Balance Sheet



? Elder Statesman. A key Democrat may stifle President Clinton's plan to let nonretirees "buy" Medicare coverage. Clinton pal Sen. John Breaux (D-La.), head of a bipartisan
Medicare advisory panel, tells The New York Times Congress shouldn't rush to expand Medicare coverage in an election year, "when it will become a political football."

? Juiced. El Salvador concludes Central America's first electricity privatization. Ownership groups from Chile, Venezuela, and the United States pay nearly $600 million for majority shares in El Salvador's four electric utilities.

? Access Denied. Bill Clinton backs the Cox-Wyden Internet Tax Freedom Act, which would declare a six-year moratorium on new cyberspace taxes. Citing the chaos that could result if 30,000 governing authorities taxed online services, Clinton tells a high-tech conference in San Francisco, "We can't allow unfair taxation to weigh [the Internet] down."

? Good Gridlock. Potentially unconstitutional limits on political speech (a.k.a "campaign reform") may be dead for one more year. Procedural hurdles and killer amendments crafted by Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) keep the McCain-Feingold bill off the legislative agenda indefinitely.


?Drug Slug. From staplers to aspirin, the government's war on commerce continues. The Federal Trade Commission rejects proposed mergers of drug wholesalers Bergen Brunswig Corp. with Cardinal Health and McKesson with AmeriSource Health Corp. The two new firms would have owned 80 percent of the U.S. wholesale drug business, a concentration the FTC considers monopolistic.

?Stadium Scam. Arena frenzy continues in Texas. (See "Edifice Complex," August/September.) Dallas voters agree to pay more than half the cost of a $230 million facility for the NBA Mavericks (owned by Ross Perot Jr.) and the NHL Stars. And the Harris County Sports Authority approves a construction contract for a $230 million site for baseball's Houston Astros.

?Bets Off. A U.S. attorney in New York indicts 14 U.S. citizens operating Internet gambling services that are headquartered in Central and South America. Janet Reno claims all Internet gambling is illegal, citing laws dating from Al Capone's heyday that make transmitting gambling information by phone a federal crime.

?Laser Tag. The national ID card is here. More than 5 million Mexicans who frequently cross the U.S. border to conduct business or visit relatives must now carry "laser visa" cards. The cards, which contain digital photos, fingerprints, and other personal information, are a model for the ID cards all Americans must soon have.