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George Ryan wasn’t the first. University of Chicago law professor Albert Alschuler notes in the University of Chicago Chronicle (January 23): “Governors Alfred E. Smith and Herbert H. Lehman of New York commuted every case where at least one justice of the Court of Appeals had dissented from the court’s affirmation of the death sentence.”

Having it both ways. In a new Elkhart County, Indiana, tourist booklet, the county calls itself “Amish Country Northern Indiana,” splashing on its cover a picture of two young girls who appear to be members of the nondriving, non-electricity-using religious sect–and then boasts that the county manufactures half of all RVs in the U.S., making it the “RV Capital of the world.”

Mission creep. On January 27 the Illinois Older Worker Information Clearinghouse, a government-funded job-counseling operation based in far downstate Harrisburg, issued a press release heralding its new definition of older workers: “between the ages of 16 and 83.”

From another city’s file. Margo Freistadt of the San Francisco Chronicle (January 19) proposes that every child in California “be given a 13-year prison sentence at age 5, with the possibility of a four-year extension. That way, the $7,000 the state spends per student each year could immediately be raised to $27,000–what the state spends on each inmate annually.”

“Some hospitals charge much more for the same services than other hospitals in the same market,” according to the Chicago-based Hospital Accountability Project of the Service Employees International Union (“Bitter Bills to Swallow: A consumer guide to the 20 most common ways hospitals overcharge patients”). “The 1999 ‘Illinois Hospital Price Survey Report,’ published by the Illinois Health Care Cost Containment Council, stated that Provident Hospital in Chicago charged $630 for a semi-private room while Illinois Masonic Hospital charged $1,053 for a semi-private room. Chest x-ray charges varied from $79 at Bethany Hospital to $226 at the Illinois Masonic Hospital.” The point? “If you have been charged $220 for a chest x-ray, you should be able to use the information in this report to argue that the price was unreasonably high.”

Suburbanites for sprawl. According to Aurora’s Beacon News (February 12), the Fox River suburb of Montgomery recently rejected a developer’s proposal to build a subdivision in which some lots would contain “only” 9,000 square feet. Village trustees insist that they will approve only subdivisions in which all lots are at least 11,000 square feet–thus guaranteeing that population growth will take up more space.

Budget tricks you knew wouldn’t work. A February 1 press release from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign passes on the views of economist J. Fred Giertz: “It was hoped that a 40-cent-a-pack increase in the cigarette tax last year would generate $235 million of state revenue. However, the total is falling short by as much as $80 million, partly because of a decline in consumption and partly because of an increase in cigarette smuggling.”

The last word on affirmative action, from George Curry, writing at BlackPressUSA.com: “Far more Whites have entered the gates of the 10 most elite American universities through alumni preference–or legacy programs–than the combined numbers of all African-Americans and Latinos entering through affirmative action. Yet, neither Bush nor his Right-wing ideologues attack this class-based preference program….As the ‘Wall Street Journal’ reported recently, ‘Harvard accepts 40 percent of legacy applicants, compared with an 11 percent overall acceptance rate.'” At the University of Michigan, flashpoint of the current controversy, “just as people of color can be awarded 20 points because of their historical exclusion, socio-economically disadvantaged students, regardless of their race, can also receive 20 points (no student can get points for each). Athletes being recruited on scholarship also receive 20 points. Applicants living in the Upper Peninsula are given 16 points….Extra points are awarded to men who go into nursing and women who major in engineering.” Yet conservatives are taking only one of these programs to court.