Balance Sheet



Cereal Killer

General Mills switches to whole grains for all its breakfast cereals, the latest case of a big food retailer giving its customers what they demand in the absence of federal mandates. The Trix Rabbit is now very regular and less silly.

Letter Imperfect

A federal judge nixes "national security letters" that compel the production of personal information without a court order. Judge Victor Marreo notes that the recipient of such a letter is barred even from consulting a lawyer about its legality.

Elephant Men

The Center for Conservation Biology at the University of Washington may have found a way to test for the geographic origin of ivory. Such a test could help pinpoint where African elephants are being poached and direct anti-poaching efforts to those places.

Output Inputs

The U.K.'s Economic and Social Research Council finds that labor productivity is the key to long-term income growth. The bad news for Britain is that it appears to trail France, Germany, and the United States on the productivity front, fully 40 percent behind the U.S. in output per hour worked. Output is high where there is product market competition and access to physical capital.

Armed Defense

Two former New Jersey police officers shot by a felon see their lawsuit against gun maker Sturm, Ruger & Co. tossed out by a judge. The perpetrator of the January 2001 shootings used a gun that had changed hands four times before it reached a pawnshop, making the gun maker far removed from the triggerman.


Standard Deviation

Multiple hostile deployments wear on the armed forces, forcing the Army to relax recruiting standards and mull reducing combat tours of duty below 12 months.

Idea Police

The Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control enforces trade embargo rules that declare some books and authors illegal. Several publishers and author associations have filed suit to stop the practice.

Homeland Absurdity

Off-road "four-wheelers" for rural North Carolina sheriffs, a $30,000 custom trailer for the Madisonville, Texas, mushroom festival, a $30,000 catering bill for the Louisiana Office of Emergency Preparedness–such are the things Homeland Security grants to local authorities have bought.

Swing Away

A triple whammy of stricter federal safety regulations, handicap accessibility mandates, and injury lawsuits gradually removes swing sets from the nation's playgrounds. Tucson is among the municipalities that no longer install swings in new parks or replace them in older ones.

Fannie Won't

Investor fave and political darling Fannie Mae is caught underfunding its reserves and doctoring expenses to win bonuses for executives–yet another example of the quasi-public government-sponsored enterprise's skirting the rules that private corporations must abide by.

Greasy Grab

The White Castle burger chain is sued over too-hot onion rings. A Chicago man seeks $50,000 for "severe and permanent injuries" stemming from ring grease landing on his arm in October 2002. The offending rings, he says, "were in an unreasonably dangerous and defective condition."