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In 1857 Abraham Lincoln was a has-been ex-congressman. Illinois had zero miles of railroad. Fewer than 30,000 people lived in Chicago....And Robert Kennicott founded the Chicago Academy of Sciences, now celebrating its 140th birthday and its status as the city's oldest museum, according to a recent press release.

"In a racially just world, black athletes should not be expected to hold to a higher standard of behavior than whites," writes Northwestern political scientist Adolph Reed Jr. in the Progressive (July). "Sure, it would be good and useful for Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods to exert pressure on Nike to clean up its dreadful labor practices. But the implication that they have some special obligation to do so because of their status as black--or in Woods's case, even Asian American--athletic icons is wrong. Woods and Jordan have the right to be apolitical no less than Larry Bird, Pete Sampras, Wayne Gretzky, or Brady Anderson. Frank Thomas has the right to have grown up playing baseball without paying much attention to the sport's history, even the history of its desegregation, from which originates his opportunity to become wealthy playing it."

Camelot, Middle Eastern branch? Promo for the new book Wizard of the Winds: "a sweeping adventure in the tradition of The Arabian Knights."

"Illinois...is one of the few states that has attempted even to estimate the number of species found within its boundaries," says the "Illinois Natural History Survey Reports" (July/August). At least 53,754 species are known to have inhabited the state, and more than 15,000 of them are now listed on the survey's Web site, including all 830 vertebrates; 1,326 algae and diatoms; all 3,046 flowering plants; and more than 7,000 insects. "Groups still awaiting entry include the majority of the fungi, mites, protozoans, bacteria, flatworms, and many more insects."

Things that owners of little bitty cars don't want to know, from James Flammang in the Chicago-based "Tirekicking Today" (June): "Each 100-pound decrease in passenger-car weight boosts the fatal crash rate by 1.1 percent, and the injury crash rate by 1.6 percent."

New horizons in guilt, from a press release of the Osteoporosis Centers of America: "If You Ignore the Threat of Osteoporosis, 41 Million Americans Will Be Affected By the Year 2015."

Press releases we didn't finish. From a list of dating pointers: "Pay attention to how your pet reacts to the new person. Cats, especially, know who's right for you. If they pee in his shoe, they're sending you a message."

"The number of women-owned businesses in the Chicago area nearly doubled over the past nine years [to 225,100], employment in them more than tripled [to 706,000], and sales increased nearly four-fold [to more than $96 billion]," according to a press release from the local chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners. Chicago ranks third in the country in women-owned businesses, but only 18th in their growth rate.

That would be well over half a million deadbeats. Number of child-support cases in Illinois in 1995: 721,151. Percentage in which money was collected from absent parents: 11. National average: 19 (from the Center for Law and Social Policy's report "The State of the States: Child Support Enforcement in 1995").

Of course you knew it wasn't Wal-Mart. Patrick McCormick in the Chicago-based U.S. Catholic (July): "To paraphrase Jesus in Matthew 19:24, if you want to know how tough it is for a rich person to get into heaven, try negotiating a revolving door at Nordstrom's with two overloaded shopping carts."

"From 1980 to 1991, the average public transportation fare (1991 dollars) increased by 41.8%, while the price per gallon of gasoline decreased by 42.5%," according to "Dollars & Sense: The Economic Case for Public Transportation in America," a study by Donald Camph released last month. "Any product or service that keeps its market in the face of such a pricing disadvantage must be valued by its customers." Did transit in fact keep its market? Yes and no, according to the Statistical Abstract of the United States: Just under 8.6 billion passengers rode public transit in 1980 and in 1991, while miles traveled by car went up 39 percent over the same period.

Antitanning tips from dermatologist Iris Aronson of the University of Illinois at Chicago, as noted in a recent press release: Ultraviolet light (whether natural or from tanning booths) causes wrinkles, damages DNA, and inhibits normal immune-system defenses against cancer, and the damage is cumulative. Use sunscreen year-round, at least SPF 30 in spring and summer. Use it even when you're getting sun through a window. And have a nice day.

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