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By Harold Henderson

Press releases that made me feel bloated. "Americans will drink more than 10 billion glasses of iced tea this summer, nearly 110 million glasses per day."

Why does my cigarette taste like burned cheese? Sheila Kaplan, writing in Capital Eye (July 1), says that Democrats and Republicans have many of the same big political donors--and that some of them will make more or less identical appearances at both party conventions this summer--with one exception. "Tobacco giant Philip Morris has booked the San Diego Art Museum for a number of events, including a possible party for the Republican Governors Association. While the beleaguered tobacco maker will also be in Chicago, it will fly under a different flag--that of subsidiary Kraft."

"The unprecedented media focus on America's epidemic of domestic violence is having a dramatic impact on public attitudes and behavior," the San Francisco-based Family Violence Prevention Fund reports in a recent newsletter--but it may not be the impact the group wants. Polls commissioned by FVPF show that, in November 1995, "nearly one in three female respondents (30 percent) say they have been physically abused by a husband or boyfriend sometime in their lives; in July of 1994, that number was just 24 percent."

Traffic congestion? I'll give you traffic congestion. Writing in the newsletter of the Chicago Maritime Society (Summer), Phillip Elmes describes one effect the thriving port of Chicago had on the Loop in the 1880s: "Being 'bridged' was a common daily experience as wagons, 'horse cars' and pedestrians alike waited for blocks in every direction for bridges raised to accommodate the continuous river traffic to be lowered once again. As late as 1890, [businessman F.E.] Coyne was to report, 'There were lumber, coal and steel barges being towed, and quite frequently large steamships under their own power passing at all hours. It was a common occurrence for a large steamer to get stuck in the draw and hold up traffic for hours at a time.'"

The election squeeze. "To those union leaders who regard a Clinton defeat as 'the end of the world as we know it,' [Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers union president Bob] Wages retorts, 'If he wins, it means continuation of life as we know it. Neither is acceptable'" (David Moberg, In These Times, May 27).

God help us. Writing in the Chicago-based Christian Century (May 22-29), Margaret Lamberts Bendroth quotes Harjot Oberjoi, a contributor to the 1995 book Fundamentalisms Comprehended: "Plagued by the practical and philosophical ills of modernity, many in the world today have come to view the rise and spread of fundamentalism with hope that this reassertion of religion will help create a new moral community by combatting a corrosive culture where individuals are constantly lured by consumerism, promiscuity, drugs and crime." Bendroth concludes, "Not everyone is equally sensitive to the toxicity of 20th-century Western culture; but few of us, perhaps, can afford to ignore a fair warning, no matter where it comes from."

Just call me carbon-monoxide mouth. Hammacher Schlemmer's summer catalog includes a telephone in the shape of a nine-inch-long 1956 Thunderbird, complete with mouthpiece where the exhaust pipe would normally be.

"We can't really say if there's a decline in amphibian populations," says state Natural History Survey herpetologist Chris Phillips in The Nature of Illinois (Spring). "We don't yet understand how these populations fluctuate naturally." Phillips coordinates the central U.S. division of the international Declining Amphibian Population Task Force, which evidently was named without consulting him. "The best data we have cover 10-15 years, but the statisticians tell us that's about one-third of what we need."

The isolation wave. According to Dr. Cynthia Whitney, who contributed to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study of the 1995 Chicago heat wave, mortality among persons living alone remained exceptionally high even after controlling for socioeconomic factors.

"If anybody's dumb and dumber in Springfield, it's those who underestimate the governor's political smarts," writes Russ Stewart in Illinois Politics (May). "How does [Democrat Neil] Hartigan strategize a 1998 run? Does he try to be more conservative than Edgar? Or run to his left?" Stewart doesn't think either way will work. "Conservatives were appalled when Edgar granted clemency to convicted Death Row murderer Guinevere Garcia, commuting her sentence to life imprisonment. But the governor scored big with liberals and death penalty foes, coming across as 'compassionate.' Had he allowed her execution, he risked being branded as cold and heartless. How can Hartigan criticize that act without alienating women and liberals?"

Send tips to cityfile@chireader.com.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Illustration of man floating in a cocktail, by Carl Kroch.

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