The most popular herbicide in the world doesn’t kill frogs–it just makes them, er, unable to reproduce. That’s the word from a paper published in the April 16 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Atrazine, the herbicide in question, doesn’t accumulate in the environment or in the food chain and so has long been thought safe. But as little as one part of atrazine in ten billion parts water has now been found to have disquieting effects on African clawed frogs: “Up to 20% of the animals (16-20%) had multiple gonads (up to 6 in a single animal) or were hermaphrodites (with multiple testes and ovaries).” For comparison, the allowable level of atrazine in drinking water is 30 parts per ten billion, and rain can contain 10 parts atrazine per ten billion parts water (up to 400 parts per ten billion in midwestern farm country). And since the stuff is applied at spring plowing, it hits frogs at “critical developmental stages.”

Serious reform comes to the public schools’ most important job. Maureen Kelleher in Catalyst (April): “In addition to reading specialists, the Chicago Reading Initiative also includes new money for classroom libraries, a required two hours a day of reading instruction and training for principals and teachers to improve instructional techniques. Together, these measures are aimed at directly changing what happens in regular classrooms during the regular school day. In contrast, the previous [Vallas] administration relied on the pressure of test-based accountability and on supplemental programs, such as after-school and summer classes, to improve reading achievement.”

If this is the best case conservatives can make against the League of Conservation Voters, they’d be better off cleaning up vacant lots. “Establishment environmental organizations are doing little to address minority concerns,” argues the conservative group Project 21, a subsidiary of the National Center for Public Policy Research in Washington, D.C., in an April press release. “In its congressional ratings, the League of Conservation Voters (LCV) ranked legislators on abortion and campaign finance regulation votes but not on their support for ‘The Brownfields Revitalization Act’–which eased regulations and funded the clean-up of polluted inner-city properties.” Sounds good, but Project 21 is deliberately polluting the debate. According to information at the U.S. EPA Web site ( 2869sum.htm), the “Small Business Liability Relief and Brownfields Revitalization Act” passed the House (by a voice vote) and Senate (unanimously) in December. There would be no point in including it in any legislative rankings, because no disagreement was recorded.

Bikers on LSD. “Bike Traffic” (April), newsletter of the Chicagoland Bicycle Federation, reminds us that on June 9, 15 miles of Lake Shore Drive will be closed to cars from 5:30 AM to 10:30 AM, from 57th Street to Hollywood, so that 12,000 bicyclists can “Bike the Drive.” Steve Buchtel writes: “Don’t worry about the crowd: you’ll have up to eight lanes to choose from.”

Wanted: CHA residents who can eat promises. “The city would need to spend at least $1.8 million more to hire the staff needed to adequately serve the 12,218 families still in public housing, according to a 2001 study by the Mid-America Institute on Poverty,” a division of the Heartland Alliance, writes Brian J. Rogal in the Chicago Reporter (April). “In what it terms a conservative estimate, the institute said 96 case managers were needed citywide to help residents with severe problems like extreme poverty or substance abuse. A city report shows 29 were hired.”

If it weren’t for the McCarthy-era blacklist, he might have stayed on TV and become David Letterman instead? Studs Terkel tells David Moberg (In These Times, April 12): “Here’s the crazy thing–a guy who was blacklisted is now a half-assed iconic figure. It’s funny. It’s ironic. I’m not suggesting blacklisting as a career move for young people, but if it weren’t for the blacklist, I wouldn’t be doing these books, you see.”

I think, therefore I am…something. According to U.S. Catholic (May), “about a third of people who think of themselves as Catholic have little or no connection with a local parish.”