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What good is that bird? In a state department of conservation report John Schwegman writes about a study coauthored by suburban Morton Arboretum foresters in which they caged some small oak trees to keep away insect-eating birds and left other trees alone. Sure enough, over two growing seasons the bird-free trees grew significantly less than did the controls.

"Seeing that the media was its maker, it is only just that someone in the media pronounces 'alternative' as the corpse that it is," writes Michael Harris in Illinois Entertainer (May). "When Smashing Pumpkins or Nirvana or Live or even Green Day sell millions of albums worldwide and are heard on the radio and on MTV everyday, you have to ask yourself: what are they the alternative to?... Alternative has been mainstream for so long that it has been reduced to a mere marketing tool."

AIDS educators in denial. "Despite the concerted efforts of AIDS educators, rates of HIV transmission among gay men began to rise in the mid-Eighties almost as suddenly as they had plummeted only a few years earlier," writes clinical psychologist Walt Odets in AIDS & Public Policy Journal, reprinted in Harper's (May). "By 1988 studies of gay men in urban centers were showing that about one third were willing to self-report the practice of unprotected anal intercourse. The real figures are certainly higher and are in fact astonishingly close to the figures we had on anal intercourse before there was an epidemic. In other words, years of AIDS education has probably produced almost no change whatsoever in the behavior that all gay men and their grandmothers know to be the most dangerous for transmitting HIV." Odets's diagnosis: AIDS educators blew it by insisting on "erring on the safe side," requiring a nearly unattainable standard of behavior and thus unintentionally convincing many gay men that contracting HIV is inevitable.

"If we want mass media that aren't bought and paid for by corporate advertisers, then we have to pay for it ourselves," writes Jim Naureckas in the Chicago-based biweekly In These Times (April 17). He's arguing for public financing through something like an advertising tax. But is the lack of subscriber-supported, hard-hitting mass media due to who controls Congress, or to subscribers' unwillingness to pay?

The average amount loaned for multifamily buildings [five units or more] in low- and moderate-income community areas of the city was $54 million from 1983 to '85 and $240 million from 1991 to '93, according to a recent press release from the Woodstock Institute on South Dearborn. "Multifamily [buildings of 5 units or more] lending is crucial to economically healthy communities," says Institute president Malcolm Bush. "It is a key source for neighborhood stability and revitalization. This increase is a CRA [federal Community Reinvestment Act] success--CRA is responsible for introducing financial institutions to new markets and business opportunities."

"Mandatory minimum sentences play a big role in the high incarceration rate of blacks," Marc Maurer of The Sentencing Project tells Linn Washington Jr. and Frederick Lowe in the Chicago Council on Urban Affairs' magazine One City (Winter). According to the article, "Maurer blames some of the disparity on prosecutors. Unlike with black defendants, prosecutors are willing to bargain down charges for whites to a penalty that doesn't carry a mandatory minimum sentence." And why might that be? "Although racial prejudice may play a role in the prosecutor's decision, [Cook County public defender Rita Aliese] Fry said it's very difficult to find black parents willing to attend their son's court hearing. Such an appearance could persuade the prosecutor to reduce the charge, Fry said."

Is the state shirking on school $$$? Maybe not, if you look at actual dollar amounts instead of percentages, says Tax Facts (April). The state's share of total school funding did drop from 39 to 32 percent in the last ten years. But in actual dollars, the state's contribution has risen from $2.4 billion to $3.8 billion--faster than the rate of inflation! Why the percentage drop, then? Because property values--and hence local property tax payments-- skyrocketed during the same decade, more than doubling in Cook County alone and doing even better in the burbs.

Stories the Smithsonian Institution will never tell. "More than 23 years after the bombing [of Hiroshima], Papa traveled to Chicago to be at my wedding," writes Chicago therapist Hideko Tamura Friedman in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (May/June). "Over the years, we had seldom spoken of the unspeakable past. But on that trip, he shared something with me that I had never heard before.

"He had been at his post at the harbor, more than two miles away, and he had been well shielded by a sturdy building when the bomb burst. A few hours afterward, he had encountered a young American prisoner of war wandering in a daze. The young man looked no older than 17, with blond hair and blue eyes, and was naked except for his boxer shorts. He was surrounded by a crowd of injured civilians, mostly old men and women, carrying stones which they were about to use against him. My father, speaking as an army officer, reproached the otherwise ordinary and peaceful citizens. The young American, he said, was a prisoner under the protection of the military. He was not armed and he was obviously not about to harm anyone. They must not become killers themselves."

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

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