The poor banana used to be just a fruit. But then it became a symbol, and that's where the trouble began. The International Banana Association went bananas over a Public Broadcasting System show hosted by Ron Reagan, Jr., entitled "AIDS: Changing the Rules." On the show, Reagan demonstrated the proper use of a condom, using a banana as the…prop. Said Robert Moore, president of the banana association: "The banana is an important product and deserves to be treated with respect and consideration." He called PBS's demonstration "arbitrary, unnecessary, and insensitive" and said the network will be held liable for any damage to the banana industry. Cucumbers, anyone?
"No, we're not Americans. We're tourists from Outer Baldook." A company in Houston is making personalized camouflage passports from nonexistent countries for U.S. citizens to use in case they're involved in a terrorist incident. Reports that hijackers have been confused about the names of countries noted on passports spawned the idea that subterfuge might protect U.S. passengers from being targets of terrorism. The company has sold over 300 "passports," which cost $95 for military personnel and $135 for civilians.
Are prostitutes in the Netherlands about to join the civil service? Could be. The city council of Rotterdam has voted to establish a city-owned brothel that will rent up to 80 rooms to prostitutes or their employers. "What we're trying to achieve is a decriminalization of prostitution," explained city spokeswoman Fien Verlaan. (The Netherlands legalized the profession in the '70s.) The city will spend $579,000 to buy a former factory building, which could be a functioning brothel as early as 1990. Prostitutes' representatives (do they mean pimps?) will be asked for advice on how to redecorate and operate the building, nicknamed the "Eros Center" by the press.
Joe Clark, a no-nonsense high-school principal in Paterson, New Jersey, had a problem. Sixty students, all over the age of 18, chronically failed to earn enough credits to advance in grade level. Some had foundered at the school for five or six years. But the law says that secondary-school districts must provide a high-school education for students through age 21. "They're a bunch of damn leeches," Clark said. "They've been warned year after year." So he decided to expel the lot of them, without board permission but with the support of most parents and students. No way, countered the board attorney. "Students" have the right to due process, and Clark was forced to readmit them. The board has charged Clark with conduct unbefitting a principal.
In New York City, you need a license to operate a pushcart, run a shoeshine stand, or fix your neighbor's toilet. Now Mayor Edward Koch has decided to crack down on the latest menace to the regulated society: bicycle riders. The city council is considering legislation that would license commercial bicyclists and the messenger firms and other businesses that hire them. Regulation to ban or restrict bicycle travel on certain streets and during certain hours has also been proposed. Unlicensed cyclists who ride in the central business district for commercial purposes could face fines and forfeiture of their bikes. Gee, does this include the bike Junior uses for his paper route?
Cars and trucks can do some pretty nifty things, especially on television commercials. They go fast, jump over other cars, spin around, etc. But Mary Jeanette Murray, a legislator in the Peoples' Republic of Massachusetts, thinks that's an awful example to children. The Cohasset representative has sponsored a bill forbidding the airing of any commercial that would "glorify the speed, maneuverability, and performance of a motor vehicle," in order to "protect young people against the wrong impressions." Not content with stopping at Massachusetts's borders, Murray wants the state legislature to urge Congress to enact similar bans.
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Brickbats".