How much is that doggie in the overcoat, comrade? Thanks to chronic shortages and the prohibitive price of consumer goods, Moscow pet owners are turning their cats and dogs into hats and other fur clothing. Now, turning frisky Muttnik into a pair of gloves is surely a distasteful business, but that's not why Soviet newspaper Trud condemns the practice. The paper sees evidence of illegal income in every fur collar. "Our Dinka has six of a litter each year," says a woman who was challenged to defend her fur hat. "We keep them for 12 months. We skin them ourselves. We've made fur coats for our daughters. Now it's my turn for a hat."
Where's Aladdin and his lamp when we really need him? The classic Thousand and One Nights, which includes the tales of Ali Baba and the 40 thieves, Aladdin and his magic lamp, and Sinbad the sailor, has been declared obscene by an Egyptian judge, who ordered 3,000 confiscated copies of the book destroyed. Said by scholars to contain stories over 1,000 years old, the work also includes steamier scenes, like the seduction of a poor porter by three young maidens. The Interior Ministry has confiscated two editions of the work and charged a publisher and three booksellers with misdemeanor violations of pornography laws for printing, importing, and distributing it.
Paranoia has cash value. Just ask Gary Pearl, a former Louisville, Kentucky, city sanitation supervisor. A judge ruled that Pearl should receive $231 in weekly disability payments because of his fear of working with black people. Pearl left his job after suffering what he claimed was a nervous breakdown brought on by the stress of working with blacks.
New York City restaurants are allowed to hire musicians to play pianos, organs, accordions, guitars, and other string instruments, but brass, woodwinds, and all other music-makers are illegal. Why? Noise pollution. "For no rhyme or reason, the law discriminates against certain musicians whose livelihood has been hurt for years and it does nothing to limit the volume of a juke box or the sound equipment of a disco," says John Glasel, president of Associated Musicians, Local 802, and a soprano tuba player. Glasel and seven other jazz veterans played a gig on the steps of City Hall to protest the law. Their battle cry: Free the fipple flute!
What's the world's least stable country? Bolivia is the clear winner. The South American nation has had seven presidents or military leaders (the distinction is often blurry) in the past six years. The heavily indebted country has frequent strikes over wage demands. Even with nominal pay increases, most workers' earnings have sharply fallen as the annual inflation rate reached more than 15,000 percent in recent months. If not for the lucrative trade in cocaine, things would be even worse. Has there been a year when Bolivia was prosperous? Francisco Quispe, a 60-year-old retired man: "I can't think of one."
Emir Bjelajac, a Yugoslavian immigrant, was in the midst of a cross-country flag-waving tour when he was stopped by police in Bar Harbor, Maine, for suspicion of stealing an American flag. An outraged Bjelajac refused to produce identification. The police took him in, checked him out, then freed him. But the feisty immigrant demanded that police drive him to the spot where they'd picked him up—about 100 feet from the station. The cops refused, then charged him with criminal trespass. When Bjelajac banged a police typewriter in disgust, the cops rearrested him on a disorderly conduct charge. Bjelajac now refers to Bar Harbor as Little Russia.
It now costs every New York City new-car buyer an extra $100 for the privilege of dodging killer potholes and trying in vain to find a parking spot. The Sanitation Department reported towing a record 62,181 abandoned cars last year. So Mayor Ed Koch decided that every owner of a newly registered vehicle should pay the city $100 as a kind of security deposit to be refunded only when the life of the auto ends and it is placed in a legal dump site. Sanitation Department spokesman Vito Turso says, "It's like paying security on an apartment, in this case an apartment on four wheels."