*Catholic officials in Brazil attribute the recent 250 percent increase in church attendance to the popularity of priest Marcelo Rossi, age 31, a singer and former aerobics instructor described by his young female parishioners as a "hunk" and whose high-energy stadium masses regularly draw 20,000 worshipers. According to a March Chicago Tribune story, Father Rossi's services use a Byzantine rosary, which reduces time spent in prayer, and buckets of holy water doused by assistants over the screaming, rock-concertlike fans. According to a leading Brazilian magazine: "You can't deny that to be Catholic is cool now."
*In stories by Knight Ridder news service (in Honduras) and the Wall Street Journal (in Russia) this past March, the latest U.S. disaster-relief efforts were revealed to be rife with ill-conceived aid. Honduran hurricane victims still need cooking utensils and medicine but are receiving old clothes, cans of largely unappreciated foods such as artichoke hearts, and items like microwave popcorn, dog food, and dental floss. Food commodities donated to starving Russians tend to lower the prices of similar Russian food, angering farmers, and the American food usually winds up being sold on the street rather than being given to the poor.
*In March a federal judge in Syracuse, New York, rejected the latest lawsuit by Donald Drusky of East McKeesport, Pennsylvania, in his 30-year battle against USX Corporation for ruining his life by firing him in 1968. Drusky had sued "God ... the sovereign ruler of the universe" for taking "no corrective action" against Drusky's enemies and demanded that God compensate him with professional guitar-playing skills and the resurrection of his mother. Drusky argued that under the federal rules of civil procedure, he would win a default judgement if God failed to show up in court.
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Leading Economic Indicators
*Cairo, Egypt, school superintendent Maryann Maurice, age 57, was jailed for illegal street begging this past March; she said she earned about $150 per day, the same amount the school paid her monthly. Also in March retired Russian Army Col. Dmitry Setrakov, age 69, was arrested after a brief standoff at a downtown Moscow bank; he had pulled a shotgun in an unsuccessful attempt to withdraw about $22,000 from his own account, which, like nearly everyone else's, is frozen. And the London Daily Telegraph reported in March that Russian soldiers in Chechnya had sold off at least 100 of their colleagues to the other side for as little as $17 each; the Chechens ransom the Russian soldiers back to their families.
Wrong Place, Wrong Time
*Leo Koskela, age 62, was rescued in Gresham, Oregon, in November after being trapped underneath a train. According to police he was standing between two tracks and was hit by a slow-moving westbound train that dragged him fifteen feet before he broke free, but then fell into the path of an eastbound train that dragged him eighteen feet, thus leaving him in just about his original position.
*Turf 'n' Surf: Sergio Gutierrez, age 22, was rescued by farmers near Santa Rosa, California, in December after his tractor-trailer collided with a large bear and spun out of control. Gutierrez was thrown from the cab, but the truck slid toward him and a door ripped open, spilling the huge cargo of frozen mackerel on top of him.
-- By Chuck Shepherd