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The hype: "In the wake of huge power blackouts in 1999, an embarrassed and conciliatory John Rowe, chairman of Com Ed, said, 'This will not cost ratepayers any more money....This is our problem. We'll fix it ourselves.'" The facts: "However, two years later, during questioning at an ICC hearing, a company executive said that Rowe's promise should not be viewed as 'a literal commitment to the public but as a general conceptual statement for consumption and understanding in the media.' With that explanation, Com Ed says a rate hike is justified" (CUB Voice, Winter, published by the Citizens Utility Board).

News that hasn't happened--yet. "Since July, a group of independent watchdogs, hired by the CHA at the behest of residents, has been nosing around to find out what happened during the past year's relocation of hundreds of [public-housing] families," writes Brian Rogal in the Chicago Reporter (January). The watchdogs are former U.S. attorney Thomas Sullivan and two associates from Jenner & Block. The four reports they've written after interviewing dozens of residents, advocates, CHA staff, and outside experts with firsthand knowledge of the relocation process "are believed to blast the CHA for moving too quickly. Some residents say the reports recommend that the agency temporarily halt demolition." But nobody knows for sure, because the CHA views the watchdogs' work as an "internal audit" that is "not open to public distribution."

Bring your own bucket. Headline from the Joliet Herald News (January 9): "Water park asks for bailout."

"Throughout the twentieth century the nineteenth-century taboo on targeting and killing civilians has been eroding," writes Avishai Margalit in the New York Review of Books (January 16). "In World War I only 5 percent of the casualties were civilians. In World War II the figure went up to 50 percent and in the Vietnam War it was 90 percent. Amnesty International is making an admirable effort to restore the prohibition."

"Thirty-nine states apply water pollution permit fees so that the 'polluter pays' for the public costs of permitting facilities and monitoring and enforcing the Clean Water Act standards," writes Howard Learner of the Environmental Law and Policy Center in an open letter to Governor Blagojevich (Illinois Issues, January). "Illinois doesn't. This taxpayer subsidy--and another one for Clean Air Act permitting, monitoring and enforcement--costs the state millions of dollars each year."

Not-so-special education. Leslie Whitaker reports in Catalyst Chicago (December) that the Chicago Public Schools' 93 high schools have 110 vacant special-education teaching positions. "The shortage is especially acute for 11 high schools in the poorest communities, where as many as 30 percent of students qualify for special education services, according to a study that analyzed 1999-2000 enrollment. At Austin High--where 40 percent of freshmen enrolled this fall have learning or other disabilities--five of 21 positions are currently filled by substitutes."

"Most of my students profess to live by the Bible without ever having read more than 50 pages of it," writes Barbara Brown Taylor in the November 6-19 issue of the Christian Century (quoted in "Context," January 15). "When I ask students to read what is actually on the page, most see what they have been taught to see. The story of Adam and Eve is the story of original sin. The snake is Satan, the apple is disobedience, and Eve is the seductress who leads men astray. If I send them back to locate 'Sin,' 'Satan,' and 'apple' in their Bibles, some are genuinely astonished to find that the words are not there."

When the words get in the way. "[President Bush] has no trouble speaking off the cuff when he's speaking punitively, when he's talking about violence, when he's talking about revenge," New York University professor Mark Crispin Miller says in the November 28 Toronto Star (www.commondreams.org/headlines02/1128-02.htm). Crispin argues that Bush is not an idiot but a bully. "When he struts and thumps his chest, his syntax and grammar are fine. It's only when he leaps into the wild blue yonder of compassion, or idealism, or altruism, that he makes these hilarious mistakes."

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