Balance Sheet



? Safety First. Nanny-state lobbying group Public Citizen frets about too few workplace inspections. Why? In 1998, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration conducted 33,697 inspections, way down from the high of 89,859 hit in 1975. Yet the 6,026 workplace deaths in 1998 was the lowest number the Bureau of Labor Statistics has ever recorded. Indeed, the number of job-related illnesses and injuries has fallen for five straight years.

? Big Johnson. Cracks in the drug prohibition monolith show as Gov. Gary Johnson (R-N.M.) floats the idea that it is time to try something else. "I believe that our war on drugs has been a dismal failure," he says. Johnson wants the feds to examine decriminalization and other options before pushing more of the same old dope.

? Northern Light. Canada's Department of National Defense plans to turn over the operation of its supply depots to private experts. Ultimately, the entire supply chain-from spare parts to fatigues-would be managed privately. A five-to-10-year contract for the work would be worth between $50 million and $100 million. The Canadian armed forces expect to save $60 million to $90 million with the deal.

? Gulf Outing. A presidential oversight board is the latest in a string of government and private panels that have found nothing to link illnesses suffered by Gulf War vets to their tours of duty. This time, no link was found to depleted uranium used in U.S. munitions. Still, the search for a villain continues.


? Alan Wrench. Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan admits to tracking the stock market as part of the Federal Reserve's process for deciding when to hike interest rates. This puts the Fed in the position of punishing "too high" stock prices with tight money, dangerous territory for monetary policy and the economy as whole.

? Cell Mates. The FCC sides with the FBI and against cellular phone companies in a dispute over the bureau's surveillance ability. A 1994 law requires the feds to work with the industry to make sure the cell network is as tappable as land lines. But what the feds now have is much better than that: cell phones that act as homing beacons.

? Chicken o' the Sea. Acting under the never-ratified Law of the Sea Convention, the Clinton administration doubles U.S. jurisdiction off the coasts from 12 to 24 nautical miles. "With this new enforcement tool, we can better protect America's working families against drug trafficking, illegal immigration, and threats to our ocean environment," Vice President Al Gore explains. Can 48-or 1,000-miles be far behind?

? Executive Perk. President Clinton has signed 301 executive orders on everything from civil service rules to food labeling, sometimes in direct conflict with laws already on the books. Congressional critics say such orders overstep presidential power, but with another year on the job Clinton is expected to ignore such concerns.