According to Northwestern University’s Roger Schank, the Internet is the greatest invention of the past two millennia. He says it will do away with, among other things, shopping malls and newspapers. “Life (and human interaction) in fifty years will be so different we will hardly recognize the social structures that will evolve,” he writes on-line (“What Is the Most Important Invention in the Past Two Thousand Years?” at documents/Invention.html). “I don’t know if we will be happier, but we will be better informed.” Well, that’s all I wanted.

“Never before in the history of the world has such a rapid and large-scale revolution occurred in a nation’s food supply,” writes Peter Montague of genetic engineering in “Rachel’s Environment & Health Weekly” (February 11). “Today Pillsbury food products are made from genetically engineered crops. Other foods that are now genetically engineered include [ingredients of] Crisco; Kraft salad dressings; Nestle’s chocolate; Green Giant harvest burgers; Parkay margarine; Isomil and ProSobee infant formulas; and Wesson vegetable oils. Fritos, Doritos, Tostitos and Ruffles Chips–and french fried potatoes sold by McDonald’s–are genetically engineered. By next year, if Monsanto’s plans develop on schedule–and there is no reason to think they won’t–100% of the U.S. soybean crop will be genetically engineered. Eighty percent of all the vegetable oils in American foods are derived from soybeans, so most foods that contain vegetable oils will contain genetically engineered components by next year or the year after.”

Dept. of smokeless industries. According to a recent brochure from the Travel Industry Association of America, worldwide tourist receipts have doubled since 1989, from $221 billion to $444 billion in 1997.

In 1992, according to the 1997 “Census of Agriculture” (recently released by the USDA), there were 910,322 acres of farmland in the 2,384,000 acres that comprise the six-county Chicago metropolitan area (Cook, Lake, Du Page, McHenry, Kane, and Will counties), or roughly 38 percent of that land. In 1997–this census happens every five years–farms were down to 853,365 acres, or about 36 percent. Statewide, farms held about steady at just over 27 million acres, about 76 percent of the state.

Gulp your food. “Don’t nurse your coffee or pick at that doughnut throughout the morning,” advises the Chicago-based Academy of General Dentistry in “Dental-notes” (February). “When you eat your doughnut quickly, it limits the exposure time to the sugar bacteria attack.”

“As we reinvent our River, new conflicts emerge,” finds Laurene von Klan of Friends of the Chicago River, writing in the “River Reporter” (Winter). “For example, most new development proposals we see these days show some boat slips. How will the presence of private moorings impact what is supposed to be a public river edge?”

The cold war goes on. “Secrecy married to bureaucracy reproduces promiscuously,” writes Reuel Marc Gerecht in the New Republic (February 8), reviewing Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s book Secrecy. “Federal employees in the American government classified 5,789,625 pieces of information in 1996, a 62 percent increase from 1995.”

“Somehow, some way the price of a stock must be tied to earnings,” says Carl Tannenbaum, chief economist of LaSalle Banks/ABN AMRO North America, quoted in “NORBIC Network” (February). “I feel the stock market has completely lost its mind. We are stretching the valuation of shares well beyond what companies could earn.”