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Hey, these are the suburbs--we can't say "manure" around here. From a Meadow Lane Products press release: "Mary Kopidlansky of Cary discovered a unique way to combine her child-rearing schedule with her passion for animals--sell llama by-products. The owner of several llamas and a resident of unincorporated Cary since 1989, 34-year-old Kopidlansky was aware of how valuable and nutrient-rich the llama by-product was. But she never thought of actually marketing the product to gardeners in search of a rich, organic fertilizer."

With friends like this. A recent release from something called Trinity Press International: "In her new book, After Christianity, Europe's leading feminist theologian argues that Christianity is neither true nor moral."

Qualified to be Dilbert's boss. Among the strange requests employees of RHI Consulting of Oakbrook Terrace have received, according to a recent company news release: "Please remove this Pop-Tart that someone put in my disk drive." "These figures need to add up to something different than what they add up to! Please make them do so." "Can I just get the U.S. portion of the World Wide Web?"

The words get in the way. From a DePaul University news release: "[Warren] Scheideman's students may have wrestled with literature unsuccessfully at an earlier time, but now they have begun to stick a toe in the literary waters."

"The probability of dying is high at birth, declines until puberty, and then increases at an exponential rate (for humans, doubling every seven years) until very old age, when the rate of increase slows," reports Argonne National Laboratory's Center for Mechanistic Biology and Biotechnology ("Frontiers: Research Highlights," 1996-97). The basic pattern of age-related death is the same for mice, beagles, and people (adjusted for different total life spans). "The results suggest that 85 years may represent a biologically imposed upper limit to life expectancy for human populations." Everyone over 42 and a half, get busy!

Why am I not surprised? The worst funded of the state's five retirement systems: downstate teachers, with an unfunded accrued liability of $12.3 billion. The best funded: the General Assembly's own retirement program, with an unfunded accrued liability of only $85 million (Fiscal Focus, January).

Consumers rent 665 million sex videos a year, according to a recent news release from the Libertarian Party. "The number of people watching these videos far outnumbers the politicians who are trying to censor them," says Steve Dasbach, the vociferously anticensorship national Libertarian Party chairman. "If you compare the number of video rentals with the number of votes cast in last year's presidential election, explicit videos were more popular than Democratic and Republican politicians by a ratio of eight to one."

Most commonly stolen vehicles in Chicago, according to the National Association of Independent Insurers, based in Des Plaines: Oldsmobile Cutlass, Chevrolet Caprice, Oldsmobile Delta 88, and Chevrolet Cavalier.

Things neither liberals nor conservatives want to know, from a recent National Research Council news release: Welfare is bad for you, but poverty is worse. "Among families with preteen and adolescent children, welfare benefits were associated with an increased likelihood that these children would drop out of school and that they would become single parents. These negative effects were not seen among adolescents who were on welfare only during their early childhood." Overall, "poverty, regardless of welfare receipt, appears to be the determining factor in whether a child will become welfare dependent as an adult. Research shows that poverty--rather than welfare dependence alone--detracts from a family's ability to help a child succeed in school, work, and society."

You be the judge. According to Jennifer Davis, writing in Illinois Issues (March), "It may be hard to fire teachers, but it is not impossible." Number of teacher dismissal notifications statewide, 1995-1996: 65. Number of teachers actually fired: 11.

Mistakes were made. The Chicago-based parenting newsletter "Moments" (March) quotes Dr. David Elkind, author of Ties That Stress: The New Family Imbalance: "In the post-modern family, because of social changes, the needs of children and adolescents are weighted less heavily than the needs of parents. That is causing stress for children. Many changes came about in the 60s with the civil rights movement, the women's movement, and the changes in divorce laws. It is no one's fault, but the structure of the family changed and the attitudes of society changed. We used to see children needing to be protected. Now we see them as competent adults. Rather than protect them, we teach them about AIDS and drugs and Stranger Danger at a very young age and that causes stress. Dealing with these issues is hard for adults and nearly impossible for kids."

"Politicians hate the property tax not because people don't understand it, but because we do," argues Charles Metalitz in the "Illinois Georgist" (Winter/Spring). "Not because it favors renters, but because it's fair to them. And not because it's arbitrary, but because it actually has a closer relationship to benefits than do most other taxes."

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