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News of the Weird

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Four families in Burlington County, New Jersey, filed a lawsuit against the Catholic Church in March, claiming damages for emotional distress caused by the church's failure to remove a priest who they reported had sexually abused their children in 1990. The couples claim that as a result of the priest's staying on at Saint Mary of the Lakes Church in Medford, New Jersey, they lost their faith and thus stand a lesser chance of getting into heaven.

Seeds of Our Destruction

Pennsylvania's Harrisburg Patriot-News reported in March that the state's largest health insurer, Pennsylvania Blue Shield, had bought $1.8 million in stock in Philip Morris Inc. last year and nearly $10 million over the last three years.

In December the Canadian mining company Inco Ltd., in Sudbury, Ontario, informed 58 female secretaries (many in their 40s and 50s) that they had three weeks to decide whether to accept layoffs or report for training classes in mining. Said an Inco official, "Mining is not as physically demanding as it once was."

The Charleston Post and Courier reported in February that a billboard company cut down more than 100 pine trees, some of which were more than 45 years old, along a small stretch of Interstate 26 near Charleston, South Carolina. "Why did we cut them?" said an executive at Classic Outdoor Advertising. "We lease billboards, and if you can't see them, you can't sell them."

The superintendent of the Ravenswood Elementary School District in East Palo Alto, California, said in January that she would consider purchasing life insurance to cover funeral expenses on the district's 4,200 students because the city's homicide rate is the highest in the nation. Recently teachers and administrators were asked to contribute to the $1,500 cost of funerals for students killed in drive-by shootings.

The stock price of the Australian mining firm Great Central Mines rose almost 300 percent in March when the company's chairman, Joseph I. Gutnick, began touring the United States with a videotape that included an endorsement of the company by the noted rabbi of the Lubavitcher Hasidic sect in Brooklyn, New York. Gutnick told the Wall Street Journal that Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson "has assured me both publicly and privately that I will be involved with major discoveries in both gold and diamonds."

Names From Hell

Officials in Marion County, South Carolina, finally agreed in February to change the name of a lake next to the Great Pee Dee River, in the southern part of the county. It had long been called "Nigger Lake," and despite local controversy the name still appears on a map distributed by the chamber of commerce.

Greensboro, North Carolina, police caught two suspects in a February robbery of the Triad Bank, but the third suspect, whose name is Progress Always Lloyd, escaped.

Road & Track magazine mourned the death last October of longtime contributing editor Cyril Posthumus. Also in October the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Oregon ruled in favor of two creditors in claims against a debtor named Burt G. Pohrman.

In February New York City health officials revealed that the neighborhood that registered the highest incidence of AIDS cases in 1990-'91 was the Chelsea/Clinton area of Manhattan.

Ronald Hodges, 34, arrested in New Orleans recently and charged with murder, was released when police learned that the suspect they wanted was his brother Ronnie Hodges. Said Ronald, "That's the way our mother named us."

Tiverton, Nova Scotia, resident Annabel Elliott Outhouse, author of a book about privies on Long Island, Nova Scotia, called Outhouses of the Island, hosted a family reunion last July, which was attended by 300 people from Canada and the United States. Outhouse is the most common surname on Long Island.

The Weirdo-American Community

Martin Schuss was arrested in New York City in April at the phone booth to which his call had been traced. Police say Schuss had made dozens of calls to the LaGuardia Airport control tower accusing the controllers of maliciously routing planes over his home.

Least Competent People

In the latest reported cases of convenience-store robbers who happen to leave their wallets behind during hasty getaways, Vernon "Isa" Mustaffa, 45, was arrested in San Diego in September and a 44-year-old man was arrested in January in Bremerton, Washington.

Some Good News

Two men recently survived serious plunges: In March in Minneapolis Dieuliphete Mathieu walked away after his car fell 60 feet down a limestone cliff. And in April in Manchester, England, Christopher Saggers, 26, fell from the 22nd story of an apartment house onto a parked car and then walked away (although he was subsequently hospitalized for various injuries).

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): illustration/Shawn Belschwender.

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