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The Straight Dope

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Is Illinois a high-tax or a low-tax state? Either one, depending on how you choose to spin the statistics. "Illinois Tax Facts" (December) reports that on a per capita basis, Illinois total 1994 taxes were $2,474.50, above the midwest and U.S. average. But per $1,000 of income--a more reasonable standard--Illinois total taxes were $110.32, well below the midwest and U.S. average rates.

Our turn? Recent reparation payments made by the American government, according to David Smallwood in N'Digo (November 27-December 3): "$1 billion and millions of acres of land to Alaska natives in a land settlement in 1971; $81 million to the Klamaths of Oregon in 1980; $105 million to the Sioux tribe of South Dakota, $12 million to the Seminoles of Florida, and $31 million to the Chippewas of Wisconsin, all in 1985; and $32 million to the Ottawas of Michigan in 1986 to honor a treaty made in 1836. Then there's the $1.2 billion the American government decided to pay Japanese Americans in 1990 for their four-year internment in prison camps during World War II. 'That made more people aware that African Americans are deserving of similar and appropriate compensation,'" [Hannibal] Afrik said. Afrik is cochair of the National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America.

Miss transit. "Pace [suburban bus] Chairwoman Florence Boone... knows the headaches of commuting between suburbs; she drives from her Glencoe home to Pace's Arlington Heights office because using trains and buses would take three hours." So writes Jon Marshall in Illinois Issues (February).

Action and reaction. Julie Sherman on last Halloween's "Critical Mass" protest bike ride, in a letter to the "Chicagoland Bicycle Federation News" (February/March): "Riding north [from Daley Plaza] onto Dearborn, the riders ignored the changing red light, stopping the flow of traffic in two directions. At every intersection, red and yellow lights were ignored and several of the riders stood in front of cars in order to let the other riders continue. Other than myself, not one rider stopped for a red light, although it was easy to catch up to the group once the light turned green. Every northbound lane of traffic was taken over by bikes and cars were deliberately blocked from passing on the left. As the group turned west onto Ontario, I continued north, having had my fill. Angry drivers that had been delayed and frustrated by the riders now careened past me. Cabbies deliberately drove close and even though I signaled to merge, no one would let me move left. The antagonism created by the Critical Mass ride was now being taken out on a single rider."

"Christians in every age make huge trade-offs, all too often letting the culture define the gospel rather than the gospel reshape the culture," writes George Marsden in Books and Culture (November/December), quoted by Martin Marty, in "Context" (February 15). "If true Christianity is found only among radical followers of Jesus' teachings who have turned away from every cultural idol, then Christianity is a vastly smaller movement than most of us imagine."

"We feel very strongly about environmental issues," says the Metro Chicago Information Center, passing along the results of its 1997 survey of more than 3,000 households in the six-county area. "71% favor a 10 cent deposit on cans and bottles." Somebody needs to tell "us" that many recycling operations now oppose this formerly progressive cause.

Another reason not to get high on the job. Percentage of arrestees testing positive for drugs in Chicago last July: 83. (Compiler, Winter) Percentage of those who got away who tested positive: ?

"The vast majority of the poor still do not reside in high-poverty areas," writes Peter Levavi of the University of Illinois at Chicago in The Neighborhood Works (January-February), reviewing Paul Jargowsky's new book Poverty and Place. "Not only have place-based strategies not improved areas of concentrated poverty, but they continue to miss the majority of poor people--and will continue to without broader strategies."

"I got a letter from a student once who wrote: 'I'm interested in pursuing a position in management,'" writes Raymond Walsh in "Etica" (Winter), a publication of the Feltre School on West Erie. "What she wants is a promotion. What she had written, however, was that she was interested not in management, but in the pursuit of it. This is the kind of sentence that all of us write, especially in first drafts. The challenge is to get rid of them before we go to print."

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