Good Com Ed, meet Bad Com Ed. In the April issue of its newsletter “Place Matters,” the Center for Neighborhood Technology announces that it is now in “strategic partnership” with longtime adversary Commonwealth Edison, helping the once intransigently nuclear utility invest in energy efficiency and small-scale power production. “Under the leadership of CEO John Rowe, ComEd has changed dramatically. It now actively seeks partners to advocate energy efficiency and community reinvestment.” Meanwhile, according to the Washington Post National Weekly (May 15), the “dramatically changed” Com Ed was up to some familiar tricks. It was one of nine utilities pitching in $300,000 to $700,000 each annually–or $17 million over the last three and a half years–to fund two supposedly independent groups lobbying to keep utility deregulation bottled up in Congress. So far their “stealth campaign” has been successful.

“A group of Hispanic food packers asked to be interviewed because their working conditions are so bad (e.g. unpredictably long hours, intense heat, locked doors, no communication with people outside factory during work),” write Rebekah Levin and Robert Ginsburg in a February 16 report for the Sweatshop Working Group, “Sweatshops in Chicago” ( “When asked why they stayed at this workplace, they responded similarly. ‘We get used to it and it’s close to home.’ ‘We don’t know about other places and we’re close to home.’ ‘We don’t have to take buses–it’s close to home.'”

Maybe that’s how they do things in Idaho. According to a recent press release, the Idaho Potato Commission invited Chicago media to a “special tasting luncheon,” promising to “keep lunch to an hour and a half so that you can return to your busy schedules.”

“Sure, there have been a lot of success stories in the preservation movement,” says John Eifler in the May issue of “Focus,” newsletter of the Chicago chapter of the American Institute of Architects. “But we have to be careful of a growing apathy among younger people about old buildings and what they mean to our culture. When you have architecture students playing with a computer and generating purely random forms, from what I can see, that are basically art objects with no reference to the context or building next to it, that’s totally contrary to the whole idea of preservation.”

Research results that are sure to change minds. The Chicago Panel’s “Initiative Status Report” on year-round schools (Spring 2000), based on 14 interviews, notes that “year-round schools contribute to improving math and reading test scores, according to fifty percent of principals.”

“Students can still tease, flirt, and have teenage crushes” under the 1998 U.S. Supreme Court decision holding schools responsible for dealing with student-on-student sexual harassment, write James Hulbert and Linda Kramer in the Illinois Bar Journal (February). “It is only when these behaviors become so severe, pervasive, and objectively unreasonable as to deny access to educational benefits that the conduct may cross into Title IX territory. In such situations, all Davis requires is for schools not to be deliberately indifferent or clearly unreasonable once they have actual knowledge of peer harassment.”

Meanwhile, conservative waste fighters zero in on welfare mothers. The General Accounting Office recently testified before Congress that the navy has lost track of $3 billion in equipment and other items over the past three years, reports Sam Smith in the “Progressive Review” (May 18). “The GAO testimony follows a March report by the office of the Defense Department’s Inspector General that concluded that the Pentagon’s books were in such disarray that they couldn’t be audited. In fact, the Pentagon’s books are in such poor shape that the military’s money manager last year made almost $7 trillion in adjustments to their financial ledgers in an attempt to make them add up. The Inspector General also concluded the Pentagon could not show receipts for $2.3 trillion of those changes and half a trillion dollars of the adjustments were corrections of earlier mistakes.”