"Oh, they're gonna thaw out Uncle Ray and Aunt Kathy if I don't get some dough." Sounds like the title of a bad country and western song, doesn't it? But it's the truth. Two California (where else?) firms threatened to defrost the bodies of a Maryland couple that were chemically preserved and frozen after death unless the companies receive $169,000 in storage fees. The two cryonic preservation companies say the bodies of Katherine and Ray Mills—who've been frozen since their respective deaths in the early 1970s—will be ever so gently deiced unless they get their money from relatives of the frigid couple. So far, a judge has been cold to the idea and ordered the companies to keep Ray and Kathy on ice until he can figure out the law on the question.
Great news for drunks in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. The federal court ruled that non-Islamic foreigners convicted of drunkenness don't have to be flogged. They'll just go to jail. But is flogging all that inhumane? Not according to President Zia ul-Haq of Pakistan, who explained to reporters in Washington recently the subtle distinction between just plain sadistic flogging and flogging with style—as it is done in Pakistan, naturally. Flogging with style means that the practice is strictly regulated to avoid permanent physical harm. "How long the whip should be, where the person should be struck and where the body should be placed are all carefully determined," he said. "A little lower and to the left, please!!" cried the floggee.
Justice is supposed to be blind, but should it also be mute? Yes, according to New York Civil Court Judge William Friedmann. He ordered court files sealed in two cases involving…lawyers. One had stiffed a client for $1,200, and the other had punched another lawyer in open court. The judge says the erring counsel have been punished enough without the shame of having their names dragged through the newspapers—like common criminals who bilk people or punch them. Judge Friedmann's reasoning sounds a lot like the Sicilian version, which is called "omerta," the code of silence. Judge Friedmann is Don Corleone's kind of guy.
Mexico is fuming because a Texas rancher has started minting coins and stamps for his new island nation for Indians, on a site in the Rio Grande River. Herbert M. Williams, who is part Cherokee, owns the 154-acre island, which was formed in 1967 by Hurricane Beulah. "He's talking about secession from Mexico," fumed Enrique Hubbard, Mexican consul in Brownsville, Texas. "And he can't do that. He wants to start a new nation, and neither Mexico nor any other country will legally stand for that." Williams is a fighter, though, and says he'll go ahead with plans to have migrant Indians colonize his taxless utopia, which he asserts will be a sanctuary from red tape. "Governments are always taking away a little more of our freedom. In my country, called Cherokee Nation, people can do what they want as long as they're honest." Mexico shouldn't gripe. In a few years, they can probably get foreign aid from Williams's little country, which intends to base its currency on gold. Hmm…can we apply for citizenship?
Censorship by any other name stinks the same…but not if you're among the ultra-liberals who run New York. A judge ruled that a city official was justified in urging (strong-arming?) department stores not to sell a game that pokes fun at folks on welfare. The game in question, "Public Assistance: Why Work for a Living?" was described by the judge as a "scurrilous and scathing attack on the welfare system." The game's manufacturers charged censorship and tried to collect damages from the city, but the judge held that the First Amendment doesn't apply. If the game was called "Trash the Rich," is there any doubt about which way the ruling would have gone?
Newark is practically bankrupt, but lawyers who defended Mayor Kenneth Gibson on charges he created a "no-show" job for a former city councilman are raking it in. Gibson was acquitted, although he did tell reporters that the job of director of security at the city's reservoirs was a "perk" for Michael Bontempo. The security director's absence was noted when vandals cut off the city's water supply for two weeks. Bontempo was found to be living in Florida—a mere 1,500 miles away from New Jersey. Mayor Gibson was found innocent, however, and now the city is paying more than $477,000 in legal fees for his defense. That comes to about $225 an hour for attorney Albert G. Besser, who says his fees are "reasonable." "I'm a very good lawyer," he adds.
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Brickbats".