Balance Sheet



Material Grill

A federal district court judge says the Justice Department may not jail material witnesses indefinitely. "No Congress has granted the government the authority to imprison an innocent person in order to guarantee that he will testify before a grand jury," Judge Shira A. Scheindlin rules.

Early Release

Theresa Wilson is released from prison four years after being sentenced to life without parole for selling $150 worth of morphine. An Alabama court ruled last year that the sentence was cruel and unusual. Now a trial court judge has downgraded her sentence to time served.

Income Outcomes

Surprise! The poor, like everyone else, benefit from economic booms. Incomes for the poorest families not only kept up with the richest in the late 1990s but slightly outpaced them, according to the Economic Policy Institute and the Center on Budget and Policy.

Yup With People

Hated yuppies who gentrify neighborhoods help everyone in the community, finds the Citizens Housing and Planning Council. Crime drops, the tax base expands, businesses pop up, and schools improve.

Tortilla Curtain

Mexico passes its first freedom of information law, with lawmakers unanimously backing bills allowing Mexicans a peek at how their tax money is spent. In the past, officials have treated public records like personal property.

Sealab 2002

J. Craig Venter is using $100 million from the fortune he made heading Celera Genomics to find microbes that will cheaply turn carbon dioxide into a solid, keeping the air clean. Venter thinks they might be at the bottom of the sea.


Winston Crock

Raymond Leopard, who says he worked as the "Winston Man" in 1970s ads for R.J. Reynolds, sues the firm. He claims he's due $65 million in damages for years of emotional distress from shilling cigs.

Pig Out

The congressional spending frenzy includes such items as a $273,000 program in Missouri to fight "Goth culture." Citizens Against Government Waste says the $20.1 billion in pure pork projects for 2002 is up nearly 10 percent from last year.

Expansion Pact

The Federal Trade Commission is again sniffing around the video game industry, this time for data on sales of mature-themed games to minors. Congress wants continued FTC "oversight" of media marketing campaigns.

No-Fly Zone

Student activists intending to march on Washington, D.C., in April are detained at Milwaukee's Mitchell International Airport on the orders of federal air marshals. They're not allowed to fly until they answer questions about their plans in D.C.

Promotional Offer

A bill before Congress would put a promoter of any "entertainment event" in jail for up to nine years if he or she "knows or reasonably should know that a controlled substance will be used or distributed" at the event. Would nasty ballpark wieners count?

Cool Customers

Residents of Hartford, Connecticut, use a noise ordinance to bust an ice cream man charged with playing "Turkey in the Straw" too loudly and too late at night. Felix Rios, a.k.a. Mister Softee, says he doesn't understand the fuss.