It’s a zoo out there. “Approximately 8500 animal lovers nationwide contribute to the care and feeding of Brookfield Zoo’s animals by ‘adopting’ them,” says the zoo’s newsletter Preview (Summer). Among the “parents” and “adoptees” have been “NBC’s David Letterman (giant cockroach), former Illinois Governor Jim Thompson (timber rattlesnake), WBBM TV’s weatherman Harry Volkman (Affie Elephant)…an Illinois State University sorority (python), a Barry Manilow fan club in Country Club Hills (turtle, falconet, and guinea pigs), and the United Motorcyclists of Illinois (six animals)….Hinsdale resident Phyllis Janik wrote a blues lyric about her adoptee, the naked mole-rat queen.”

“High-rolling lobbyists Jim Fletcher and Mike Hasten are packing a powerful one-two punch for Illinois’ biggest utilities,” reports the Citizens Utility Board in CUB News (Spring). “Fletcher, former Deputy Governor in Jim Thompson’s administration, and Hasten, former ICC Chairman, are partners in the ex-governor’s new law firm, Winston and Strawn. Fletcher is Com Ed’s main man in Springfield, while Hasten is representing the company in its franchise negotiations with the City of Chicago. Recently they both were hired by Illinois Bell to sail its “deregulation” ship through the legislature.”

No wimps, please. Chicago Park District lifeguard candidates have to “swim 200 yards in under 3-1/2 minutes; swim 20 yards under water, surface and dive to a depth of 15 feet to retrieve a 25-lb. weight; and break a front and rear headlock of an instructor in a simulated drowning and tow him 25 yards to safety.”

“In the suburbs, racial exclusion is diminishing”–a little–according to the Leadership Council for Metropolitan Open Communities News’ (Spring) peek at the 1990 census. “Whereas in 1980 there were 181 (70%) municipalities that had less than a 1% black population, in 1990 that number has been reduced to 147 (57%); but that’s still considerably more than one half….Only 11% of the increase in black population was in DuPage county and northwest Cook county where the job boom is concentrated, and where the black population is still under 2%.”

“It’s possible…to see the Van Gogh auction [March 10 at Leslie Hindman Auctioneers] as an upscale version of ‘The Price Is Right,’ ” writes David McCracken in the New Art Examiner (May). “More or less applause is elicited for the supposed monetary value of the object to be bid upon (‘a new car! a new bedroom set! a floral still life!’) and simultaneously ratifies the act of pricing itself. The glamor derives as much from the auction’s familiarity–its resemblance to other, more important auctions; other Van Goghs; other, more stupendous sums of money–as from its own temporary cast of characters; everyone knows how this game is played. And, like other studio audiences, those at the Van Gogh auction cheered themselves as insiders nearer the locus of fame.”

When is a crisis not a crisis? “By January 1991, according to the National Newspaper Index, the major dailies had published more than 650 articles on illegal drug abuse in three years,” notes Extra! (May/June). “But while an individual in the U.S. is approximately five times more likely to be involved in a violent relationship than to use drugs on a regular basis, domestic abuse received a fraction of the coverage–87 articles, just under 12 percent. And, in a reflection of where the media want to direct the national will, there were 22 times as many articles on drug prevention as on prevention of family violence.” The Chicago Tribune Index for 1990 lists 66 stories on “drug addiction and abuse” and just 16 on “domestic violence.”

State of the state. From the Illinois School Board Journal (May-June): “Illinois may lag behind in manufacturing and other industries, but our state’s large presence in the Bush Cabinet proves that our number one industry–politics–is still world class.”

When you really need to deceive… Dr. Brian G. Miscall in the Chicago-based American College of Surgeons Bulletin (March): “Many ingenious ways have been devised to cheat the [urine test] system, such as storing urine known to be clean in the freezer and then bringing it in for the test; using someone else’s urine…or even using animal urine. Even the requirement of witnessed collections can be subverted. There are multiple incidents of people catheterizing themselves and instilling normal urine from another individual or animal in their bladders, and then producing witnessed urines that are clean.”

Secrets of war. From the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (May): “Of the 88,500 tons of bombs dropped [on Iraq], only 6,520 tons–7.4 percent–were precision-guided ordnance, according to official Pentagon figures. Most of the weapons used were conventional…”

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