Balance Sheet



? Pot Praise. Canada and France appear ready to permit medical marijuana. (See "Drug Trial," page 22.) Health Canada may allow the University of Toronto to grow marijuana for medicinal purposes. France will conduct medical marijuana trials in hospitals this summer and may decriminalize possession of pot in small quantities.

? Disease Prevention. Lead poisoning may join polio and rickets as childhood diseases of the past. Using figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Council for Science and Health announces that only 0.4 percent of children between the ages of 1 and 5 face any lead-related health threats. Today's typical child has a blood lead level one-sixth as high as it was 20 years ago.

? Youthful Rebellion. "Freshmen Get High Marks–in Apathy," snipes a Los Angeles Times story on UCLA's annual nationwide survey of college freshmen. Apathy, of course, is in the eye of the beholder: A mere 26.7 percent of this year's freshmen keep up with politics, down from 57.8 percent in 1968. But a record number of these "disengaged" teens plan postgraduate studies: 39.4 percent intend to complete master's degrees; 15.3 percent aspire to get doctorates.

? English Lessons. British Prime Minister Tony Blair sticks it to teachers unions. The Labor Party proposes taking high schools out of union management, turning them over to "forums" run by parents, businesses, and community groups. The forums would manage budgets, allow private investment in facilities, and let students enroll in any public school a forum controls.


? Duplication Error. Has medical science gone far enough? That's the implication of President Clinton's call to ban human cloning. Clinton vilifies cloning on ethical grounds in his January 10 radio address while praising gene therapy–the target of similar religious and moralist attacks not so long ago.

? Sinking Sun. The so-called Japanese Economic Miracle keeps looking more like mush. The Finance Ministry concedes that Japan's heavily regulated banks are holding more than $700 billion in bad loans–more than three times as much as officials have previously admitted and about 15 percent of the banks' outstanding debt. The news could delay plans to deregulate the nation's financial sector.

? Got Milk? The endless expansion of the Family and Medical Leave Act continues. The White House backs an extension of the FMLA by Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) that would require employers to give lactating mothers an hour a day with pay to breast-feed their kids. Maloney's bill would also give tax breaks to firms that set aside private feeding rooms.

? Copy 'Crats. Post an e-mail, go to jail? The newly enacted No Electronic Theft Act establishes the first-ever jail sentences for people who make "unauthorized" electronic copies of books, magazines, movies, or music for personal use. "Fair use" provisions that traditionally protected people who made photocopies have been replaced with fines as high as $250,000 and jail terms of up to five years.