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Public schools not ready for reform. "The ink on President Bush's signature was barely dry [on the No Child Left Behind act] when Illinois and Chicago school officials began working to ensure that droves of parents would not move their children" from bad public schools to better ones, writes Alexander Russo in Catalyst Chicago (September). "As enacted, the choice requirement created the possibility that low-performing students could push their way into popular and selective schools or even bump higher-achieving students out of line." Over a four-month period, from March to late July, state legislators, the state board of education, and the Chicago Public Schools executed a dizzying series of maneuvers that succeeded in chiseling the number of elementary schools eligible for choice students from 390 to 262 to 179 to 50. Russo quotes Sarah Vanderwicken of the Chicago Lawyer's Committee for Civil Rights Under Law: "They're making up a lot of parameters and assumptions that aren't in the act."

Most challenging essay topic for libertarians. A September 16 press release from the Cato Institute is headlined: "High Prices for Medication Are a Blessing for the Sick."

Cook County has 43 percent of the state's population and 97 percent of the state's welfare cases who've been on assistance for more than four years, according to a recent Brookings Institution study ("Timing Out: Long-Term Welfare Caseloads in Large Cities and Counties").

Wanted: big plans. "I wonder if we are dreaming enough?" asks architect Linda Searl, a member of the Chicago Central Area Plan's steering committee, according to the September issue of "Focus," newsletter of the Chicago chapter of the American Institute of Architects. "There are some ideas that are definitely big dreams in the Central Area Plan. Covering over a good portion of the Kennedy Expressway west of the Loop to make it a park connecting downtown and the area west of Halsted Street is a really big idea. Making the river a continuous park is a big idea. But are there enough of those ideas? The plan is still in the draft form, and people can still comment on what is there and what should be there."

Twenty years on the wrong track. A team from the Sinai Urban Health Institute at Mount Sinai Hospital has found that black people and poor people have death rates more than double those of white people and rich people--and the disparity is growing (Public Health Report, September-October 2001). "From 1980 to 1998, the black:white ratio for all-cause mortality increased by 57% to 2.03. From 1979-1981 to 1996-1998, the low-income:high-income rate ratio for all-cause mortality increased by 56% to 2.68....Racial and economic disparities increased for almost all measures of mortality and morbidity used in this study."

(What) is the president thinking? "It would have been consistent for the Administration to take a somewhat rights-protective approach" to the cases of alleged unlawful combatants in the war on terror, writes New York University law student Jake Kreilkamp in an essay published at findlaw.com. That rights-protective approach would be to "try all the U.S. citizens--Lindh, Padilla, Hamdi, and Ujaama--and send the foreigners--Moussaoui, the foreign sleeper cell defendants, and the remaining Guantanamo detainees--to brigs." The hard-line approach would be to "call anybody detained as part of a terror investigation an 'unlawful combatant,' and offer no protections whatsoever." Instead, the administration has followed a seemingly random path, indicting Zacarias Moussaoui, while throwing American citizen Jose Padilla into jail incommunicado as an "unlawful combatant." But the administration's choices haven't been random, Kreilkamp concludes. "When the Administration has sufficient evidence to bring a case in federal court that they know they can win, they do so. If they do not, they label the person an 'unlawful combatant' and spirit him away to dark corners....Ironically, those who can easily be convicted are offered full due process. But those against whom the evidence is slight are detained forever. Imagine if our domestic legal system usually worked that way."

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