Balance Sheet



Packet Catcher

Sprint is the first phone company to switch its local phone traffic to an Internet-like packet-switched network. Although the upgrade will take years to finish, it could be the start of a real 21st-century phone network.

Quick Check

The FBI claims it has improved the speed of the background checks on gun buyers required by the Brady Law. The checks used to take days, but about 91 percent of gun dealer inquiries are now resolved on the initial phone call, the feds say.

Minute Persons

The University of Massachusetts elects to keep its Minuteman mascot despite citing "gender, firearms and ethnicity issues" as reasons to abandon it. Turns out a redesign of the 30-year-old Minuteman that might sell more T-shirts was a better solution.

Land Ahead

Montana is the first state in the nation to ban the sale of state-owned land to the feds. State officials fear that if Washington gets its hands on land, it'll forbid productive uses that generate tax revenue for schools.

Flat Earth

China takes a close look at flat tax reforms. Don't tell U.S. politicians, but flat is something of a trend. Estonia, Latvia, Russia, and Ukraine have flat taxes, and Slovakia is studying one. All are at rates of 20 percent or lower.

Skinny Tripping

One of the few travel markets resistant to terror anxiety turns out to be nudist vacationing. Nude cruises are all the rage, part of an annual $400 million nude recreation business. Don't forget the sunblock.


Hunting Reason

One U.S. team hunting for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq is dogged by a small problem: No one on the team can read or speak Arabic. Among its "targets" was a clearly marked administrative supply depot.

Hurricane Warning

The University of Miami goes after a Florida high school for using a logo too similar to its own. University lawyers tell the Umatilla High Bulldogs that using the Hurricanes' "split-U" design will cost them $2,000 a month.

Bird Brained

State wildlife officials in Kentucky destroy a bald eagle egg because they lack a federal permit to raise bald eagles. A captive pair of wounded, flightless eagles had bred and produced an egg, something that almost never happens.

Deep Pockets

Defendants in a federal lawsuit over the deadly fire at a Rhode Island nightclub now include Anheuser-Busch, the town of West Warwick, and Shell Oil. The owners of the nightclub that burned in February also ran a Shell station.

Visa Payment

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) warns that post- 9/11 security crackdowns border on xenophobia, which could retard scientific advancement. Backlogged visa applications for foreign students and researchers could shift the flow of science talent away from the U.S., the AAAS notes.

Pension Plan

Attempts to reform France's public pension system are met by strikes and the promise of more civil unrest. Without change, by 2020 every French worker will have his or her own pensioner to support.