“Developers are talking about preservation while environmentalists are talking about the need to make a profit to assure a successful development,” writes Tom Anderson, executive director of Save the Dunes Council, in the Times of Indiana (July 15). He’s referring to Lake Erie Land Company’s Coffee Creek Center, near Chesterton in Porter County, Indiana, where sustainable-design expert William McDonough has planned what Anderson calls “a compact and pleasant small town” with “narrower safer streets, less use of automobiles and more walking and bicycling to stores, library and other services that are located close to home,” plus a 165-acre watershed preserve managed by a nonprofit group.

Chicago is the 15th most dense metropolitan area in the country, at just over six people per urbanized acre of land, according to a recent Brookings Institution study (“Who Sprawls Most?” July). But here’s the shocker: all but one of the 14 denser metro areas are in the sun belt. Honolulu, with 12.36 people per acre, is the densest, and Los Angeles, with 8.31, comes in second.

I’m sorry, but you have only a three in eight chance of hearing the truth. In a survey of 258 Chicago-area physicians who referred 326 patients to hospice care in 1996, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine (June 19), most of the doctors said they would either refuse to answer or give an inaccurate estimate if their patients asked how long they had to live. In only 37 percent of the cases would the doctors have been willing to give the patients their best estimate. Coauthor Nicholas Christakis, of the University of Chicago, noted, “When physicians can’t or won’t make predictions about a patient’s future, patients may die deaths they deplore in locations they despise” (University of Chicago Chronicle, July 12).

News flash: 5,600 elementary school dropouts returned to school with the stroke of a pen. From Catalyst (June): “Last year, 7,166 CPS students in 6th, 7th and 8th grades dropped out, disappeared or transferred to nobody knows where, according to numbers provided by the Consortium on Chicago School Research. Of those missing elementary students, about 5,600 were coded by their schools as ‘unverified transfers.’ That means that family members told schools their children were transferring, but the schools never received requests for student records from receiving schools or, if they did, didn’t record the requests.” When the consortium said that it was going to count these students as dropouts in a new study, the Chicago Public Schools protested. The consortium backed down and “agreed to strike unverified transfers at all grade levels from the final version of the study,” reducing the stated dropout rate by about 5 percent.

Lots of small donors make a cause more legitimate, right? A press release from the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics (July 12) states, “Democrats raised 32 percent of their hard money from individuals in amounts less than $200 in 1999-2000. Republicans, meanwhile, raised 55 percent of their hard money from small donors. Overall, Democrats raised $63.1 million out of $194.8 million from small hard money donors. Republicans raised $216.2 million out of $394.8 million from small hard money donors.”

Illinois’ overstuffed prisons contain a higher proportion of drug offenders than prisons in any states except New Jersey, New York, California, and Utah, according to Mother Jones magazine’s recent on-line report on prisons (www.motherjones.com/prisons). Illinois ranks ninth when it comes to the highest disparity between white and nonwhite incarceration rates.