Balance Sheet



Barrier Grief. The Zoë Baird fiasco makes modest immigration reforms likely. INS counsel Paul Virtue says the feds may need to issue more green cards; Legal Times reports the Senate may consider repealing sanctions for employers who hire undocumented aliens.

High Time. Italy decriminalizes most drug use, abolishing prison sentences for possession of up to three "average daily doses."

Gender Gap. Maryland Insurance Commissioner John Donaho says women shouldn't pay less for insurance, even though they live longer and have fewer accidents than men. But state Circuit Judge Robert Hammerman overrules Donaho, saying sound business practices trump the state's equal rights amendment.

Navel Maneuvers. The Fruit Police suffer another setback. (See Balance Sheet, Feb.) U.S. District Judge Gerhard Gesell lets the Department of Agriculture suspend the California-Arizona Navel Orange Marketing Orders. For 56 years, these quotas let big growers like Sunkist inflate their prices by limiting orange supplies. Consumer Alert predicts an open market in oranges will save shoppers $300 million this year.


VAT's Up, Doc? The AFL-CIO, which has always opposed consumption taxes as regressive, backs a value-added tax to pay for health care. It hopes a VAT (and medical price controls) will keep Bill Clinton from taxing employer-provided health insurance. (See "Consuming Debate," Dec.) Soviet-style medical care and higher taxes. Some deal, huh?

Drug War. Bristol Myers and Squibb form a partnership to develop and market Taxol, the anti-cancer marvel derived from yew trees. Taxol isn't cheap: The partnership spent $32 million jumping through FDA hoops; treatment will cost the average patient $5,000 a year. Rep. Ron Wyden (D–Ore.) and his Naderite buddies call that price gouging. They want tough price controls on Taxol and other new drugs. Better dump your pharmaceutical stocks.

Tank-Top Cops. D.C.'s finest at work: National Public Radio reports 20 inauguration-related arrests in Washington on January 20. A Connecticut woman was nailed for carrying a small-caliber handgun in her purse. The other 19 criminals? Illegal souvenir vendors.

Death Rays. The newest health-related superstition: Pocket telephones cause cancer. On Larry King Live, Florida widower David Reynard announces he's suing NEC; he claims microwaves from his wife's cellular phone gave her a brain tumor. Cellular stocks plummet. Grow up, people: An electric shaver or a hair dryer causes dozens of times more electromagnetic radiation than a pocket phone. Why not sue Remington's Victor Kiam?