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Anything to keep from having to go outdoors and feel the ground. Colorado State University is trumpeting its development of a “Smart Valve”–complete with pistons, metering chambers, valves, hydraulic fluid, and a porous ceramic wick–which can sense the amount of moisture in the soil and turn off automatic sprinkler systems when it’s raining.

“No one is ‘endangered’ immediately …when the kids borrow the batteries from the smoke detectors–until it happens in conjunction with a fire,” writes David Kraft of the Evanston-based Nuclear Energy Information Service, putting a corrective spin on Com Ed’s cheery PR responses (“the public was not endangered”) to its blunderful management of its nuclear reactors. When four sensors that monitor the Zion plant’s emergency core cooling system were accidentally turned off for a few days in March, “the only reason the ‘public was not endangered’… was because this serious error did not occur in conjunction with an accident at Zion that the sensors were designed to detect. That this incident occurred at a time when both reactors were in shutdown mode rather than at full operating power was a matter of dumb luck, not managerial prescience or intentional planning.”

NOW where do we go? “The people in my neighborhood came to Chicago to work in the factories and the stock yards,” says Abdul Alkalimat, who works for a publisher on East 43rd St., now known as Muddy Waters Drive, quoted in Video (May/June). “The jobs were good and provided an immediate upgrade in the quality of life one had in Mississippi or Arkansas. They were forced to come because the invention of the mechanical cotton picker abruptly ended any need for unskilled field labor. Now these people are being kicked out of the factories, this time by the computer and robotic technology…. The future is fast being defined as a worker-less society.”

Memo to Republicans: remember to explain just why certain newborns deserve their tax deductions, while others don’t deserve their welfare benefits. The American Civil Liberties Union, on proposals to not raise welfare benefits for women on welfare who have additional babies: “Currently, a family’s benefits level is calculated on a per capita basis, so that payments increase with the birth of an additional child–just as a middle class family’s dependent tax deduction increases with the birth of an additional child…. There is no valid basis for the government to distinguish between middle class parents who get income support through tax deductions and poor parents who get income support through AFDC.”

And if that’s not enough to shame a legislator, try this, from the same ACLU press release: “Empirical evidence strongly suggests that women do not choose to have children because of the small increase in welfare benefits. A 1992 report by Child Trends Inc. found that the five states with the highest birthrates among 18- and 19-year-old women–Arizona, Arkansas, Mississippi, Nevada and New Mexico–all have AFDC benefits below the national median; the four states with the lowest birthrates among 18- and 19-year-old women–Massachusetts, New Hampshire, North Dakota and Vermont–all have AFDC benefits above the national median. If living far below the poverty line does not, in itself, reduce childbearing, there is no reason to expect that the denial of a very small incremental increase will have that effect.”

Should men be allowed to practice law? From the 1993 Annual Report of the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission, we learn that women made up 24 percent of Illinois lawyers last year–but only 6 percent of the lawyers who were disciplined by the state supreme court for lack of diligence, fraud, deception, and other forms of misconduct.

“I asked, have you ever been the only policeman at a gathering? What’s it like?” That’s cultural-sensitivity trainer Gail Stern, profiled in UIC News (April 27), describing a session with Chicago police sergeants. “They answered that they hate it. There’s always some guy asking about a parking ticket, or why did you guys beat up Rodney King? Finally, one officer said, ‘I don’t tell them I’m a cop. I tell them I’m a pipefitter.’ So I said, ‘Why do you do that?’ ‘Well, that’s my other profession,’ he said, ‘and I’m just sick and tired of all the crap people give you, and what they say to my wife…’ I said, ‘So you’re in the closet, aren’t you?’ He looked really stunned and was quiet for a minute, and then he said, ‘Oh my God, I understand.'”

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