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Cultural Diversity

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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 in cash so he could smear the ashes over his naked body in a nighttime "fortification" ritual in a cemetery.

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."

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