Balance Sheet



Drug Reaction

A South Carolina jury rejects a tenuous "Zoloft defense" offered by 15-year-old Christopher Pittman's attorneys and convicts the youth of murdering his grandparents.

New Money

Airline frequent-flyer miles have become an alternative currency for everything from hotel rooms to coffee pots. The Economist estimates their current global value tops $700 billion.

Privately Decent

Four months after the fact, the Federal Communications Commission confirms there is nothing indecent or profane about Saving Private Ryan. In November, 66 ABC stations opted not to broadcast the World War II flick for fear of offending maladjusted sociopaths.

Phones Home

Mergers between AT&T and SBC and between MCI and Verizon indicate that artificial divisions between long distance and local may be at an end. Phone service is phone service, and regulators should let subsidy schemes die a natural death.

Tuition Fruition

Scary stats on the cost of a college education–an 11 percent increase for public schools and 6 percent for private ones in April 2005–ignore the big picture: According to College Board data, once tax breaks and direct grants are factored in, the annual cost of college falls by about half for most full-time undergrads.

Apple Corps

McDonald's distributes fresh sliced apples as an alternative to fries in Happy Meals. The Apple Dippers are one of many fresh fruit offerings now found on fast food menus.


Download Duality

A spate of lawsuits from the Motion Picture Association of America seeks $150,000 for each film or show downloaded by file swappers. If you take your cues from the possible civil and criminal penalties, it is better to shoplift a DVD than download one.

Bureau Backlog

The FBI's $170 million Virtual Case File is trashed in the bureau's latest technological misstep. A modern data handling system should have been the first priority post 9/11, but instead the PATRIOT Act helps shovel yet more information into a broken system.

Secrecy First

The Department of Homeland Security offers local authorities a secret guide to spotting terrorist threats. The guide features cryptic references to "unusual burns or illness in animals" and encourages officials to report vaguely defined "unusual" or "suspicious" activity.

Fee Money

Kansas lawmakers want to slap state fees on Internet-based phone services. Voice Over Internet Protocol users would pay 50 cents a month into the universal service fund for phone service, even though they do not use that network for their calls.

Gang Green

Police and military recruiters claim that street gangs are sending members to sign up for a tour in the military in order to gain valuable mayhem-causing skills.

Polio Club

Fourteen countries report new cases of polio–stark proof that scientific advances can be rolled back, given enough bad policy.