Television

Balance Sheet

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Assets

Missing Link. Real science, persistence, and a little luck combine to tell researchers that the HIV virus likely started out 50 years ago as a virus that infects chimpanzees. A key piece of evidence comes from a chimp which was a NASA test subject, a concrete case of animal testing producing tangible benefits. Best of all, the new data may help point toward a cure for AIDS.

Premium Blend. A simpler name would be "vouchers" or even "Medistamps," but we are stuck with Medicare Premium Support. Sen. John Breaux (D-La.) and the bipartisan Medicare Reform Commission want to route federal dollars directly to patients, who would use the money to buy their own health coverage. A sure sign that the proposal moves in the right direction: The Clinton administration hates it.

Privacy–What A Concept. After scads of negative publicity, including thousands of nasty comments filed with federal agencies, a plan to deputize banks in the federal war against money laundering, i.e., the unmonitored use of money, is losing steam. (See "Lost in the Wash," Mar.) The American Bankers Association backs away from "know your customer" regs, and Congress is looking askance at the idea.

The Little O.S. That Could. Linux, the do-it-yourself flavor of the Unix operating system that runs on desktop PCs, gets backing from big boys Dell and IBM. This provides another choice for the Windows haters of the world. But this market process goes unnoticed by the Department of Justice, which still has Bill Gates sweating under a bare bulb in a dank room somewhere.

Liabilities

? The Affluent Network. PBS plans a 24-hour, all-digital channel for kids come fall. Richie Rich and friends with eight to 10 grand to blow on a digital set will see reruns of Teletubbies in startling clarity. Joe Taxpayer remains stuck with the WWF on basic cable. PBS President Ervin Duggan details his market research thusly, "We are a Field of Dreams people–we believe if you build it, they will come."

? Brazil Nuts. A little noticed component of the Brazil's financial meltdown has been a rebellion by the leftist leaders of several large states. The governors of Minas Gerais, Rio de Janeiro, and Rio Grande do Sul have refused to make their share of debt payments to the federal government and instead want more make-work projects. They are also halting the privatization of state-run banks and utilities.

? The Siege. Defense Secretary William Cohen decides that it would be great to fight terrorism by turning the Pentagon loose inside the United States. New anti-terrorism regs would give the military a prominent role in responding to domestic terrorist incidents. Why not skip a few steps and sign the 82nd Airborne over to Janet Reno right now?

? Next Stop, Powder Keg. It is a good bet that 2,000 to 3,000 American troops will soon head to Kosovo, quite possibly under the command of a European power. Once there they will find an Albanian majority yearning to kick out the Serbs and Serbs who think the land is their birthright. When and how the troops come back is anybody's guess, including the people planning the mission.