God's gifts to humanity

The 12-story, earthquake-proof, $190 million Roman Catholic Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels was dedicated in Los Angeles in September, celebrated not only for the obligatory gift shop ($24.99 for house Chardonnay), the ATM and the $12-a-day parking garage, but for the private crypts underneath at prices of $50,000 to $3 million. "`That's` kind of like selling sky boxes," said a Notre Dame theology professor. A Loyola Marymount University professor defended the steep price, saying, "I don't think that the poor are terribly worried about where they are going to be buried."

Court TV

While Chile copes this month with the first murder in 15 years on its remote Easter Island (population 4,000; 2,370 miles from the mainland), Great Britain was reportedly preparing to build a jail and a courthouse on Easter's closest neighbor, Pitcairn Island, after investigators from Britain and New Zealand said they suspected as many as 20 of the 47 residents had engaged in sex with children. According to a July report in Britain's The Guardian, if charges are eventually filed, trials might be held on Pitcairn or in New Zealand using a special satellite-video hookup from the island.

Can I get a witness?

Former Jehovah's Witness elder Bill Bowen charged in June that the sect manages a secret database of 23,720 members who have been accused of sexual abuse but that little if anything happens to those named unless a witness comes forward, a stipulation supposedly commanded by Deuteronomy 19:15, requiring witnesses to prove a sin. When Bowen complained, he was expelled from the sect for "causing divisions." Furthermore, Bowen charged, even confessed abusers are "punished" only by being kept from proselytizing door-to-door unless accompanied by another Witness.

Blue moon

The production of XXX by the Spanish theater group La Fura dels Baus opened in May in the small town of Lorca, Spain, the only venue available because the play's rawness continues to keep it out of mainstream European theaters. Its nude, sexually acrobatic troupe performs a work by Marquis de Sade that ends in a woman's staging of the rape and mutilation of her mother as punishment for having sheltered the daughter's life, about which one actor said, "We have achieved something essential, which is to leave nobody indifferent." The show opens with a nude woman picking up a pen between her buttocks and scrawling (in Spanish) "A better world is possible" while squatting over a video projector.

Bypass and dash

Tucson Heart Hospital in Arizona was cited in June by the state Department of Health Services for having illegally locked its emergency room from the inside. Employees told an Associated Press reporter that the closing was to prevent patients from leaving before payment had been arranged Ð although a hospital vice president denied that.

Curses of the fortunate

Officials in Livermore, Calif., apparently weary of breakdowns in the city's sewer system, made a formal apology in August to American Indian Adam "Fortunate Eagle" Nordwell, who had placed a curse on the system in 1969 after city workers chopped off a portion of the totem pole he had donated for the city's centennial celebration. Some residents have routinely attributed any sewer breakdown over the years to the curse.

Nip and snip

Samuel Greenbaum, 58, one of five "mohels" (someone qualified to conduct the Jewish circumcision ritual) in the Detroit area, was charged with DUI after being stopped on June 18 on his way to perform his craft on a boy in West Bloomfield Township. He told police he was en route from another circumcision, at which he might have had a couple of glasses of wine, but felt (despite failing a Breathalyzer test) that he was alert enough to wield the scalpel-like instrument.

Lethal lovin'

In Tampa, Fla., church youth minister Hartley McWhite, 29, was convicted in August of killing his mistress, despite his defense that she choked to death accidentally while they were having rough sex.

A Pittsburgh, Pa., man, Raymond Rock, 37, was arrested in July and charged with killing a 40-year-old woman he had met in a bar. But he denied the allegations saying her death was an accident after she had asked him to choke her during the course of rough sex.

In July, Jeanette Daniels, 40, was arrested in Chicago and charged with killing a 62-year-old man. She claimed he accidentally asphyxiated during a session of rough sex.

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