Balance Sheet



Hi-de-ho, Neighbor. Will the Internet destroy "community" (whatever that means), converting us into hapless loners who never switch off our modems? The annual Times-Mirror "Technology in the American Household" survey suggests not. Cybersurfers are more likely to go to movies, more likely to vote, and more frequent readers of newspapers and magazines than the unwired. They also spend time with friends and relatives in "real space" as frequently as the technologically challenged.

Comics Relief. Stupid, meddlesome bureaucrats and overzealous enforcers of the Endangered Species Act prevent a tiny catering business from opening its doors. For three weeks in November, this drama plays out in Blondie, the venerable comic strip. Blondie Bumstead's shop finally opens after a cat eats the endangered mouse living in the building. It's just as well: Had Blondie kept selling food from her home, no doubt the zoning board would have nailed her.

Power Arrangers. Utilities prepare for free market electricity. Southern Co. of Atlanta and Central and South West Corp. of Dallas buy British electric companies that were deregulated in 1990. Houston Industries and Pacific Gas & Electric also plan to purchase U.K. utilities. "The overriding reason for the investments," says The New York Times, "is to get a head start on learning to manage in a deregulated [domestic] industry."

Drug Deal. Drug makers who use synthetic materials can often complete their initial tests for the Food and Drug Administration in a few weeks; testing an identical product made from living matter, however, often takes as long as a year. The FDA ends this discrepancy, treating most biotech and synthetic drugs by the same rules. The Biotechnology Industry Organization says these changes will save millions of dollars and get new drugs to market months sooner.


Hugs, Everybody! America's move to Bosnia combines the blind idealism of Wilsonian internationalism with the silliness of '90s pop psychology. Bosnia ain't Somalia–a pre-industrial society where tribal warlords gun one another down for scraps of food. It's a Western nation where prosperous, literate people would rather shoot their ethnic rivals than look at them. Only the ignorant, the arrogant, or the naive could honestly believe that the Serbs, Bosnians, and Croats will all love one another by 1997.

Two Bobs. Labor Secretary Robert Reich rightly rails against companies that delay bankruptcy by spending their employees' 401(k) contributions on general operations. Fair enough. But Reich remains silent as–right under his nose–Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin raids government employees' pension funds to, well, keep the federal government from going bust.

Fast Buck. The drug war gets more expensive. President Clinton issues an executive order letting the feds seize the assets of Colombian drug traffickers and the individuals and banks that do business with them. The Washington Post says banks must now ferret out any illegal activity. And if the feds seize a bank account from the wrong Rodriguez by mistake? "Since no court has found the listed individuals guilty of anything," says the Post, the only recourse "is to go to [the feds] and beg."

Flagging Federalism. The GOP's 10th Amendment obsession wanes. The highway bill signed by President Clinton forces states to enact "zero-tolerance" measures against teenagers who drink and drive. The House and Senate telecommunications bills would force manufacturers to put anti-violence "V-chips" in new television sets. And the job-training bills passed by both houses would establish an "integrated labor market information system" to track job openings and salaries at every company in America.