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As others see us; or, the sad decline of the fact checker. In the February 16 New Yorker John Lahr describes the Goodman Theatre as being "appropriately situated between [Chicago's] stockyards and its Miracle Mile."

The higher bribery. "By undertaking a public works program that won the support of--and lined the pockets of--banks, developers and big downtown retailers [Richard J.] Daley got big business marching to his tune," writes James Krohe Jr. in Illinois Issues (February). "Bribery on this scale is dignified in the U.S. system as 'interest group politics,' and under that name it thrives. Look at the Illinois Education Association. The IEA bribes--perfectly legally--legislative and gubernatorial candidates with cash and workers to buy the former's acquiescence to a school system that provides IEA members with practically permanent jobs at high pay and low standards. If the state's teachers stole millions of dollars in cash, that would be a public offense. If they steal a public school system, we call it public education."

The last bottom line. Residents of the Uptown, Oakland, Grand Boulevard, and Washington Park neighborhoods die at more than twice the national average rate--even after adjusting for age, race, and gender, according to the "Chicago Health Care Report" (Winter), published by the Chicago Health Policy Research Council. Almost as bad off were Fuller Park, Near South Side, Near West Side, and East Garfield Park. "Not surprisingly, the areas with the highest death rates are those that also have high poverty rates, high HIV/AIDS rates, high homicide rates, and high unemployment rates."

"As I reclined in what I had previously taken to be contentment before my 27-inch Panasonic and watched a Budweiser Halftime Report, I asked myself: Has the consumer society taken over my soul?" That's Gary Kamiya in the on-line magazine Salon (December 22), thinking about Chicagoan Tom Frank's recent diatribe against consumer culture, The Conquest of Cool. "Has the world already ended with a whimper? Is my brain already enclosed within the tightest parameters of all time? I thought about it. I gave it my best shot. I considered the Poulan/Weed-Eater Bowl, and Channel One's classroom TV, and Rupert Murdoch's circus-and-gladiator programming, and 'dramatic re-creations' of real events, and the increasing number of 'real events' that feel like dramatic re-creations. I even thought about the unspeakable tragedy that Frank and Baffler co-founder Keith White say opened their eyes to the true evils of corporate culture and turned them into negative-dialectic-slinging rebels -- the fact that their favorite bands were prevented by 'a smug alliance of hippies and businessmen' from signing major-label contracts. This last one staggered me, I admit, and I was ready to give up on this whole botched civilization. Then I said, 'Nah.'"

Number of charter schools authorized by the April 1996 state law: 45. Number in operation across the state: 8 (Illinois School Board Journal, November-December).

"High-level drug dealers are intended to be the target [of get-tough drug laws, but] in reality, the system is being overwhelmed by those considered to be low-level drug offenders," writes Nancy Smith in the ultrastraight Compiler (Winter), published by the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority. And as drug arrests have grown more numerous--tripling between 1983 and 1996 to 92,529--the proportion of African-Americans arrested has grown from 46 percent to 69 percent.

"The $368.5 billion the politicians expect [from the proposed tobacco settlement legislation] does not yet exist," admonishes law professor Lynn LoPucki in the Washington Post National Weekly (January 26). "It is money the tobacco subsidiaries hope to make in the future by selling cigarettes. If tobacco sales in the United States are high enough, the domestic tobacco subsidiaries will be able to make their payments. If they are not, the tobacco subsidiaries show their empty pockets, and that is the end of it. The money stops. Thus, the tobacco settlement is not money the tobacco industry will surrender to the American people as compensation, it is a partnership between the American government and the tobacco industry to sell cigarettes to the American people and split the profits....The United States ought to let the tort system run its course and wipe the tobacco companies from the face of the earth."

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