Balance Sheet

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Assets

Caissons Rolling

The Pentagon admits it needs 30,000 more troops to meet all of its various security commitments around the globe. It took a while, but the honesty is refreshing. Liberating, even.

Magic Beans

Harvard researchers find coffee drinkers have a 30-to-50-percent lower risk of diabetes than non-java addicts. Diabetes joins colon cancer, cirrhosis, gallstones, and Parkinson's disease as ailments coffee seems to protect against.

Packet Protector

Sen. John Sununu (R-N.H.) promises to protect Voice Over Internet Protocol from federal and state regulation. California, Minnesota, and New York are among the states that say online telephone calls should comply with the same regulations as 19th-century telecom.

Crude Investment

Oil begins to flow from Kirkuk to the rest of the world, providing northern Iraq with a key source of wealth.

Good Goo

A report from the Institute of Physics says "gray goo" doomsaying by the likes of Prince Charles obscures the gains nanotechnology could bring to developing countries, including better water purification and cheaper, more accurate diagnoses of diseases such as tuberculosis.

Virtually Educated

About 1,000 kids in Wisconsin enjoy the flexibility of virtual charter schools. Without rigid districts, students can sign up for classes that would be unavailable if they stuck to their brick-and-mortar schools.

Puzzle Box

Researchers at Microsoft look at imposing crushing costs on spammers—not in money but in time, by requiring e-mail senders' computers to solve a computational puzzle as a condition of delivery.

Liabilities

Guests Only

The FBI demands guest lists from Las Vegas hotels as part of anti-terror activities for New Year's Eve and almost certainly gives visitors to the Super Bowl in Houston the same once-over.

Pricey Speech

A South Carolina judge fines an anti-Bush protester $500 for daring to protest too close to the president. The Secret Service maintains that security, not P.R., drives the need to pen protesters far from the POTUS in "demonstration zones."

Learned Hands

A report from the Teaching Commission finds the quality of teachers in America lacking and suggests several radical reforms, such as merit pay and greater autonomy for principals in firing and hiring.

Kid Not

Pennsylvania's anti-kiddie-porn law succeeds in blocking more than a million legit Web sites. The Center for Democracy and Technology notes school sites were among those blocked by the law.

Theory Leery

Georgia considers evolution too revolutionary for the public schools. A proposed state curriculum for science for middle and high schools nixes the e-word and replaces it with "biological changes over time."

Golden Tablets

Just months after passage of the Medicare drug benefit, its cost zooms from $400 billion over 10 years to $540 billion.

Warning: Warning

The Department of Homeland Security launches the National Cyber Alert System, a plan to spam e-mail users about cyber security threats. Never mind that many public and private outfits, software sellers, and system administrators already issue such warnings.

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