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Going with someone who's more than 16 years older or younger? According to the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority's "Research Bulletin" (March), the annual rate of homicides in Chicago from 1965 to 1996 among couples of the same age was 5.25 per 100,000 couples. When the woman was 16 or more years older than the man it was 21.41, and when the man was 16 or more years older than the woman it was 23.99.

"The reasons behind the climatic stability that gave birth to the rise of agriculture and civilization remain elusive," according to a University of Chicago Chronicle article on climatologist Ray Pierrehumbert (April 17). He's disappointed that federal policy makers are paying little attention to strange blips in the ancient climate record, such as the "Younger Dryas cool event" 10,000 years ago, when postglacial warming in Europe was suddenly interrupted. "In as little as perhaps 10 years," says Pierrehumbert, "the whole planet reverted to nearly full glacial conditions. It stayed there for maybe a thousand years, then [the temperature] popped back up and resumed its rise into the Holocene." Computer simulations on which climate predictions are based have failed to reproduce this change.

Where Illinois sells. According to the Illinois Statistical Abstract (www.igpa.uillinois.edu/abstract), of $30.4 billion dollars of goods Illinois exported in 2001, the top 12 purchasers (in billions) were Canada ($11.4), Mexico ($2.2), Japan ($2.1), the United Kingdom ($1.7), Germany ($1.4 ), Belgium ($1), Australia ($0.9), Brazil ($0.8), France and the Netherlands and Singapore ($0.7 each), and South Korea ($0.5).

Thank God I'm not a country boy. Who makes the jump from high school to college? Shouping Hu ("Educational Aspirations and Postsecondary Access and Choice," available at http://epaa.asu.edu/epaa/v11n14) looked at 12th graders (he ignored dropouts) and found that 63.6 percent of urban students, 64 percent of suburbanites, and just 56 percent of rural students go to college.

Where all the roads are above average. In May the Road Information Program in Washington, D.C., issued a report, "Keep Both Hands on the Wheel," that's evidently designed to promote increased highway spending. It uses Federal Highway Administration data to claim that of the major roads and highways in Chicago, 38 percent are "good," 42 percent "acceptable," and 20 percent "unacceptable"--placing us slightly above the U.S. averages of 32, 43, and 25. The pavements were graded using "the International Roughness Index." The roughest roads are said to be in Los Angeles and San Jose (67 percent unacceptable), the smoothest in Phoenix (0 percent unacceptable) and Atlanta (2 percent).

Does holding schools accountable help kids learn? Maybe, according to research presented by Margaret Raymond and Eric Hanushek in Education Next (Summer): "The typical student progressing from grade 4 in 1996 to grade 8 in 2000 in a state with a consequential accountability system could expect to see a 1.6 percent increase in his NAEP [National Assessment of Educational Progress mathematics] proficiency score (calibrated to the appropriate learning standards for each grade). By contrast, the typical student in a state with no accountability system could expect to experience only a 0.7 percent gain in mathematics proficiency, a statistically significant difference. Students in states with 'report card' systems, where scores are publicly reported but no consequences are attached to performance, fell in the middle: they could expect to gain 1.2 percent."

If 2 of those pills don't help, take 10, maybe 20. Unemployed? Uninsured? Underpaid? No retirement? School programs slashed? "Bush and his movement conservatives have no solutions to these problems," writes Robert Borosage on tompaine.com (June 3). "Their mantra, of course, is smaller government, lower taxes, strong military, traditional values. But our government is already the smallest of any industrial nation, our taxes the lowest, our military the strongest, our people among the most devout. We've already been there and done that."

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