Balance Sheet

Assets

Flatland

Russia's flat tax experiment succeeds. A 13 percent flat rate produced a 28 percent revenue gain in 2001, spurring a cut in corporate levies from 35 percent to 24 percent. The government also plans to simplify the rate for small businesses.

Private Replay

SonicBlue, the maker of ReplayTV digital video recorders, wins a reprieve from a court order to collect information on users' viewing choices pursuant to a copyright lawsuit by big media companies. An appeals court says the order to gather "all available information'' on what consumers do with the units was nuts.

Herbal Infusion

A Rastafarian in Guam forces the feds to defend pot laws. A federal appeals court in San Francisco, citing the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act, suggests that possession of marijuana for religious use may be immune from prosecution in "the federal realm," including territories, national parks, and even the District of Columbia.

Sweet Identity

A cryptography expert in Japan fools fingerprint readers with Gummi Bears. Tsutomu Matsumoto uses candy gelatin to make a fake finger, which he finds passes fingerprint detectors four times out of five.

Gun Horseplay

The principal of a Colorado elementary school can no longer quiz students who play cops and robbers about their families' firearms. The Cherry Creek School District says disciplining fourth-graders' make-believe shootouts is OK, but asking if they have real guns at home is not.

Helping Hand

Using a design inspired by the exoskeletons from Aliens, off-the-shelf voice recognition software, and a battery for model airplanes, engineering undergrads at Johns Hopkins University build a robotic helper arm for a disabled man.

Liabilities

Professional Help

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