Catholic officials in Brazil attribute the recent 250 percent increase in church attendance to the popularity of priest Marcelo Rossi, 31, a singer and former aerobics instructor described by his young female parishioners as a "hunk." His 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 prayer time, and buckets of holy water doused over the screaming, rock-concert-like fans. Wrote a leading Brazilian magazine, "You can't deny that to be Catholic is cool now."; ;
In March, a federal judge in Syracuse, N.Y., rejected the latest lawsuit by Donald Drusky of East McKeesport, Pa., in his 30-year battle against USX Corp. 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 judgment if God failed to show up in court.
In March, Cairo, Egypt, school superintendent Maryann Maurice, 57, was jailed for illegal street begging; she said she earned about $150 a day, the same amount the school paid her monthly. Also in March, retired Russian army Col. Dmitry Setrakov, 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.
Among the reasons given by a Buffalo, N.Y., police officer in February in his request for full disability pay based on psychological injury was his having walked into a stationhouse in 1997 to find other officers celebrating an Easter Sunday mass. According to the officer's lawyer, visualizing the stationhouse now causes him such emotional turmoil that he's not able to perform his duties.
According to records released in January by the world track and field organization IAAF, U.S. medal-winning sprinter Dennis Mitchell denied he had taken performance-enhancing drugs, despite a positive test result. Mitchell said his testosterone was high because he had had sex four times the night before.
Bruce Charles Davis, 36, explaining in November to an employee of a U.S. Bank branch in Sacramento, Calif., why he had just robbed the place: "I only wanted to teach you a lesson. I want a job in bank security." Davis would have been more plausible had he not already had five bank-robbery convictions and another one pending.
Power of babble
Alaskan gubernatorial candidate John Lindauer, during a debate in Ketchikan in October, tried to explain why he had been inconsistent as to when his wife had donated to his campaign. (If given in 1997, the donation would be legal; if given during the campaign, illegal.) According to Lindauer, "I said, and [my opponents] took this shot through a radio station mirror, I believe, and took one sentence I was saying." (Lindauer never explained what a radio station mirror was; as of March he was facing an ethics investigation.)
Sleep with the fishes
Sergio Gutierrez, 22, was rescued by farmers near Santa Rosa, Calif., in December after his tractor-trailer collided with an exceptionally 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 him.
Seed of an idea
In October, a 12-year-old girl in Phoenix, who said she had been molested by her grandfather for four years, convinced police to arrest him when she handed officers a bottle in which she had gathered his sperm; she said she got the idea from an episode of TV's "NYPD Blue."