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"One of the more interesting effects of gay rights laws is that while fewer gays may be fired, fewer may be hired in the first place," argues Paul Varnell in Windy City Times (April 8). "It is much easier for an employee to make out a claim of discrimination after he has been on the job for a while than to prove discrimination in the hiring process. Employers know this. So they may feel concern that if they ever had to dismiss a gay employee, the employee might file a discrimination suit that could result in costly litigation, even if the firing was not motivated by bias. This could make even unprejudiced employers reluctant to take a chance on a good gay job candidate."

From Chicago sewer and barge canal to natural treasure in just one century. The Illinois Nature Conservancy is offering a June overnight paddle-wheeler cruise of the Illinois River from Peoria to Starved Rock and back, offering views of the "ancient waterway, with its verdant valley, forested hills, and numerous river-lakes." Price: $398 ("Prairie Currents," Spring).

"Mothers in single-parent working families are just as depressed, hostile, and lacking in control of their fate" as single mothers on welfare, according to an abstract of a July working paper published by the Northwestern University Institute for Policy Research ("How Different Are Welfare and Working Families? And Do Those Differences Matter for Children's Achievement?" by Greg Duncan, Rachel Dunifon, Morgan Doran, and W. Jean Yeung). "And they spend no more time reading to their children, helping with homework, or facilitating youth activities. Mothers' own level of schooling...and age when their children were born are the most important factors predicting children's educational attainment. These findings suggest that strategies focused on improving basic skills and delaying first births may well have a bigger impact on children's success than policies directed at family process."

The glass is filling up, but someday it might be half empty. According to "Forumnotes" (February), published by the Donors Forum of Chicago, corporate contributions to arts organizations were $1.16 billion in 1997, and foundation grants to the arts rose from less than $1.4 billion in 1992 to $1.7 billion in 1996. But only 39 percent of businesses contributed in 1997 (compared to 45 percent in 1994), and the arts' share of foundation moneys dropped from 13.3 percent in 1992 to 12.2 percent of a larger pie in 1996. Corporate mergers are also considered a threat.

Ultimate rehabilitation. From the Safer Foundation's newsletter "Catalyst" (Spring): "Miguel Gamino, Oscar Sampson, Melvin Burnette, and Michael Hunter are Montgomery Students at Malcolm X College. Formerly, they were ex-offenders."

Sweet home Karachi. Sheheryar Hasnain on photographing the Pakistani metropolis in "Chicago South Asia Newsletter" (Winter): "In addition to the heat, lack of adequate materials and severe water shortages, one is confronted with the undeniably violent tenor of the city: after only two short months I had been beaten up twice by street toughs, had my car stolen, and had numerous unpleasant encounters with the notoriously corrupt Karachi police who extort money from hapless citizens....When I look at these photographs, I can't help but hear the sounds of this dangerous intimacy: the scuff of laathis on white starched police uniforms; the crackle of film buckling in the intense humidity; the snap of a fresh magazine being loaded into a casually held Kalashnikov."

There are more than trees in the neighborhoods, Mr. Mayor. According to a recent report by the Neighborhood Capital Budget Group on the city's 1998-2002 capital-improvement program, the city will spend $68 million on downtown subway-station renovations and $15 million on all neighborhood public-transit projects.

Questions you're not supposed to ask in wartime. Sam Smith in the "Progressive Review" (April 5): "If the ethnic latinos of California, New Mexico and Texas ask for autonomy will the US grant it, or will NATO have to bomb LA and Dallas to the peace table?"

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