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Doctor, could we start a bidding war for my disease? Responding to a New England Journal of Medicine editorial warning about the conflict of interest inherent in increasing ties between academic medical institutions and the pharmaceutical industry, which may lead to biased research, Lainie Friedman Ross of the University of Chicago writes in a letter to the editor (August 17), "We are or should be more concerned about the conflict of interest that is created when clinician-researchers are given incentives to sell their patients to industry....Patients come to academic medical centers trusting that their physicians are focused on their interests; they do not come to help us promote industry's research agenda."

"I've been unemployed before, but never in a group," states a member of the Career Transitions Center of Chicago, quoted in its summer newsletter.

As others see us. The pundits assembled by American Heritage magazine (May-June) found Chicago to be the "most underrated" city in the U.S. We also scored for having the most underrated educational reform (Carleton Washburne's "Winnetka program" of individualized learning programs in the 1920s and 1930s) and the most overrated headline ("Dewey Defeats Truman" in 1948).

Top female executives in large U.S. companies are paid about 45 percent less on average than their male counterparts, according to an August press release on the first systematic study of male and female pay at the corporate summit, conducted by Kevin Hallock of the University of Illinois and Marianne Bertrand at the University of Chicago. Most of the gap, they say, is accounted for by the women's being younger, having less seniority, working in smaller companies, and rarely being CEO.

Illinois' $84 million increase in child-care funding last year put it near the top of the list of most promising state spending actions cataloged by the Children's Defense Fund and reported by stateline.org (June 8).

Cutting out the middleman? "The Weekly Politicker," a newsletter about politics on the Internet (www.PoliticsOnline.com), reports in its August 26 issue on two recent episodes of alleged vote selling. One graduate student drew 200 willing vote sellers to his now defunct site, Voteauction.com, and seven voters tried to auction theirs on eBay, with the bidding reaching $10,100 before it was shut down. The graduate student said he was simply "allowing voters to directly sell their votes rather than letting corporations buy officials."

"Two of the Kennedy brothers are dead. By the logic of the National Park Service, they would order the killing of Ted Kennedy?" That's how Roosevelt University economics professor and Maxwell Street preservation activist Steve Balkin, writing in an open letter distributed through E-mail, characterizes a recent decision by the National Register of Historic Places to protect none of Maxwell Street because a lot of it is already gone.

Equal in pessimism? A new poll published in the ABA Journal (September) reveals that both men and women lawyers are less optimistic about their prospect of equal advancement now than they were in 1983. "The new poll reveals that 52.5 percent of women and 60.4 percent of men feel their prospects are equal compared to 72 percent of women and 83 percent of men surveyed 17 years ago."

"Children living with stepmothers are significantly less likely to have routine doctor and dentist visits...significantly less likely to wear seatbelts, and are significantly more likely to be living with a cigarette smoker," according to an analysis of 1988 survey data on more than 10,000 children done by two Princeton economists, Anne Case and Christina Paxson, and published by the National Bureau of Economic Research (Working Paper number 7691, May). The results held up even after the authors controlled for household income and parental and household characteristics.

Trouble in the ranks. John Judis quotes "a staffer at a large industrial union" in Chicago: "I think that the labor movement might be better off if the Democrats won the House and Gore lost" (New Republic, August 21).

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