Balance Sheet



Gray Lady Down. The New York Times effectively retracts a story claiming that global warming caused a North Pole ice melt. A correction notes that "about 10 percent of the Arctic Ocean is clear of ice in a typical summer" and "the lack of ice at the pole is not necessarily related to global warming." The gaffe becomes fodder for David Letterman guffaws.

Miss Wizard. A 13-year-old Pennsylvania girl's Harry Potter Web site is so good that a West Coast dot-com buys it. The company links the site to the official Potter publisher's site, which understands that bringing smart fans on board is better than suing them for copyright infringement.

Mellow Motorists. British government researchers find that experienced pot smokers are less likely to get in car wrecks when they are high. Four weeks of tests on driving simulators to gauge reaction times and awareness found that the stoned drivers were super-cautious and less likely to drive recklessly.

Speed Thrills. Safety maven and Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader is safe at high speeds, rocketing down California highways in order to make campaign stops. The driver of Nader's campaign van hits 93 mph in a 65 zone. No injuries are reported.

Medi-Club. New buyers' discount clubs like Medisavers help consumers stretch medical dollars by pooling buying power. Below-market prices on prescription drugs and doctor, dental, and eye-care bills can supplement bare-bones insurance plans without hefty premiums.


Burning Issue. As wildfires rage, the Clinton administration moves to cut fire prevention funds for Uncle Sam's vast forests. The General Accounting Office finds that "federal fire fighting capabilities are diminished due to lack of funding."

Money Play. More evidence that pro sports teams gobble public money with little public benefit: Economics professors at the University of Maryland-Baltimore County examined 37 cities with professional sports franchises between 1969 and 1996 and found that residents who got a new team paid for it with a net $6 decline in real per capita income. In addition, public infrastructure is usually the loser when millions are spent on stadiums.

World Nanny. The Food and Drug Administration leans on New Zealand to reel in online pharmacies. A New Zealand court ruled in late 1999 that pharmacists could legally export medicines without a prescription. The FDA has already warned that packages from New Zealand pharmacists could be seized by our customs agents.

Naked Watch. Police in Fort Myers, Florida, arrest four adults for lewd behavior during an "Erotic Strawberry-Eating Contest" at a local bar. Simulated oral sex, eating whipped cream off of body parts, and flashing breasts and buttocks are cited.

Baker's Dozy. Afghanistan's ruling Taliban shuts down bakeries run by widows, saying Islamic law completely forbids women from working. The bakeries were started by the United Nations' World Food Program and allowed widows to be paid salaries to make bread that was sold at a subsidized price to other widows.