Fighting on Two Fronts

Even in their darkest soviet days, Russians were quick with a topical joke that cut, cynically, to the heart of a complex political situation. Having lived through putsches, crime waves, terrorist threats and stepped-up security for the past decade, they now jest that Osama bin Laden was detained in Moscow because he did not have a registration permit — but the police let him go for 50 rubles (about $1.60). Although characteristically Russian in its punchline, the joke touches on the ordinary police work — and sometimes luck — involved in catching terrorist suspects, as well as on the controversial...

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