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In February the Prostitute Information Centre in Amsterdam began offering a six-day course for around $160 on how to practice the trade in the Netherlands. Sessions include a survey of job opportunities, a field trip to a sex bar, a role-playing class with an actor portraying a customer, and a class on finances to explain the tax deductibility of such expenses as condoms, leather, and beauty aids.

Latest Religious Messages

Results of a Louis Harris poll released in January included the findings that about 70 percent of Americans believe that their financial situation is "at least somewhat" a reflection of "God's regard for them" and that people with lower incomes are the most likely to believe it. And in December John M. Templeton, head of a family of mutual funds, wrote in a religious magazine that prayer is the most important part of his success in financial forecasting.

The Winston-Salem Journal reported in February that evangelist Steven Jones of North Wilkesboro, North Carolina, describes himself as one of the few in his profession who specialize in saving people with tooth trouble. He said he has had the God-given power since 1993 to straighten teeth, end toothaches, and replace lead and mercury fillings with gold, silver, and pearl.

After Moana Pozzi, 33, once Italy's most prominent hard-core pornographic film star, died of cancer in September, she was profoundly praised by many of the country's Roman Catholics because she had turned to religion at the end of her life. The newsmagazine L'Espresso called her "Saint Moana" and noted that Jesus also died at age 33. The archbishop of Naples said, "She was an example that redemption is possible."

In February the Union Hill Cumberland Presbyterian Church in Athens, Alabama, raised $2,500 by staging a "coon hunt for Christ." Said Reverend Charles Hood, "The coon hunt is a way to spread the word of God, to talk about Jesus Christ."

The archdiocese of Albany, New York, rejected requests that good Catholics be allowed to eat the traditional corned beef and cabbage for Saint Patrick's Day, which this year fell on a Friday, when eating meat is forbidden. However, the vicar general of the adjacent archdiocese of New York said he would make an exception this year and not urge his parishioners to abstain from eating meat on that day.

In December in Singapore a couple brought 40 relatives, a cow, and a calf on the elevator in their apartment building so they could bless their new home in an ancient Hindu ceremony. The cow rental fee was $480, and the couple paid an additional $200 in cleaning costs because the cow soiled the living room during the ceremony.

Compelling Explanations

In October in Belvidere, New Jersey, Robert Cole, 80, pleaded guilty to having sex with a teenage boy. In a previous, similar case, state troopers said, Cole had told them that such contact was for the kid's benefit: he would not be "running out and getting some girl in trouble or something like that."

In March, according to police, Kyung-A Ha, 25, was beaten to death by five members of the Jesus-Amen Ministries, based in Emeryville, California. Ha's sister, Kelly, allegedly told them that Ha was possessed by demons. Kelly Ha, 21, told police after the death that there were several telltale signals that her sister was possessed: "She couldn't sleep at night. She didn't talk much to people. And sometimes she was aggressive."

In January in Carthage, Missouri, Lowell Davis, a well-regarded porcelain artist, set fire to his studio, destroying many of his original works. He'd become disillusioned with his success, admitting that money and fame were "tearing me up." He told the Carthage Press that he'd like to "apologize to all the people that I have cheated or stepped on on the way up to the top."

The Sunday Times in Harare, Zimbabwe, reported in February that Israel Zinhanga, 28, was sentenced to nine months in jail in the small town of Rusape after admitting that he'd had sex with a cow. Zinhanga told the court that he "felt safe having sex with a cow in view of the AIDS epidemic."

In April Ellsworth Stewart, 27, was charged with shooting two New York City utility company workers. According to his lawyer, several factors contributed to Stewart's mental state at the time, including weak gun control laws, which failed to stop him from acquiring a pistol, and a full moon, which "agitated" Stewart.

Weird Sports

In October Song Sung Il won the gold medal in a Greco-Roman wrestling event at the Asian Games in Hiroshima, despite competing with a malignant tumor in his stomach the size of a pair of fists. The tumor was removed 15 days later. Song had refused to take painkillers while wrestling because he feared failing the competition's drug tests.

In a college football play-off game in December Arkansas-Pine Bluff adopted a novel strategy while trailing Western Montana 46-45. When Western Montana started its next play at the Pine Bluff 19-yard line with about 90 seconds remaining, Pine Bluff players stood still, allowing Western Montana to score easily and kick the extra point to lead 53-45. Pine Bluff then scored a touchdown and a two-point conversion to tie, and then won in overtime, 60-53.

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

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