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Does Illinois even have a legislature? Hardly, if you believe what former state representative James Nowlan, now at the University of Illinois' Institute of Government and Public Affairs, writes in Crain's Chicago Business (April 23): "House committees...are a joke. There are now more than 40, and members trip over one another bustling from one meaningless hearing to another. If the leadership fears that a rank-and-file lawmaker might actually act independently on a bill, he or she is removed from the committee for that particular vote."

"A society that allows cloning, whether it knows it or not, has tacitly assented to the conversion of procreation into manufacture," contends the University of Chicago's Leon Kass in the New Republic (May 21). "Willy-nilly, it has acquiesced in the eugenic re-design of future generations." Kass believes that a complete ban on human cloning must be enacted soon or it will be too late. "Now may be as good a chance as we will ever have to get our hands on the wheel of the runaway train now headed for a post-human world."

From another city's file. The San Francisco Chronicle (May 18) reports that Mayor Willie Brown observed Bike to Work Day by bicycling from his home to his city hall office--and then by being driven back home in his limousine to take a shower.

"Illinois is in the forefront of a national trend of decisions holding HMOs directly accountable for medical malpractice," writes Michele Jochner in the Illinois Bar Journal (February). In the case Petrovich v. Share Health Plan of Illinois, the state supreme court "rejected Share's broad argument that holding HMOs liable for medical malpractice would increase health care costs and render health care inaccessible to large numbers of people. Disagreeing that the cost-containment role of HMOs entitles them to special consideration, the justices reaffirmed the principle that organizations are accountable for their tortious actions and those of their agents. In addition, the justices observed that HMO accountability is essential to counterbalance the goal of cost-containment."

Working our way back to you, babe. According to a May 1 press release, University of Illinois and state geological survey scientists have found genes resistant to the antibiotic tetracycline "as far as a sixth of a mile downstream from two swine facilities that use antibiotics as growth promoters."

"The Chicago area added 250% more private sector jobs than the New York metro area from 1990 to 2000, a period over which the Los Angeles area actually experienced employment decline," according to the June issue of the "Chicago Fed Letter," newsletter of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.

Do Catholic schools make kids behave better? Yes and no, say economists David Figlio and Jens Ludwig in a National Bureau of Economic Research working paper (number 7990, November). Their carefully controlled data suggest that "religious private schooling reduces teen sexual activity, arrests, and use of hard drugs (cocaine), but not drinking, smoking, gang involvement, or marijuana use." As they acknowledge, "The ultimate implications for public policy are difficult to determine."

Words to contemplate at the gas pump or while agitating for energy conservation. "High prices induce investors to bring new supplies to market in search of profit," write Jerry Taylor and Peter VanDoren of the libertarian Cato Institute, in a May 15 press release. "High prices likewise discourage consumption, ensuring that scarce commodities don't become nonexistent commodities."

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