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Like milking a rattlesnake. "You don't have to expand gambling in Illinois to raise more tax money," says University of Illinois business professor John Kindt in a recent university press release. "Just raise the taxes on casinos in operation, and you'll get revenues right away." Nevertheless, he thinks everyone would be better off if gambling were recriminalized.

Things you can't assume anymore, even at the University of Chicago. Christina von Nolcken, who teaches Old and Middle English, tells the Chronicle (May 29) that some of her students "are very linguistically sophisticated--they may be studying Hittite at the same time, for example. Others have never thought about the grammar of a language before."

Straight talk you won't hear from the governor--or any other elected official. "As long as full power over what housing can be built in a community resides with its local government, we are not going to see much additional affordable housing created in the suburbs," said Anthony Downs of the Brookings Institution in a May 29 speech (brookings.edu/views/speeches/downs/20030529_downs.htm). Home owners in the suburbs, he says, vociferously oppose any measures they think might reduce the value of their property. "Yet that is where most growth of jobs and population is occurring. So that is where society most needs additional affordable units....Breaking this impasse will require shifting some of the decision-making power over where housing is built to other levels besides suburban local governments."

Why you never see hospitals building or remodeling anymore. "The profit margin in health care today is very slight," according to an article on innovative architectural designs in midwestern hospitals in "Focus" (June), newsletter of the Chicago chapter of the American Institute of Architects.

And then Ronald McDonald forced them to drive into McDonald's and order a cheeseburger with extra bacon. Public health activists and academics Anthony Robbins, Wendy Parmet, and Richard Daynard write in the May/June issue of "Poverty & Race," "Eating habits are not principally a matter of individual choice."

Things nobody thought about in 1957, the last time the city zoning code was redone. The creators of Chicago's new zoning code "are proposing a new category, the Pedestrian Street, or 'P-street,'" writes Christopher Swope in the June issue of Governing Magazine. "This is meant for a neighborhood shopping street that has survived in spite of the automobile and still thrives with pedestrian life. The new code aims to keep things that way. Zoning for P-streets will specifically outlaw strip malls, gas stations and drive-throughs, or any large curb cut that could interrupt the flow of pedestrians. It also will require new buildings to sit right on the sidewalk and have front doors and windows so that people walking by can see inside."

The imbalance of nature. Pitcher's thistle, or dune thistle, is a threatened species that grows only in the Great Lakes region, according to the summer issue of the "Singing Sands Almanac," newsletter of the Friends of Indiana Dunes. "Populations require a habitat with at least 50 percent bare sand. As dune succession progresses and additional plants move into the area, the percentage of bare sand decreases and the habitat becomes less suitable for pitcher's thistle. Because of this, the survival of this species requires a shifting mosaic of suitable habitat so that as succession makes some areas unsuitable, new suitable areas are created close enough for seed dispersal."

The myth. Presidential elections have become unrepresentative because of low voter turnout, which is the consequence of untrustworthy government, negative political campaigning, and weak campaign finance laws. The facts. From the Atlantic Monthly (November): "In every election after 1960 the popular-vote winner among actual voters would still have been the winner (often by a larger margin) if there had been a full turnout." Furthermore, "turnout has declined since 1980 in virtually every advanced democracy. Over this period declines abroad have generally steepened, even as U.S. reductions have slowed. At a minimum this suggests that U.S. voter turnout has not been declining because of anything uniquely corrosive in American culture."

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