Gag me. Under the USA Patriot Act, booksellers and librarians must allow the FBI to investigate the reading choices of citizens and noncitizens suspected of terrorist activities--and they're not allowed to disclose that any such investigation has taken place. So reports Nat Hentoff in Editor & Publisher (April 1); he adds that at least three such secret investigations have already taken place. "The ABFFE [American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression] and ALA [American Library Association] have told their members that they are entitled to lawyers once raids on their records have happened. But, when either of these organizations are contacted by their constituents, the caller must not reveal the visitation by the FBI. All a bookseller or librarian can say is: 'We need to contact your legal counsel.'"
Prosperity at work. According to a press release about a Woodstock Institute analysis of home mortgage data collected by federal regulators (March 26), 30.5 percent of home buyers in the Chicago region had low or moderate incomes in 1993. In 2000, 36.2 percent did.
No donation without representation. In the March 29 Boston Globe Magazine, Garry Wills notes that a recent poll of the Boston archdiocese "showed that more Catholics want Cardinal Law to resign than want him to stay," because of his handling of the ongoing pedophilia scandals. "The larger group should withhold all money from the archdiocese until he is gone. That would guarantee that this flurry of indignation would not simply fade away like others. It could prompt similar action elsewhere."
Publicity book blurbs from hell. From Chicago's SevenTen Bishop, described as "a new independent press" in a recent press release: "If one was ever curious as to what it felt like to be crucified by a man who uses surgical needles, a sledgehammer and a unique and scathing voice as his weapons..."
Open space is where you find it. According to the Community Media Workshop's "Newstips" (March 29), Openlands Project is working on a pilot project called the Corporatelands Program, which attempts to persuade large corporate campuses--often reviled as the epitome of suburban sprawl--to replace pesticide-heavy lawns with natural landscaping. "Underwriters Laboratory in Northbrook is planning to convert 15 acres of lawn to natural landscape this spring, and Corporatelands is reaching out to large and small corporations throughout the region."
Do round-ball refs really call fouls to keep big games close? Yes, says Northern Illinois University anthropologist Kendall Thu, who, with his students, logged more than 2,000 foul calls in 67 televised games early in 2000. But his data are more ambiguous. As reported in "Northern Today" (March 25), they show that during the first 18 minutes of each half of play "referees called 58 percent of the fouls against the leading team." But in the final two minutes of each half--in other words, when the game's on the line--"fully two-thirds of fouls went against the more aggressive trailing team."
The unbearable lightness of being a lefty against therapeutic human cloning. "The opposition to therapeutic cloning among religious conservatives is easy to understand," writes Michael Kinsley in Slate (April 5). "They believe that a microscopic clump of a few dozen cells, as self-aware as a block of wood, has the same human worth and rights as you or me....By contrast, most of the anti-cloning liberals and enviros do not believe in human rights for embryos. So, why do they want [people who might benefit from therapeutic cloning, Kinsley included] to suffer needlessly? It is because of their 'deep regard for the natural world' and 'respect for nature' and 'the interdependence of humans and our natural world' and the 'precautionary principle.'" Given that the benefits of therapeutic cloning are relatively clear and near at hand, while the alleged slippery slope is far away, Kinsley concludes that "it ought to take more than semi-coherent blather about some 'precautionary principle' to stop a potential miracle in its tracks. On balance, after weighing the arguments on both sides, I think I'd just as soon not give my life for alliteration."