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The right- wing case for campaign finance reform. "State legislators loaded up on pork this session like starving men at a sausage factory," writes W. Kent Fung in "Taxnews" (Summer), newsletter of National Taxpayers United of Illinois. Despite protests from NTU and other tax-cut advocates, "The politicians chose to listen to their heavy contributors--the connected real estate speculators, construction contractors, education lobbyists, bankers, and bond issuers, who all stood to make millions from this pork."

"The gay environment and its politics are very controlled by white, gay men," black lesbian Renae Ogletree of the Chicago Youth Agency Partnership tells Doug Ireland in the Nation (July 12). "And it would be a compliment to say they're even mildly interested in issues of concern to black folk. They're interested in gay marriage--we're interested in housing and employment. We not only have to fight to be at the table, we have to make sure we get the same damn food, or that they haven't co-opted one of us, or that they haven't had the real meeting beforehand."

Transition? According to a May report by the Chicago Panel on School Policy, "Initiative Status Report: Transition Centers," teachers at the city's transition centers, set up for 8th-graders who can't meet high school entrance requirements, find that "although they should be reviewing eighth grade material, they often find themselves teaching it. 'We're not supposed to reteach it but we have to...[because] they have so many deficiencies.' Another added: 'We have one year in which to change eight years of education [deficiencies].'"

Chicago's a hard place to find low-skill work, but it could be worse. Nationwide, jobs are opening up for low-skilled high school graduates, according to a new Urban Institute study by Robert Lerman, Pamela Loprest, and Caroline Ratcliffe, "How Well Can Urban Labor Markets Absorb Welfare Recipients?" The authors state, "The 33 percent jump of never-married mothers in the labor force [employed and unemployed] was matched by an astonishing 40 percent rise in the employment of never-married mothers. This 40 percent job growth dwarfed the 9 percent increase in employment for the economy as a whole." But where you live can make a big difference. Least favorable metropolitan areas for welfare alumni are Baltimore, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, and Houston, all of which have a low-skill unemployment rate of at least 8 percent. Not too great are Chicago and the District of Columbia, at 7.6 percent. The study also lists the rates in other metro areas: Detroit and Atlanta 7.4, San Diego 6.9, Dallas 6.4, San Jose 6.0, Boston and San Antonio 5.8, Jacksonville 5.4, Phoenix 5.0, Indianapolis and San Francisco 4.6, and Minneapolis 3.8.

Your joke here. Chicago-Kent College of Law professor Lori Andrews in her new book The Clone Age : "Bull sperm sells for $250 per sample; human sperm goes for an average of $50 per sample."

Ayn Rand's "vision of rugged individualism changed the way I looked at the world," writes Scott McLemee in In These Times (July 11). "It also had an enormous emotional impact. 'This,' I thought, 'is the silliest crap ever put to paper.' And so a socialist was born."

That would explain why school massacres were a regular feature of life in the 1950s. "As late as 1967, it was possible for a 13-year-old virtually anywhere in the U.S. to walk into a hardware store and buy a rifle," writes University of Chicago law professor John Lott Jr. in the Wall Street Journal (July 5), in an item questioning the value of more gun control. "Few states even had age restrictions for buying handguns from a store. Buying a rifle through the mail was easy. Private transfers of guns to juveniles were also unrestricted. But nowhere were guns more common than at schools. Until 1969, virtually every public high school in New York City had a shooting club. High-school students carried their guns to school on the subways in the morning, turned them over to their homeroom teacher or the gym coach and retrieved them after school for target practice."

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