire copy

April 21, 1998

Calcutta, India -- A government forensic laboratory found that the statue of Jesus Christ that began to bleed contained human blood.

Skeptics said the bleeding stopped when they demanded scientific testing. Others said it was a hoax.

Tests of the sample taken from the statue revealed it was human blood, said M.S. Rao, director of the federal government's Central Forensic And Scientific Laboratories. Rao said blood samples from the family of the statue's owner were not tested because they did not offer them.

The possibility of deliberate fraud must be near the top of the list for anyone, even a religious person, who wishes to determine the legitimacy of a claimed miracle -- especially when it is so prosaic as a bleeding statue.

But the believers who wanted verification of their faith continued to believe. Thousands have flocked to the home in north Calcutta.

(Conrad Goeringer of American Atheists comments: Sometimes I wonder if Cliff doesn't make this sort of stuff up just to amuse us. Sadly, he doesn't have to!)

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Blood Tested on
Plaque of Patron Saint
by Cliff Walker
from various reports

June 1, 1998

Margarita Holguin Cazares, of Lewis, Kansas, has a plaque of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the patron saint of Mexico, that allegedly weeps blood.

DNA tests requested by the Diocese of Dodge City show that the blood is virtually identical to Mrs. Cazares' blood.

Dr. Moses Schanfield of the Analytical Genetic Testing Center in Denver, who performed the DNA test, said: "If Margarita Cazares is not the donor, then less than 1 in 795 million Americans could be the donor."

But these things always die hard.

"With God, anything's possible -- who are we to question?" said Cathy Woolard, editor of the Edwards County Sentinel. Expressing thoroughly unshakable belief, in an attempt to make the scene sound even more miraculous, she said, "It's possible that the DNA is identical and that may be part of the miracle."

Obviously.

A CAT scan ordered by the church found no hidden reservoirs or spaces that could hide a liquid, though this does not eliminate the possibility of other methods of slight-of-hand trickery.

"This scientific conclusion by Dr. Schanfield means that the church cannot make a judgment one way or another concerning the phenomena," the Dodge City, Kansas, diocese said in a statement Friday.

Besides the weeping portrait, Cazares says she has stigmata, or wounds in her hands like those Jesus received in the Crucifixion. But the church said it would not investigate these, as Cazares conveniently requested "no further interference in her life."

Nevertheless, her farfetched claims have drawn more than 10,000 miracle seekers to Lewis, a town of just over 400 people about 120 miles west of Wichita.

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Lightning Is Still
"A Sign From God"

Lightning Strikes Mosque;
Christian Pilgrims Cheer
by Cliff Walker
from wire copy

April 16, 1998

Lightning struck the 12th century Mosque of Omar in Jerusalem's Old City on Thursday, striking awe among superstitious pilgrims attending a ceremony to commemorate Jesus' alleged washing of his disciples' feet. Dust and fragments rained on Orthodox Christian pilgrims at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the one of the supposed burial sites of Jesus.

At least two pilgrims were slightly injured. Nevertheless, a woman from Crete said, "The people are happy ... it is a sign from God" said a woman from Crete. Worshipers were seen smiling, pointing to the sky, and wildly crossing themselves.

The Mosque of Omar was built in 1193 after Moslem forces, led by Saladin, captured Jerusalem from the Crusaders in 1187.

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She Thrust Her Fist
Against The Post

Mondale's Daughter
Insists She Saw Ghost
by Cliff Walker
from various sources

April 15, 1998

Eleanor Mondale 38, wrote in the latest Swing magazine that she was visited by a ghost one night at the vice president's house when her father was Jimmy Carter's veep.

"I was so scared, I fainted," she wrote. "Upon coming to, I reached for the phone and picked up the 'hot line' to the Secret Service Command Post. I whispered that there was a man in my room and hung up. Minutes later, two agents busted into the room, guns drawn. When I told them the 'man' was actually a ghost, they requested that I never do that again!"

Carter and Mondale served one term, starting in 1977.

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Rats Eat Easter Treats,
Man Hangs Himself
by Cliff Walker
from wire copy

April 15, 1998

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia -- A weaver killed himself after rats destroyed cash he had hidden to buy Easter treats.

