Balance Sheet



Ripping Yarn. The World Trade Organization misplaces its orders to crush the world's poor long enough to rule for Pakistan in a cotton yarn dispute with the U.S. The Clinton administration had imposed a quota on yarn imports in 1998. The ruling leaves the U.S. 0-for-3 in recent WTO decisions.

Private Eyes. Something good may yet come out of the indefensible shooting down of a plane over Peru that carried an American missionary and her daughter: More members of Congress are asking questions about that facet of the Drug War. The Andean Region Contractor Accountability Act would stop Washington's charade of hiding behind private contractors hired to do what the U.S. military or law enforcement aren't allowed to do in the region.

Secret Sharers. A U.S. District Court judge in Seattle quashes a subpoena that sought the identities of 23 people who had posted on the Silicon Investor online financial bulletin board. TheMart.com said that the posters had somehow engaged in manipulation of the company's stock price. A separate shareholder's lawsuit against the company might have something to do with that claim.

Shot Through. New York's Court of Appeals rules that gun manufacturers cannot be held liable for shooting deaths, a blow to the $4 million federal court judgment to the contrary. Judge Richard Wesley said lawyers for gunshot victims failed to show specifically how "marketing" put guns in the wrong hands.

Mixed Gun Nuts. Sporting mottoes like "Armed Gays Don't Get Bashed" and "Pick on Someone Your Own Caliber," some 13 chapters of the Pink Pistols sprout up. Gun-loving straights also join up, enthused by the thought of plinking with a more diverse crowd. But gun-hating pols are unmoved. "Just another branch of the NRA," one sniffs.


Grand Spaminator. Spain hates e-mail spam so much it moves to ban any commercial mail that is not specifically requested. User groups love the proposal, but a survey shows that spam couldn't be a huge problem: Only 14 percent of online Spaniards have any kind of anti-spam filter.

Weakly Readers. The latest National Assessment of Educational Progress report for fourth-graders shows that 63 percent of black students, 60 percent of poor kids, and 47 percent of all children in urban schools fail to reach basic grade levels in reading.

Clueless Train. Journalists are still ripe for spoofing and scamming, the Seventh Annual Survey of the Media in the Wired World finds. Only 44 percent would not use a Web chat room or newsgroup posting as sources for stories. No response on how many would use notes tacked to a tree in the middle of the woods.

The Hamburglar. A vegetarian lawyer sues McDonald's for millions of dollars in damages over its supposedly "secret" spiking of french fries with beef fat. The chain says that it has never claimed to be a vegetarian bastion and that it provides ingredient info to anyone who asks for it.

Search and Destroy. The U.S. Supreme Court rules 5-4 that cops are one step closer to being judge and jury than anyone thought. They can handcuff anyone for roadside stops and not worry about Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches and seizures. Next on the docket, body cavity searches for failing to wear a seat belt.

Marketing Majors. Sens. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.) and Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) team up to introduce legislation to fine the entertainment industry for selling the wrong stuff to children. The Federal Trade Commission could fine violators up to $11,000 a day for "marketing" sexually explicit or violent entertainment to kids. "That's not censorship. That's common sense," Lieberman explains.