Balance Sheet



Continental Shift. France will end its military draft before 2002. President Jacques Chirac says conscription, which has been in place since 1905, "doesn't respond to the exigencies of a modern nation." The country will supplement its new, professional army with a system of voluntary civil and community service open to men and women.

Current Affairs. The 1996 budget resolution starts closing federally run electric utilities. The Alaska Power Administration will soon go out of business, first by transferring the Eklutna Project (a dam) to the state's three utilities. The state will soon purchase the Snettisham Project from the APA.

Fair Play. CBS produces Ruby Ridge: An American Tragedy, a remarkably fair two-part movie on the Idaho showdown. Scriptwriter Lionel Chetwynd tells the Los Angeles Times he disagrees with Randy Weaver's views, "but he is still my fellow citizen and if I don't look out for him, then I am inviting the same treatment upon myself." Says executive producer Edgar J. Scherick, "Randy Weaver had never pointed a gun at another man in anger. By what right should his wife and child be dead now? By what right should that marshal be dead now?"

Test Case. Concerned about your HIV status? You can soon test yourself at home. The Food and Drug Administration approves a $40 testing kit that will let individuals give themselves simple blood tests, send them to a physician, and get the results with a confidential phone call, saving the extra expense of an office visit.


Lights Out. Bill Clinton urges cities to implement dawn-to-dusk curfews for children younger than 17. Not to be outnannied, Rep. Bill Mc-Collum (R-Fla.), architect of the "tamper-proof" Social Security card, says the feds should offer $250 million as "incentives" for cities to join the curfew craze.

Children's Hours. Federal Communications Commission Chairman Reed Hundt and Commissioner Susan Ness want to force broadcasters to show three hours of "children's educational programming" a week. (The Smurfs count. The Flintstones don't. No kidding.) Commissioners James Quello and Rachelle Chong had opposed mandates for kids' TV, leading to a 2-2 standoff. Until now: Quello retreats, in part citing agency "gridlock."

Vintage Cops. Relying on Prohibition-era legal precedents, 28 states outlaw direct shipping of beer, wine, and spirits from alcohol producers and such mail-order houses as the Beer of the Month Club. (In Kentucky, direct shipping is a felony.) Those states ask the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms to outlaw out-of-state booze shipments na-tionwide. If the BATF refuses, the states want Congress to intervene.

Nanny State. Wonder why European economies are moribund? Consider Italy, which requires pregnant women to leave their jobs for the last two months of their pregnancies and the first three months after they give birth. During this time, expectant mothers receive full salaries, 80 percent provided by taxpayers. And any woman who has a compliant doctor can get permission to take her entire pregnancy off, and as much as three years away from work after having a child. Taxpayers handed over almost $1 billion for maternity leaves last year.