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"Regrettably, it sometimes takes concern about the middle class to get school boards to invest in quality," writes Linda Lenz in Catalyst (November). "That's what happened some 20 years ago, when Waller High School was converted into Lincoln Park High School, and nearby LaSalle, Newberry and Franklin elementary schools became specialty schools. Better late than never. While these programs were designed to keep or lure the middle class, they benefit low-income kids, too. For example, almost half the children who attend those four North Side magnet schools are low-income. At Lincoln Park, the number of low-income students is higher than the number that attended Waller before the turn-around began."

Number of the top five conventions at McCormick Place in 1996 that had to do with the internal combustion engine: 4 (Chicago Auto Show, Chicago Chevy-Vette Fest, Motorcycle Swap Meet, and World of Wheels). Their percentage of the attendance at the top five: 92 (Illinois Business, third quarter).

"The old axiom, 'If it isn't broke, don't fix it!' does not really apply" to computer systems, writes Joe Norton in the Orland Park-based "MicroAge" newsletter. The reason is that hardware and software makers refuse to fix old stuff. "The people who have had their systems for years (in some cases five or more years) have to maintain their equipment and their software. The older the software, the greater the chance is that the original publisher has gone out of business, or has upgraded their software for newer systems, and will no longer support the original versions. The hardware may be equally hard to maintain due to the scarcity of replacement parts, as well as the relative unavailability of service for the equipment. The onus for maintenance is directly on the user."

We're experiencing two different crime trends, according to the fall issue of the "Compiler," newsletter of the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority--"one for the young and one for the mature--that are moving in opposite directions. From 1990 to 1994, the overall rate of murder in America declined about 4 percent. For this same period, the rate of killing at the hands of adults aged 25 and older declined 18 percent, and that for young adults, aged 18 to 24, rose only 2 percent. However, the rate of murders committed by teenagers aged 14 to 17 jumped 22 percent."

What's the difference between New York and Chicago for bicyclists? Karen Sheets cites John Kaehny of the citizen group Transportation Alternatives in The Neighborhood Works (November/ December): "New York does not have City Hall backing for bicycle programs, which Kaehny attributes to Mayor Rudolph Giuliani's peculiar vision: 'He wants to recreate New York City like it was in the '50s. And in the 1950s there were no bikes on the street. . . . Chicago, on the other hand, has a mayor who wants to be remembered for two things: bikes and trees.'"

Number of children without health insurance in Du Page County, according to Voices for Illinois Children: more than 12,000.

"The Steel Co. says, basically, that a company can just sit back and not file any of the [toxic emissions] reports required by law until a group like CBE [Citizens for a Better Environment] catches it and threatens to sue," says University of Chicago law professor David Strauss, summarizing his recent argument before the U.S. Supreme Court on CBE's behalf in the "University of Chicago Chronicle" (November 6). "And then it can file seven years worth of delinquent reports and escape punishment. We don't believe that makes sense."

Proofreading with the spell checker. A recent news release describes an Amnesty International case involving "an army captain in Cameroon, who had been detained during a coupe attempt in that country."

"Today's discussion [of justice] focuses our moral and intellectual energies on the issue of relative poverty when we ought to concern ourselves with absolute poverty," writes Amy Sherman in "Books & Culture," quoted in Martin Marty's Chicago-based newsletter "Context" (November 15). "Too many commentators are willing to put up with higher rates of unemployment if the policies that produce this unemployment shrink the gap between the earnings of top-tier and bottom-tier workers. But this prioritization is misguided. A growing gap between rich and poor is less morally troubling than is the entrenchment of our nation's poorest citizens. . . . Our primary moral consideration cannot be how well we're doing in 'closing the gap' between the rich and poor, but how well we're doing in reducing the number of people living in destitution."

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