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Cultural Diversity

• Rituals: (1) The chairman of a Nigerian development company was charged in August with stealing what is now the equivalent of $5.5 million, and burning $2 million of that in cash so he could smear the ashes over his naked body in a nighttime “fortification” ritual in a cemetery. (2) Four people were arrested in October after a family gathering in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, when a Ramadan-ending ceremony turned into the fatal beatings of two relatives, who were being administered an aggressive ritual, supposedly to stop their tobacco habit.

• Wrestling in Turkey (I): Villages in western Turkey traditionally hold camel-wrestling matches during gala weekend festivals in winter, which is mating season and the only time bull camels will fight (and even then, not always). There is at least one professional league, and sometimes, camels embody the pride of an entire village. A female is paraded in front of two males, then led away, and the supposedly frisky bulls tussle but only occasionally reach a resolution in which one subdues the other by sitting on him, according to a dispatch in Germany’s Der Spiegel. Usually, judges have to pick the winner on style, and sometimes the decision is easy, as one camel has simply run away.

• Wrestling in Turkey (II): Camel-wrestling is a winter celebration, but the summers are (and have been for 650 years) for Kirkpinar, the country’s oil-wrestling celebration and tournament, during which a thousand men, slathering on two tons of olive oil, fight matches until one man earns the solid-gold title belt. Several months of regional tournaments lead up to Kirkpinar, which, incidentally, has recently experienced the same doping controversies as mainstream world sports.

• Athletes Demanding Respect: “I think one day it should be an Olympic sport,” said Jeannine Wikering, 26, who finished third while representing Germany in the 10-nation European pole-dancing championship in Amsterdam in September. And Australia’s champion sheep-shearers prepared to once again lobby the country’s Sports Commission for official recognition, which would enable them to apply for training grants and corporate sponsorship. Shearers are revered in New Zealand, with televised matches and large prizes, according to an August dispatch from Sydney in Britain’s Guardian, but Australia’s top shearers get much less respect.

• In September, despite an increasing chorus of complaints, Peruvians celebrated the annual Gastronomic Festival of the Cat in a village just south of Lima, serving a variety of feline delicacies (fried cat strips, cat stew, grilled cat with spicy huacatay). For the most part, according to a Chicago Tribune report, the dishes are made with specially bred cats rather than street prowlers, and are consumed for their health benefits, though centuries-old tradition is the likeliest explanation. Said one Peruvian, such cultural events “are our roots and can’t be forgotten.”

Men’s Health

Recent research in the Journal of Economic Analysis and Policy sheds light on the thorny social issue of why females continue to earn less money than males, even in similar jobs. Competing hypotheses have been advanced: It’s either gender discrimination or simply that more women than men de-emphasize career aggressiveness in favor of family. The recent research suggests discrimination. Researchers found that females who were established in jobs and who then underwent sex changes actually increased their earnings slightly, but that males who became females lost about one-third of their earning power, according to an October summary of the research in Time magazine.

Fine Points of the Law

(1) A 38-year-old man was cited for disorderly conduct in Fond du Lac, Wis., in September after he bought a beer for his sons, ages 2 and 4, at the county fair. He could not be cited for providing alcohol to minors because, under Wisconsin law, parents are exempt, but he was written up for swearing at police. (2) Meleanie Hain’s Pennsylvania concealed-weapons permit was revoked in September after spectators complained about her openly carrying her loaded, holstered Glock at her 5-year-old daughter’s soccer game. However, the only penalty under state law is the loss of the privilege of concealment, so that if Hain continues to carry the gun, she must do so openly.

Latest Religious Messages

• A Buddhist temple in Nakhon Nayok, Thailand, offers quickie “reincarnation” sessions in which people climb into “coffins,” “die” while a priest’s chants chase away the evil spirits of the old person, who is then “reborn” as someone different. The temple has nine such coffins to serve the long lines of optimists (who must stand well back while waiting, so as not to absorb the “dying” people’s escaping evilness), many of whom adhere to predestination beliefs based on one’s name and time of “birth,” according to a September New York Times dispatch.

• Spiritual Rulings: (1) The highest ranking Muslim authority in the Turkish province of Adana declared in August that observing the fasting requirement of Ramadan could be assisted by the use of medical “patches” that reduced hunger pangs. (2) In September, Chad Hardy released the 2009 version of his Men on a Mission calendar, which features photos of young, shirtless Mormon men, intended, he said, to help his church overcome its image of being stodgy, and he said he plans a female version for 2010: Hot Mormon Muffins. (In July, Hardy was excommunicated for producing the 2008 Men on a Mission calendar.)

People Different From Us

(1) In the town of Sekiu, near Port Angeles, Wash., in October, Ms. Cory Davis, 56, was shot in the leg by her stove. (A .22-gauge shotgun shell had found its way into some newspapers that she had put on to burn. “There’s always that one problem stray,” she said.)

(2) A 21-year-old woman was arrested in Hamilton, New Zealand, in October after she allegedly kicked in the door of her ex-boyfriend’s home, then assaulted him because of a custody dispute between the couple over their pet possum.

Least Competent Barroom Brawler

In July Scott Bennett, 48, lost an eye in a fight at the Mavericks night club in Sioux City, Iowa. Then, on Oct. 12, in another fight at Mavericks, Bennett lost his other eye. (Coincidentally in October, Britain’s worst professional boxer, Peter Buckley, announced he will retire after his next bout. He has lost 88 in a row, and overall his record is 43-256.) cs