“The threat of gentrification on the supply of affordable housing and the expansion of Latino communities is exaggerated,” writes Pierre de Vise in a recent report, “Chicago’s Changing Housing Inventory, 1991 to 1995,” published by the City Club’s Committee on Population and Demographics. “If indeed the white gentry and working class Latinos are engaged in a zero sum game, there is no contest. Between 1991 and 1995, Chicago lost 86,600 whites and gained 112,800 Latinos….For every city block gentrified since 1980, approximately ten blocks were added to the rapidly expanding barrios.”

Community policing in the 50s. “Sunnyland had that gambling joint in Chicago on South Prairie,” recalls David Honeyboy Edwards in his memoir The World Don’t Owe Me Nothing. “He had a piano down in the basement and two crap tables. He was selling whiskey–he’d get it from the bootleggers out in Gary–and he’d sell sandwiches, too. Back at that time, the police was walking the beat. The policeman on the beat by Sunnyland’s used to walk from Twenty-Sixth to Thirty-First Street, back from Thirty-First Street to Sunnyland’s joint and then come in and get drunk and go to sleep with the pistol hanging right off of him! Wouldn’t nobody bother him! He’d go in that joint and get drunk, go to sleep till he get ready to go back to the police station and punch the time clock. Sunnyland paid him off by keeping him drunk all the time, and there was plenty of women laying around there for him, too. So this policeman didn’t let no other police even know where it was.”

Hog wild. According to a recent Illinois Stewardship Alliance analysis of state Department of Agriculture records, pork producers have filed 52 letters of intent to build hog farms housing more than 1,000 head each in just the last five months. If built, the facilities would represent a 73 percent increase in such large operations, and would average 2,500 hogs apiece–almost five times the size of the current average Illinois hog operation. ISA has tried, so far without success, to get state lawmakers to require such industrial-style hog farms to obtain a state permit before opening (Illinois Times, November 6-12).

Great. Now I can’t even understand nothing. From the on-line newsletter “Physics News Update” (November 7): “According to modern field theories, the vacuum is not empty but filled with virtual particles which (through a process called quantum fluctuations) zip into and out of existence.”

Did Native Americans have anything to do with the Ice Age extinctions of 73 percent of North American terrestrial mammals over 100 pounds? Could well be, writes Gary Paul Nabhan in his new book Cultures of Habitat. “Many of the same scholars who grant pre-Columbian cultures more ecological wisdom than recent European colonists deny the possibility that these cultures could have played any role at all in these faunal extinctions, as if that wisdom did not take centuries to accumulate. Do they believe that the pre-Columbian cultures of North America became ‘instant natives’ incapable of overtaxing any resources in their newfound homeland–an incapability that few Europeans have achieved since arriving in the Americas five centuries ago?…It seems plausible that many indigenous American cultures… learned to manage vulnerable habitats and plant populations in response to earlier episodes of overexploitation.”

“Employment is a very powerful tool in combating homelessness,” writes Joel Alfassa in StreetWise (November 25). “The fact is, though, that a lot of people pass us [StreetWise vendors] by almost as if they expect us to disappear. It’s almost like a living form of death. We are, technically speaking, alive, yet socially speaking, we are dead!…Indeed, in some places more people of foreign origin buy these papers than home-grown Americans. I guess that some people come to our country to become Americans and some people just live in America and are along for the ride!”

Evidently school reform began with Daley. U.S. senator Carol Moseley-Braun, explaining in a recent press release why school vouchers would be a bad idea: “In Chicago, innovative leadership and a no-excuses attitude have reshaped the system in only two years. I would be willing to bet that under Paul Vallas’ continued leadership, in a few years the Chicago Public Schools will be a first-rate school system.”

“If you were in medical school and said, ‘I really want to help people, but I just can’t get this chemistry stuff,’ you’d be kicked out,” Mundelein Seminary theologian Father Robert Barron tells U.S. Catholic (December). “Maybe you’re a nice person, but you’re going to do damage somewhere along the line. Why don’t we apply that analogy to the priest? If I had to choose between a smart spiritual director or a well-meaning one, I’d take the smart one any day.”