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We're number five! We're number five! Illinois jumped from sixth to fifth among states in dollar value of foreign exports between 1994 and 1996, according to the summer edition of "Export Matters," published by the International Trade Center on West Bradley Place. State exports rose from $26.4 billion in 1994 (5.1 percent of the U.S. total) to $34.7 billion in 1996 (5.6 percent). None of the top four exporting states--California, Texas, New York, and Michigan--are in any danger of being overtaken.

"The mayor has consolidated his control over all of the patronage-rich offices in local government," completing his sweep with Richard Devine's upset of Jack O'Malley last fall, write Victor Crown and Karen Nagel in Illinois Politics (June). "Without any local opposition from independents or Republicans, and with his victory in the Chicago ward remap case (Barnett v. Daley), the mayor is now poised to make a power play in the state capitol," with friends or relatives aiming at the offices of governor, comptroller, and secretary of state.

Home tours we didn't take. A tour organized last month by Lakefront SRO included a visit to "Wit's End" in southwestern Michigan, a house built "in a post-modern style that reflects the vernacular styles of a Michigan cottage, a New England farm house and Mississippi slave quarters."

Yes, officer, I drove home with an air freshener in the car, put on a blue bandanna to pitchfork straw in the garden, and came inside for a glass of champagne--what's the problem? From a release promoting Steven Sachs's new book Street Gang Awareness: "What do blue bandannas, champagne glasses, Los Angeles King starter jackets, pitchforks, and automobile air-fresheners have in common? Unfortunately, very few parents or educators would recognize these items as gang signs--a secret system of clothing and hairstyles, body ornaments and tattoos, graffiti, and hand signals used by gangs across the US to identify their members and territories."

Shortcut to heaven? Kathy Coffey in the Chicago-based U.S. Catholic (August): "Oddly enough, traveling beside a 15-year-old boy with a new driver's permit doesn't get much play in classic works on spirituality."

People who fished last year, according to a Census Bureau survey conducted for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service: 35 million. Average amount each spent on fishing: $1,080. People who hunted: 14 million. Average amount spent: $1,492. People who watched, photographed, or fed wildlife: 63 million. Average amount spent: $492.

How's your culture-o-meter? According to University of Iowa linguist Robert Wachal, cited in "Copy Editor" (June/July), "Words for body parts and functions, such as ass and piss, are becoming less taboo, while derisive words for ethnic groups, such as kike and spick, are becoming more taboo."

Sorry, we're too busy to regulate doctors. The state Department of Professional Regulation, whose nondiscipline of delinquent MDs has become notorious, recently announced that all "barber, beauty, nail technology and esthetician shops and salons" must now register with the state and pay $40 for the privilege every two years.

"A PBS executive...once described public television as 'English people talking and animals mating, and occasionally vice versa,'" according to Northwestern University's Institute for Policy Research News (Summer). "In a multichannel environment, Englishmen and animals are now available elsewhere, and the competition for all forms of programming drives up costs, thus making public broadcasting's financial weakness very nearly debilitating."

Advice least likely to be appreciated by parents, quoted in the Chicago-based newsletter "Bringing Religion Home" (August/September): "If one of your child's grandparents is deceased, ask your child where he or she thinks grandma or grandpa is. Be ready to offer a thoughtful explanation."

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