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Hospital Bill Literacy 101. "A frequent error of hospitals occurs with respect to intravenous solutions that are administered on the day of admission," according to the Hospital Accountability Project of the Service Employees International Union ("Bitter Bills to Swallow: A consumer guide to the 20 most common ways hospitals overcharge patients"). "The hospital computer will bill you for a full day's worth of IV solutions--for example, $189 for an IV ampicillin antibiotic solution. That is the daily rate. But if you are admitted late in the day, you may only receive four hours' worth of solution and you should not have to pay for a full day's rate."

"Together, increased moisture and moderated temperatures [downwind of Lake Michigan] have played a strong role in the nature of the wild vegetation itself," writes Field Museum botanist William Burger in Chicagoland Gardening (January/February). "Forests with many beech trees, distinguished by their smooth pale gray bark, are common in northwestern Indiana and in western Michigan," downwind from the lake. "There are no such forests in northeastern Illinois. Likewise, sassafras trees and shrubs are common and even weedy around the Indiana and Michigan dunes, but they are quite rare around Chicago. The spicebush (Lindera benzoin), whose leaves are so strongly aromatic when crushed, is common in the understory of moist forests in northern Indiana and Michigan, but it is much less often encountered on our side of the lake."

News that's easy to miss. According to the Illinois Statistical Abstract, published by the University of Illinois' Institute of Government and Public Affairs and now on-line at www.igpa.uillinois.edu/abstract/Education/04_06.htm, Cook County public schools enrolled 330,309 low-income students in the 1992-'93 school year--and 451,141 in 1999-2000.

"Too much effort is spent looking for the 'right' reading program," say teachers Susan DeVincentis, William Fritz, and Karen Larsen in a commentary published by Northern Illinois University's Center for Governmental Studies in "Policy Profiles" (December). "This effort too often ignores the reality that, for many inner city children, any association with print is foreign. Many have never even seen anyone reading, let alone seen a book or been read to. The most basic concepts, such as how to hold a book, or where the front of the book is, or left to right directionality, must be taught to many kindergarten and first grade students who live in the inner city. There are first grade students who enter school not knowing their own names, let alone how to spell them. It is crucial that children be given much reading time. The Chicago Board of Education mandate that two and a half hours of reading instruction take place in every classroom every day will hopefully become a permanent expectation. The federal 'Leave No Child Behind Act,' the assignment of reading specialists to work in probationary schools, smaller class sizes, and increased funding for school library books will, hopefully, also help."

Saved from the secularists. "On a cold, serious, and often lonely campus like Chicago, being part of a warm community is an inestimable comfort," writes Anne Pretz, a fourth-year student at the University of Chicago, in the newsletter "Calvert Times" (Winter). "It was here [Calvert House] that I found refuge from a campus that often not only misunderstood Catholicism, but was also hostile to it."

"We should all be dead" if the Bush administration were right that Saddam is a terrorist maniac who can't be deterred, writes Doug Bandow of the Cato Institute (www.cato.org). "Last October, the president declared that Iraq could attack America or its allies 'on any given day' with chemical or biological weapons. But Saddam has not attacked. Or, explained President Bush, 'Iraq could decide on any given day to provide a biological or chemical weapon to a terrorist group.' But Saddam has not done so....However much he hates America, he doesn't want to die....Alas, the administration is pursuing the one course that will eliminate this deterrence. Attack Iraq, and Saddam has no incentive not to strike and then hand off any remaining weapons to terrorists."

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