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African-American English "should not be compared to Standard English," University of Chicago linguistics chairman Salikoko Mufwene tells the University of Chicago Chronicle (April 2). "It should be compared with other non-standard varieties of English spoken in North America--Appalachian English or Ozark English, for example....It shares so many features with white non-standard forms of English that we should try to understand the connection between these varieties of English, especially because they all developed concurrently."

"We will never eliminate the so-called 'heterosexual presumption,'" Paul Varnell advises readers of Windy City Times (April 9). "If 95 percent of the population is heterosexual, people are going to assume, reasonably enough, that any given person is heterosexual. It need not be hostile; it is simply a safe bet. (In most parts of the U.S. Jews encounter the 'Christian presumption' and in most gay enclaves Republicans encounter the 'Democratic presumption.')"

Status quo, please. Gary Sinclair in the "Lincoln Parker" (Winter): "A developer seeing, for instance, a two-story building would buy the building, tear it down, and replace it with a four-story building plus a penthouse, effectively doubling the density of a particular lot. It is this type of construction that threatens the quality of life in Lincoln Park because increased density brings increased issues in the community."

"The 'typical' uninsured child is white, resides in a suburban or rural area, and lives with two parents, both of whom work," according to a report in the state comptroller's "Fiscal Focus" (March). "Two-thirds of Illinois' uninsured children live in families earning more than the federal poverty limit."

Liberals in the closet. Illinoisans polled by Ellen Dran of the Northern Illinois University Center for Governmental Studies are fairly permissive on social issues but think their neighbors aren't. "For instance, 67 percent favor legalizing marijuana for medicinal uses, but only 29 percent believe that is the majority opinion in the state. Similarly, 56 percent favor allowing doctor assisted suicide for the terminally ill, but only 29 percent believe that the majority of residents share that view" ("Northern Today," March 30).

"City life can be grueling for trees," writes Susan McClure of suburban Valparaiso, Indiana, in her new The Midwest Gardener's Book of Lists. Under "trees for tough urban sites," she lists Amur maple, Norway maple, European hornbeam, common hackberry, Nootka false cypress, hawthorns, Russian olive, green ash, ginkgo, common witch hazel, panicled goldenrain tree, saucer magnolia, staghorn sumac, littleleaf linden, and lacebark elm. But McClure doesn't make it clear that sumac, witch hazel, and Russian olive are more like large shrubs than trees or that the unmentioned mulberry and tree of heaven usually sprout up on their own.

"Too often, political progressives become enraptured with high-profile inmates who seem useful to their causes," writes Douglas Imbrogno in the Chicago-based In These Times (December 14). "Norman Mailer and others championed Jack Abbott, whose gut-wrenching book on prison life, In the Belly of the Beast, they widely praised. When Abbott went free, he promptly killed a restaurant waiter. But [Jarvis Jay] Masters [author of Finding Freedom: Writings From Death Row] actually seems to have awakened from self-delusion, violence and self-hatred."

The metaphor from hell. "Substance abuse," according to "Eye on LSSI" (Spring), published by Lutheran Social Services of Illinois in Des Plaines, "floats in the middle of American society like an undetected iceberg--huge and treacherous with much of its essence hidden below a small surface topped with myths and misunderstandings." Or was that an ice cream sundae?

Reality check, from Doug Dobmeyer's "Poverty Issues...Dateline Illinois" (March 9): "During the past twenty years of Republican control of the Governor's Office and partial control of the legislature, the state budget has risen by 263 percent (FY80-FY98) from $13.6 billion to $35.7 billion. The rate of inflation for the same period according to the U.S. Department of Labor was 86.9 percent (1980-1997)."

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