Lead Story

Security camera footage taken one May afternoon at the Union Station mall in Kansas City revealed that a small boy had wandered away from his mother, noticed an elaborate half-completed mandala rendered on the floor in colored sand by a visiting group of Tibetan Buddhist monks, and begun to dance around on it, completely undoing several days of work. Apparently unworried about karma, the mother chose not to report the damage but simply grabbed the boy and fled. The monks started over the next day; according to the Kansas City Star, an English-speaking monk said it was the first time one of their mandalas had been destroyed before completion, but the group leader’s (translated) response to the setback was simply “No problem.”


The Koongarra uranium deposit, in Australia’s Northern Territory, contains estimated reserves of 15,000 tons, valued at more than $4.2 billion, and the French energy company Areva hopes to mine it. But in a first-ever public statement, 36-year-old Jeffrey Lee, who as the sole living member of the aboriginal Djok clan has custodial control over Koongarra, told the Sydney Morning Herald in July that he’s vowed never to sell. Citing his responsibility to the environment and to his people’s culture, as well as the potential destructive power of uranium, he said he aimed to protect the land permanently by having it made part of a surrounding national park. “I’m not interested in white people offering me this or that,” he said. “I’ve got a job; I can buy tucker [food]; I can go fishing and hunting. That’s all that matters to me.”

Brain Corner

Writing in a July issue of the Lancet, neurologists in Marseille, France, described their discovery, via MRI and other scans, that the brain of a fully functional 44-year-old male patient consisted only of a thin sheet of cerebral tissue. Apparently a massive buildup of fluid in the skull during childhood had kept his brain from attaining more than roughly a quarter of its expected size. The man’s IQ, though below average, is within a range considered normal; he has a wife and two children and is employed as a civil servant. And in August’s Nature Neuroscience, researchers at the University of Calgary reported that young female mice exposed to the pheromones of a dominant male mouse had grown additional neurons in key areas of the brain, whereas females who smelled only subordinate-male pheromones didn’t.

Can’t Possibly Be True

The Sun-Times reported last month on Arthur Friedman of Northbrook and his fight to be compensated for losing his wife. Friedman reportedly convinced his reluctant spouse, Natalie, that they could improve their relationship by participating in mate swapping and group sex, but when she announced that she had fallen in love with one of her new partners, German Blinov, Friedman sued Blinov for alienation of affection. Such suits are allowed only in Illinois and seven other states, and typically they’re thrown out, as the underlying principle–that a woman who leaves one man for another is not an active agent but instead has been maliciously stolen–is widely seen as archaic and demeaning. But in June Friedman successfully argued that the statute applied in his case, and jurors (who repeatedly called the whole thing “stupid,” according to the foreman) awarded him $4,802.87.


Trucker Merv Bontrager accidentally flipped over an 18-wheeler full of sunflower seeds in Minot, North Dakota, in April; he said he was headed up an off-ramp when he decided to check the floor for some doughnuts he’d left there. Also in April, an inquest found that a fatal crash in Shepley, England, had been caused when a bee flew into a car and stung the driver in the crotch. And at a March trial for impaired driving in Vancouver, Kristopher Lind argued that he hadn’t been drunk when police spotted him weaving along the road; he was having trouble steering, he said, because he was trying to remove a sex toy from its packaging and put in the batteries.

Least Competent Criminals

The dead body of a suspected burglar was found dangling from a large ventilation fan at a Miami clothing store in May. Police concluded the man had been trying to crawl through the fan, which was presumably shut off for the night, when he accidentally stepped on the switch.

Recurring Themes

An unnamed 43-year-old man suffered critical injuries in Forst, Germany, in May after becoming the latest person to fall off a balcony while competing in a spitting contest. As is usual in such cases, he’d tried to improve his delivery by taking a running start.

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