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Media monopoly exposed. If you type "Chicago" in the Center for Public Integrity's Web site ( you'll see a pie chart of who owns the 109 radio stations within 40 miles of the city. Two entities control 35 stations apiece: "educational" and "other/independent." No media giant owns more than seven, and the total number of stations owned by Viacom, Clear Channel, NextMedia, Univision, Disney, and Bonneville combined is 31.

Remember Vietnam? Oops, sorry, not convenient. Eager to score points on conservatives, Joel Bleifuss (In These Times, September 19) describes a recent Psychological Bulletin study finding them to be dogmatic and intolerant of ambiguity, then writes that "such thinking could explain why the Bush administration officials ignored those intelligence reports that failed to support going to war with Iraq." Maybe so, but it won't explain why liberals like Robert McNamara and Lyndon Johnson, with their supposed openness to change and evidence, dragged a previous generation into a quagmire.

Are people getting less health care because of high malpractice insurance premiums? Maybe. But in an August 2003 report the U.S. General Accounting Office reports that it couldn't find evidence that such actions have affected people's access to care ("Implications of Rising Premiums on Access to Health Care"). The agency confirmed cases in five states of "reduced access to hospital-based services affecting emergency surgery and newborn deliveries in scattered, often rural, areas" that already had other long-standing problems with medical services. "GAO also determined that many of the reported provider actions were not substantiated or did not affect access to health care on a widespread basis. For example, although some physicians reported reducing certain services they consider to be high risk in terms of potential litigation, such as spinal surgeries and mammograms, GAO did not find access to these services widely affected, based on a review of Medicare data and contacts with providers that have reportedly been affected."

Feed a deer? That'll be $50, and all your plants chewed down to nubbins. "Scientific studies have shown repeatedly that the carrying capacity of most natural areas is 10 to 15 deer per square mile," writes Debra Shore in Chicago Wilderness (Fall). "That's best for the deer and the rest of the ecosystem. In Beverly Shores, Indiana, however, there are approximately 300 deer in three square miles." She quotes Tom Heberlein, a sociologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who has proposed that those who aggravate deer overpopulation by feeding them should have to buy a permit, just as hunters do. "The hunter pays a license fee and an 11 percent tax on guns, ammo, and archery gear, while the feeder pays nothing."

Ever drink the water off the roof? According to a research article in the journal Chemosphere, summarized in the August issue of "Contaminated Sediments News," "rooftop washoff" contributed 55 percent of the zinc pollution found in an urban stream.

"Americans commonly attribute their economic advantages over a lethargic and decadent Europe to the fact that free enterprise in the United States does not find itself shackled to a bloated public sector," writes a skeptical Colin Kidd in the London Review of Books (September 25), reviewing James Morone's Hellfire Nation: The Politics of Sin in American History. "While social welfare provision is much more restricted [in the U.S.] than in Europe, the prison statistics qualify the notion that Americans dislike big government. America has more than six million citizens in jail, on probation or on parole, with an incarceration rate, Morone notes, five times higher than other industrialised democracies. Inside America's slimline government there's clearly a big state trying to get out." Looking more closely, "while the United States imprisoned 648 out of 100,000 citizens in 1997, the rate rose to an incredible 6,838 per 100,000 for black men....Does the state expand in rational and sensible ways to meet real policy needs, or rather in response to fevered moral panics?"


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