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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Don't Believe Anything You Read: April Fools'

Setting aside a day devoted to pranks and laughter goes back to ancient Rome. In France, the "Day of Deception," as it was called, on April 1, began in 1564. It was precisely that year that King Charles IX issued a decree moving the new year from April 1 to Jan. 1. The French thought they had been deceived.

In Russia, April Fools' Day began during the reign of Peter the Great. In 1700, the owner of a troupe of wonder workers announced to the city of Moscow that he would climb through the neck of an ordinary glass bottle. People flocked to the theater, and when the curtain went up, there was a small bottle with a note inside saying: "April Fools." From that day forward, the day has been observed in Russia.

April 1 is not far off, so be sure to prepare your tricks in advance. But remember that they should be kind-hearted; for cruel tricks, an entire year lies ahead ...

Argumenty i Fakty, March 25-31.

Mayor's Thinking Cap

It all started when one of the specialists at the institute where they make every possible kind of bulletproof briefcase, overcoat and jacket for government officials, let it slip out in conversation that he had a commission from the Moscow mayor. Although small in volume, the order was complicated and out of the ordinary. He had to design a hat that would protect the mayor's head, but one that would not draw too much attention. Luzhkov's well-known habit of wearing cloth caps for many years made the task much easier.

The second task was to equip it so that it could supply various sources of useful information. A microprocessor capable of receiving and processing data sent from a computer center in the depths of city hall was tucked inside the hat's armored plate.

An employee of the center, who asked that his identity be strictly withheld, explained how he and his colleagues select and transmit necessary facts and figures to Luzhkov when he is conducting sessions of the Moscow government, meetings with federal authorities or speaking on live television. This explains his astoundingly well-informed responses to absolutely any question.

The computer center serving the mayor and his cap is preparing to move in the near future, as Luzhkov has expressed dissatisfaction with the signal quality. They say they had at first discussed the idea of placing a relay station in the central bell tower at the Church of Christ the Savior. However, this idea was rejected on moral grounds. There are rumors that a final decision has been taken to place the mayor's personal information center deep below Manezh Square where the priceless equipment will be safe from any terrorist act. This, by the way, is one of the reasons Luzhkov has been is such a rush to dig a pit in the middle of the city.

The cap has other drawbacks. Any person who manages to break the security code will have access to the information in the mayor's head. It seems this has already happened at least once: Not long ago, a Moscow hacker broke into one of the cap's computer information networks, having decoded the program. The hacker claims that a new decree is in the works to introduce driving on the left side of the road along the Garden Ring. If the experiment proves successful, driving will be reorganized throughout the entire city. Officials at City Hall declined to comment, before they take up the question at the next session of the Moscow city government, scheduled for April 1.

Argumenty i Fakty, March 25-31.

Spring Is in the Air

Moscow is a city of automobiles. Eighty-two percent of the emissions in the atmosphere of the capital come from automotive transport. This explains the burning smell in all of Moscow's public roads, and especially in the center. (By the way, the most dangerous components of automobile exhausts are odorless.)

Today, there are more than a million cars in the capital, that is to say, as many cars as was planned by Gosplan for 2005. During the past two or three years, the number of cars has doubled.

But there are places in Moscow that have a very pleasant smell: On Leningradsky Prospekt and Ulitsa Pravdy there is the smell of fresh-baked cookies, which comes from the confectionery factory Bolshevik. Not far from there on Ulitsa Yamskogo Polya, inveterate smokers are settled in and breathing in tobacco: Nearby, the cigarette factory Yava is operating successfully.

When you are trying to take in the smell of Moscow, you must sit in the metro or a bus, and of course the main Botanical Gardens at the Academy of Sciences. The smell of fresh leaves can already be detected around the railroads that lead out of Moscow. There is nothing like the smell, not even the Vesna chocolate factory. I hope spring comes soon!

Nedelya (Izvestia), No. 7, March.

Civilized Vegetables

Spring is here and already the stores are filling up with fresh vegetables from the outskirts of Moscow.

To the question, When will the first strawberries show up, Moscow's vendors can now proudly answer, "At 6 a.m." In greenhouses surrounding Moscow, cucumbers always begin to ripen in February. A little later come the tomatoes, and at the end of April, radishes turn white. Dutch and Spanish cucumbers are far from being the Moscow region produce growers' main competitors. Vegetables from the south begin making their way to Moscow beginning from the middle of March. The price of southern produce is much lower than the Moscow region varieties.

Some large domestic agricultural firms say they have up to a third of their produce left unsold every day. This could be remedied by large distributors. Producers must must now reach separate agreements with each store.

Nonetheless, we can congratulate one another. Our domestic producers have begun at last to compete with each other. They no longer dream about increased customs duties or cordoning off various regions. Instead they hope that the market will become civilized.

Moskovsky Komsomolets, March 27.