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City File



Do broadcasters pay to use the airwaves? Half of Americans polled in 1999 believed, falsely, that they do--a real problem for groups lobbying to require broadcasters to pay their debt to the public by giving political candidates free airtime ("Political Standard," newsletter of the Alliance for Better Campaigns, April).

"The airline crisis has presented passenger trains with an opportunity so great that even Amtrak can't screw it up," Chicago attorney and Amtrak Reform Council member James Coston told the Ohio Association of Rail Passengers May 11. "I've been a United Frequent Flyer for many years. I fly about 50,000 miles a year on business. I got here on United this morning, and I'm going home on United this evening. But I have deep doubts about the viability of United Air Lines in its current format, including its daily cash 'burn' rate of $5 million. I'm starting to cash in my frequent-flyer miles. I refer to it as spending my Confederate money before Sherman torches Atlanta. Earlier this year I was reading another in what seems like an endless series of dismal media accounts of United's towering cost structure, its outrageous labor settlements, its growing competition. And all of a sudden I found myself shaking my head and saying, 'Wait a minute! The more I read about United Air Lines in 2002, the more it looks like the Pennsylvania Railroad in 1965.'...If you think about it, Southwest Airlines is to United Air Lines as the interstate was to the Pennsylvania Railroad 40 years ago."

Las Vegas east. What two states reaped the most tax revenues from gambling casinos in 2001? Nevada with $688 million, and Illinois with $555 million (from the American Gaming Association's 2002 "State of the States" report, on-line at

Moving toward equality--in the wrong direction. According to an April report from the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless ("Unlocking Options for Women"), the Cook County Department of Corrections detained 8,196 women in 1990 and 15,521 in 1999--an 89 percent increase. "In the month of June 2001 (latest figures available), 1,355 women were booked."

"It would be difficult to find another U.S. industry already more coddled and protected from the realities of the marketplace than the steel industry," argues Dan Ikenson in a Cato Institute position paper issued March 1 ("Steel Trap"). He argues that further protection, like that recently announced by President Bush, can only hurt the overall economy because "steel users employ 57 workers for every one employed in steel production. Steel users account for 13.1 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), while steel producers account for only 0.5 percent."

What 45 years of systematic fishing can tell you. Sampling by Illinois Natural History Survey biologists begun in 1957 at fixed sites along the Illinois River reveals "a steady decline of common carp, Cyprinus carpio, and a marked increase in Centrarchid populations (e.g., bluegill, Lepomis macrochirus, and largemouth bass, Micropterus salmoides) throughout much of the river," writes Mark Pegg in the "Illinois Natural History Survey Reports" (Spring). "These trends, especially the decline in common carp abundances, have been largely attributed to improved water quality over the period of record."

"Science could, in principle, accept the supernatural," writes University of Chicago professor Jerry Coyne in the London Review of Books (May 23). "If a 900-foot Jesus appeared to every resident of London, as he supposedly did to the American evangelist Oral Roberts, few would doubt Jesus's divinity. Similarly, verifiable messages from the beyond, or repeated cases of faith healing, would also convince many scientists. But these phenomena do not occur. As George Bernard Shaw is said to have remarked after observing the objects cast off by visitors to Lourdes [beneficiaries of alleged healings], 'all those canes, braces and crutches, and not a single glass eye, wooden leg or toupee.'"

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