Let’s build a swamp–but do it right this time. “Despite progress in the last 20 years, the goal of no net loss for wetland function is not being met,” according to a press release announcing a new National Research Council committee report. In theory, developers who can’t avoid filling in wetlands can make up for the damage by building new ones. The committee, chaired by Joy Zedler of the University of Wisconsin, found that practice doesn’t follow theory. “Some required mitigation projects are never undertaken or are not completed. Of those completed, most are not fully evaluated, and in the ones that are, the committee and other scientists found shortcomings compared to nearby natural wetlands.” Unless the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers steps up enforcement and creates a national database, there will be no way to make sure that new construction is not destructive.

Thanks, grandma. “Not all nonintact families are alike,” according to a February 2001 study by Thomas DeLeire and Ariel Kalil of the University of Chicago’s Harris Graduate School of Public Policy Studies, “Good Things Come in 3’s.” They looked at family structure when students were in eighth grade and the students’ reported drug use, sexual activity, and college attendance four and six years later. Teens living in nontraditional households in eighth grade usually did worse than those in intact families–with two significant exceptions. Youths living in a multigenerational household with a single mother who’d never been married actually did better than children in intact families. And children of formerly married single mothers in multigenerational households fared no differently than those in intact families. (These findings stood up even after DeLeire and Kalil made sure the comparison groups had similar economic resources, parenting behaviors, and school quality.)

If money can’t buy Republicans, what can it buy? Campaign-finance reformers suspect rich organizations of using money to get legislators to vote their way, but recently the Center for Responsive Politics showed that the practice doesn’t always work (“Money in Politics Alert,” June 18). “Since 1990, the [American Medical Association] has contributed more than $15 million to federal parties and candidates, with more than two-thirds of that money going to Republicans.” Yet Republicans failed to give the AMA value for its money. “The AMA supports legislation that would allow patients to take their health plans to court should they not get the care they need, a policy move strongly opposed by many Republicans and supported by most Democrats.” As a result, AMA giving has become more evenhanded since 1999. In other words, the group’s been reduced to giving money to whomever it can find who already agrees with it.

Things computers need to be taught, from a Los Angeles Times story on artificial intelligence (June 21): “A piece of wood can be smashed into smaller pieces of wood, but a table can’t be smashed into a pile of smaller tables.”

In Du Page it’s a public health problem; in Cook it’s a crime. Rui Kaneya writes in the Chicago Reporter (May): “Cook County drug offenders are far less likely to receive drug treatment as part of their probation than those in Illinois’ other 101 counties.

…And low-income African Americans and Latinos, who make up a disproportionate number of probationers in Cook County, are most affected by those statistics.”

Tax “loopholes” are where you find them. According to the state comptroller’s 2000 “Tax Expenditure Report,” Illinois’ largest tax expenditure by far comes in the form of the reduction of state sales tax on food, drugs, and medical appliances, which subtracted just over a billion dollars from state coffers in fiscal 2000.