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Alert--product being used improperly in bedroom at 123 Maple St. The publicity materials for the Food Marketing Institute show at McCormick Place in May promise a session on the "Evolution of the Bar Code": "Imagine the potential of a bar code that is able to continuously transmit information about itself via the Internet throughout its 'life.' Distribution centers will automatically receive shipment instructions, stores will receive instantaneous replenishment instructions, and microwaves will receive cooking instructions--all without human interaction.... And this is just the beginning."

Some alternative. "Traditional herbal remedies were purchased in the USA, Vietnam, and China," write Gregory Garvey, Gary Hahn, Richard Lee, and Raymond Harbison in the March issue of the International Journal of Environmental Health Research. "The Asian remedies evaluated contained levels of arsenic, lead, and mercury that ranged from toxic (49%) to those exceeding public health guidelines for prevention of illness (74%) when consumed according to the directions given in or on the package."

Illinois pensioners' prospects are looking up in the post-Jim Thompson era, to judge from Governing magazine's report on state governments' management (governing.com/gpp/gp1intro.htm): "[Illinois] is still burdened with a $15 billion unfunded pension liability, a leftover from the bad old days of the 1980s. But the percentage of unfunded liability has dropped from a high of 47 percent to 25 percent now."

"As Chicago has learned through its repeated stabs at accountability, the main reason for school failure is that principals and teachers have not been trained and supported to meet the needs of low-income children," writes Linda Lenz in Catalyst (February). "Bush's proposal for a short-term infusion of extra money at a failing school, bundled with the threat of losing funds, will do nothing to rectify this fundamental problem. Individual schools cannot improve the pool of principal candidates or make the conditions of teaching and professional development attractive enough to lure more and better people into the field, let alone into the most distressed schools. But school districts and universities and state education agencies can."

Are poor people doomed by globalization? Will national governments race each other to the bottom in order to attract multinational business? Northwestern University political scientist Benjamin Page and colleagues ask these questions in a paper issued by NU's Institute for Policy Research ("Working Papers," Fall) and find that "this race has not, to any great extent, materialized." In their view, U.S. government programs can be divided into two groups. Some are "relatively vulnerable to global competitive pressures," including the corporate income tax, social security, medicare, and medicaid. Others are "much less vulnerable," because they have a net economic benefit over the long run; they include preschools, infant and child health and nutrition, and the earned income tax credit.

Does campaign money make the heart grow fonder? Percentage of Americans who said they trusted the government in the early 1980s, according to University of Michigan national election studies: about 30. Congressional campaign spending at that time, according to the Federal Election Commission: around $100 million. Percentage of people who trusted the government in the late 1990s: about 40. Congressional campaign spending at that time: more than $700 million (Cato Institute briefing paper number 60, January 31).

"I tell my students who are preparing for the ministry that they can have an extraordinary political witness if they do just three things as pastors," writes Stanley Hauerwas in the Christian Century (September 27), quoted by Martin Marty in "Context" (March 15): "Never perform a wedding ceremony for anyone who just comes in off the street, never bury anyone [from] a funeral home, and never allow the American flag into the sanctuary. If they try to discipline a congregation to follow these simple Christian practices...they will find they have an extraordinary political task on their hands."

Eighteen Chicago elected officials have been convicted of crimes since 1987, reports Carlos Hernandez Gomez in the Chicago Reporter (January). "The average sentence of white officials was 47 months; black and Latino officials received an average of 34 months."

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