What do Shreveport and Newark have that Chicago doesn’t? Literacy, according to a survey of “America’s Most Literate Cities” produced at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater (www.uww.edu/npa/cities/allrank.html). Seventy-nine American cities with populations of more than 200,000 were ranked in five different categories–educational attainment, newspaper circulation, booksellers, library resources, and periodicals published–all per capita. Minneapolis ranked first overall, Chicago 58th, and El Paso 79th. Chicago’s best ranking, 50th, was in newspaper circulation per capita; its worst, 71st, was in library facilities.

In a sentence. Richard C. Longworth, now executive director of the Global Chicago Center of the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations, summarizes two generations of city politics in the recently published Global Chicago: “City government under Daley I delivered jobs; under Daley II, it delivers amenities.”

“The problem is not that the US is a new global empire, but that it isn’t one,” writes Slavoj Zizek in the London Review of Books (September 2). “In fact, the US continues to act as a nation-state, ruthlessly pursuing its own interests….This contradiction is amply illustrated by the twin pressures the US was exerting on Serbia last year: it demanded that the government in Belgrade hand over suspected war criminals to the Hague tribunal (the logic of the global empire demands a trans-state global judicial institution) while at the same time urging it to sign a bilateral treaty with the US obliging it not to deliver to the International Criminal Court any US citizen suspected of war crimes or other crimes against humanity. No wonder the Serb reaction was one of perplexed fury.”

The cougars are coming. James Krohe Jr. writes in Illinois Issues (July/August): “In 2000, a cougar was killed by a train in Randolph County. Wildlife experts at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale who examined its carcass found that the animal showed no signs of captive rearing….The Eastern Cougar Network has confirmed seven cougars in Missouri and three in Iowa….To an animal that can cover a hundred miles in a day, this is just up the street.” Increased green space has made possible the return of river otters, coyotes, beavers, and deer. But cougars are different. “The renewed presence of these large predators will force authorities to ponder how to protect people from wildlife for the first time since the days when the state paid its citizens a bounty for every wolf they killed.”

The granite pillars of a bank. The ethics of a loan shark. From an August 9 press release on the Woodstock Institute’s comments to the Federal Reserve Board about the benign-sounding “overdraft protection” offered by many banks: “Banks typically will pay for overdrafts and then charge the consumer a stiff fee, typically $25 to $35 per transaction. Many will charge an additional ‘extended’ overdraft fee, usually a $5 to $6 charge for each day the account remains overdrawn. The effective annual percentage rate (APR) for these loans can extend to 2000 percent and above.”

“Popes should serve for 10 years or until they are 75, whichever comes first,” writes Loyola University’s Peter Gilmour in U.S. Catholic (September). “Since Jesus left no instructions on papal term limits, it’s an open question to be answered by the church, perhaps differently for the future than in the past.”