Balance Sheet



Healthy Choice. Pressure builds for the FDA to legalize over-the-counter sales of birth-control pills. Drug makers and health experts will request a meeting with regulators later this year to discuss the idea. (See Trends, June.) Researcher Michael Rosenberg tells the Los Angeles Times this change "would be a godsend for some women. To be freed from the expense and trouble of obtaining a prescription would be a tremendous convenience."

Wired. Cable reregulation, RIP? In Alexandria, Virginia, U.S. District Judge T. S. Ellis lets Bell Atlantic originate and offer cable programming in the same areas where it provides telephone service. Ellis says shutting out phone companies violates the First Amendment. Even if "telephone companies succeed in driving out all competition," writes Ellis, "the telephone companies would be in no better position to act uncompetitively…than are the current [cable] monopolies."

Easy Rider. Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell (D-Colo.) helps organize a rally against motorcycle-helmet laws. His state may lose millions of federal highway dollars if it doesn't pass a helmet law this year. Campbell defends the Iron Horse Motorcycle Rally, saying, "This is not about whether to wear a helmet, but whether you should be forced to wear one."

Going South? "America Is Here," boasts a sign in the São Paolo, Brazil, Radio Shack. Over the past decade, Brazil, with a gross domestic product twice that of Mexico, has cut import tariffs from 78 percent to 14 percent. The New York Times says U.S. exports to Brazil, which totaled $5.7 billion last year, have grown by 35 percent since 1988. And next March, Brazilians can buy American-built Ford Tauruses and Explorers and Chevy Luminas.


Static Inference. Forcing businesses to provide health coverage will cost plenty—3.1 million jobs, project Baruch College economists June and David O'Neill. Nearly two-thirds of the jobs will be lost from restaurants, retailing, and other service industries. Wait, says Clinton guru Ira Magaziner. The plan will take several years to phase in, he claims, giving businesses "a couple of years' notice." All the better to plan the layoffs.

Jamming Signals. Call it the Rush Limbaugh Unemployment Act. Reps. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and John Dingell (D-Mich.) push to make the Fairness Doctrine law. Radio talk shows kept term limits, congressional pay raises, and the House bank and post office scandals alive after the Beltway press dismissed them. Forcing stations to give equal time to opposing views will silence grass-roots voices while keeping power-mad legislators re-elected for life.

Arms Banned. A task force appointed by Virginia Gov. Douglas Wilder lists a dozen guns it wants the legislature to ban. Included are semiautomatic pistols and rifles and shotguns with magazines that hold more than seven shells. Sen. Richard Saslaw, a gun-control advocate, tells The Washington Post, "If you want to protect yourself, get a pit bull."

Program Failure. Watch out, "competitiveness" fans. New Assistant Attorney General Anne Bingaman plans to revitalize antitrust prosecutions. Speaking before the American Bar Association, Bingaman declares war on "vertical" pricing arrangements—manufacturers that pressure dealers to limit discounts on their products. Manufacturers like, say, Microsoft, Bingaman's first target.