Despite a long and crazy week in which we managed to raise almost $48,000 to start a new audio show, Latitude News still had time to scan the global press for the weirdest stories imaginable. This is the Mishmash, our weekly collection of the three strangest stories the world has to offer: the politicians who got in trouble over a high five, a new “Bride School” teaches Kazakh women how to be good wives, and Egypt’s prime minister says infant diarrhea comes from mothers not cleaning their breasts.
“No touching took place”
Although I’ve never attended, I imagine the annual Munich Security Conference is a sober event. Speeches, declarations, firm handshakes — nothing too rowdy. But this year’s meeting was marred by a shocking, unspeakable incident that has left two politicians in hot water in their native lands.
The incident: a high five.
Claudia Roth, Germany’s Green Party Chairwoman, and Reza Sheikh Attar, Iran’s ambassador to Germany, were caught on tape giving one another an awkward but enthusiastic high five. The pair looked genuinely happy to see one another; and they probably were, as both acknowledge they have known one another for years.
For the German’s part, Roth’s constituents are concerned about “her seeming chumminess with an Iranian official who has been accused of human rights abuses,” reports Radio Free Europe.
And for the Iranian’s part, Attar is back in Iran trying to explain why he touched a woman who was not his close relative, a taboo in Iran. As he told the Fars news agency:
“Because of laws and for religious reasons, we don’t shake hands with women,” Attar explained. “Therefore, as a sign of respect I raised my hand — I didn’t raise my hand to shake her hand — Mrs. Roth also raised her hand. Of course the distance was small but no touching took place.”
I’ve watched this video more times than I can count, and I’m actually starting to believe Attar. Iranian diplomats have long struggled to greet their female counterparts while traveling abroad. A bow will do if one is standing, but Attar was sitting as Roth approached. He raised his hand as she approached, and as she got close, she raised hers. There they were — him sitting, her standing — with their hands raised about six inches from one another. SHE pushed her hand towards his, then he pushed back in a delayed response. But from the camera angle, it’s not exactly clear if they touched.
If they had known one another for years, wouldn’t she know that Attar could not touch her, and wouldn’t she know not to push the high five too far? It’s also possible she decided, “Screw it,” and went for the high five, and then they both missed, which also looks feasible from the video.
Either way, who really cares? A lot of Germans and Iranians, it turns out.
But however you look at it, the high-five wasn’t nearly as entertaining as Barack Obama’s exploding fist bump at his State of the Union speech.
Kazakh men awaiting new class of perfect brides
Ladies — looking to bone up on your cooking, cleaning and other man-pleasing skills? Head on over to Kazakhstan to learn how to be the best bride you can be.
In a story that reads like something out of 1950s suburban America, Eurasianet.org reports on Bride School, “a new school…to prepare perfect brides for discerning Kazakh husbands-to-be”:
The skills deemed necessary to be the perfect kelin – Kazakh for bride – range from cooking to applying makeup to parading like a model.
“At the lessons the students will be able to learn to cook, parade, grasp the basics of makeup; there will be classes in family psychology – in how to understand your husband, for example,” Bella Satmyrza, the woman who runs the school, said. “We want to create our ideal of a real kelin – a modern girl who looks after herself, looks good, is educated and well-read, but at the same times pays attention to national traditions, habits, culture and cooking.”
Among the many skills, women will learn how to cook beshmarmak, flat noodles with “mounds of [horsemeat] heaped on top.”
The school will also bring in experts, from dance instructors to “experienced mothers.”
While women’s rights activists question if the school will align with President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s pledge to address women’s rights and domestic violence, graduates of the one-month program have something more important to look forward to: a competition called Great Bride 2013!
What a boob
As if Egypt doesn’t have enough political problems: “Prime Minster Hisham Qandil recently utilized a meeting to talk about the dangers of ‘unclean’ breasts,” reports Al Arabiya.
This guy actually holds a PhD, which I guess proves nothing. I’ll let Al Arabiya explain how PM Qandil, appointed by President Morsi, “somehow, related the lack of clean water to the lack of clean breasts…”:
The prime minister claimed that the reason behind the diarrhoea epidemic in rural Egypt is that some female villagers are too ignorant to clean their breasts before feeding their babies.
A couple of females in the cabinet meeting seemed uncomfortable during these remarks. The unpopular prime minister could create a huge controversy in the villages to which he refers, which will add to the unstable situation in Egypt that is currently hosting the Islamic Summit.
Qandil received a PhD in biological and agricultural engineering with a minor in water resources. He went to school in the U.S., which, I guess, also proves nothing.