News of the Weird

  • Article by: CHUCK SHEPHERD
  • Updated: August 15, 2007 - 10:39 PM

Australian Jeffrey Lee is the last surviving member of a clan that controls the Koongarra uranium deposit near Kakadu National Park (east of Darwin), and federal law requires his permission for the French energy company Areva to extract the estimated 14,000 tons, perhaps worth the equivalent of $4.2 billion (U.S.), but Lee vows never to sell because "if you disturb that land, bad things will happen."This is my country," he told the Sydney Morning Herald in July. "I'm not interested in money. I've got a job. ... I can go fishing and hunting. That's all that matters to me."

Australian Jeffrey Lee is the last surviving member of a clan that controls the Koongarra uranium deposit near Kakadu National Park (east of Darwin), and federal law requires his permission for the French energy company Areva to extract the estimated 14,000 tons, perhaps worth the equivalent of $4.2 billion (U.S.), but Lee vows never to sell because "if you disturb that land, bad things will happen."This is my country," he told the Sydney Morning Herald in July. "I'm not interested in money. I've got a job. ... I can go fishing and hunting. That's all that matters to me."

The continuing crisis

Widower Charlie Bonn Kemp, 77, of Vero Beach, Fla., took especially hard the loss of his wife, Lee, in 2006 because she was unquestionably the love of his life even though the couple stopped having sex even before they got married in 1978, according to a June St. Petersburg Times profile. Lee had been Charlie's gay lover for 26 years, until revealing in 1978 that he could no longer resist the urge to become a woman, and especially a housewife. Such was their attachment that, following Lee's full sex change, she and Charlie decided to take advantage of Lee's new status and legally marry and continue their devotion, even though Charlie remained sexually attracted only to men.

Kenya, in addition to the usual problems of a developing African nation (poverty, tribal frictions), has recently endured the rise in power of the Mungiki, which is a secret society that is (according to a June New York Times dispatch) "part Sicilian Mafia, part Chicago street gang, with a little of the occult sprinkled in." Police say the members aim to destabilize the country during the current political campaign by devil-worshipping acts of violence (skinning heads, drinking human blood from jerrycans). A district commissioner in Nairobi said the Mungiki had threatened her with genital mutilation. The gang originated in the 1990s much as organized crime in the U.S. did, by taking over such urban enterprises as bus transit and garbage collection.

Arthur Friedman of Northbrook, Ill., persuaded his wife that after 10 years of marriage, they should become mate-swapping swingers, which he thought would enhance their relationship. His wife, reluctant at first, began to participate and eventually fell in love with another swinging husband, an event that precipitated the Friedmans' breakup, reported the Chicago Sun-Times. Friedman, with an inadequate appreciation of irony, sued the husband under Illinois' alienation-of-affection law, and in June, a jury found in his favor, for $4,802. However, the soon-to-be-divorced Mrs. Friedman said she felt humiliated by the implication that she had been "worth" just $480 a year.

Lithuania's Ombudsman for Children, visiting Ireland in June to investigate complaints of mistreatment of her countrymen, told reporters that many of the estimated 30,000 Lithuanian children in Irish Republic schools felt unsafe and that violence was common. In one Irish town, she said, "Lithuanian children are beaten only because they are more beautiful than Irish ones," and in general, she said, Lithuanians are disliked because "we dress well instead of looking the part of poor immigrants."

Latest in brain science

French neurologists writing recently in the Lancet journal described their surprise in finding, via brain scans, that a normally functioning 44-year-old man had a brain "more than 50 percent to 75 percent" smaller than average, consisting of little more than a thin sheet of brain material surrounding a large fluid buildup. (The man is employed as a French government bureaucrat.)

Researchers at the University of Calgary said in July that female mice in their study were not only sexually aroused by whiffs of male mouse pheromones but that the scent apparently made the females' brains grow larger.

Fine points of the law

The New Zealand Herald reported in June that a prostitute may be eligible for worker's compensation based on her having been injured when the car in which she was riding plunged down a hillside. Because the driver was a john who was taking her to a site he had chosen for their encounter, the Prostitutes Collective trade union said hers were "workplace" injuries.

Former Brooklyn Center, Minn., car-washer Douglas Williams, 56, was fired last year when, in response to the sales manager's requiring him to clean up litter, he refused, colorfully, by telling the manager to perform an anatomically impossible act. However, the state court of appeals ruled in June that Williams was nonetheless owed unemployment benefits.

Oops

A toddler broke from his mother's supervision in May at the Rhime Buddhist Center in Kansas City, Mo., and accidentally trampled the meticulously created colored-sand picture that eight monks had to that point spent two days creating, but the monks impressively responded with patience. "No problem," said one, from India's Geshe Lobsang Sumdup monastery. We have three days more [before the show closes]. So we will have to work harder."

Inattentive drivers: Trucker Merv Bontrager accidentally crashed his 18-wheeler in Minot, N.D., in April when he looked away briefly to check the floor for the doughnuts he had tossed aside for later eating. And Kristopher Lind accidentally crashed his car in Vancouver, British Columbia, in March when he tried to open the tightly packaged sex toy he had bought earlier that day. And Andrew Workman accidentally smashed his car into another in Shepley, England, after he lost control when a bee flew through the window and stung him in the crotch (according to the findings of an inquest in April).

In June, a 17-year-old boy survived but was seriously injured when he fell about 75 feet onto some rocks at California's Mount Diablo State Park. He had climbed over a handrail in order to fake a fall so that his pals could capture the plunge on video to put on his MySpace Web page.

Feuds

Hiroshi Nishizaki, 46, was arrested in Osaka, Japan, in May and accused of causing damage of the equivalent of about $5,500 by pouring urine on a neighbor's house on 169 occasions, because it was blocking Nishizaki's view.

Wheaton, Ill., lawyer Donald Ramsell sued Geneva, Ill., lawyer Douglas Warlick in June, demanding that Warlick continue to sell him "his" two of the four season tickets to Chicago Bears games they had split since 1985 but which Ramsell suspected Warlick might keep for himself this year. Warlick complained to the Chicago Tribune in June that Ramsell had never contacted him, but just filed his lawsuit out of the blue. Said Ramsell, "The courthouse is where you go when you have a dispute."

Yikes!

In June, Pfc. Duncan Schneider finished training with his Oregon Army National Guard unit, immediately married his longtime girlfriend, and prepared for deployment to Iraq; the marriage means that Schneider's unit's first sergeant is now his mother-in-law.

Officials at the Masters games in Milan, Italy, in July announced in advance that, since the invited athletes ranged in age from 35 on up to the 90s, the javelin competition would be moved to a site far away from most of the other events.

Thinning the herd

A burglar was killed trying to sneak into the Maranatha Used Clothing store in Miami on May 31; police said the man had crawled between the blades of a large, idle ventilation fan but that before getting all the way through, he accidentally tripped the "on" switch.

In Forst, Germany, in May, as a 43-year-old man and a 12-year-old boy vied in a spitting-for-distance contest from a second-story balcony, the grown-up, trying for extra momentum, thrust himself forcefully up to the railing, launched his saliva, and accidentally fell to his death.

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