Balance Sheet



Search Party

Airports in Seattle, Minneapolis-St. Paul, and Atlanta buck a directive from the Transportation Security Administration to search cars entering airport grounds. Airport officials say they need probable cause.

Sober State

Maine plans to get out of the booze biz and save $100 million in the process. Like many states, Maine serves as the sole liquor wholesaler for local retail outlets and operates 13 stores itself, ensuring Soviet-level selection and service.

Loud and Clear

Telecom analysts and Net providers begin to see that Internet phone service could challenge the incumbent Bell monopolies. Unfortunately, so do the Bells and their buddies, the regulators.

Price Drop

Microsoft says it might have to drop its prices due to competition from open source software such as Linux. Consumers will win, but only if Linux competes on merit and not via government mandates. Some jurisdictions now require new government software buys to be open source.

OMB Bomb

Amid the bland budget boilerplate, the Office of Management and Budget notes that the Drug Enforcement Administration "is unable to demonstrate progress in reducing the availability of illegal drugs in the United States." The DEA says it just needs to redefine its accomplishments.

Ad Health

TV ads for prescription drugs seem to help patients talk to their doctors. Researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard University, and Harris Interactive find that one quarter of patients surveyed got new treatment for serious ailments as a result of asking questions about TV ads.


Convenient Theory

Rep. Sue Myrick (R-N.C.) claims the terrorist threat is more widespread and insidious than we thought. "Look at who runs all the convenience stores across the country," she explains. Our very Big Gulps are at risk.

Junk Dealers

Dim bulbs across the country gather up Columbia debris and attempt to sell it via the online auction site eBay; they get caught more or less immediately. The profit motive can move even the profoundly stupid.

Kinko's Cops

The FBI at first denies, then admits, flying a spy plane over Bloomington, Indiana. The bureau explains it is merely watching places where foreign nationals might be able to send a fax or e-mail late at night. Oh.

Cold Cash

As if enough isn't already smuggled across the U.S.-Mexico border, add Freon to the list. The U.S. banned the refrigerant in 1996, but it's likely to be legal in Mexico until at least 2010. Demand for Freon will remain high until all the pre-1994 cars with air conditioning are off the road.

No Dice

Math teachers across America use "probability cubes" to teach math concepts to kids. You call them dice. Schools don't, so as not to encourage gambling.

Visa Excepted

Stepped-up security worries have U.S. businesses hamstrung by visa backlogs. Mexican tourists wait months for visas to go to Florida, while foreign buyers of big-ticket items such as planes and construction equipment can't get into the country to finalize sales.