Drawn like a moth to flame, I could not resist this morning reading the Associated Press account of the truly bizarre appearance yesterday of celebrity musical entertainer Michael Jackson in a California courtroom. As is my rule, my penance has been to search out two important stories about far away places and issues about which I would normally not be likely to read.

One: The Cost of AIDS Tests (reg. req.)

Five big drug companies yesterday announced a deal to cut the costs charged in the developing world for a key test used to calibrate AIDS treatment. The AIDS death toll worldwide makes pretty much any problem we could imagine – drunk driving? terrorist attacks here? Saddam’s chambers of torture and death? famine? – look like chlid’s play.

Two: polio (reg. req.)

When’s the last time you heard talk about polio? Me too. Turns out that the disease, while largely eliminted from the industrialized west and on the wane everywhere, has undergone a bit of a resurgence in recent years, and there’s a concerted effort in a number of places – Afghanistan, Egypt, India, Niger, Nigeria and Pakistan in particular – to whack it back down.