The Free Press, Mankato, MN

November 24, 2009

Weird news: Cultural diversity

By Chuck Shepherd, Universal Press

-- Many mixed-race (“coloured”) teenage boys in Cape Town, South Africa, secure their ethnic identity by having several upper front teeth removed, according to an October dispatch in London’s Daily Telegraph. A University of Cape Town professor said fashion and peer pressure were primary motives for creating the tooth-gap, and not the popular myth among outsiders that coloureds do it to facilitate oral sex. (The ritual includes fitting dentures for the gap just in case, to give the boys flexibility.)

-- An unprecedented toilet-building spree has taken hold in India over the last two years, spurred by a government campaign embraced by young women: “No Toilet, No Bride” (i.e., no marriage unless the male’s dowry includes indoor plumbing). About 665 million people in India lack access to toilets, according to an October Washington Post dispatch.

-- Tradition: (1) The town of Waiau, New Zealand, had once again planned an annual rabbit-carcass-tossing contest, to a chorus of complaints from animal rights activists concerned that children not associate dead animals with fun. (In New Zealand, rabbits are crop-destroying pests, doing an estimated NZ$22 million (US$16 million) damage annually, but nonetheless, the town canceled the contest.) (2) As the Irish Parliament debated whether to lower the blood-alcohol reading that would earn drivers a DUI charge, legislator Mattie McGrath begged colleagues to keep the current, more generous standards: “(Modest drinking) can make people who are jumpy on the road, or nervous, be more relaxed.”