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News of the Weird


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Since early in 1994 some parishioners of Vineyard Christian Fellowship Church in Toronto, overcome by the Holy Spirit, have been falling on the floor in sidesplitting laughter during services. Church leaders liken this "Toronto Blessing" to such experiences in other religions that inspire members to speak in tongues. Each week six evening services are filled to capacity with giggling parishioners.

The Continuing Crisis

In January Australian immigration officials denied entrance to Charlene Mirabella, a librarian from Buffalo, New York, who had just married a librarian from Brisbane, Australia, after a nine-month courtship that took place exclusively by E-mail. Mirabella was rejected for being a potential drain on Australian health-care resources because she is overweight, according to a government calculation of "body mass index," which is obtained by dividing the weight-per-age by the square of her height.

In September the Zhu Ma Dian pharmaceutical company won a defamation lawsuit against a newspaper and a TV station in Liaoning, China, regarding the strength of the company's sleeping pills. The newspaper had reported truthfully that a couple, distraught over gambling losses, attempted suicide by swallowing a total of six bottles of the pills, but wound up only with bad stomachaches. Since the story appeared at the time of the Chinese National Medicines Fair, the company claimed it lost about 90 percent of expected sales.

In Decatur, Georgia, in September Adei Grenpastures-Doty and Tim Doty appeared at the First Christian Church five years after their wedding for a divorce ceremony, presided over by the minister who married them. The former Mrs. Doty is a minister; Mr. Doty is working on a master's degree in divinity. Scripture readings and prayers of thanksgiving and forgiveness highlighted the ceremony.

Among new Japanese computer fish technology: a fishing simulator, in which working a rod and reel properly allows fish on a video monitor to be bagged, and a virtual aquarium, Aquazone, in which simulated fish "live" in real time, must be fed, must have optimum environmental conditions for breeding, dirty the water with excretion, and grow older even while the program is not running.

In July in Nakorn Sri Thammarat province in Thailand, Perm Suttimusik, 76, committed suicide after all 17 wives in his harem deserted him. Police speculated that Perm had lost his potency after the herbal brew he'd been taking failed.

In February, to combat a wave of students who'd been fouling rolls of toilet paper at Canyon Vista Middle School in Austin, principal Don Dalton climbed into the ceiling above the toilet stalls in the boys' rest room and lay in wait, peering out of a small opening in the ceiling panel. Within a minute he caught a boy urinating on a roll of toilet paper. Said one parent, "A lot of us feel the situation could have been solved [in a different way]."

In December two men and a woman were arrested in connection with the murder of Randall Sheridan, who'd been involved in a child-custody dispute with the woman in Junction City, Kansas. One of the reasons they were arrested was that their alibis had been refuted by a satellite photo, which purportedly showed that their cars were not parked where they 'd said they were. Bail was lowered a few days later when the photo was revealed to have been a fake.

In January British astronomer Dr. Jacqueline Mitton told reporters that astrological signs are about one month off, meaning that astrologers have been reading the wrong signs. The dates for each star were drawn up more than 2,000 years ago, said Mitton, but "the Zodiac is constantly changing." There are now only seven days under Scorpio and more than a month each under Virgo, Taurus, and Pisces. Countered astrologer Jonathan Cainer of London's Daily Mail: "Her claim is codswallop."

Least Competent Criminals

In March three wayward policemen were arrested in Mexico City after attempting to carjack a Jeep Cherokee as it stopped for a traffic light in broad daylight in an affluent neighborhood. The Cherokee was being driven by Ernesto Zedillo Velasco, 19, the son of President Ernesto Zedillo. Velasco was accompanied by two unmarked cars filled with bodyguards, who quickly subdued the would-be carjackers.

I Don't Think So

In February William Williams, 34, and Robert Williams, 32, were arrested in Des Moines, Iowa, and charged with breaking into a change machine and a detergent machine at a Laundromat. Police were assisted by an eyewitness, who said the men offered to give her several small packages of detergent if she'd keep quiet.

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

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