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First City in eating out. According to a recent issue of Restaurant Business, Chicagoans spent $7.5 billion on food outside the home. Los Angeles was a distant second ($6.38 billion) and New York third ($6.37 billion).

"For my book Real Choices, I went around talking to women who have had an abortion and to women who provide care for pregnant women," writes Frederica Mathewes-Green in U.S. Catholic (January). "I had presumed that most abortions are prompted by problems that are financial or practical in nature. But to my surprise, I found something very different. What I heard most frequently in my interviews was that the reason for the abortion was not financial or practical. The core reason I heard was, 'I had the abortion because someone I love told me to.' It was either the father of the child, or else the woman's own mother, who was pressuring her to have the abortion. Again and again, I learned that women had abortions because they felt abandoned--they felt isolated and afraid. As one woman said, 'I felt like everyone would support me if I had the abortion; but if I had the baby, I'd be alone.'"

Small is not all that beautiful, argues George Schmidt in Substance (December). "Some of Chicago's most troubled schools have gone from being troubled large schools (in the late 1960's and early 1970's) to being troubled small schools." Among the high schools "reconstituted" by the school administration, DuSable (which had 3,146 students in 1971, 1,432 in 1996), Englewood (2,147 to 1,298), King (1,738 to 797), and Phillips (3,243 to 1,185) got a lot smaller but not any better.

I hope so. Keith Suchy of suburban Westchester, quoted in a recent press release from the Chicago Dental Society: "Many people who work in the media and Hollywood continue to rely on the tired old stereotypes--dentists as drug-taking, sex-crazy, money-hungry, anal-retentive psychopaths. But our patients have completely different concepts of us."

"Acknowledging and understanding white-skin privilege is the vital first step in any honest dialogue on race," writes Julian Bond in Poverty & Race (November/December). "It is remarkable to consider that the Promise Keepers are the only predominately white group I can think of who have achieved racial harmony as a core belief--even if they do not acknowledge that something is wrong between the races in America--and have pledged to do something about it. Why do they stand almost alone?"

Beyond help. Common Cause of Illinois director Jim Howard on his conversation with the head of the West Virginia ethics commission (Illinois Issues, January): "He tells me I need to wait until a legislator is indicted to galvanize public opinion [to support reform of campaign finance and lobbying]. I tell him, 'This is what I'm up against: We had three out of four convictions in a federal corruption trial this summer involving one of the governor's campaign contributors. We just had one representative and our tollway director, a good friend of the governor's, convicted in a corrupt land deal and another representative who was just indicted on another matter who is going forward with his re-election campaign.' He looks at me, stunned, and says, 'I can't help you.'"

"If everyone tossed the 324 million PCs currently in use, they'd pack a landfill one acre square and 6.7 miles deep," writes Steve Anzovin in Chicago Computer Currents (November). He quotes an estimate that roughly "75 percent of obsolete electronics are in storage, less than 15 percent are sent to landfills and incinerators, about 7 percent are resold, and only 3 percent recycled."

One God, many gods--they're all in it together. Lawrence Weschler on The Curse of Cain: The Violent Legacy of Monotheism, by Northwestern University English professor Regina Schwartz: "Murder has found many other travelling companions besides monotheism. Pagans--whether Homeric Greeks or Vedic Aryans--weren't exactly slouches at constructing transcendental rationales for their earthly depredations. When it comes to genocidal mayhem, surely the Iliad and the Mahabharata can match Exodus blow for blow" (New Yorker, November 24).

This workshop lasts only 90 minutes, so don't make it anything too complicated. From the program for the seventh annual Chicago Men's Conference, scheduled for February 28 to March 1: "Why Were You Created? This session will employ a simple and powerful experiential process to determine why you were created/what is your purpose for being on this planet at this time. Make sure that you bring a notebook and writing instrument."

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