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Republicans, Democrats, and CUB agree: don't merge the phone company. The Citizens Utility Board, the state attorney general, and the Cook County state's attorney all oppose the proposed takeover of Ameritech by SBC. According to a November CUB press release, "Service quality declined and...SBC tried to raise prices for consumers after it acquired California's Pacific Telesis last year. Similar results are even more likely in Illinois, since SBC plans to embark on a risky strategy to market its service nationally in 30 different cities and since the company will be paying a premium price [$13 billion over what the stock market thinks it's worth] to acquire Ameritech."

Gee, I guess this rules out the medium of urine for displaying a crucifix, right? The fifth of five items in the mission statement of the Chicago Windy City Artists: "To adhere to the moral standards set forth by the community in which our work is displayed."

Freedom's just another word for hand tools and standing on chairs. According to "Show Times" (Fall), newsletter of the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority, McCormick Place exhibitors are now a bit freer to do it themselves. "For any type of display booth of 300 square feet or less, an exhibitor may now do their own assembly and decoration work. The only restriction is that work involving the use of power tools or ladders must be performed by carpenters."

All those giveaways for nothing. This from the Kalamazoo-based Upjohn Institute's newsletter "Employment Research" (Fall): "After at least a decade and a half of intense competition for investment and jobs and the widespread adoption of pro-development tax policies and development programs, states and cities have produced a system of taxes and incentives that provides no clear inducement for firms to invest in higher-unemployment places."

Bad news for writers born before 1968. Sun-Times editor in chief Nigel Wade, quoted in the "Chicago Journalist" (November) at a gathering for high school students at Loyola University: "You don't have a lot of time. If you're not a star somewhere by age 30, you're probably not going to be one."

Things you need to tell people these days. From David James, who does hiring for the San Diego city attorney, in the Chicago-based Student Lawyer (November): "Don't hand an employer a writing sample that is not as perfect as you can make it. I've had students give me writing samples that contain graders' critical comments in the margins."

Would the drop be directly proportional to the number of guys in the office, by any chance? "When [a nonprofit] agency first gains access to the Internet, it can expect a slight drop in staff productivity for the first few weeks," says Deborah Strauss, executive director of the Chicago-based Information Technology Resource Center, quoted in the ITRC newsletter "Printout" (November/December).

"Other school districts that tried to halt so-called social promotion had found that the cure was worse than the disease," writes Linda Lenz in Catalyst (November). "But Chicago had gone an extra mile, providing summer school, after-school programs and a probation program, among other initiatives, aimed at improving schools in general. There seemed to be reason to hope that Chicago might succeed where others had failed. But hope is fading. As Elizabeth Duffrin reports, the School Board is refusing to release basic information about what has happened to students who are retained--information that by law it should make public upon request. That can only mean bad news."

Dept. of shocking research findings, from "Northern Today" (October 26): "Drunk drivers make poor pilots, NIU [Northern Illinois University] researcher finds."

Is your religion cost-effective? University of Illinois at Chicago economist Carmel Chiswick studies religion using the premise that people join or convert after weighing anticipated costs (money and time) against expected benefits (spirituality, social interaction, coping with mortality). "Time has become a very important cost of religious involvement," she says, adding that Reform and Conservative Judaism movements developed in America partly as "time-saving approaches to the observance of Judaism. As the value of time has risen for contemporary Americans, many old-country Jewish customs and observances have become increasingly costly to maintain. This suggests why many of them are at risk of disappearing entirely from American Jewish life."

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