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Downtown is growing but fragile, according to Eugenie Ladner Birch in the Journal of the American Planning Association (Winter). "Only seven cities (Chicago, Cleveland, Los Angeles, New York, Norfolk, San Francisco, and Seattle) had downtown growth rates that exceeded those of their MSAs [Metropolitan Statistical Areas] in the 30-year period" from 1970 to 2000. She notes that Chicago's downtown population grew from 56,048 in 1990 to 72,843 in 2000--one-seventh of the city's population growth in that time and the largest numerical increase of any downtown in the country.

I don't know what art is, but I know what my dog likes. Artist Todd Slaughter would like people to contribute "distinctive pet-chewed items" for possible use in an exhibition at the Chicago Cultural Center. According to his January 8 press release, "The only submission requirements are that the objects are interesting to the pet-owner, and not much larger than a bread box," and that they arrive by March 8. Information at www.slaughter@columbus.rr.com.

Thirty-one species of Illinois birds depend on wetlands, from great blue herons to the common snipe, reports the state Department of Natural Resources in its publication "Critical Trends in Illinois Ecosystems" (http://dnr.state.il.us/orep/ctap2/toc1.htm, chapter three, "Ecosystem Monitoring Results"). But when department scientists took a bird census at 50 different wetlands in 1997 and 1998, they found an average of only 1.3 wetland-dependent species per site. "No wetland-dependent species were detected at half the sites, and only 16 of the 31 wetland-dependent species were detected; only six species were found in at least 10 sites. Twelve of 35 state threatened or endangered bird species are wetland-dependent, yet only three were detected, at one site each. Their rarity further reveals the degraded condition of the average wetland in Illinois."

God: "Whatever. I can go either way." From a summary of Marquette University theologian Daniel Maguire's new book, Sacred Choices: The Right to Contraception and Abortion in Ten World Religions, posted at www.metanexus.net under "clippings," January 23: "Maguire convened two conferences of outstanding scholars from ten of the world's religions," listed as Buddhism, Catholicism, Confucianism, Hinduism, Islam, Jainism, Judaism, Native religions, Protestantism, and Taoism. "The scholars re-evaluated, debated and researched their traditions and demonstrate that alongside the conservative 'no-choice' view, all these religions have an equally orthodox 'pro-choice' position that provides justification for family planning, contraception and abortion."

Too much football can cause non sequiturs. Lead paragraph of a story in the Munster, Indiana, Times (January 29): "The Minnesota Vikings had the 'Purple People Eaters' in the 1960s, and now the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore has been invaded by the purple loosestrife."

How to tell the good guys from the bad guys, reprinted by Sam Smith in the on-line "Progressive Review" (January 22) and credited to Daniel Solnit in "Dissident Voice" (October 9): "Terrorists: Supposed Leader is the spoiled son of a powerful politician, from an extremely wealthy oil family. US government: Supposed Leader is the spoiled son of a powerful politician, from an extremely wealthy oil family. Terrorists: Supposed Leader has declared a holy war ('Crusade') against his 'enemies'; believes God is on his side, and that any means are justified. US government: Supposed Leader has declared a holy war ('Crusade') against his 'enemies'; believes God is on his side, and that any means are justified. Terrorists: Supported by extreme fundamentalist religious leaders who preach hatred, intolerance, subjugation of women, and persecution of non-believers. US government: Supported by extreme fundamentalist religious leaders who preach hatred, intolerance, subjugation of women, and persecution of non-believers. Terrorists: Leadership determined by wealthiest and most powerful. Supposed Leader was not elected by a majority of the people in a free and fair democratic election. US government: Leadership determined by wealthiest and most powerful. Supposed Leader was not elected by a majority of the people in a free and fair democratic election."

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