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Bet on it. Amount contributed to Republicans by commercial gambling and casino companies in the 1995-'96 federal election cycle, according to University of Illinois professor John Kindt, writing in the Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science (March): $1.5 million. Amount contributed to Democrats by American Indian tribes in the business: $1.2 million. Annual budget of the National Coalition Against Legalized Gambling: less than $150,000.

Kids, don't try to reach the Web site of the amateur-astronomy magazine Sky & Telescope if your school has one of those "net-minder" programs. According to New Scientist (March 28), "Because of the frequent appearance of the term 'naked eye' on its Web pages [referring to observations made without a telescope or binocular], some of these search-and-ban programs have blocked access."

The greatest sports blunder of all time? According to Chicago-Kent College of Law professor Eldon Ham, it was made by a nine-man team of Supreme Court justices back in 1922, when they ruled that antitrust laws did not apply to baseball. This illogical decision, Ham notes, was probably meant to save the game but ultimately has helped drag it down. It "made the Baseball union so necessary, and consequently so powerful, all of which led to an all-out interstate war between millionaire owners and millionaire players, turning off fans, driving down attendance, crippling television revenues, and generally causing the demise of Baseball as the number one team sport in the country." In case you're wondering, the Portland Trail Blazers' failure to pick Michael Jordan in the 1984 draft is only the fourth greatest blunder in Ham's rankings, listed in his recently published book The 100 Greatest Sports Blunders of All Time.

A pound of cure. The Chicago Department of Human Services' five-year plan for homeless shelters is missing important pieces, according to the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless ("Homeward Bound," Spring). "The CDHS plan makes no mention of preventing homelessness." By contrast, "St. Louis makes seven different prevention programs available before people enter the shelter system. These programs provide services such as relocation assistance, help in paying back rent, landlord intervention, and housing counseling. Together these programs keep people housed and ease overcrowding in the shelters."

"We are amazed (but not surprised) by [Amtrak president and CEO George] Warrington's explicit admission that, after 27 years in business, Amtrak management still does not know what their customers expect of their service, or why they choose to ride Amtrak's trains for the first time or, hopefully, a second time; or even precisely what it costs to provide Amtrak's various services," states an editorial note in Chicago's 20th Century Railroad Club newsletter, the "Fast Mail" (April). "We can't help but wonder just exactly what the hundreds of employees in their 'sales and marketing' and 'finance' departments have been up to all these years."

"The belief is that all nonresident fathers are deadbeat dads who could provide for their children but choose not to," says Waldo Johnson Jr. of the University of Chicago's School of Social Service Administration, according to a recent press release. "There are some of those men, and those fathers should be held accountable for their children. But there are more low-income, poorly educated fathers with weak connections to the workforce who want to be a part of their children's lives, but don't know how."

Bacon for our riverside picnic, anyone? A press release from the environmental group American Rivers designates the Apple River in Illinois' Jo Daviess County the ninth-most endangered river in the U.S., because Monticello Pork is building two factory hog farms, with 12,000 hogs, in its drainage basin. Such farms have been responsible for large manure spills into rural rivers in recent years. Monticello had planned to build in southern Wisconsin but couldn't get a permit; Illinois requires no permit. The Apple is one of the few rivers in the state regularly stocked with trout.

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