Balance Sheet



Miami Heat. A federal judge says Elián González's supporters can sue former Attorney General Janet Reno for injuries received during the April 2000 INS raid to seize the boy: "A reasonable officer…would know that the law forbade her from directing the execution of a warrant in a manner that called for unjustified force."

Free Birds. The California Board of Equalization rules 5?0 that the Los Angeles County assessor cannot tax orbiting satellites. The county wanted Hughes Electronics to pay taxes on eight birds, 22,300 miles up. Last year a judge ordered Virginia Beach, Virginia, to return $360,000 it had collected from the Fox Network for its satellite transponders.

Labor Pains. Eugene Scalia, nominee to be the Labor Department's top lawyer, defends his opposition to wacky Clinton-era workplace safety regulations. Scalia's dismissal of ergonomic regs as based on "quackery" and "junk science" drives Big Labor?loving pols insane.

Union Label. Dutch hookers–a.k.a. "workers in the sex industry"–form the world's first trade union for prostitutes. Last year Holland legalized brothels, and now pros say they need to organize to win better treatment from banks and insurance companies.

Smoked Eats. Restaurant owners in Ames, Iowa, sue the city over an anti-smoking ordinance. Owners of Cyclone Truck Stop and six other eateries say state law allows smoking in public places. Restaurants in Marquette, Michigan, won a similar case in March.


Face Off. The sudden popularity of face-recognition technology ignores that using it to scan big crowds for terrorists cannot possibly work. False acceptance and detection rates combine to mean that one in three people would have to be stopped to catch 90 percent of the bad guys.

Flag Daze. Indiana is one of 48 states that still outlaws burning the American flag, despite Supreme Court rulings that the act is protected speech. One Hoosier was arrested for burning a flag behind his home.

Power Drunk. In Florida, drunk driving is whatever the cops say it is, a federal judge rules. District Court Judge Richard Lazzara says 0.01 percent on a breath-alcohol test–well below the state's 0.08 DUI level–can take a back seat to officers' "personal observations of plaintiff's physical appearance and his performance on the field sobriety tests, as well as plaintiff's admission to having consumed alcohol."

Papers Please. An airline industry group is among the backers of a smart I.D. card for all Americans. Such a "transportation card" would be needed to fly a plane, board a train, or rent a car.

Railroad Tithe. Amtrak says $3 billion more for security and service improvements will make rail travel a real alternative to the nation's weary flyways. But the trains shouldn't need federal help if nobody wants to fly: They might finally have passengers. Amtrak has until 2003 to end 30 years of reliance on government subsidies or be dissolved.