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"Debate is catching fire in urban school districts around the country," writes Maureen Kelleher in Catalyst Chicago (February), "and nowhere more so than in CPS [the Chicago Public Schools], which now has the largest league; 31 schools have teams, and 19 offer an elective course in debate."

Analogy of the week. From Steve Buchtel's account of a recent talk by state transportation secretary Tim Martin ("Bike Traffic," April): "Even for him, getting IDOT to move from its soft, warm spot is like levering a sleeping pig to standing position with a tongue depressor."

Two things you probably didn't know about the death penalty. From a study recently published in the Journal of Empirical Legal Studies and summarized in the Atlantic (May): "For every thousand murders, Texas sentences twenty people to death, compared to fifty-one in neighboring Oklahoma." And African-Americans aren't as heavily overrepresented in the electric chair as you might expect: "Blacks make up 41 percent of death-row inmates and commit about 50 percent of all murders nationally." But a black person is much more likely to wind up on death row for killing a white person than for killing a black one.

Sometimes it's just about being a guy. Conservative Chicago blogger Bernard Chapin, writing in the May 3 edition of the Web zine Enter Stage Right: "A more traditional Republican once said of my blog, 'Isn't it sad that you have to post pictures of scantily clad women just to get people to look at your site.' I paused for a moment knowing that this had to be handled delicately. I told him, 'I like looking at pictures of partially nude women. It's a cheap endorphin rush and far less costly (and less inclined to press stalking charges) than the genuine article.'"

"While the shop floor became a space that divided the races after [World War I], the dance halls and cabarets of the South Side increasingly brought them together," writes Robin Bachin in Building the South Side: Urban Space and Civic Culture in Chicago 1890-1919. "With the advent of the Vitaphone and jazz recording, more white audiences were introduced to South Side jazz. Many white youths, especially young musicians, began making excursions into the Black Belt to experience firsthand the thrill of the new music they heard on their radios and record players. The most famous of these white interlopers was the Austin High Gang, a group of musicians from the Austin neighborhood on Chicago's West Side who forged close relationships with Chicago's black jazz impresarios and developed their own jazz sound. By the interwar period, white musicians had adapted many of the musical styles and improvisational techniques of black jazz musicians and, together with black orchestras, helped cultivate the Big Band sound."

Why affordable housing co-ops are looking better and better. A recent report by the Chicago Mutual Housing Network and UIC's Voorhees Center for Neighborhood and Community Improvement, "Affordable Housing Cooperatives: Their Conditions and Prospects in Chicago," notes that in 1989 the median Chicago income was $26,301 and the median home value $77,600. In 2002 the median income had risen to $42,410, and the median home value was up to $224,000.

Downstate is number one! According to the U.S. Geological Survey's recent report on water quality in the streams that flowed into the lower Illinois River in the late 1990s (circular number 1209) "Nitrogen and phosphorus concentrations were among the highest in the Nation."

What were they thinking? Thomas Powers writes in the New York Review of Books (April 29), "Still missing from the public record," despite the recent proliferation of books on the subject, "is any reliable account of why the administration was already determined to invade Iraq when it had barely heard of Osama bin Laden or al-Qaeda; why it chose to divert attention and resources from Afghanistan while bin Laden and leading members of the Taliban government were still at large, in order to invade Iraq;...and what the administration hoped to achieve by the conquest of Iraq."

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