Space

Balance Sheet

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Assets

Growth Fix

Multiple hurricanes and sky-high gas prices can't slow down the U.S. economy, which charged ahead by almost 4 percent in the third quarter of 2005. Consumer confidence is battered by the shocks, though.

Tokin' Gesture

Noticing that other branches of the federal government employ people who admit to having used pot, the FBI moves to relax its own policies a little. Distant marijuana use would be OK. Anything recent–back to the microbus, freak.

iPod People

The Foo Fighters, Switchfoot, and other bands fight their own labels' attempts to impose copy restrictions on consumers. The rockers are helping fans find ways to work around pointless campaigns to keep their music out of the formats listeners want.

Flexing Muscles

Brazilians turn to alcohol-based flex fuels to combat high oil prices. Using alcohol made from abundant sugar cane, the flex-cars also benefit from computerized engine sensors that can adapt to different fuel mixtures on the fly and still burn cleanly.

Green Piece

The former head of Greenpeace tells Forbes a little secret: "If you want to change the world, change it through the market." Paul Gilding now heads a $5-million-a-year consulting firm that helps corporate clients do things like conserve scarce–and expensive–water.

Classroom Space

The European Space Agency puts the first-ever student-designed satellite–the SSETI Express–into orbit. Built by 23 university groups collaborating via the Net, the effort also includes several pico-satellites, extremely small craft that can gather tons of useful data.

Liabilities

Hidden Protocol

The Federal Communications Commission decides that Voice-Over-Internet Protocol services must comply with the wiretap provisions of the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act. No one knows exactly what this means, but we've been assured that "the surveillance needs of law enforcement agencies continue to be met as Internet-based communications technologies proliferate."

Walloon Punctured

In Belgium a Flemish woman is arrested for calling her Walloon husband names. Specifically, "a lazy Walloon, a slave, and an inferior creature." This violates the nation's law against racism.

Education Overload

In Massachusetts at least 20 school districts mull extending their school days by up to two hours. The claim is that, in an age of standardized testing, 180 six-hour days cannot impart an adequate education to students.

Why-Fi

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom discovers "a fundamental right to have access universally to information," which in turn mandates publicly funded Wi-Fi nets.

Subsidized Crap

The U.K. calls it "Own Art," but the government program to pay people to buy modern art is surreal by any name. Already some 4,000 interest-free loans of up to $3,545 have been doled out to buy pieces that, by definition, could not sell themselves on their merits.

Drug Benefit Abuse

At the same time a Gallup poll finds that most senior citizens plan to stay out of the Medicare drug benefit plan, the Bush administration tells states the program will cost them $124 billion by 2015. Some states are trying to back out of a deal that may cost them more than no federal plan at all.

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