“Contemporary quarrels over Catholic liturgy resemble clashes between competing forms of gay sensibility. Indeed, they are often those very same clashes in a different venue.” This is one of “9.5 Theses on Homosexuality in Modern Catholicism” posted by Mark Jordan, author of The Silence of Sodom, on the University of Chicago Press Web site (press.uchicago.edu).

We’re Number 20! Chicago’s poverty rate dropped 2 percent, to 19.6 percent, during the 1990s (“A Decade of Mixed Blessings,” Brookings Institution Center on Urban & Metropolitan Policy, August). That still leaves us well above the national average, but it was the 20th greatest poverty rate decline among U.S. cities. The rate in Gary dropped to 25.8 percent, the sixth largest decline.

College-educated Hispanic women are the Chicagoans most likely to use seat belts, according to a study by JoAnn Wells and colleagues, published this year in Accident Analysis & Prevention. A survey at gas stations showed they had a 91 percent compliance rate. Least likely to use seat belts are black men without a college degree–only 34 percent. In general, men (58 percent) are more recalcitrant than women (72 percent).

Straight talk about the media. Advice to reformers from Minnesota state senator Myron Orfield in his American Metropolitics: The New Suburban Reality: “Both newspapers and public radio lead other news. Spend lots of time with these sources. Give them lots of information. They are the only media that will try to take the time to understand what you are talking about.”

Mexican-American babies in Chicago whose mothers were born in Mexico have a lower mortality rate than those whose mothers were born in the U.S., report James Collins Jr. of Children’s Memorial Hospital and colleagues in Ethnicity & Disease (Late Autumn 2001). The death rate for Mexican-American infants in Chicago ages one month to one year is 3.2 per thousand if their mother was born in this country but only 2.1 per thousand if she was born in Mexico. Living in poverty-stricken areas accounts for only some of the difference; the authors suspect that “maternal lifelong minority status” of U.S.-born mothers may be an important factor. “We speculate that household composition, family cohesiveness, and access to safe child care contribute to the nativity disparity…among urban Mexican- American infants.”

Hope? “Unions can win politically,” writes David Moberg in the book Appeal to Reason: 25 Years In These Times, “if they build grassroots movements of workers who are educated about political issues on the job, if they make direct ‘labor to neighbor’ connections in working-class neighborhoods, if they emphasize issues of economic well-being and family security, if they educate politicians and if they work closely with progressive allies. Unions can win fights in the global economy by extending the same organizing and political strategies–cooperating with unions in other countries, forming broader alliances with other constituencies, targeting renegade corporations and demanding new rules that restrain capital and raise standards for workers everywhere.”

Chicago ain’t ready for reform–but Peoria is. In the month and a half leading up to this fall’s election, candidates for senator and governor will get two minutes of free airtime per week to answer questions posed by TV station WEEK in Peoria. According to the “Political Standard” newsletter (August), it’s one of just 83 commercial stations in the country that have agreed to do this.