“Just as Chicago provided school choice to students at only a portion of the eligible schools last fall, CPS [Chicago Public Schools] now proposes to provide parental-choice tutoring this year to children at only 13 of the 25 eligible schools, leaving 12 high schools out of the loop,” writes Alexander Russo in Catalyst Chicago (March). “However, federal officials have signaled that CPS may not get away with that. ‘Nobody has been given any special dispensation to serve fewer schools this year,’ says Melinda Malico of the U.S. Department of Education. ‘They have to provide the option for supplemental services to any low-income student in a school that is in the second year of school improvement.'”

“Four out of five U.S. hogs are raised in CAFOs,” that is, “concentrated animal feeding operations,” which are much larger than conventional hog farms, reports Brian DeVore in Sierra (March/April). “But change is in the air.” Well, maybe not. His best example is Iowa, where just 4 percent of the state’s hogs are raised in more humane and less polluting “hoop houses.” He also claims hopefully that “more and more shoppers are willing to pay a premium for sustainably farmed pork–about $2 more per pound than the mass-produced variety, higher still for organic.”

Outside the spotlight. From the winter issue of “What Goes Around,” the Chicago Recycling Coalition’s newsletter: “This fall, the Department of Environment made a point of announcing how [the city’s new recycling contract with Allied Waste] will require that a greater percentage of recycled commodities (paper, cardboard, glass, metal, and plastic) be retrieved from the trash at the sorting facilities. In the past, this percentage hovered around 10 percent. Now an average of 12 percent is mandated. This is hardly an ambitious increase, but the fine print negates even this minimal progress. Schedule 2A states: ‘The Commodities Recovery Rate in each calendar month shall not be less than twelve percent (12%), provided however, that the Contractor shall be liable to the City for Liquidated Damages …only if the Contractor fails to achieve a Commodities Recovery Rate of at least 10 percent.’ So folks, it’s ‘strive’ for 12 percent; but it’s OK to end up with the same old lousy numbers.”

Homeland security is so 2002. From a report (GAO-03-439) by the government’s still small voice, the General Accounting Office: “To date, no one has comprehensively assessed the security of chemical facilities. No federal laws explicitly require that chemical facilities assess vulnerabilities or take security actions to safeguard their facilities from attack….EPA, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Department of Justice have taken preliminary steps to assist the industry in its preparedness efforts, but no agency monitors or documents the extent to which chemical facilities have implemented security measures….Both the Secretary of Homeland Security and the Administrator of EPA have stated that voluntary efforts alone are not sufficient to assure the public of industry’s preparedness.”

It’s safer to turn your back on your partner than it was ten years ago. According to a Bureau of Justice Statistics Crime Data Brief, “Intimate Partner Violence, 1993-2001” (February), the number of rapes, sexual assaults, robberies, and assaults in this country committed by one intimate partner on the other in 1993 was 1.26 million. In 2001it was 691,000.

Stop the blandness! “It is because all major religions are not in essence the same that engaging in dialogues is worthwhile,” writes Miroslav Volf in the January 25 issue of Christian Century (quoted in “Context,” April 1). “Since truth matters, and since a false pluralism of approving pats on the back is cheap and short-lived, we will rejoice over overlaps and engage others over differences and incompatibilities, so as to both learn from and teach others.”