University of California, Santa Barbara, researcher J. Gordon Melton's new edition of the "Encyclopedia of American Religion" lists 2,630 denominations in two dozen informal "families" (e.g., 116 Catholic flocks, "hundreds" of Pentecostal flocks), according to a January Associated Press report. Among the least mainstream: the `John F.` Kennedy Worshippers, the Nudist Christian Church of the Blessed Virgin Jesus, the Church of God Anonymous, the Church of the New Song (which once offered porterhouse steaks for communion) and 22 that believe in UFOs, including the clone-happy Raelians.
Authorities in Lincolnshire, England, are trying to identify the 60-ish woman who was admitted to Lincoln County Hospital in December, suffering from amnesia but insisting she is Barry Manilow. The only things she was carrying were several Manilow albums.
Right to no
In November, the Pentagon rejected a Freedom of Information Act request by a reporter to see an internal training video, claiming that the law allowed it to be withheld. The video is the 22-minute "Freedom of Information Act / The People's Right to Know," which is utilized to teach Pentagon employees how to carry out the maximum-disclosure purpose of the act.
Police in Lowell, Mass., said in January that dozens of young Asian women had purchased sloppy breast augmentations, nose jobs and eyelid surgeries from a Cambodian couple posing as doctors in a bloody "Frankenstein's workshop."
Authorities in Guadalajara, Mexico, arrested fake "Dr." Myriam Yukie Gaona (a former stripper) in July for performing cut-rate plastic surgery on "hundreds" of women, augmenting the breasts and lips of some with industrial silicone and motor oil.
The Philippine Star reported that George Mamaril, perhaps overreacting to his wife Evelyn's suspicion of infidelity, severed his penis on Feb. 22, wrapped it in newspaper and tossed it through the window of her parents' house, where she was staying, with a note reading (in Filipino), "So you will not suspect I am courting another girl."
When monkeys fly
In December, Robert John Cusack, 45, was sentenced to 57 days in jail for a June smuggling caper on a flight to Los Angeles. He had four endangered songbirds and 50 illegal orchids in his luggage, and when one bird flew off down an airport corridor during an inspection, the agent asked if Cusack had anything else. "Yes," he said. "I've got monkeys in my pants." Which turned out to be true. Cusack dug down his pants and handed over two endangered pygmy monkeys from Thailand.
Kenneth Hawthorn, a Jehovah's Witness proselytizer, filed a lawsuit in Adelaide, Australia, against a couple whose ram attacked him, battering him to the ground as he approached the couple's door. The parties settled the lawsuit in January. Bonus detail: The ram, since deceased, was named Shit for Brains.
In February, the lawyer for former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, who is to be sentenced in March for defrauding financial contributors in order to feed his gambling habit, appealed to the judge to send Duke to an upscale prison because otherwise black inmates would tear him up.
Site for sore eyes
Convicted sex abuser Daniel Ray Erickson, who once "purchased" a 5-year-old girl whom he then molested, petitioned a Florida judge to have his photo removed from Florida's sex offender website. "How," he asked, "can a guy get married and become a good, stable citizen if they're putting your picture there?" Indeed, he said, his previous girlfriend had left him when she found out he was on the website.
Boston city councilman Felix Arroyo, who opposes war in Iraq, announced in January that he was going on a hunger strike to protest U.S. policy. Arroyo said he would begin a liquid-only regimen, but then limited that to daylight hours, thus allowing himself dinner and, theoretically, breakfast. Later, Arroyo qualified that to mean that he would only adhere to this hardship diet on the second and fourth Fridays of each month.
The British government proposed privacy-rights legislation in January that would permit people to have sex in public restrooms as long as they could not be seen by others using the restroom.
One week later, the California Patriot (a student publication at the University of California, Berkeley) reported that a university-funded gay students' website was openly discussing which restrooms on campus were the most hospitable for public sex, acts which are still illegal in California.