News of the Weird November 26 2008

LEAD STORY: 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: 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.

Cultural Diversity: Rituals: 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 so he could smear the ashes over his naked body in a nighttime "fortification" ritual in a cemetery.

Wrestling in Turkey, Part 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, Part 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.

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.

Update: Kory McFarren, 37, was the boyfriend of the Kansas woman found stuck to the toilet seat of her home in February after living reclusively in the bathroom. Though McFarren somehow had been unable to coax the woman out of the bathroom for long periods of time over the last several years, he was lucky enough, in October, to win $20,000 in the state lottery, and in fact it was his second lottery win this year.

Thinning the Herd: 1) A burglary suspect, running from police on San Francisco's Telegraph Hill in September, jumped over a 3-foot wall, apparently not realizing that on the other side was a 200-foot drop. He died at the scene. 2) A 22-year-old woman was fatally hit by a car in Dallas in June when she stopped on the busy LBJ Freeway to take pictures of an accident scene. She was apparently just an overly curious rubbernecker.