“Chicago’s teacher salary schedule makes the city a great place to start teaching but a much less attractive place to stay,” reports Catalyst Chicago (February). “In the six-county metropolitan region, beginning elementary teachers have few better-paying alternatives to Chicago, and the city offers fairly competitive pay for beginning high school teachers. But for seasoned veterans, most teaching jobs in the six-county region pay more than Chicago…. Only 3 percent of the region’s high school teaching jobs have a lower top salary than Chicago.”

From the state that brought you Dr. Kevorkian. In a February 19 E-mail presumably intended to attract visitors, the West Michigan Tourist Association reports that the Cherry Hut in Beulah features a “cherry-ade” with “enough sugar to cause a diabetic coma.”

Department of invisible tax cuts. In 1957 Illinois taxed gas at the rate of 5 cents a gallon. Now the tax is 19.3 cents. This isn’t a tax increase, according to the February issue of “Progress,” newsletter of the Surface Transportation Policy Project. If that 1957 tax had increased at the rate of inflation it would now be 27.1 cents.

“The idea of improvement necessarily implies a good, a better, and perhaps even a best,” writes Leon Kass, a social-thought professor at the University of Chicago, in the November/ December American Spectator. So how exactly will we use genetic engineering to improve ourselves and our descendants? The question is harder to answer than it seems. “It will not do to assert that we can extrapolate from what we like about ourselves. Because memory is good, can we say how much more memory would be better? If sexual desire is good, how much more would be better? Life is good, but how much extension of the life span would be good for us?”

Politics: a job for specialists? You bet, says Chicago’s seventh circuit appellate judge Richard Posner in his new book, Law, Pragmatism, and Democracy. “A considerable virtue of modern representative democracy is its enabling people to delegate most political responsibility to specialists in politics, leaving the rest of us free to pursue our private interests. Delegation is not abdication. The political process is competitive, like the market….The relation of officials to voters resembles that between sellers and consumers and between corporate managers and shareholders rather than either the relation among the members of a scientific team or the relation between a charismatic religious leader and his flock.”

“Examine the [hospital] bill for charges that make no sense,” advises the Chicago-based Hospital Accountability Project of the Service Employees International Union in its booklet “Bitter Bills to Swallow: A consumer guide to the 20 most common ways hospitals overcharge patients.” An example? “The charge for circumcision of a newborn baby girl.”

Life in postconstitutional America: it happened at O’Hare. On January 27 Berna Cruz, a Toronto loan officer returning from a visit to family in India, was detained and harassed by Immigration and Naturalization Service officials at O’Hare, who cut and stamped her Canadian passport to make it useless and put her on a plane for Kuwait–all without allowing her to call Canadian officials. According to a February 14 story in the Toronto Star, “At the counter, she says an INS officer told her the picture on her passport looked ‘funky.’ She was brought to a room where other passengers were being checked. They all seemed to be people of colour, she says. She says she noticed that a passenger from her flight who spoke Punjabi had also been pulled aside.” INS officials insisted her passport was fake, though it had passed muster on her outbound flight and on numerous other international trips. “Cruz says an officer also asked her why her surname was not ‘Singh’ and commented that it was clever of her to use a Spanish name. Cruz, who is separated from her husband, says she told the officers that her maiden name is Fernandez. It’s not uncommon for Indian-born people to have Portuguese surnames, but the officers didn’t seem to care, she says.”