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Weight and see



In September, Australia's Daily Telegraph reported that the Federal Attorney General's office had ruled that eyesight and medical tests required of flight crews and air-traffic controllers could no longer be given because they violate the country's anti-discrimination laws. The Civil Aviation Safety Agency, concerned about physically unqualified pilots, announced immediately that it would appeal the ruling, but the association of cabin-crew members, for one, was reluctant to support the appeal because it fears that such medical tests make it easier for airlines to impose weight restrictions on flight attendants.

Shrink to fit

Sen. Jorge Capitanich recently introduced a bill in the Argentine legislature to help restore voters' faith in elected officials to pull the country out of its long and severe economic crisis. (It is a common street scene in Buenos Aires that politicians, once they are identified by passersby are targets of insults and spitting.) If the bill passes, all congressional and presidential candidates would be required not only to prove they have paid their taxes and to disclose any criminal records but also to submit to psychiatric exams to assure voters that they are emotionally fit to hold office.

Secret stash

James Scott Woods, 26, was arrested in Mount Carmel, Tenn., in July after police were called to a house on a robbery complaint. Officers could not find evidence of the robbery and were inclined to let Woods go but on a hunch discovered a half-ounce of marijuana, plus a pipe and $187 cash -- tucked into a fold of Woods' stomach. A few minutes later, Woods was also charged with tampering with evidence when he allegedly broke his handcuffs and tried to swallow the marijuana.

Soulful sellouts

The trade journal Advertising Age reported in September that Island Def Jam music company is actively considering selling product placements in the lyrics of some of their artists' recordings. Current product mentions in lyrics are believed to be uncompensated and at the whim of the artist.

Red-hot and bothered

In July, on her return from a frowned-upon pilgrimage with a female friend just after her wedding, Sangeeta Sauda, age 20 and of a Khanjar tribal community in India, volunteered to hold a red-hot iron in her hands in public to prove to her husband that she was still as pure as the Hindu goddess Sita. She passed the test, but police in Indore, watching the ceremony, later arrested Sauda's husband and in-laws for allegedly pressuring her to hurt herself.

Roach clip

Thailand's public health minister issued a warning in August against the growing fad of keeping as pets the large Madagascar hissing cockroaches, which are being widely sold for about $1.20 each. According to her, their bacteria- and virus-laden, 2 1/2-inch-long bodies, and very quick breeding ability, make them somewhat unsuitable as pets.

Bored games

A 16-year-old boy was sent to Sherman Hospital in Elgin, Ill., in September with second-degree burns after he and two pals started playing a game in which each would splash gasoline on their shorts and set themselves on fire before rolling on the ground to try to extinguish the flames. One of the boys told police they agreed to three rounds each as a sort of competition.

Rain dunces

To battle dry spells in Nepal and neighboring northern India in July and August, dozens of farmers' wives gathered in the fields to perform naked dances at midnight in order to appease Indra, the Hindu god of rain; the women in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh were less successful, but the 200 Nepalese women who began dancing in mid-August were rewarded with the start of the monsoon season, which soon created floods and landslides.

Making headlines

This August, in Goshen, Ind., Chad Hershberger, 45, survived having his skull split wide open by an exploding piece of metal in a septic-tank accident. He initially remained conscious while being treated for the 2-inch, ear-to-ear gash but later underwent major surgery and lost his left eye.

In June, a 20-year-old man accidentally fired his spear gun, hitting himself in the head, while fishing near Chania, Crete. He survived despite being in the water for six hours before being discovered and enduring three hours' surgery just to remove the spear (which had entered his jaw and broken through the top of his skull). Because the spear passed through a nonactive part of the brain, the man was soon back on his feet with no serious problems.

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