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Minimum standards for cars to be donated to the Big Brothers-Big Sisters of Metropolitan Chicago, according to a recent press release: "The owner must have a title, and there needs to be an engine in the auto."

Dispatch from the weed wars. "During the last eight years, the Department of Natural Resources Division of Natural Heritage has spent more than $28,000 battling purple loosestrife in preserves and other wetlands," writes DNR's John Schwegman in a recent press release. "This expenditure is in lightly infested areas where efforts continue to try to keep it out. Control efforts have ceased in many wetlands where the deemed to have been lost." Attempts are now under way to introduce specialized insects from their native Europe to get the rampaging purple stuff under control.

"No jackboots, everything's cool?" Fascism is more than a dated style, warns Northwestern's Adolph Reed Jr. in the Progressive (August). "This bowdlerized view overlooks the most significant and frightening point about fascism--its roots in self-righteous ordinariness. Those who spearheaded and ran National Socialism in Germany were haberdashers, osteopaths, third-rate academics, lawyers, and physicians, as well as enthusiastic patrician reactionaries. They were distinguished by adherence to crackpot social theories, deep mean streaks, and more than typical greed."

New book titles we didn't know what to think about: The Mountain Biker's Guide to the Midwest.

Check your skin color: White? There's about one chance in 20 that you don't have health insurance. Black or brown? About one chance in four, according to a recent survey of Illinoisans under 65 conducted by the Metro Chicago Information Center.

Education is where you find it. James Krohe Jr. in Illinois Issues (July): "When one visits the Discovery Room in the Illinois State Museum or the Kidspace at Scitech, it is hard not to be impressed with the buzz of committed activity one sees there. It is also hard to not ask why one can't see the same things in every grade school in the state. 'Discovery centers'--every museum has one--look like what a grade school science class would look like if schools were as well run as our museums."

Your Honor, is that a rhetorical question? Topic of U.S. appellate judge William Bauer's recent talk at Loyola: "Do News Reporters Ever Do Anything Right?"

It's the thought that counts. "I really don't have a problem with virtual violence," writes Vox Day in his syndicated column of computer-game reviews. "I'm quite proud of my personal best of 2,619 kills in an eighteen-hour, caffeine-powered Heretic jam. But I do object to the shameless use of mass quantities of the red stuff just to market a mediocre action game with outdated software technology."

Life in the real world. A note from Angelic Organics Farm News (July 1) to the biodynamic farm's local subscribers: "We don't want to use so much plastic, but it's difficult to avoid it. Vegetables are still alive and breathing even after we harvest, wash, and pack them in your boxes. Greens & herbs are heavy breathers--'transpirers,' if you want to get more technical. They lose moisture through their leafy surfaces and--if left uncovered--wilt quickly, even in a refrigerator. They need the assistance of an artificial skin. Vegetables with tougher skins, like cucumbers, transpire less--keeping their moisture inside. How can we make lettuce behave more like a cucumber? We put it in a plastic bag. As the season proceeds we don't rely so heavily on plastic bags, because the greens are laid gingerly in the boxes among cukes, zukes, melons, and other thick-skinned vegetables--these surrounding vegetables help to hold in the leaves' moisture."

Honey, where did you pack my life? Nadezhda Azhgikhina in the Chicago-based Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (July/August): "A certain pattern, which I myself have also observed, has been described by writers of the third wave of Russian emigres. Once in a new country, the head of the household spends a lot of time lying on the couch, trying to find approaches to the unfamiliar and threatening situation, and reflecting on the meaning of his existence and life in general. Meanwhile, his wife is studying the new language, finding work, and forming a new circle of friends. It is she who drags the family into a new life."

"It's difficult to understand why educators deny millions of children the ability to read, when the means to teach them are affordable and readily available," complains Martha Brown in the Palatine-based Prairie State Initiative's recent news release. "U.S. Department of Education figures show that the average per-pupil cost of phonics programs they studied is $30.34; the average per-pupil cost of [less effective] look-say and whole language programs is $214.53."

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

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