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Does breast-feeding make babies smarter? Nobody knows for sure. Dr. Anjali Jain of the University of Chicago Children's Hospital and two colleagues from Yale searched the medical literature and found 40 studies, from 1929 to February 2001, that considered the question (Pediatrics, June 6). They evaluated the studies--and had to throw out 38 of them. "Only 2 papers studied full-term infants and met all 4 standards of high-quality feeding data, controlled for 2 critical confounders, reported blinding [observers of the outcome didn't know which babies were breast-fed], used an appropriate test, and allowed the reader to interpret the clinical significance of the findings with an effect size. Of these 2, 1 study concluded that the effect of breastfeeding on intellect was significant, and the other did not."

"Illinois has the unique distinction of having one of the most unfair, unsound and inefficient tax systems in the country--sort of the triple-headed monster of bad tax policy," writes Ralph Martire of the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability in "PRAGmatics" (Spring). Unfair? "In Illinois, a two-parent family of four that has an income of only 49% of the federal poverty level has to pay state income taxes. This is the third lowest income level to begin taxation in all 50 states." Unsound? The state's flat income tax makes it difficult to capture extra revenue in good times, while its narrowly based sales tax (which excludes almost all services) "significantly impedes the state's ability to maintain base revenue collections during downtimes." Inefficient? The state's overreliance on property taxes (it's the fifth most reliant in the nation) means that property taxes vary a lot between jurisdictions, so that property tax levels distort private-sector decisions such as where people live or do business.

Job history of Patrick Burnett, "physics outreach coordinator" at Northern Illinois University: "cook, bartender, pig farmer, toxic waste shredder, environmental engineer, casino pit boss and physics teacher" ("Northern Today," June 3).

What price solidarity? A recent E-mail from the Nation magazine noted, "Only 9 percent of private-sector American workers currently belong to unions--a smaller share than when John Sweeney's 'new voices' leadership team took over the AFL-CIO seven years ago, and lower even than a century ago."

"Reform Jews conceded

recently that they had 'over- intellectualized' their worship; a case could be made that we have over-vernacularized ours," writes Timothy Padgett in America (March 4, reprinted in Martin Marty's "Context," May 15). "I do fear that our liturgy has become a reflection of, rather than an alternative to, the vapid secular culture that Catholics say they want to change in the world--and in themselves. In their homilies, our priests rightfully assail the spiritual emptiness of our Home Shopping Network world--but then yield to Masses that often feel like New Age infomercials set possibly in a Wal-Mart."

How protective tariffs protect poor people against low prices, according to a Progressive Policy Institute on-line update (June 19): Average tariff on cars--2.5 percent. On expensive shoes--20 percent. On cheap shoes--66 percent.

"The notion that we can end child poverty by marrying off impoverished women does not take into account the realities of their lives," according to Stephanie Coontz and Nancy Folbre in Poverty Research News (May-June). "Unmarried men and women in poor neighborhoods are not average. That is often the reason they are not married. Researchers from the Fragile Families and Child Well-Being study find that unmarried fathers were twice as likely as married fathers to have a physical or psychological problem that interfered with their ability to

find or keep a job, and they were several times more likely to abuse drugs or alcohol....One study

of the marriage market in the

1980s found that, at age 25, there were three unmarried black women for every black man who had adequate earnings."

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