Coffee? Tea? Huitlacoche? It’s an Aztec name for the foul-looking black fungus that can appear on sweet corn–but according to U. of I. plant pathologist Jerald Pataky, who’s working with Mexican colleagues for improved growth of the nutritionally packed fungus, it’s high in carbohydrates and fiber, low in fat, higher in protein than the corn it feeds on, and can be used in soups, salads, crepes, puddings, and even ice cream. Says Pataky in a recent university news release, “The Mexican researchers and their sponsoring canning companies want to reliably produce the mushroom, which we consider a disease but they consider edible.”

Poetry you missed and now you’re sorry. On July 8 David Hernandez read from his poetry collection (published by the Chicago-based Mary Kuntz Press) entitled Elvis Is Dead, But At Least He Isn’t Gaining Any Weight.

“A lot of companies [in ‘white corporate America’] had a hard time understanding that I could think strategically,” says Robert J. Dale, who owns one of the city’s largest African-American advertising agencies, in N’Digo (June 29-July 12). “See, they know Black folks are creative, but when it comes to thinking strategically and quantitatively, they just have a problem grasping that. They just couldn’t look at me and think I could be as smart as they could about the market place.”

If my employer blocks outgoing 900-number calls, is it religious discrimination? Recordings of Pope John Paul II’s weekly audiences at Saint Peter’s Square in Rome are now available at 75 cents per minute by dialing 900-737-POPE.

Besides the obviously endangered Mel Reynolds and Mike Flanagan, Chicago U.S. representative Luis Gutierrez is “very endangered” in 1996, according to Russ Stewart in lIlinois Politics (June). “By feuding with his fellow Puerto Rican pols and not developing support in Mexican-American precincts, Gutierrez will be hard-pressed by just-elected Alderman Ray Frias, a conservative ex-cop who will have solid Mexican-American backing and support from some white Democratic stalwarts.” On the other hand, Republican Jerry Weller seems to hold a safe seat in a district that stretches from the southeast side to downstate LaSalle, and “is now so overwhelmingly Republican that he would be secure if he were a monarchist.”

Militia wackos. “Originally designed to combat the Soviet Union in the 21st century, these Cold War weapons [the B-2, F-22, Seawolf submarine, and others] march on,” writes Ira Shorr in the Chicago-based In These Times (July 10). “Congress’ determination to disregard reality creates paradoxes that rival the most demented logic of the American arms build-up at the height of the Cold War. For example, production of the F-22 will compel the Air Force to prematurely retire F-15 fighters, which are already the world’s best combat aircraft–and will likely remain so until 2014 and beyond. The United States would essentially be throwing away years of useful service life for the F-15 by pursuing an arms race with itself.”

Seventh city. According to HNTB Designer (#57), O’Hare slipped from sixth to seventh busiest cargo airport in the world in 1993, at 1.15 million metric tons, behind Memphis, Tokyo’s Narita, New York’s JFK, Los Angeles, Frankfurt, and Miami.

I’m sorry ma’am, but you must remove those earrings. “A male airline baggage handler who was not allowed to wear a ponytail and earring may sue his employer for discrimination,” according to the summary of a recent court decision in 5 Minute Roundup (July). “The problem occurred because the airline strictly enforced its dress code with respect to male employees, while female employees were permitted to wear earrings that violated the code. The court decreed this was ‘discriminatory enforcement.'”

Don’t you wish you could live a natural life on a small farm or in a small town of a century ago? Check out Southern Illinois University anthropologist Jane Adams’s new book, The Transformation of Rural Life: Southern Illinois, 1890-1990. Says Adams in an SIU news release, “The communities [in far-downstate Union County] had much denser networks of people before World War II. Now people say they don’t know their neighbors, whereas 40 years ago, they did. That sense of being rooted socially has been tremendously weakened or erased.” And yet few Union County residents said they would trade today’s affluence to go back to the region’s farming heyday. “People worked extremely hard back then–there was no electricity or running water in these areas,” notes Adams. “And the class and gender relations were quite oppressive. It was a community based on a great deal of misery.”

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