Balance Sheet

ASSETS

Dying Request. A Missouri judge allows Nancy Cruzan’s family to remove her feeding tube. (See “Family Matters,” Nov. 1990.) And, since assisting suicide doesn’t violate Michigan law, a state court throws out first-degree murder charges against the “Suicide Doctor,” Jack Kevorkian. (See “Suicide Solution,” Aug./Sept. 1990.) The right to die may quickly gain some legal underpinnings.

Withering Support. The German Green Party loses all 42 seats in parliament, getting less than 4 percent of the vote-half the support it received in 1987. Green opposition to a unified Germany displeases the electorate. The Communists get more votes than the Greens. Ah, democracy!

Major Success. Margaret Thatcher’s successor launches the U.K.’s biggest privatization effort to date. Britons buy 2 billion shares of the state-owned electric company. The shares are so popular that the government offers 55 percent of the company (instead of its planned 34 percent) to individuals. Even so, only 25 percent of these entry-level capitalists get all the shares they want. Would somebody sell this idea to George Bush?

Government Check. Last spring, the Supreme Court ruled that U.S. District Judge Russell Clark couldn’t double property taxes in Kansas City to pay for desegregated schools. (See “Judges as Taxmen,” Jul. 1990.) Now Clark orders a $10.7-million tax refund. But the Court still holds that judges can levy some taxes. A test for David Souter on separation of powers should follow.

LIABILITIES

Stick Up. Residents of the District of Columbia can rest easier: If you’re shot by an AK-47 there, you can sue the gun’s manufacturer for making an unsafe product. Michael Beard of the Coalition to Stop Handgun Violence says: “These weapons are so dangerous that the manufacturers and dealers have to know they are going to be used to kill people.” I’ll notify the media.

Options Extra. After his network pays the Soviet government $12 million, a Japanese journalist conducts live broadcasts from the Mir space station. But once in orbit, the Soviets demand an extra $100,000 an hour for cosmonaut assistance. The Soviets aren’t too clear on that contract thing, but a network official says, “We would never have been able to work out such a flight with NASA” and its bureaucracy.

Spill Protection. The California Supreme Court rules that businesses can recover environmental cleanup costs from insurance companies. Atlantic Richfield Co. sues 70 insurance carriers for cleanups dating back to the 1930s. Thanks to Superfund, most insurers stopped writing such policies a decade ago. But Marc Rosenberg of the Insurance Information Institute says deep pockets rule: “Get the polluter to pay, and if he (can’t, get the insurer to pay.”

Market Forces. European protectionists sabotage GATT. Now they may deep-six the single continental market. State-run auto manufacturers and airlines won’t abandon their monopolies without a fight. Restrictions on the size of auto dealers and on advertising across borders, Fortune reports, cause prices for identical cars to vary by as much as 60 percent before taxes. Import quotas cost European car buyers $33 billion a year. But you can get a great deal on a Fiat

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