“In Chicago in 1961 you didn’t take on the police department,” says Seymour Hersh in the Progressive (October), recalling his time at City News Bureau. “Two cops reported that a prisoner had tried to escape and they’d shot him….I wanted to interview these cops first and write a good story on them killing this idiotic prisoner who had tried to escape. Two beefy, white Irish cops came out of a car. And one of the buddies said to the other: ‘So you got yourself a nigger.’ ‘Yeah,’ the other said. ‘I told him he was free, and he started running down the alley, and I plugged him.’…Sure enough, the coroner’s report said bullets in the back. I never did the story. Everybody told me not to.”

If you build it, will they come? According to the 1998 “Metro Survey Report” done by the Metro Chicago Information Center, “57% of area residents prefer to live in a place where shops, restaurants, and train stations are all within walking distance of each other.”

Vagaries of fashion. “In the context of contemporary multiculturalism, there is a heightened awareness of and a celebratory emphasis on differences of race, gender, sexual orientation, and so forth,” according to an article in Commonweal (July 17), quoted in “Context” (October 15). “When it comes to religion, however, the tendency has been to minimize differences and reduce religious distinctions to the lowest common theological denominator.”

Diversity happens in private–in at least some cases, according to a 1992 U.S. Department of Education survey described by Jay Greene in the Heartland Institute publication “Intellectual Ammunition” (September/October). The survey found that 37 percent of private-school students were in “well-integrated” classrooms (within 10 percent of the national average), while only 18 percent of public-school students were. Did the students make friends across racial and ethnic lines? In private schools 31 percent strongly agreed; in public schools, 18 percent.

“Approximately one-third of the plants you are likely to see in most woodlands, wetlands, and grasslands in Illinois are nonnative species,” writes biologist Richard Sparks in the Illinois Natural History Survey’s “Reports” (November/December). But be of good cheer. Zebra mussels and garlic mustard are displacing native species, but “not every species that is introduced to the U.S. survives and establishes self-maintaining populations.”

Not all three at once? “From its beginning, the motorcycle has been far more than a means of transportation,” rhapsodizes someone at the Field Museum in a recent press release on the new “Art of the Motorcycle” exhibit. “A slow walk around the 1965 Kreidler Florett (to take just one example) makes this multiple personality clear: depending on your vantage point (and your state of mind), the bike can look like the sleek body of a woman, a rampaging Cyclops, or the embodiment of mechanics and technology.”

Last stand of the nonacademic law school. “As of 1967 [John Marshall Law School president Noble] Lee refused to meet AALS [Association of American Law Schools] standards as to minimum faculty salaries, maximum teaching hours, and faculty autonomy. JMLS would also accept students who had failed at schools belonging to the AALS, contrary to an unwritten rule.” Lee was “bitter that the legal profession–the rock of the Republic–can be turned over to people who’ve never even handled a five-hundred-dollar property transaction,” and so he made sure that he presided over a faculty “all of whose members had at least five years experience in the practice of law” (from William Wleklinski’s new book, A Centennial History of the John Marshall Law School).

Death retreats a step. Statewide traffic fatalities for the first ten months of the year declined from 1,182 in 1997 to 1,111 in 1998, according to a press release from the Illinois Department of Transportation. And infant mortality rates hit a record low in 1997, 8.2 per 1,000 live births, compared to 10.7 as recently as 1991, according to a press release from the governor’s office. Happy New Year.