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Revenge of the raccoons. Nearly half of Illinois raccoons tested in a recent three-year study had been exposed to a Leptospira bacteria that can cause disease in humans. Now, according to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, "Leptospirosis was diagnosed recently in a group of Illinois teenagers, who contracted it while swimming in a woodland pond. Most commonly, the disease is spread through contact with infected urine."

Congratulations! You chose the right parents! Lingua Franca (November) notes that children of University of Chicago alumni won't have to pay the $55 processing fee required of all other nonneedy entering freshman applicants.

Work one day a week, go to school ten hours a day the other four? That's the routine for the 95 students at Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in Pilsen, reports Jeff Archer in Education Week (December 11). The novel work-study plan introduces students to preprofessional jobs and keeps their annual tuition down to $1500. It's also part of the school's strict discipline. For student Andres Munoz, who "once felt so uncomfortable in Chicago's schools that he moved back to Mexico to live with his grandparents, Cristo Rey was a chance to come home to his mother and father. He still fondly remembers his Mexican village of Puento Grande, where the greatest violence he'd experience was on the excursions he made with friends to hunt rabbits and birds with slingshots. 'You can walk around and not have to look around you,' he says of Puento Grande. If Cristo Rey doesn't work out, he says he'd like to go back to Mexico."

Reviews we're still not sure about. David Byrne, the former Talking Head, has a photography book said by one critic to have been "photographed with such compositional dignity as to evoke wonderment and interpretation, a rare combination."

"A less disjointed EZ [empowerment zone] would offer many more local working and local hiring opportunities," according to Daniel Immergluck and Timothy Hilton of the Woodstock Institute, on South Dearborn, in a new report, "Breaking Down Barriers: Prospects and Policies for Linking Jobs and Residents in the Chicago Empowerment Zone." Their number-one recommendation: "Local planners should seek to center zones around targeted residential populations with the perimeter of the zone reaching out to pick up nearby job clusters....EZ designs that are relatively compact and avoid long tentacles should be favored." Translation: Chicago's EZ, a politically expedient grab bag of tracts from Woodlawn to North Austin that makes Luis Gutierrez's congressional district look rational, already has one major geographic strike against it in trying to help people find work.

Have you tried freeze-drying? Farmland-protection advocate Lawrence Libby told a Northern Illinois University audience that keeping farmers active is just as important as preserving their land (Northern Today, November 25). "Farmers can not be pickled and put on the shelf for future enjoyment."

Things conservatives don't want to know, from Harper's Index (January): "Rank of Texas, the state with the least generous welfare program, among states with the highest adolescent birth rate: 2. Rank of North Dakota, the state with the most generous program: 50."

Lest we forget. Richard Moser's book The New Winter Soldiers introduces us to "a generation of soldiers who decided in the middle of a war [Vietnam] that their country was wrong and set out to do something about it," writes Barbara Garson in In These Times (December 9). "Were they 20 percent of the U.S. military as Moser estimates, 37 percent as David Cortwright suggested in Soldiers in Revolt or, as at Fort Lewis [Washington], a shifting corps of a few hundred that organized the demonstrations and published the newspapers but had a majority of the 20,000 or so at the base behind them?...Men have always exaggerated their war stories. The country will be a lot safer when they start exaggerating their anti-war stories."

The not-so-secret plan to stop immigration? University of Illinois at Chicago nursing professor Wendy Young, quoted in a recent UIC press release: "Immigrants coming to this country from places that have socialized medicine [most of Europe and Asia] essentially lose their health insurance when they come here, if they're not employed in sectors where they can get private health insurance."

Wanted: fewer policies, more prevention. DePaul psychologist Midge Wilson on why military women victimized by sexual harassment often don't complain through official channels: "For the most part, women just want the offensive activities to stop. They don't want to get others in trouble. They don't want the guilt of ruining someone else's career, someone who may even have a wife who needs his paycheck to feed the kids. They also don't want to deal with the threat of retaliation."

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