“You can’t walk half a block without being hustled,” writes Rich Miller, describing his experiences on the gubernatorial jaunt to Cuba (Illinois Times, November 4-10). “It’s not as bad as in other countries. Begging children don’t swarm around you like they do in Romania, for instance. And violent crime is rare….It’s certainly easy to understand why just about everyone in the country is so anxious to make a buck. Average wages are about eight dollars a month. And just about everything except the most basic food must be purchased with American dollars–pretty ironic considering the embargo. The only way to get those absolutely necessary dollars (besides checks from American relatives) is from foreign tourists, and since the government won’t allow Cubans to own any businesses that employ more than a couple of people, the most effective way to earn hard currency is to hustle. Young Cuban women are particularly adept at this.”

No need to move to the suburbs to enjoy congestion. But an October 19 press release from the Streeterville Organization of Active Residents quotes its president, Rosalind Hecim, saying, “As each real estate development starts in Streeterville, the impact on traffic congestion in our area will head the list of concerns.” The city’s traffic study, due out in January, “hopefully will be the beginning of a citywide study to stop congestion and traffic issues before they overtake our neighborhood.” Meanwhile, SOAR is inviting members to get specific: “In 50 words or less, please write and let us know what you feel is the worst intersection in Streeterville….We need to know how long you had to wait to pass through an intersection, the time of day, the day of the week, etc.”

“However much I dislike it, the scouts should be allowed to keep their ban on gays,” writes Paul Varnell in the Chicago Free Press (October 20). “But only if they give up every single government charter and sponsorship, their free meeting space, funding, equipment and other benefits. No gay tax money for anti-gay discriminators.”

Probably not depicted: the Crusades, the Inquisition, and the Thirty Years’ War. According to a recent press release from a South Carolina company, “The Holy Wrap wrapping paper would be made available in a wide variety of colors and would depict religious scenes, events, and characters which are representative of happenings and people that are described in the Bible and are associated with religion.”

“As a young journalist 20 years ago, I was an admirer of Carol Moseley-Braun,” writes Bruce Shapiro in Salon (November 9). He “rejoiced” at her 1992 Senate election, “even though I’d long since left Chicago and hadn’t, therefore, stayed closely informed about her rise. It turned out that as she had made her way up through the Chicago machine, Moseley-Braun had changed. In the Senate, accordingly, she pursued high-profile symbolic crusades like that Daughters of the Confederacy emblem, instead of pressuring the Clinton administration to fulfill its civil-rights or health-reform promises.” Her notorious support of the late Nigerian dictator Sani Abacha led Shapiro to the unappealing position of agreeing with Jesse Helms on Moseley-Braun’s ambassadorship to New Zealand: “She is still an international incident waiting to happen.”

It’s hard to be cool when you’re a pediatrician. Slogan from a recent “fact sheet” sent out by the suburban-based American Academy of Pediatrics: “Inhalants: It’s not cool to be dead.”

Where does white-collar crime pay? New Jersey, Arizona, and Montana. In these jurisdictions, the most lenient in the country, less than 30 percent of white-collar criminals convicted in federal court from 1993 to 1997 were sent to prison, according to the American Bar Association’s ABA Journal (November). The toughest federal courts, which imprison at least 70 percent of white-collar convicts, were Rhode Island, the Middle District of Louisiana, the Southern District of Georgia, the Southern District of Iowa, and the Western District of Wisconsin (the nation’s toughest, imprisoning nearly 85 percent). The Northern District of Illinois, which includes Chicago, imprisoned 54 percent, just a bit over the national average.