“Most people in the Chicago area have no idea where their river is located,” writes Laurene von Klan, executive director of Friends of the Chicago River, in the group’s newsletter, “River Reporter” (Spring). “They don’t know that the little ‘ditch’ next to highway 94 up north near Deerfield is a branch of the river. Who would? Or that the lagoons that are at the Botanic Garden are, in a hydrological sense, part of the river. They don’t know that hiding low behind the trees and along McCormick Blvd. is the North Shore Channel, a canal that is part of the river.”

Driving east? Be very polite or don’t stop until you get to Ohio. According to Mark Nichols and John O’Neill, writing in the Indianapolis Star (July 11), 6.7 percent of Indiana residents have a gun permit (302,000 permits total), a higher proportion than in any state except New York.

The hype: Greedy victims and their lawyers are driving up medical malpractice insurance premiums. The facts, in California, anyway: According to findlaw.com columnist Anthony Sebok (July 26), “In 1975, the state passed a tort reform statute designed to reduce medical malpractice costs. But it was not until 1988–when the state began to directly regulate malpractice insurers–that insurance rates actually began to decline.”

“Too many people want to move at the same times each day” and have to do so in order to run the schools and the economy, writes Anthony Downs in a January Brookings Institution policy brief, “Traffic: Why It’s Getting Worse, What Government Can Do.” He goes on, “Even if America’s existing [mass] transit capacity were tripled and fully utilized, morning peak-hour transit travel would rise to 11.0 percent of all morning trips [nationwide]. But that would reduce all morning private vehicle trips by only 8.0 percent–certainly progress, but hardly enough to end congestion.”

Sorry, the Catholic hierarchy discriminates only in ways that favor men. In his newsletter “Context” (August), Martin Marty quotes a letter written by Michael Perillo of Grayslake to the Living Church (May 9): “Recently I read two Associated Press reports that the Roman Catholic archbishops of Atlanta and Boston had banned women from having their feet washed in Maundy Thursday ceremonies. The archbishops were reportedly following a mandate based on the fact that the 12 whose feet Christ washed were all men. I have been looking in vain for the follow-up news reports indicating those same bishops banned men from attending Good Friday services, especially Stations of the Cross. After all, with one exception, our Lord’s male disciples abandoned him at, and before, the foot of the cross. Only the women remained steadfast in the face of evil and danger.”

“The Iraq war was a model of enlightened deliberation compared with the process that resulted in Bush’s signature tax cuts,” writes Jonathan Chait in the New Republic (July 26). “Falsehoods were embedded in nearly every aspect of Bush’s sales pitch: his claim that his tax cut would amount to just one-fourth of the projected surplus (his own figures showed one-third); his assertion that ‘by far the vast majority of my tax cut goes to those at the bottom’ (in fact, some 40 percent went to the wealthiest 1 percent); and his repeated claim that a waitress earning $20,000 a year was the paradigmatic beneficiary of his tax cut (in truth, most such waitresses got nothing from Bush’s plan, and the few who did benefit received about $125). In previous years, the effects of such propaganda would have been blunted by official computations by number-crunchers at the Treasury Department and the Joint Committee on Taxation, who used to release figures on who would benefit from various changes in the tax code. But, when they took control of the White House and Congress, Republicans put a stop to such inconvenient wonkery.”