Balance Sheet

Assets

Gunned Up. The Texas Department of Public Safety reports that the 211,769 Texans carrying concealed handguns are about eight times less likely to be arrested for crimes than the general population. But concealed-handgun permit holders are slightly more likely to be cited for carrying a weapon into a no-no place like a courthouse or city hall.

Rung Out. Over the next five years, phone companies and federal regulators plan to cut $3.2 billion worth of fees charged to long-distance companies by local phone companies. The fees will also be made more explicit and easier to understand. Still, $650 million in annual subsidies will lurk in the wires.

Party Time. The U.S. Court of Appeals rules that the Federal Election Commission cannot limit so-called coordinated spending in congressional races. The ruling, in a case dating to 1986, found that such limits violate the First Amendment rights of political parties.

School's In. The 1.7 million kids educated at home keep doing well in national competitions. Homeschooled kids placed high in the National Spelling Bee in recent years, with wins in 1997 and 2000. And last year's National Geography Bee winner was homeschooled, as were the second- and third-place finishers this year.

The Prisoner. Big copyright owners get a brushback from RealNetworks CEO Rob Glaser, who criticizes a "damn-the-torpedoes" approach to digital copyright enforcement that targets consumers. "You don't treat users as prisoners," he says. Better to come up with new ways of distributing content, Glaser advises.

Mae Not. Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan bashes subsidies for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the federally-chartered mortgage traders. With home ownership at record highs, the M&Ms have started drifting into new areas—like floating new debt—traditionally reserved for the Treasury.

Liabilities

Audit-Erotic. Juanita Broaddrick, the woman who accused President Clinton of raping her, joins the list of Clinton opponents hit with an IRS audit. Also on that list? Paula Jones, Gennifer Flowers, and former Miss America Elizabeth Ward Gracen, all of whom claim encounters with Bill.

Criminal Class. The Texas town of Lockney not only tests all elementary students for drugs; it treats skeptics as criminals. A sixth-grade boy who refused to submit to the tests was given a three-day in-school suspension, during which he had to wear an orange prison jumpsuit.

Jack-Boots A Go-Go. Federal law enforcement is a growth industry. Federal criminal court cases rose nearly 13 percent between 1997 and 1998. And in 1998 there were 83,000 federal law-enforcement officers, up 17 percent in five years.

Frog Gagging. The French parliament considers "The Liberty of Communication Act," which would require anyone publishing a Web page in France to register with the government. French ISPs predict a cyber-exodus if the bill becomes law.

Drug Courier. The Food and Drug Administration vows to track down overseas Web sites that ship non-FDA-approved drugs to Americans. Ultimately it might be up to the U.S. Customs Service to seize and search suspicious packages as they cross the border.

Food Fight. In order to protect consumers, the Federal Trade Commission forces the Hannaford Bros. grocery chain to close several stores before it completes a $3.6 billion merger with the corporate owner of Food Lion. The consumers' take? "I am just devastated," says one.

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