Solano Sonso was a resident of the southern town of Arba Minch. He became distraught when he found rats had shredded the 210 birr ($31) carefully put away for Easter. He instructed his sister and his two children to spend the night with neighbors. The next morning he was found hanging from the roof of his house.

The Ethiopian Orthodox Church celebrates Easter on April 19th this year.

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Teens Kill Selves
Over Virignity Tests
by Chuck Shepherd

September, 1997

Five teenage girls attempted suicide in Turkey rather than submit to "virginity tests" required of girls in government-run foster homes.

Many families still have physicians run daughters through the test voluntarily, as part of a Muslim-based social code. Even Turkey's women's affairs minister, who is female, has defended the practice for the foster homes. Some fathers whose daughters have been killed in accidents still insist that the test be performed on the corpse, for the father's own peace of mind.

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Surgeons 'Restore' Virginity
by Cliff Walker
from wire copy

February 6, 1998

London -- Dutch surgeons are restoring the appearance of virginity for young immigrant women. The purpose is reduce shame and to give the women a better chance of marrying within their cultural traditions. Gynecologists have been performing the operation since 1993.

Many immigrant groups still insist that brides must be virgins. Women who are not may suffer violent reprisals.

"Because of these far-reaching consequences, many gynecologists in the Netherlands are willing to reconstruct the hymens of adolescent girls who are no long virgins but wish to appear so," said gynecologist Dr Adrian Logsman, of Rotterdam.

In his report to The British Medical Journal, Logsman described the operation as an out-patient procedure, following an initial consultation with the patient, an interpreter and a social worker. "In the Netherlands the principal factors in ethical decisions are the patient's wishes -- provided these are within the law -- so medical decisions may conflict with cultural values."

Logsman rejects arguments that equate hymen reconstruction with the brutal practice of female circumcision, the surgical removal of the clitoris. However, it is the strict taboos, not the reconstructive surgery, that are brutal and sometimes deadly. Logsman said the reconstructive procedure should become an accepted part of plastic and reconstructive surgery world-wide.

A follow-up study of 20 of the first patients, ranging in age from 16 to 23 years old, showed they were pleased with the results. None had any regrets.

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Another Case Against
Circumcision Ritual

Brutal Religious Rite
Spurs Baby Mixup
by Cliff Walker
from wire copy

April, 1998

Memphis, Tennessee -- A 23-year-old woman accused a hospital of trying to stick her with the wrong baby boy. ''That baby is ugly. He doesn't look like my other kids,'' says LaDonna Harris.

Though the hospital insists that the baby is hers, she has refused to take it home. She wants the baby she initially took home before the hospital discovered a mixup. ''I bought Pampers, I bought clothes,'' she said. ''I don't want another baby. I want the baby I brought home.''

Harris planned to give a blood sample for DNA tests. The other mother already has done so. Results are expected in about four weeks. Harris hired a lawyer to fight against the Regional Medical Center in Memphis.

The other baby was apparently placed in the wrong bassinet after the babies were circumcised.

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Man Kills Cook
Over Magic Spell
by Cliff Walker
from wire copy

March 25, 1998

A factory worker allegedly stabbed a cook he thought had seduced his wife with black magic and put a spell on him.

Juan Escobar, 42, is said to have stabbed Lidio Canales, 44, more than a dozen times with a hunting knife, according to police in Suffolk County. He told police he had been suffering a spate of bad luck.

The stabbing occurred in Brentwood, about 40 miles east of New York City, shortly after midnight. Escobar was charged with second degree murder.

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Crooks Ask For
God's Protection
by Chuck Shepherd

September, 1997

According to a federal indictment in Des Moines, Iowa, Kenneth Ray Bruner (who is the stepson of a Pentecostal minister in Oklahoma City) led his seven accomplices in prayer three weeks earlier, asking for God's protection just before they set out to knock off Hermans Fine Jewelry.

Bruner acknowledged, according to the indictment, "that they were going to do bad things but that they were not bad people."

No one was hurt in the robbery, and everyone was behind bars by the following day.

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Anti-Porn Frenzy

Moralist Throws Toddler
Out Of Speeding Car
by Cliff Walker
from wire copy

February 19, 1998

Florida -- A West Palm Beach, Florida, woman admitted to police that she threw her 18-month-old son out a speeding car into a highway median. Witnesses said they saw the woman speeding up to 90 mph along Interstate 95. Three people said they saw her throw the toddler through the driver's side window.

