Balance Sheet



French Revolution

Members of the French National Assembly reverse the Culture Ministry's attempt to outlaw sharing music and movies online. Instead, they back a monthly royalty scheme of about $8.50 a month for file swapping.

Veteran Drinkers

State Rep. Jim Splaine (D-Portsmouth) wants to lower New Hampshire's drinking age for military personnel to 18. Splaine figures that if they can handle a weapon, they can handle a beer.


Mobile electronic gadgets fuel a tech boom from Korea to California to Switzerland. NAND flash-memory chips were a $10 billion market in 2005 and will hit $18 billion worldwide by 2008, the IT research firm Gartner Inc. estimates.

Speech Insurance

Officials in Polk County, Florida, eliminate a rule requiring anyone who wants to set up a display--often holiday-themed--outside county government offices to purchase a $500,000 liability insurance policy.

Download Defense

Patricia Santangelo, a single mom in Wappingers Falls, New York, refuses to fold when the recording industry charges that she is a music pirate. A federal judge notes the 43-year-old is "an Internet-illiterate parent, who does not know Kazaa from kazoo, and who can barely retrieve her e-mail."

Beating Diabetes

Researchers at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute find a genetic link between a high-fat diet and the onset of type 2 diabetes. A single gene in a key enzyme seems to disrupt insulin production, which suggests using that enzyme to develop a treatment for the disease.


Tech War

You would never know it from the relative law enforcement attention, but cybercrime now outpaces illegal drug sales in annual proceeds, netting over $105 billion in 2004. The FBI Computer Crime and Security Survey also pegs the average loss per incident in 2005 at about $250,000.

Drugged Out

Medicare's new drug benefit confuses seniors more than ATMs and VCRs combined. A letter from Humana Inc. listing a help line for the program accidentally directs Iowa residents to a phone sex line. Good Samaritans with laptops and Net connections become the program's ad hoc consulting service.

Outlaw Guitar

The Music Publishers' Association chief says the operators of guitar tablature sites should go to jail. The owners of the mechanical rights to songs plan to follow the recording industry's path of suing and harassing music lovers in the hope of getting some money in return.

Chubby Chasers

Lawmakers in Argentina's Buenos Aires province pass a law requiring women's clothing shops to stock all sizes from 6 to 16. Failure to provide the proper range of sizes brings a fine of up to $170,000.

Standing Precedent

A teacher calls a Palm Beach County high school student ''so ungrateful and so un-American'' for refusing to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance in class. The school district requires written parental permission for such disobedience.

Caption Action

A Federal Communications Commission mandate that all new TV programming be closed captioned kicked in January 1, leaving stations confused and liable--at $8,000 per violation--for any misstep. Stations now have an incentive not to air emergency news cut-ins at all.