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The bad news is you have HIV. The good news is you have HIV. "HIV patients reported that they have discovered the important things in life, removing trivial problems," according to a Centers for Disease Control summary of a small study published in AIDS Alert (October). About half the 51 patients surveyed thought their lives were better after they became infected, and less than a third said their lives were worse.

"Children served by federal health care programs are largely not receiving the lead screenings required by federal policies," according to a January U.S. General Accounting Office report. Estimates based on a nationally representative survey show that "of the estimated 688,000 children aged 1 through 5 who have elevated blood lead levels and are in or targeted by federal health care programs, more than 400,000 have never been screened."

Third world countries don't owe us a thing, according to a press release from Christian Aid, a relief organization based in the United Kingdom ("We believe in life before death"). A report issued on September 20 argues that while poor countries owe rich ones some $200 billion, the rich countries owe them as much as $612 billion because their low use of fossil fuels has helped minimize global warming.

"Do you think that as readers we have a responsibility to consider the kinds of [religious] questions that you raise?" Maureen Abood asked author Annie Dillard in U.S. Catholic (November). Dillard's answer, in full: "No. Readers should read for pleasure."

I did my homework on the head of this pin. According to an October press release, Northwestern University chemist Chad Mirkin and colleagues have devised the world's smallest plotter--a device capable of drawing multiple lines of molecules, each only 30 molecules wide.

Try not to have a heart attack in Chicago. The September issue of "Watch," newsletter of the Better Government Association, reports that a recent study commissioned by the city confirms BGA's earlier report of inadequate ambulance service in the city. "At least 31% of emergency runs take more than 6 minutes (accounting for 76,880 calls)."

Why do so many teachers object to higher academic standards? The percentage of U.S. public school teachers who majored in an academic subject--i.e., a subject other than "education"--in college: 38 ("Teacher Quality: A Report on the Preparation and Qualifications of Public School Teachers," National Center for Education Statistics, January 1999, http://nces.ed.gov/pubs99/ 1999080.htm).

More evidence that segregation is bad for you. Death rates are higher in large cities that are highly segregated, according to a study reported in a recent issue of Sociological Forum that was funded in part by the University of Illinois at Chicago and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Of 107 cities with populations over 100,000 where the black population is at least 10 percent, the most segregated are Atlanta, Cleveland, Detroit, Chicago, and Gary. Both blacks and whites die at higher rates in these cities than in the least segregated cities (Sacramento, Long Beach, Virginia Beach, Tacoma, and Aurora, Colorado). Lead author Chiquita Collins says, "It's not that living next to someone of your own race is bad for your health. The problem is the concentration of poverty and disadvantage associated with high levels of segregation."

Thank heavens for those mushrooms growing out of my basement walls! "Without fungi, we simply wouldn't exist," says Field Museum mycologist Gregory Mueller in Chicago Wilderness (Fall). "Without their skills as decomposers, for example, we'd drown in an ocean of organic debris. Literally."

"In most cases, the shortest distance between a poor person and a job is along a line driven in a car," contend Margy Walker and Mark Alan Hughes of the Progressive Policy Institute in an August report on welfare reform and transportation in ten states, including Illinois (www.dlcppi.org/texts/social/ transportation.htm). "Private automobiles have been an overlooked solution and remain largely taboo in Washington, D.C., and some states....But local policymakers are recognizing that cars are a necessary part of the job access mix for low-income workers and are developing ways that public funds can help. Some environmentalists, transit advocates, and others may object to car-based solutions. And while clean air, uncongested roads, and farmland preservation are worthy goals, they should not impede the job prospects of poor people being propelled from welfare to work."

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