Ask your state representative why he or she voted to make it illegal to photograph or videotape animals at a factory farm. According to Bill Berkowitz, writing for the July 18 Working for Change (, in April the Illinois House of Representatives passed House Bill 5793 by a vote of 118-0. According to the Peoria Journal Star, the bill would “prohibit state inspectors [of factory farms] from taking pictures to document their investigations,” but Berkowitz figures it’s also aimed at thwarting the many grassroots activists monitoring the gigantic, foul-smelling hog and dairy operations. An overflight and videotape of one such downstate facility a year ago by Families Against Rural Messes helped produce a $50,000 fine.

Facts antismoking activists don’t want you to know. Smoker and libertarian Joseph Bast writes in the “Heartlander” (July): “Low-tar cigarettes are about 20 percent safer than regular cigarettes in terms of the lung cancer risk….If just 10 percent of smokers switched to smokeless tobacco, for example, an astonishing 26.8 million life-years would be saved.”

Facts car salespeople don’t want you to know. The Center for Neighborhood Technology’s neighborhood-based car-sharing service is now in operation. Members can find cars at two initial bases, the Broadway Jewel in Edgewater and the CNT parking lot in Wicker Park. According to the summer issue of the CNT newsletter “Place Matters,” “Car sharing provides all the freedom and convenience of owning a car without the costs and hassles.” Membership is $100 plus $20 per month; usage fees are $4.50 per hour plus 50 cents a mile.

Down Under–the land of hope. Michael Davis of IIT’s Center for the Study of Ethics in the Professions was recently a visiting scholar in Australia. “That it began as an outpost of the English penal system, the vastest prison in the history of the world, may make ethics seem a daring import,” he writes in the center’s newsletter “Perspectives on the Professions” (Spring). “But these descendants of criminals are among the world’s more law-abiding people, providing a neat refutation of the biological explanation of crime. For those who believe, as I do, that our destiny is not so much in our genes as in the opportunities we have and how we use them, Australia must be a special place, as full of hope as of kangaroos.”

Things we never thought we’d see the Washington editor of the Nation admit. David Corn (, May 17) writes: “Castro deserves no breaks. Not for having once toppled a corrupt, mob-linked regime, not for having brought better health care and education to Cubans. The left should agree with the right: his time is up, or ought to be.”

You may already be buying African, according to a Progressive Policy Institute press release issued May 22. Since the African Growth and Opportunity Act was signed in May 2000, eliminating tariffs and quotas on most African goods, including clothing, “African exports of clothes are up 70 percent, or a million dollars worth of exports a day. For example, Americans bought 2 million pairs of women’s pants and shorts a month from Africa in 2000; this year, it is 4.5 million pairs a month.”

Lest we forget. Sociologists Gregory Squires and Sally O’Connor write in their book Color and Money that in 1992 “the Boston Federal Reserve Bank found that blacks were rejected 60 percent more often than similarly qualified white applicants in that city. The researchers indicated that loan officers were more likely to counsel marginal white applicants to help them prepare approvable applications but similarly qualified minorities were not provided the same service. The Chicago Federal Reserve Bank suggested that the ‘cultural affinity’ between white loan officers and clients might contribute to a higher approval rate for white applicants. In Milwaukee, there is statistical evidence that lenders who employ more minority workers are more likely to approve loan applications from minority homebuyers.”