You’ve heard of lost wetlands, but have you shed a tear for the midwestern beavers? Donald Hey and Nancy Philippi, in a recent publication of the Chicago-based Wetlands Initiative, estimate that the upper Mississippi and Missouri river basins have lost 26 million acres of water surface area since white settlement began–and perhaps 51 million acres of beaver ponds, lost not to modern industry but to the canoe-era fur trade, which rendered the buck-toothed creatures nearly extinct in Illinois by 1843.

“I can’t get no satisfaction”–one of the great ideas of Western thought. Chicago publisher Open Court notes in a press release that its recent book Philosophy at 33N rpm: Themes of Classic Rock Music “is the first and only book to discuss in detail the ideas in the lyrics of classic rock songs, to analyze these ideas in depth, and to show their connections with great ideas which have shaped–and continue to shape–Western culture and political life.”

If you’re charged with a crime, you should be able to look the witnesses in the eye, says the state ACLU in the Brief (Fall), urging a vote against the proposed “confrontation clause amendment” to the Illinois Constitution this fall. “Requiring testimony to be given in the accused’s presence is a judicial practice that goes back to Roman times. It is commonly accepted as a method likely to confound and undo false accusers. In the case of a child, for example, seeing the falsely accused person may prompt him or her to recant accusations that have been coached by a malevolent adult–unfortunately, a well-documented practice in recent years.”

Why there’s grade inflation for teachers, too, as explained by Lorraine Forte in Catalyst (October): “From a principal’s point of view, there’s a distinct Catch-22 to giving a teacher a rating of ‘unsatisfactory,’ no matter how poor their performance. A teacher with an ‘unsatisfactory’ rating cannot be transferred to another school, yet it can take years to fire a teacher.”

How not to write to politicians, according to the League of Women Voters Education Fund: “DON’T begin on the righteous note of ‘As a citizen and taxpayer…..’ Your elected representatives assume you are a citizen, they know we all pay taxes….DON’T say ‘I hope this gets by your secretary.’ This only irritates the staff….DON’T be vague. Some letters received in congressional offices are couched in such general terms that it leaves the senator or representative and staff wondering what the writer had in mind.”

And here we have footnote 666 … “A recent visitor, who in the midst of his life’s struggle became an evangelical Christian with a pronounced fascination with the end times, perused some academic books on my shelf and began reading skeptically,” writes tolerant theologian James Fisher of Saint Louis University in Pew Notes (Summer). “He finally asked me what was the purpose of the tiny numbers at the end of paragraphs? We academics who would summarily dismiss the complicated numerology at the heart of many premillennial sign systems might consider our own fervent need to order meaning in our lives through numbers, charts and databases.”

“When a strong Republican leads an environmental initiative on the floor of Congress, it often has the beneficial effect of splintering partisan opposition to the bill,” reports the League of Conservation Voters in its February 1994 scorecard on Congress. “This tactic was most successful in the House in 1993 on amendments that combined fiscal conservatism and environmental protection.” Nevertheless, north suburban Representative John Porter, “with strong encouragement from the national environmental community, was unable to overcome the Democratic leadership’s insistence on wasteful spending on new roads through national forests.”

Shape up, guys. “In addition to directly contributing to programs that serve women, [Chicago mystery writer Sara] Paretsky also exercises her power of philanthropy by not donating to organizations that marginalize women,” writes Dimitra Tasiouras in the Chicago Foundation for Women Newsletter (Fall). “She thinks that ‘there are still enormous disparities in many larger nonprofit organizations as far as women are concerned. Women have often been assigned to an auxiliary capacity. I don’t give money to many of the larger institutions in town because I don’t think they take women seriously–and I always tell them this when they ask for a donation.'”

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): illustration/Carl Kock.