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Just as long as it's not our self-image. According to a recent Field Museum press release, its four-story model of a Brachiosaurus mounted in the United Airlines terminal at O'Hare will "help identify Chicago as a world-class destination for dinosaur enthusiasts."

"For all the ardent egalitarianism of the early movement, feminism had the unforeseen consequence of heightening the class differences between women," writes Barbara Ehrenreich in In These Times (November 28). "Its greatest single economic effect was to open up the formerly male-dominated professions to women. Between the '70s and the '90s, the percentage of female students in business, medical and law schools shot up from less than 10 percent to more than 40 percent. There have been, however, no comparable gains for young women who cannot afford higher degrees."

Split personality at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Top two front-page headlines in the November 24 "UIC News": "Go online or go to class? Professors, students debate use and usefulness of Web study sites" (some of which contain lecture notes from hired student note takers) and "University makes big plans to promote high technology."

News you won't read in antinuclear publications. According to an article published in Health Physics (December) and summarized in the on-line "Physics News Update" (December 10), the background radiation from natural sources--now about 360 millirems per year--was much higher when life first emerged four billion years ago. The first living cells got 320 millirems a year just from the essential nutrient potassium, which now releases about 40 millirems. (Radiation generated from human-made sources now adds about 63 millirems per year.)

DePaul's and Northwestern's law schools are both on the Hispanic National Bar Association's "Dirty Dozen" list, because they have no Hispanic faculty in tenure-track positions, according to the on-line magazine "Politico" (December 6). Harvard, Yale, and Cornell are also on the list.

"Schools chief Paul Vallas has said repeatedly that Chicago's pre-packaged lesson plans are optional," writes Linda Lenz in Catalyst (December). "Yet some Nervous Nellie principals see anything coming out of central office as a command. One principal, we've been told, set his entire faculty on a forced march, directing them to follow the plans day by day. Fortunately for his students, some teachers dissuaded him, arguing that they'd be leaving many kids behind. Teaching directly to standards is not going to happen overnight, and a mandate usually is an abdication of leadership. In contrast, a principal who welcomes the plans for her many new teachers told her staff to use what they consider helpful."

Revving up the bulldozers. Acres of Illinois agricultural land developed every year 1982-'92, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Resource Inventory (which is on its Web site, www.nrcs.usda.gov): 24,600. In each year 1992-'97: 58,440 acres.

"Most people already have good feelings about bicycling," writes Chicagoland Bicycle Federation executive director Randy Neufeld in a December fund-raising letter. "The problem is that most people don't believe it is realistic to promote bicycling in the traffic-snarled world they experience. They have no idea how cyclists manage to stay alive out there. They have no image of how their communities might be designed differently to promote cycling."

Why there may never be a Guatemalan alderman. The Community Media Workshop's "Newstips" (December 3) reports that Guatemalans are the third-largest group of Latinos in Chicago (after Mexicans and Puerto Ricans), numbering 60,000 or more. Yet "Guatemalans have avoided large residential clusters." Jose Oliva of Casa Guatemala explains that they were fleeing a 40-year war and "wanted to avoid people from other sides of the conflict."

Digital sunlight makes me smile. A December press release from the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform notes that as of February 2, "Illinois will require all political committees that have a balance of $25,000 or have spent at least that amount between June 30 and Dec. 30, 1999, to file their reports of campaign contributions and expenditures electronically." (By 2003 the same requirement will apply at the $10,000 level.) The California Voter Foundation ranked Illinois first of 50 states when it came to this kind of on-line disclosure.

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