“We’re at the beginning of the 21st century in the middle of what many pundits refer to as the new economy,” says Howard Learner of the Environmental Law and Policy Center in Illinois Issues (April). “Yet we rely for about 60 percent of our electricity supply in Illinois on coal plants that were built mostly in the 1950s and ’60s.”

Will “NRA-style Catholics” be lobbying against the death penalty or against abortion rights? “If U.S. politics is on one level a game of numbers, we should be able to get more accomplished with our 60 million,” writes Kevin Clarke in U.S. Catholic (May). “With just 3 million members, the National Rifle Association has thwarted every common-sense attempt to restrain the arming of America…. Its numbers reliably translate into votes and an avalanche of phone calls, letters, and e-mails each time America’s access to AK-47s and $35 handguns is threatened. The church needs to create NRA-style Catholics if it wants to be similarly ‘feared’ in Washington.”

Far from the cutting edge. Front-page headline in the Michigan City, Indiana, News-Dispatch, April 15: “E-mail becoming way of life for many people.”

Slavery without ownership is the latest trend in the ultimate form of human exploitation, according to David Clairmont’s review of Kevin Bales’s book Disposable People in the “Chicago South Asia Newsletter” (Winter). Bales “makes a conservative estimate that there are currently 27 million slaves in the world. The vast majority of these are held under some form of debt bondage: enslavement to pay off a specified monetary loan. These debts almost inevitably grow, and the period of enslavement therefore becomes indefinite, because of fraudulent accounting on the part of the slaveholder.”

“As genetic technologies identify which currently healthy people will later develop which particular diseases, insurance companies have begun charging exorbitant amounts to people predicted to be at genetic risk, or denying them coverage entirely,” writes Chicago-Kent College of Law professor Lori Andrews in her newest book, Future Perfect: Confronting Decisions About Genetics. “At first glance, such a policy seems reasonable, akin to charging higher rates to people who smoke…. As dozens of genes are identified each week, however, the absurdity of this approach becomes apparent. Since each of us has at least five genetic defects, everyone could become uninsurable.”

Sign of the times, recorded by Rich Remsberg in the introduction to his new book, Bikers for God: The Story of a Christian Motorcycle Gang: “The question everyone asks is if I ride a motorcycle. No one asks if I am a Christian. The answer to both is no. My interest in this story was journalistic.”

“We should concentrate on injustice,” Noam Chomsky advises the readers of Conscious Choice (April), “because we want to change it. But if we look realistically, things are a lot better than they were in the past. Even in the very recent past. For example, now there’s a problem of how to ensure that Medicare survives in a decent way. There was no such problem in 1960 because there was no such program. Now there’s a question of whether women’s rights are really being protected. It wasn’t true in 1960 because it wasn’t an issue…. Over time things do get better. But they don’t get better by gifts. They get better by people looking at what’s wrong and struggling to change it.”