Math challenge. From a recent policy paper of the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless on the gross inadequacy of substance abuse treatment facilities: “Over the last 11 years 77% of federal drug control funding has been spent for law enforcement, leaving only 33% for treatment, prevention and research.”

“Civil asset forfeiture”–a constitutionally questionable proceeding now often used in the war on drugs–“has its roots in Biblical times,” writes Michele Jochner in the Illinois Bar Journal (July), “reflecting the view that an object causing death was accursed and religious atonement was required.”

“Standard descriptions of Latino political identity go something like this,” writes Peter Beinart in the New Republic (August 11 & 18). “Latinos are an impoverished community of color who, like African Americans, are heavily invested in a large public sector, and share with them a strong mistrust of the police.” But in Chicago “black unemployment is close to double Latino unemployment. Blacks are three times more likely to be employed by the government. Twenty-three percent of Latino families with children are headed by single mothers, compared to 60 percent of black families. The African American rate of welfare dependency is two and a half times the Latino rate. Latinos not only broke with African Americans over Mayor Richard Daley, voting him into office in 1989 with 80 percent of their votes, compared to 5 percent for blacks, but they have also backed moderate Republican Governor Jim Edgar at more than double the rate of blacks.”

Nature: not designed with middle-class lifestyles in mind. Special Delivery magazine (Winter) quotes from a technical bulletin of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, giving the risk for chromosomal abnormalities in offspring (ranging from “very mild or near normal to severe”) by age of mother. At age 20: 1 in 526. At age 35: 1 in 192. At age 49: 1 in 8.

“In the worst of inner-city schools, the social infrastructure has been so damaged by mutual suspicion, low expectations, factionalization of staff, and general pessimism as to make most school reform efforts irrelevant,” writes sociologist Charles Payne in a new working paper published by Northwestern University (“Institute for Policy Research News,” Summer). After analyzing six years of data on 16 Chicago elementary schools, he found that in some schools teachers weren’t comfortable with the idea of sharing what they did in the classroom with other teachers and that actually visiting someone else’s classroom was commonly referred to as “spying.” Thus “the first two or three years of school reform typically involve clearing away social impediments to change rather than actually implementing any specific program. It may take some schools that long to create a social infrastructure that will give them a chance to start actual implementation.”

Then how about a cigar-shaped air freshener? Christie Hefner on picking products for Playboy Enterprises Inc. to be involved in: “A Playboy cigar is a great idea, but a Playboy air freshener is a stupid idea” (Washington Post, national weekly edition, August 11).

Best-sellers off the beaten track. The four consistently popular authors at the Loop’s U.S. Catholic bookstore, according to manager James Kirkpatrick: Anthony DeMello, C.S. Lewis, Thomas Merton, and Henri Nouwen (U.S. Catholic, May).

Tax food sales again? Illinois abolished the sales tax on most food in 1984, but University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign economists J. Fred Giertz and Therese McGuire figure that reinstating the tax would help schools much more than it would hurt poor people. “Our analysis indicates that an exemption on nearly all grocery foods–filet mignon and lobster as well as hamburger and potatoes–is an inefficient way to deal with the fairness issue,” says Giertz. “Because many poor households rely on food stamps for grocery purchases, which are not taxed anyway, the potential regressivity of a food tax is reduced, though certainly not eliminated.”

James O’Connor, report at once to the nearest juvenile facility. “We have a ‘dysfunctional nuclear family’ here in Illinois,” says David Kraft of the Evanston-based Nuclear Energy Information Service. “Com Ed and IP [Illinois Power] are the ‘out of control’ children, doing terrible things at their reactors, and NRC [the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission] the incompetent parent. NRC scolds them horribly and threatens them with sanctions (‘Just wait ’til your father comes home!’). The utilities meekly apologize, and promise it will never happen again. Then, over and over, NRC says, ‘okay,’ Com Ed and IP keep on making huge mistakes, and the pattern repeats.”