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Department of safe counterexamples. According to the Savvy Traveller newsletter (Summer), Marcia Schnedler at a July 27 seminar will define "ecotourism" in terms of what it's not, "using such examples as birders stomping to death species they'd come to see, sex tourism using children 8-12."

I can tell they're lying--the camera is running. Local Chicago TV news is heavily violent (typically 60 percent of a newscast); it's also racist, judging from the latest findings of Northwestern University's Robert Entman as summarized by the Chicago Council on Urban Affairs. In a recent random sampling of 226 shows on channels 2, 5, 7, 9, and 32, "The average story featuring black victims was 106 seconds long, and about Latinos, 140 seconds long. The average story about white victims was 185 seconds long."

"The hardest job for me to fill is an entry-level position," west-side factory owner Joan Wrenn tells Jennifer Halperin of Illinois Issues (June). "Finding someone to come to work, be polite and communicate well is almost impossible. Like last week: A kid from the neighborhood came in. He looked clean, looked like he wasn't on drugs and he was a high school graduate. I put him to work packing boxes. Two days later I came to find out he didn't know what decimals are. He couldn't add simple numbers."

Mark your school-reform calendar for 1996. "The added money in St. Louis schools, when it was put into instructional improvements, actually paid off," says Fred Hess, executive director of the Chicago Panel on School Policy, in the Joyce Foundation's 1993 annual report. Hess says the lag time between funding and results was about five years. "We are seeing some increase in resources [in Chicago now] if the St. Louis pattern follows, we would expect to see achievement changes here in another couple of years."

No more clout, no more cronyism. Because a "merit system" of selecting judges could be subject to almost as many abuses as the current system of electing them is, Charlotte Adelman in ISBA Bar News (May 16) proposes a lottery system in which local judges would be picked from a pool of qualified attorneys. "Random selection would ensure gender, ethnic and racial diversity. Because an objective standard would obtain, the subjectivity and politics involved in nominations by commission would be eliminated."

Translation: Open religious warfare hasn't broken out. The Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs quotes this assessment of Chicago from a visiting Belfast journalist: "The city's streets are safe, clean and bright" (City Arts, Spring).

The recession had better be over. According to a recent Donors Forum of Chicago survey, 119 small- and medium-size nonprofits in the area are trying to raise capital and endowment funds this year, compared to 108 last year. And they want a lot more money--$945 million, up from $744 million last year.

They came from outer space. According to recent accounts, ex-President Richard Nixon was in the habit of referring to himself in the third person ("When Richard Nixon was president...")--and his top aide H.R. Haldeman in his daily diary referred to Nixon in the first person ("Met with the VP today," referring to Nixon's meeting, not his) (New Yorker, May 9; Washington Post weekly, June 6-12).

Things you don't learn about Africa from the news. UNICEF notes that the continent may still be well behind the industrialized world, but since 1960 average African life expectancy has risen by 13 years and mortality of children under five has been cut in half.

"Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me"--not. According to Southern Illinois University English professor Brian Abel Ragen, quoted by the U. of C.'s Martin Marty in Context (May 15), it's become popular to soften that last clause to "that saved and strengthened me," which makes for good Americanism but lousy Christianity: "You cannot be saved if you are not lost....[But] our culture does not believe in wickedness--that is, in culpability. The 'conviction of sin' is hardly possible to us. We believe not in sin and forgiveness but in illness and recovery. It is the endless message of our culture that everyone is basically good and that most of our problems will be solved when we realize this--in other words, when we build up our self-esteem."

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

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