“Don’t listen to your children,” advises Catherine Wallace of Skokie in U.S. Catholic (January). “Let them be in their own worlds, undisturbed. It is not healthy for persons the age of parents to get involved in arguments about what kind of birthday cake the Care Bears should make for He-Man.”

News you won’t hear from environmentalists. Are we wearing out the earth? According to a recent press release from MIT Press, economist and agricultural historian Peter Lindert of the University of California at Davis has measured changes in soil productivity over long periods in China and Indonesia, two countries that have been widely criticized for their agricultural practices. He found that “human mismanagement is not on average worsening the soil quality in China and Indonesia. Human cultivation lowers soil nitrogen and organic matter, but has offsetting positive effects,” including increasing other nutrients. The use of soil-preserving crops and better practices may also help.

“I’m not happy the buildings [CHA high-rises] are coming down,” writes Ethan Michaeli in “Residents’ Journal” (October). “I’m not happy because the simple truth is that while the buildings are coming down, I don’t see anything being built. CHA originally promised to rebuild the homes of all the residents on the State Street Corridor within 5 years….But just six months after the plan was implemented, CHA CEO Terry Peterson announced that the agency wouldn’t be able to replace the housing in that time frame. Instead of five years, Peterson said it would take 10 years to replace the housing. That means a big change for many residents….In those 10 years, working families will retire and become senior citizens. Elementary school students will become adults who can vote, join the military and go to college.”

“The country made little progress in embracing international human rights standards at home,” reads a chapter in Human Rights Watch’s World Report 2001. “Most public officials remained either unaware of their human rights obligations or content to ignore them.” Among other things, “the rate of incarceration [at the end of 1999] had reached 690 inmates per 100,000 residents–a rate Human Rights Watch believed to be the highest in the world (with the exception of Rwanda).” The country of course is the U.S.

No, you eat the dried gherkins. According to a recent press release from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, business professor Brian Wansink has found that as much as 12 percent of all groceries that people buy end up as “cabinet castaways” and are never used.

Educating lawyers. University of Chicago law professor Eric Posner, author of Law and Social Norms, tells the “Chronicle” (October 5): “Law professors and legal academics often think of the law as merely the regulation of behavior: making sure that people keep their promises in contracts, that businesses run smoothly, that crime is deterred and so forth. They tend to view this in very simplified formulas. Their view is that people are atoms and do what they want to, and then there is the government to enact laws and prevent people from engaging in antisocial behavior. On the contrary, social order is, to a certain extent, self-maintaining….Much of our ordinary, everyday behavior is cooperative, even though we don’t expect the law to get involved.” Depending on how they’re designed, laws can encourage or discourage cooperative behavior. “The government historically used shame to deter crime. Criminals were publicly identified and humiliated, and even branded. But once marked with a brand as a criminal, an individual was shunned by society and had no choice but to join a criminal gang.”

“The most striking feature of Christianity at the end of the second millennium is that it is predominantly a non-Western religion,” writes Andrew Walls in the “International Bulletin of Missionary Research” (July), reprinted by Martin Marty in “Context” (December 1). “Already more than half the world’s Christians live in Africa, Asia, Latin and Caribbean America, and the Pacific. If present trends continue, at some point in the 21st century the figure could be two thirds….We can expect an accelerated process of new development arising from Christian interaction with the ancient cultures of Africa and Asia, an interaction now in progress and with much further to go.”