Krisann Haddad, 30, of West Palm Beach, was held on $60,000 bond and charged with first-degree attempted murder and second-degree aggravated child abuse. She told officers she "would rather have her son dead than to be involved with pornography movies," police said. Police are not sure what she meant by that.

Her son, Stephen, was listed in critical condition with broken bones a West Palm Beach hospital.

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Just how stable
are these guys?

Kentucky Arms The Clergy
by Cliff Walker
from wire copy

April 14, 1998

Kentucky clergy are fearful of armed robbers stealing the collection money after church services. So Kentucky lawmakers passed an amendment to the state weapons law, enabling clergymen to carry concealed guns in church.

The clergy had been deliberately left out of a 1996 law allowing concealed weapons in Kentucky, but rural ministers and priests lobbied state lawmakers to allow them to carry concealed guns. The amendment passed in the House by 76-9 and is due to be signed into law by Governor Paul Patton on April 15.

Some lawmakers and ministers are enraged by the move in the wake of the school killings in Jonesboro, Arkansas. "It's quite disturbing to me, right after the Jonesboro tragedy," said Democrat Kathy Stein, an attorney and former Director of Domestic Violence in Fayette County. Four girls and a teacher were killed in a schoolyard ambush in Jonesboro last month when two boys opened fire on them.

Nancy Jo Kemper, a minister and Executive Director of the Kentucky Council of Churches, blasted the state legislature for its decision. She said: "I am just sick and appalled ... How can we expect our children to learn that guns will not solve problems if they see even ministers, who are supposed to be agents of peace and reconciliation, carrying weapons that can kill?"

Democratic congressman Robert Damron, a co-sponsor of the amendment, said that rural churches made more vulnerable to robberies by their exemption in the original bill. "In 1997, there were two or three instances where an individual took a shotgun at the end of church ceremony and robbed the collection. No one was injured. But churches were more subject to being robbed because they're exempted by law from having concealed weapons," Damron said. "That a man of the cloth would carry a gun sends a strong message to the criminals."

But Stein argued that "it sends the wrong message. That more weapons, not fewer, are a good idea."

On a note much more consistent with what religion tends to teach, Monte Wilkinson, a minster at Southland Christian Church, said: "We don't look to firearms to protect us. Our confidence is in God."

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Where Church Equals State

Thief's Hand Amputated
In Sports Stadium
Reuters News Service

April 6, 1998

Kabul -- Afghanistan's Taliban authorities amputated a hand of a convicted thief in a sports stadium in Kabul Sunday and used the occasion to defend their human rights record against criticism abroad.

Three doctors, with their faces covered, used a lancet to amputate the right hand of Mohmmad Yaqub, a man in his early 20s convicted by an Islamic court of stealing from a house in Kabul, witnesses said.

Yaqub was led from a car and made to lie prostrate on the ground. The doctors then gave him an anesthetic, covered his face and, as hundreds of spectators rushed to see the event, the man's right hand was separated at the joint from his arm.

Before the sentence was carried out, Taliban officials, in speeches to the crowd, defended the human rights record of the Taliban government, which controls more than two-thirds of Afghanistan and is fighting a north-based opposition alliance.

"When we cut the hand of a thief, we have observed human rights ... and if infidels criticize us, we say to them that the Koran (the sacred book of Muslims) is the guardian of all human beings," one Taliban official said.

"If these types of heavenly orders are not enforced, then corruption will increase," said Sayed Abdur Rahman, the head of the Taliban military tribunal.

As part of their policy to enforce strict Islamic laws to fight crime, the Taliban authorities have executed more than 10 people in Kabul for murder and treason since they captured the war-shattered capital in September 1996.

Lashing and stoning to death are punishments for adulterers.

Rahman, a representative of Taliban supreme leader Mullah Mohammad Omar, who is based in the southern town of Kandahar, said amputation of hands or other punishments such as execution were being carried out to protect people's honor and property and to serve as a deterrent.

Heavily-armed Taliban fighters had gathered inside and outside the stadium, which once served as a battle front-line between rival factions in their fight for the control of Kabul before the city fell to the Taliban in 1996.

More than a dozen trucks, with anti-aircraft machine-guns mounted on them, and a couple of tanks were parked outside the stadium.

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