“Many people have hoped that biotechnology will usher in a new non-chemical era in agriculture,” we read in Not Man Apart (March-April 1987). “Through careful breeding, plants could be made resistant to disease and insects, instead of being doused with a plethora of dangerous and toxic pesticides and herbicides.” No such luck. Scientists at the University of Wisconsin are working backwards–adding a gene to poplar trees (grown for paper) that makes them more resistant to herbicides, instead of more resistant to weeds.

Be sure to send Dan Rostenkowski a thank-you note. “Additional hours Americans will spend on paperwork in 1987 as a result of the 1986 Tax Reform Act,” according to Harper’s “Index” (October 1987): “105,000,000.”

“During the 1986-87 school year alone, [Chicago Public Schools’] spending for the central office increased from $68.8 million to $82.2 million–an all time record increase,” write teachers Leo Gorenstein and Chris Johnson in Substance (September 1987). “With this $14 million the board could have chosen instead to lower class size system-wide by one, or probably nearly two if the money had gone to the elementary schools only.” They point out, “Clearly the board is not forced to hire bureaucrats rather than teachers. Rather it chooses to assign resources to the bureaucracy rather than the classroom.”

Garbage doesn’t lie, but people do. The food service industry’s Power Marketing Quarterly (Summer 1987) reports on the findings of an Arizona archaeologist’s study of U.S. garbage: “Americans routinely under-report the amount of sugar, candy, chips, beer and coffee they consume–while overestimating the amount of foods from the “fitness group’ (cottage cheese, diet soft drinks, tuna, liver) they consume.”

A year in the life of nuclear power, according to selected U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission accounts of power-plant mishaps at Commonwealth Edison installations, as reported by Public Citizen’s 1986 Nuclear Power Safety Report:

April 1. Dresden 2 (Morris). Inspections reveal that the control room panels have never been bolted and welded in place in order to withstand an earthquake; the problem may have existed since the plant was built in the early 1970s.

June 1. LaSalle 2. Plant fails to shut down when water level drops dangerously low inside the reactor–due to poorly calibrated pressure switch.

September 11. Zion 1. During maintenance operation, a leak of radioactive gases leads to high radiation levels in the control room and elsewhere in the plant; 4,500 cubic feet of radioactive gas is “lost.”

November 10. Quad Cities 1 and 2. Ten of 24 reactor operators and senior reactor operators fail their written NRC requalification exams.

November 12. Quad Cities 1. Inspections reveal that the control room panels have not been bolted and welded in place in order to withstand an earthquake; the problem may have existed since the plant was built.

Four years ago the Illinois Department of Human Rights was underfunded and poorly managed, according to a Chicago Reporter investigation. “The department had a backlog of 1,383 cases and had lost $348,488 in [federal] funds in 1982.” Times have not changed. According to Victor Crown in the Reporter (September 1987), “Records show the backlog of cases remains, funding has slowed and the gap between Illinois and other states widened.” Nebraska (that well-known hotbed of racial problems) spends twice as much per capita on its state human-rights enforcement as does the Land of Lincoln.

I can’t start a business, I don’t have my B. Ent. yet. The Illinois Department of Commerce and Community Affairs is distributing free booklets to help “entrepreneurship teachers and trainers” and their organizations. Does that make the booklets’ authors entrepreneur teacher teachers?

Once you start giving those suburbanites a handout, they just come to expect it . . . “Subsidies still exist” after seven years of Ronald Reagan, writes Chicago Rehab Network president Juan Rivera in the Network Builder (August/September 1987)–“the question is, where are they going? . . . The total federal tax subsidies for homeowners in 1986 amounted to $42.4 billion, which includes deductions for home mortgages, property taxes, capital gains exclusions and deferrals.” But “the total federal expenditures during 1986 for housing assistance to low income households, including both urban and rural programs, was only $14.3 billion.”

“God’s Little Acre,” 6400-6401 S. Kimbark, is the best community garden in Chicago, according to the results of the Chicago Botanic Garden’s 1987 “Planting With Pride” contest.

Favorite Chicago interiors of Marya Lilien, retired head of the Art Institute’s interior design program, profiled in Inland Architect (September/October 1987): the Auditorium Theatre, the atrium of the State of Illinois Center, Unity Temple, the Rookery Building lobby, the entrance to Water Tower Place, and (an exterior interior?) the First National Bank Plaza.

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