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"Estimates rank marijuana as the state's leading agricultural commodity, even ahead of corn and soybeans," according to the Compiler (Winter), published by the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority. "The estimated street value of marijuana eradicated through Illinois' Operation Cash Crop in 1991 was $3.1 billion, compared to a 1991 estimated harvest value of $2.9 billion for corn and $1.9 billion for soybeans."

Sorry, I cannot be sick yet--I don't know enough English. "Chicago ranks seventh among the nation's cities with residents who speak a language other than English," writes Ruth Richman in the Chicago Reporter (March), "but 71 out of the 84 hospitals and clinics surveyed in the six-county area have not hired interpreters; only two of 34 suburban facilities have."

Bicyclists' heaven, according to Randy Neufeld of the Chicagoland Bicycle Federation, in the words of Dale Eastman (New City, March 18): "A calmer world where children play safely and people meet most of their needs within a short walk or bicycle ride from home. It's a world where transit systems are all interlinked, so someone could hop on a bike at home, ride to a bicycle parking lot (where a smiling attendant would gladly do minor repairs) to board a train into downtown. Once in town, they'd pick up a second bike at yet another bike parking lot and pedal to their job. Traffic calming devices would also abound: specially designed streets that prevent cars from driving too fast, intersection lights that give priority to crossing bicyclists and pedestrians, one-way streets that cut down on through-traffic and cul-de-sacs that allow only walkers and bikers, but not cars, to pass through."

The dog that didn't bark (ever again). Do household pets get lead poisoning, too? One project sponsored by the state Hazardous Waste Research and Information Center will investigate the possibility. According to HWRIC's annual report (December), "If the researcher's hypothesis is correct, measurement of blood lead levels in pets can be used to signal potential problems in the human population. Obtaining the animal blood samples is much easier than obtaining samples from area human residents. Perhaps the resistance to undergoing blood tests to screen children for blood poisoning would lessen if parents can be shown that the high level of lead in the pet dog or cat may mean comparable levels of lead are present in their children."

Illinois already has term limits--well, almost, according to Sangamon State University political scientist David Everson in Illinois Issues (March). "Of the 118 House members who took office in January 1983 after the 1981 redistricting, only 33 (27 percent) remained after the 1992 elections. For the Senate for the 10-year cycle, 19 of its 59 members seated in January 1993 were senators in 1983, for a 68 percent turnover."

The joy of nature. "Leopard frogs...spend a goodly portion of the summer away from water," writes Ellin Beltz in "Prairie Projections" (February), newsletter of the North Branch Prairie Project. "I was on a nature walk one time where the guide got all excited because he thought he was seeing meadow jumping mice and they turned out to be Rana pipiens. At least he was right to Phylum."

Dam! If I'm North Dakotan, am I genetically predisposed to Lawrence Welk? Dr. Abena Brown of ETA Creative Arts Foundation, in a February speech at Chicago State: "We got here from Africa, and that means we are an African people. There is a rich culture which comes with it which is in our genes."

"In our experience few gay men are atheists, especially those with progressing illness," write Judith Rabkin, Christopher Wilson, and Damien James Kimpton in the Chicago-based PAACNotes (January). "One man, ill for at least six years, said, 'I have very strong views, mostly negative, about organized religion, yet I consider that I have a very close relationship with God. I pray, and I usually use Christian imagery in my prayer even though to say I loathe the Catholic Church would be an understatement. That doesn't prevent me from having a personal relationship with God, especially now.'"

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

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