Balance Sheet

Assets

▲Pagan Rights. America's largest domestic military base, Ft. Hood, Texas, makes peace with a coven of Wiccans. The base allows observance of Wicca rites by personnel as part of a policy of respect for minority religions. As long as observance does not interfere with their duties--attending rites "skyclad," i.e., buck naked, is out--the Wiccans can do as they please.

▲Rising Son. Thanks to Viagra, Japanese women can now buy birth control pills. The government had kept the pill off the market for several suspect reasons, including moral damage, unnamed side effects, and imagined environmental harm. After the Health Ministry approved Viagra in a matter of months--it had been studying oral contraceptives for nine years--women's groups demanded the pill. Currently one in five pregnancies in Japan ends in abortion.

▲Web Buffs. Technology trumps weak-kneed corporate self-censorship. After the WB network, in a fit of post-Littleton histrionics, pulled the season finale for Buffy the Vampire Slayer from U.S airwaves, Canadian and European fans posted the entire episode on the Internet.

▲Net Gains. The Web may not just be full of hype, geeks, and spam after all. A study finds that U.S. companies generated $301 billion last year from online-related goods and services. That puts the Web hot on the heels of the $350 billion auto industry. The University of Texas study also found that between 1995 and 1998 the Internet economy grew by 174.5 percent, compared with GDP growth of 2.8 percent during that time.

Liablities

▼School Daze. Public school administrators around the country react to school shootings with a rash of suspensions, expulsions, strip searches, and general harassment of any student deemed to be a "threat." Among the scary behaviors: drawing a picture of a gun, dyeing one's hair, commiserating with other misfits, and writing stories that mention bombs.

▼Cheese Stop. U.S. cheese makers go protectionist. The National Cheese Institute asks the World Trade Organization to ban the international trade of cheeses made from unpasteurized milk. That standard would effectively ban trade in the pungent, tasty cheeses that adults crave when they feel peckish. WTO would then be a supranational negotiator on the vending of cheesy comestibles.

▼No Diving. The men's swimming and diving team at North Arizona is the latest to be sacrificed at the altar of Title IX, the federal writ of collegiate athletic equality. Barring a sudden increase in football-playing women, male gymnasts, swimmers, and even baseballers risk having their sports dropped in a vicious zero-sum game.

▼Auto-Spin. President Clinton goes on Good Morning America to advance what he calls the "common sense" idea that guns should be registered just like cars. At last check there was no federal DMV, no waiting period to buy cars, and no limit on the number of cars you can buy. Nor do the feds monitor car sales between individuals. Yet Clinton, Sarah Brady, and other gun grabbers continue to make the analogy.

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