What’s the difference between CHA’s Rockwell Gardens housing development and a prison? One resident told Doug Dobmeyer, “From what I know, the biggest difference is people here have nothing to do” (Poverty Issues…Dateline Illinois, August 25).

Chicago’s most toxic zip codes, according to 1993 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency toxics-release-inventory data compiled by Citizens for a Better Environment: 60622, 60612, 60608, 60623, 60609, 60632, and 60638 (near-west and southwest sides heading down the Stevenson), and 60627, 60628, and 60633 (southeast side). In a class by itself is zip code 60617 on the far southeast side, with over 43 million pounds of toxic chemical releases or transfers, more than three times greater than the next worst zip code.

The continuing noncrisis. According to Illinois State Police figures reported in the Compiler (Summer), about 76,000 cars were stolen in Illinois in 1991, and about 62,000 in 1995.

“The essential Catholic position [is] that life is sacred and must be protected at all stages and in all situations,” writes Chris Byrd in the Chicago-based Salt of the Earth (September/October). Byrd is fed up with antiabortion activists who support the death penalty, and with death-penalty opponents who support the right to choose abortion. “If Catholics want to be known as more than a one-issue church…then our leaders need to reconsider their carefully crafted statements on the death penalty and speak out against it as vigorously as they do against abortion.”

If they admit it, it must be true. In its 1996 “Fiscal Policy Report Card on America’s Governors,” the libertarian Cato Institute acknowledges that “Illinois is a low-tax-and-spend state–relative to personal income.” (That didn’t stop the doctrinaire free-marketeers from giving Jim Edgar a grade of D because “the state now spends roughly $700 more per family than in 1991.”)

A day without human rights is like a day without a bicycle. “Even if it were true–which it is not–that the ideas underlying contemporary human rights law first arose in some cultures but not others, the legal norms embodying these values would still apply to countries with different histories and cultures,” writes Morton Winston in Amnesty Action (Summer). “The fact that the bicycle was invented in France (or perhaps Scotland) does not mean that bicycles are an inappropriate means of transportation in China.”

“Ameritech is…one of just a handful of phone companies in the nation that raise the price of a local pay phone call based on the distance of the call,” according to a recent press release from the Citizens Utility Board. “For example, the basic fee for the first three minutes jumps from 35 cents to 50 cents for calls placed to a location between eight and 15 miles away and to 80 cents for calls placed between 15 and 30 miles…. The shortest distance 10-minute call at an Ameritech pay phone costs 85 cents in Illinois, but just 25 cents in Indiana and Ohio.”

At last, a purpose for compulsive suburbanites. The first Illinoisan has died of an extremely rare and often fatal illness, hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, caused by inhaling air containing dust from an infected rodent’s excrement or saliva. In a recent press release the state Department of Public Health recommends “denying rodents food, water, nesting sites and entry to the building, and keeping the grass cut short.”