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Calling all wasps. Calling all wasps. Think twice before you squash that pesky yellow jacket, say USDA scientists: that act releases an alarm pheromone and signals nearby nesting wasps to come help. Says one scientist, "It's sort of like a policeman on patrol calling for back up." A synthesized version of the pheromone drew more than 300 wasps from nests as far as 15 feet away and kept them stinging for three hours.

And now, the most popular vacation spot in the midwest--would you believe Sandusky, Ohio? According to a recent survey of Holiday Inn reservation agents, the little burg on the shallowest Great Lake is the fifth most popular vacation destination in the country, ahead of San Diego, Los Angeles, Cincinnati, Boston, Saint Louis, and (gulp)--coming in eleventh--Chicago.

"If reading these reports doesnt give you nightmares, nothing will," says Illinois state representative Woods Bowman of Evanston, referring to the Illinois auditor general's description of the state mental-health system. Bowman is now visiting each state mental institution to follow up on allegations of severe patient neglect and poor pharmacy-inventory policies, as well as more familiar (ab)uses of public funds. He cites a center "that bought supplies that it never removed from original shipping crates, including 27 sump pumps . . . and five wheel chairs, four bought in 1975 and one bought in 1984."

Caution: exercise may be hazardous to your health. Hippocrates (July/August 1988) reports that 47 percent of aerobics instructors were injured while teaching class during 1987.

It takes more than a river to make a city. "Unfortunately, [architect Bertrand] Goldberg's River City [at Roosevelt, Harrison, and the Chicago River] has not made a profit since it opened in 1985," writes Tom Andreoli in Chicago Enterprise (July 1988). "Residential occupancy has dropped from 90 percent in 1987 to 80 percent this year, and 40 percent of the complex's commercial space remains vacant . . . . extensive plans for a 'River City II' are 'on hold.' [Developer Daniel] Epstein blames River City's current plight on the collapse of the proposed 1992 World's Fair. . . . Others peg River City's troubles to its relative isolation from the Loop and Dearborn Park."

Grrr . . . U. of I. marketing professor Seymour Sudman describes the difficulties of using "capture-recapture" counting methodology (originally used for counting wild-animal populations) to estimate numbers of homeless people. "Observing the homeless is much more challenging than counting bears in Yellowstone Park."

"For every person born, 45 cats are also born," we read in the Chicago Anti-Cruelty Society's Animal Crackers (Summer 1988). "To keep up with the current flood of kittens EVERYONE would have to own 6 cats during their lifetime (a household of 5 people would own 30 cats!)."

The whole world isn't watching anymore. Recently Laura Raidonis polled 200 Chicago high school and college students "to gauge what they knew of these historically and politically siginficant events [the 1968 Democratic Convention disorders] that took place in their city just before they were born. Seventy percent did not know who Abbie Hoffman was," she writes in Chicago (August 1988). "Ninety-eight percent did not know who the Chicago Seven were. Forty-six percent did not know that the 1968 convention had been in Chicago."

Now, Senator, just in case you can't read. The Illinois Department of Energy and Natural Resources has sent state legislators an annual report in video form, the first state agency to do so.

Naperville is a driver's nightmare, writes David Russell in American Demographics (July 1988). "During the summer construction season, Naperville gains as many as 40 new streets a month. . . . city maps now change every three months." This "city" of curlicue streets with soundalike names may grow 33 percent by 2010, and "already, the fire department gets 15 to 20 telephone calls a day from people who are lost somewhere in DuPage County." How does anyone find them? "Naperville fire fighters study their maps for an hour every day."

"What you need most when you spend 40 billion dollars a year on defense is an enemy" (Nelson Algren, as remembered in the Critic, Summer 1988).

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): illustration/Kurt Mitchell.

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