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Thanks to Boeing, your wallet is lighter this morning. In December the aerospace giant, now headquartered in Chicago, arranged a deal that Arizona senator John McCain described as "the envy of corporate lobbyists from one end of K Street to the other." Compliant congresspeople from the far west inserted a provision in the Defense Department appropriations bill allowing the air force to lease 100 Boeing 767s for use as tankers. As Russell Mokhiber and Robert Weissman summarize the deal in the January 5 issue of their on-line newsletter "Corp-focus," these are planes that neither the air force nor the president has requested. According to McCain, the cost to the government of leasing them exceeds $25 billion--five times what it would have cost to buy them outright.

The worsted of times. University of Illinois professor Francis Boyle, quoted in the New York Times (December 26): "If the U.S. government is going to pull the wool out from under the Geneva Conventions, that is going to be serious for our soldiers."

Why your Christmas tree collapsed under the weight of its ornaments. The Census Bureau notes that in 2000 farmers sold $473 million worth of Christmas trees. It also notes that between January and August 2001 the value of Christmas-tree ornaments imported from China alone totaled $592 million (www.usda.gov/nass and www.census.gov/foreign-trade/www/).

Just say don't. Pediatricians from Dartmouth Medical School have found that rural Vermont adolescents who think their parents would be very upset if they smoked are less likely than others to take up the habit (Pediatrics, December 6). No word on whether this effect extends off the farm.

Terrorists attack prominent symbol of corporate welfare. "How many Americans--let alone those responsible for the attacks--know that the World Trade Center was actually anything but a shining example of the success of American capitalism and free trade?" asks Judy Meima in the Statewide Housing Action Coalition newsletter "Illinois Community Development News" (Fall/Winter). "Built entirely with public money, the center never came close to breaking even as a real estate venture, and was permanently subsidized by the Port Authority in New York. Compare that to what it takes us to get tiny subsidies for our modest efforts to address the affordable housing crisis."

Data for the Journal of Irreproducible Results. From a December 12 "media event notice" issued by the Alliance of Residents Concerning O'Hare and US-Citizens Aviation Watch Association: "It is aircraft emissions, not other airport and ground pollution sources such as cars, that are the cause of most cancers (up to 99%)."

Chicago Confidential no longer. Documents sealed in the course of federal court cases in the northern district of Illinois after late 1996 may already be available to the public, warns Ross & Hardies litigator William Zieske in the Illinois Bar Journal (November). A court rule issued June 15, 1999, directs these materials to be made publicly available unless someone specifically asked the court, after the trial was over, to keep them secret. If no one does so, they could become public within as little as 63 days. "Now, the northern district's docketing department is working through this list of old cases with only one criterion in mind: if there is no specific minute order entered pursuant to Local Rule 26.2(e) requiring the sealed and restricted documents to be destroyed, returned to counsel, or kept sealed, the seals are broken and the documents go to the public case file."

If you don't believe this, drop and give me ten. Military name, military uniforms, military discipline, a superintendent who's a retired army brigadier general--you might think that the three-year-old Chicago Military Academy, located in the renovated Old Eighth Regiment Armory in Bronzeville, had something to do with soldiering. But superintendent Frank Bacon tells Washington Post reporter Nancy Trejos (January 2) that the academy is there to prepare the students for college, not for war.

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