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Sorry, this is not the end of the line--there is no line. The following facts come from the Mid-America Institute on Poverty's October 2003 report "Not Even a Place in Line: Public Housing & Housing Choice Voucher Capacity and Waiting Lists in Illinois." Total number of CHA public-housing units: 31,536. Number of households on CHA's waiting list: 55,909. Status of the waiting list: closed. Total number of housing vouchers under CHA: 34,070. Households on the waiting list: 23,294. List status: closed.

"It's now possible to cycle from the Indiana border to the Quad Cities almost entirely on bike trails," reports Jim Nugent in the Chicagoland Bicycle Federation's "Bike Traffic" (November). You use "the 20-mile-long Old Plank Road Trail (OPRT), the 60-mile Illinois & Michigan Canal Trail (I&M), the 62-mile Hennepin Trail, and just 33 miles of connecting roads." Might as well drive south to get started though: Metra's bike-travel program allowed bicycles on commuter trains a total of eight Saturdays last year--and then only when people made reservations the Thursday before and used only one station per fare zone. Bikes were allowed on only three trains per day.

Lest we forget. "Buildings are far and away the worst thing humans do to the environment," Rob Watson of the Natural Resources Defense Council tells Grist magazine (November 25). "All of the buildings in the U.S. consume more than twice as much energy as all of the cars in the country." Chicago has a building that does much better--the Chicago Center for Green Technology, at 445 N. Sacramento, is the third building in the country to receive a "platinum" rating from the U.S. Green Building Council.

"The great secret of America is that a vast new impoverished population has grown up in our midst," writes Beth Shulman in her new book The Betrayal of Work. "These are not Americans who have been excluded from the world of work," as were many of the poor people described two generations ago in Michael Harrington's The Other America. "In fact, they make up the core of much of the new economy....They are nursing home workers and home health-care workers who care for our mothers and fathers, yet make so little income that many qualify for food stamps. They are poultry processing workers who bone and package the chicken we eat for our dinner, yet are not allowed to leave the line to go to the bathroom. They are retail store workers who help us in department stores, grocery stores and convenience stores, but can't get enough hours or benefits to support themselves without working at least two jobs. They are hotel workers who ensure that the rooms we sleep in on our business trips and family vacations are clean, but who have no sick days or funeral leave or vacation time. They are janitorial workers who empty our wastebaskets after dark but who have no child care. They are catfish workers who process the fish we enjoy, but must work with injured wrists from continuous motion on the line. They are 1-800 call-center workers who answer our requests and take our orders while under constant management surveillance. And they are child-care workers who educate and care for our children while their own live in poverty....Whatever one thought of America's welfare poor, few people were making money off them. The same cannot be said of our new working poor. Corporations, corporate executives, shareholders, and American consumers are making a lot of money off of them. Thirty million Americans, one out of every four workers, makes less than $8.70 an hour. And these low-wage, no-benefit jobs translate into billions of dollars of profits, executive pay, high stock prices, and low consumer prices."

By the numbers. The average life expectancy for a baby born in the U.S. in 2001, according to the December 6 issue of Pediatrics: a record high 77.2 years.

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