Questions about Exhaust systems, Catalytic Converters and Headers/Manifolds

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What's the purpose of the cover on the catalytic converter?

On my 1990 Honda, it's falling apart. I'd like to just rip it off; will that cause any problems? More specifically: will the car pass New York state inspection with a missing cover?
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1989 Nissan pintara problem

I have a 1989 U12 2.4l Nissan Pintara. It started running really rough one day and when I got home the exhaust manifold was glowing red hot. I changed the catalytic converter and it still is running ...
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Remove dark layer of particles stuck in Diesel engine tubes?

My BMW E36 M41 engine seems to have a dark dust in the small tube that goes out from the EGR valve. (the other tube contains a sort of dark liquid...) Is it advised to cleanup that dark matter ...