I will mediate you to death! “It is sad to say that my prediction of almost 10 years ago, that ADR [alternative dispute resolution] processes would be ‘co-opted’ by traditional adversarial processes…has come true,” writes Carrie Menkel-Meadow in the Chicago-based Dispute Resolution Magazine (Winter). “In recent years I have watched lawyers write letters ‘filing an ADR proceeding against’ another party and threatening to ‘change their mediation strategy’ if a particular demand or proposal is not adhered to. Clearly, the language of traditional adversarial practice has taken over or conquered many processes that were supposed to be based on…seeking joint gain, attempting to find Pareto optimal solutions, causing less harm to the parties and exploring solutions to underlying problems.”

Why did south-side state senator Barack Obama vote against the state budget? Because even half an hour before the scheduled final vote and adjournment “we didn’t know…the overall shape of the budget: what it looked like and where a whole bunch of discretionary funding was going to be going,” he tells Jennifer Davis of Illinois Issues (February). By contrast, the four legislative leaders are said to have signed off on the document almost line by line.

Please pass the Twinkies while I consider that. Jennifer Vanasco in Windy City Times (February 26): “If gays and lesbians are viewed by Americans as being similar to fat people…then we may have much farther to go to achieve our rights than we think.”

Good news/bad news. Chicago’s infant mortality rate is at a record low (6.4 deaths per 1,000 live births in 1996). The rate for African-American newborns, however, is almost triple that for whites and Latinos (10.1, compared with 3.7 and 3.5, respectively) (Chicago Reporter, February).

Who does what where? According to information collected from adult males arrested in 1996 and early 1997, “heroin use appears to be focused in a relatively small number of communities located primarily on Chicago’s west side and centered on Garfield Park and Humboldt Park,” writes James Swartz in the Compiler (Winter), a publication of the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority. “In contrast, intensive cocaine use appears to be spread over a much larger area of the city, with 24 of the 77 Chicago communities having arrestee rates of cocaine use of 40 percent or greater.”

Percentage of people in the six-county area who say their employers “encourage the use of public transportation,” according to the Metro Chicago Information Center’s 1997 Metro Survey Report: 14.

“My first day of substitute teaching,” writes an anonymous middle-aged teacher in the Chicago Public Schools in Substance (December). “I am sent to a new school in a scary neighborhood. On the way I pass a vacant lot filled with rough looking dogs. I give it a wide berth. Someone yells at me: ‘This is a safe zone. The dogs are not affiliated with any gang, do not carry any weapons, and do not bite.’ I say ‘Thanks’ and hurry on.”

Tobacco is the new South Africa, largely responsible for the rise in socially responsible investing, up from $639 billion in 1995 to $1.2 trillion in 1997, according to a recent press release from the Social Investment Forum.

Warning of–something. Two different birth-defect recording systems agree: the incidence of hypospadias, a birth defect of the penis, has nearly doubled since 1970. That increase is statistically significant and not the result of changes in diagnosis, reports the suburban-based Pediatrics (November). Correct formation depends on testosterone secretion early in fetal development. Nobody knows the cause of the malformation or of its increase, but one hypothesis connects it with endocrine-disrupting chemicals in the environment.

A perfect relationship. “Most cockroaches are detritivores; they eat dead stuff,” advises University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign entomologist May Berenbaum. “And humans tend to keep a lot of dead stuff in their homes.”

And have a nice day. “The Clinton scandals…are not aberrations of establishment culture but symptomatic of it,” writes Sam Smith in the Progressive Review (February 26). “Whereas Nixon’s corruption represented a classic conspiracy–a tightly controlled abuse of power, the corruption of Clinton’s Washington represents a whole ecology of abusive power. What is happening now is bipartisan, multinational, multi-professional and pandemic. Thus the consequences are far more serious than Watergate and their cure far more elusive.”

Our kindly parent, the state. Among the facts recently made known to a yearning citizenry by a press release from the Illinois Emergency Management Agency: “Thunderstorms can produce strong winds, lightning, hail or heavy rain.”