Then they heard about the mandatory zero-calorie diet. From a Marshall Field’s release: “According to a recent survey by Mademoiselle magazine, 89 percent of all women have wanted to become a model at some point in their lives.”

Dysentery in Arlington Heights? You bet. Last August it afflicted 17 people (15 of them children) who live in the primitive accommodations Arlington International Racecourse provides its workers in the “backstretch,” as documented by Danielle Gordon in the Chicago Reporter (March). “Most of the workers with families live in a two-story, concrete-block dormitory with rooms just under 12 feet by 12 feet. The rooms have cement floors and walls, naked light bulbs and no telephone jacks or kitchen facilities. Windows and doors are on the same wall, offering no cross ventilation. At the center of each row of rooms are communal bathrooms.”

“The emerging information superhighway…has the potential to be the most environmentally destructive technology of the early twenty-first century,” claims Northwestern University political scientist James Snider in the Futurist (March-April), because it might let people live where they want. “If all Americans succeed in getting their dream homes with several acres of land, the forests and open lands across the entire continental United States will be destroyed….Today’s one-acre apartment building with 200 families will turn into 200 five-acre homesteads spread out over 1,000 acres….Paul Ehrlich calls for ‘a near absolute ban on the building of new freeways and roads.’ But environmentalists have yet to discover that the information superhighway might not only be destructive, but far more so than the physical highways of the past.”

It’s all in the context. “The role of women in the church is not nearly as acutely debated” in Eastern Europe as in the West, Monsignor R. George Sarauskas tells the editors of Chicago-based U.S. Catholic (April). “Over there religious women are back in habits….These are women who for years had to keep that veil hidden somewhere under a floorboard. To be out in public in a religious habit now is a matter of pride.”

What price equity? The state of Michigan recently replaced property taxes as the primary source of school funding, raised the base funding level from $3,000 to $5,000 per student, and greatly reduced funding disparities between school districts, according to a convention workshop report from the Illinois School Board Journal. The trade-off: “local control [was] replaced by more state control,” including a mandated curriculum and statewide proficiency testing, mandated breakfast programs and communicable disease instruction, standards for retention and staff development, and an increase in the number of hours in the school day.

Oh, my aching head. University of Chicago paleontologist David Jablonski, who along with David Raup has found that extinctions at the end of the age of dinosaurs included more species than previously thought, acknowledges in a university press release that from this distance they can’t zero in much closer than an eight-million-year slice of geologic time: “We don’t know if it happened over 5 million years or one bad weekend.”

“The major cause of Amtrak’s deficit, train service on the Boston-Washington Northeast Corridor [NEC], has received only token cuts in service,” Illinois Rail, the Illinois Association of Railroad Passengers, complained in a recent press release after Amtrak released plans to run fewer trains from Chicago to Carbondale, New Orleans, Indianapolis, and Quincy and none at all to Pittsburgh and Cincinnati. “Amtrak’s own financial statement shows that nearly the entire federal subsidy is consumed by the NEC,” says Illinois Rail vice president Dave Randall, “yet–when it comes time to cut trains–the rest of the country suffers. Where’s the common sense and fairness in all this?”

“I have never known writers who were as selfless as the jazz musicians I knew in Chicago,” writes Hayden Carruth in An Unsentimental Education: Writers and Chicago. “When we listened to records and talked about them, there was no personal element, no rivalry, no ambition, nothing like what you find almost everywhere in the literary world.”

Fix your house and quit bellyaching about pollution. That seems to be the implication of a study of 490 children’s exposure to toxic lead near a defunct smelter in downstate Granite City published in Pediatrics (April). The authors, including David Webb of the state health department, found that children there averaged blood lead levels well below the level of concern, and that high levels of lead in the soil (comparable to levels measured near Chicago’s Northwest Incinerator) seemed to have had little effect on those children who did suffer from lead poisoning. “Overall, the environmental lead measures per se did not account for most of the variation in BPb [blood lead levels] of the children. Other variables such as the ‘condition of the house’ and housekeeping practices played a major role. Improving the condition of homes and educating the parents and caretakers about personal hygiene such as washing hands and cutting fingernails short, house cleaning, and pathways of lead exposure appear to be effective in reducing slightly elevated BPb and should be studied further.”

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