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City File



"Nothing has frustrated me in this job. Absolutely nothing," says Chicago Public Schools CEO Paul Vallas, interviewed in Illinois Issues (March). "I'm in a great position. I don't want to be a lifetime school superintendent. I don't want to be an education consultant when I'm done here. I'm not setting the stage to run for political office. If I physically survive this job and accomplish what I hope to accomplish and what the mayor hopes to accomplish, then my ticket is written: I'm going to heaven. I can go back and become a normal person and try to raise my kids and spend time with my family. So I don't have to play it safe."

High crimes and misdemeanors--no film at 10. "The stunning news from the LA Times that Chinese intelligence gave $300,000 to Johnny Chung to pass along to Clinton and the Democrats has received only the slightest attention from other media," writes Sam Smith in "Progressive Review" (April 6). "It's looking more and more as if the whole China spy-bribery story will be broaddricked (verb: the suppression of a major news story by major media)."

"The good news for planners is that some of the most unattractive forms of development, such as the nearly ubiquitous strip mall, have remarkably short lifespans," writes Martin Toth in the "Chaddick Report" (Winter), published by DePaul's Chaddick Institute for Metropolitan Development. "This presents planners with the opportunity to look ahead at ideas for the eventual redevelopment of these properties into more pleasing civic spaces--a strategy that has worked in Chicago as well as in many of its suburbs. . . . Surprisingly simple issues, such as the angle of parking spaces and the width of traffic lanes, can have a tremendous effect on the character of our retail areas. . . . A retail strip in suburban Chicago need not look the same as a retail strip in suburban Atlanta, Denver, or Long Beach."

The hype: "The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that approximately 3,000 lung cancer deaths and 37,000 heart disease deaths occur each year due to ETS [environmental tobacco smoke]," according to a March 30 press release from the Illinois Coalition Against Tobacco. The science: "We still do not know, with accuracy, how much or even whether exposure to environmental tobacco smoke increases the risk of coronary heart disease," according to John C. Bailar III, chairman of the University of Chicago's Department of Health Studies, reviewing the latest research in the New England Journal of Medicine (March 25).

This week's bad-timing award. The Chicago Council on Foreign Relations just issued a report, "American Public Opinion and U.S. Foreign Policy 1999," based on a national survey taken late last year. Given a list of 13 possible "threats to U.S. vital interests," the public ranked "regional ethnic conflicts" 11th, tied with "the military power of Russia." Just 34 percent of those polled thought that conflicts such as the one in Kosovo were "critical threats" to the U.S., ranking them well behind international terrorism, chemical and biological weapons, unfriendly nuclear powers, AIDS and other potential epidemics, and China's becoming a world power.

Next on Jenny Jones and at the University of Chicago: "Reasonable people" who can't help buying things they don't want. "Free markets often trap people, including the well-off, into wasteful and continuing struggles for better position," writes University of Chicago law professor Cass Sunstein in the New Republic (March 29), summarizing part of the message of Robert Frank's new book, Luxury Fever. "It is in the very nature of the problem that even reasonable people may be unable to extricate themselves from those struggles without collective help. In the face of struggles of this kind, free markets should not be identified with freedom, properly understood."

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