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"Pledges of allegiance are marks of totalitarian states, not democracies," Brown University anthropologist David Kertzer told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution recently. "I can't think of a single democracy except the United States that has a pledge of allegiance" (reprinted in the "Progressive Review," July 2).

Gone with the trends. In 1997 a record number of companies with more than 500 employees called Chicago home--214 of them. In 2000 only 185 did. The future looks no brighter: Chicago's share of the nation's venture-capital investment has declined to 2 percent and is now less than in 1992 (2002 Metropolis Index, Chicago Metropolis 2020).

Does sprawl deny home buyers what they want? Not according to a national survey of 2,000 people who bought a primary residence in the last four years, conducted last January for the National Association of Home Builders and the National Association of Realtors (

smartsurvey 2002.htm). When survey respondents were asked which single factor they would change about their new home, "'taxes would be lower' led with 35 percent, followed by 'I'd live in a bigger home,' 26 percent; 'I'd own a larger lot,' 17 percent." Responses loved by antisprawl activists were less frequent: "my home would be closer to where I work" scored just 8 percent.

If booze costs more, fewer people will drink. University of Illinois at Chicago economist Frank Chaloupka and colleagues confirm this commonsense view in a National Bureau of Economic Research paper (number 8702). The key finding, according to a summary published in the June issue of NBER's monthly "Digest": "Students faced with a $1 increase above the $2.17 average price for a drink will be 33 percent less likely to make the transition from being an abstainer to a moderate drinker, or from being a moderate drinker to a heavy drinker."

News you won't hear from environmentalists: more people = more plant diversity. Writing in Global Ecology & Biogeography (July), Michael McKinney reports that "within the United States, the number of established non-native plant species per state does tend to outpace the number of extinct and threatened species per state. The net gain in plant species is strongly and positively correlated with human population density."

Why the Tribune's daily circulation dropped from 793,000 in 1978 to 612,000 in 2001, and will keep dropping. In the July 18 issue of the New York Review of Books Russell Baker reviews Leonard Downie Jr. and Robert Kaiser's book on the dreary state of U.S. newspapers, in which they quote the Tribune's editor at the time, Howard Tyner, on the results of its "lean" news staffing: "We make more mistakes than we did before....[The Tribune] would be edited...much better if we had more people....It's a box I can't get out of." He couldn't get out of it because the paper was on the stock-market treadmill--the market expects even higher profits now that the Tribune Company has bought Times Mirror, which owns the Los Angeles Times and the Baltimore Sun.

"The [Roman Catholic] church has always advanced reasons for not ordaining women, but they have not always been the same reasons," writes Rowan Williams in the Times Literary Supplement (January 11), reprinted by Martin Marty in "Context" (June 1). "Wijngaards [author of The Ordination of Women in the Catholic Church] tabulates with great clarity the major arguments advanced in the Middle Ages by various authors, and leaves us in little doubt that the case made by Aquinas or Bonaventure simply could not be put today. Too much depends on the pervasive assumption that a woman is in some sense defective as a human....Lately, however, the argument in the Roman Catholic Church has turned increasingly on a metaphysic of 'gender essentiality' unknown to the Fathers or Scholastics, and on a fairly radical reworking of the doctrine of the priest as image of Christ." Whatever keeps 'em out.

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