Naked girls to entice rain
Farmers in an eastern state have asked their unmarried daughters to plough parched fields naked in a bid to embarrass the weather gods to bring some badly needed monsoon rain, officials said on Thursday. Witnesses said the naked girls in Bihar state ploughed the fields and chanted ancient hymns after sunset to invoke the gods. They said elderly village women helped the girls drag the ploughs. “This is the most trusted social custom in the area and the villagers have vowed to continue this practice until it rains very heavily,” Upendra Kumar, a village council official, said from Bihar’s remote Banke Bazaar town.
Snake halts parliament
A stray snake brought parliament to a standstill for several hours on Thursday in Orissa state, officials said. A cleaner spotted the intruder, believed to be a king cobra, while sweeping in the morning and called the assembly’s watchman. The speaker of the assembly in the state capital, Bhubaneswar, adjourned the house as security personnel, wildlife officials and a member of a local snake helpline searched unsuccessfully for the creature with the help of a sniffer dog.
Child-stomper sent to jail
A father who kicked and stomped his three-year-old son, rupturing his intestines and liver, was jailed for two years, a newspaper reported yesterday. Lo Siu-ting, 24, had previously been convicted of mistreating the boy’s five-year-old brother, the Standard said. Lo, who pleaded guilty to wounding the three-year-old, said the incident occurred during a dispute with his pregnant 23-year-old wife. Prosecutors said Lo kicked his wife out of bed and told her to take care of the son. When she turned on the lights and switched on the television, he hit her, they said. Lo then kicked his son four or five times when he was hugging his mother on the floor, they added. The boys now live with foster families.
Literacy, genetics linked
A study conducted over 10 years on three continents and involving the monitoring of 500 pairs of identical twins during their first three years of school showed that a dedicated teacher plays only a minor role in a child acquiring literacy skills. “The single biggest player in a child’s learning outcome seems to be genetic endowment,” Australian educational psychologist Brian Byrne said yesterday. The professor at the University of New England in Armidale, Australia, found only an 8 percent variation in literacy levels between twins in different classrooms he studied in Australia, the US and Scandinavia. “It seems to say that teachers are effective and that they’re roughly equally effective,” he said.
Skyscraper workers die
Four construction workers died in two accidents this week at the site of what is to be the country’s tallest skyscraper, a government official said yesterday. The workers were killed in two scaffolding collapses on Tuesday and Wednesday, said Nguyen Van Tien, chief inspector at the Hanoi Department of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs. They were working on the Hanoi Landmark Tower, a 336m office complex being built by South Korean company Keangnam. Tien said an investigation had begun into why the scaffolding collapsed. The Hanoi Landmark Tower is expected to be the world’s 17th-tallest building when it is completed next year. It is more than twice as tall as any other building in Vietnam.