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Transit fare-card fog thickens

Also: School closings analysis / Docs back gay marriage / Abusive priests / Your taxes at work / Prostitutes walk free? / March #^¢&ing Madness

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TRANSIT FARE-CARD FOG. Adding to confusion over the incoming Ventra card for Chicago-area transit, the RTA says its version won’t include prepaid debit account functionality for senior citizens and people with disabilities. On one hand, that means they’ll be spared a bewildering array of debit-card fees; on the other, a disability rights group executive tells the Tribune, “Whatever options are available to the general public should be available to persons with disabilities and persons over 65 who qualify for reduced-fare cards.”
* Correction to something I said yesterday on WBEZ’s “Afternoon Shift” (at about 5:02 in this audio clip): According to the Trib, that $2.95 “Reload on Internet” fee applies only to money added to the retail (debit) side of the card; not to recharges for the card’s transit-fare side.

SCHOOL CLOSINGS ANALYSIS. As Mayor Emanuel’s administration prepares to announce what could be the largest number of schools shut down by a city in a single year, keep an eye on these data-driven websites (including WBEZ’s map of school closures), featuring what Chicago magazine’s Whet Moser calls “vital” tools for understanding the closings’ impact.
* Chicago charter-school operator UNO’s boss has 3 relatives on the payroll, Sun-Times reports.

KIDS DOCS BACK GAY MARRIAGE. The Illinois-based American Academy of Pediatrics says stable relationships between parents, regardless of sexual orientation, contribute to children’s health and well-being.
* Gay-marriage opponent: “To the extent that the other side is able to frame this as a vote for gay people to be happy, it will be challenging for us.”

‘SURE. SEX AND THE PRIESTS, LET’S BLAST IT ALL OVER THE PLACE. NEVER LET IT GO.’ The retired bishop of the Joliet Diocese reacts bitterly to release of previously secret papers detailing decades of sexual abuse on his watch.
* Lawyer who won the revelations: “At least 75% of the diocese ... had a sexual predator priest.”

LET PROSTITUTES WALK FREE? To ease a population crunch at Cook County Jail, several County Board members are asking prosecutors to treat prostitution arrests as misdemeanors, not felonies.
* On WBEZ, Sheriff Tom Dart criticizes mental health clinic closures: “We as a society have decided to criminalize mental illness. ... We’ve shut down all the facilities to treat people. Where in God’s name do you think they’re gonna go?

* Chicago ordered to pay $57.8 million to parking company for letting competing garage open nearby.
* Cook County to pay $646,000 to ACLU in fight over law forbidding recording of cops on the job.

COMING FRIDAY: A fresh news quiz.
Limber up your quizceps by trying these previous editions.

COULD MAKE STATE OF THE UNION ADDRESS AWKWARD. President Obama was caught on-mic and on-camera in Israel joking, “It’s good to get away from Congress.”
* Obama, Israel’s prime minister complain NBC reporter asks too many questions.
* Conservative vs. conservative: “O’Reilly slams Bachmann for ‘trivial’ criticisms of President Obama” (Politico).

‘THE AMERICAN NEWS CONSUMER HAS NEVER HAD IT SO GOOD.’ Slate‘s Matthew Yglesias says, sure, it’s a rough time for news producers, but the doom-and-gloom reports on the state of the news biz miss the key point that “today’s readers have access to far more high-quality coverage than they have time to read.”
* Reporter who quit: “Newspapers killed newspapers.”
* Washington Post nails Jane Goodall for plagiarism.
* CNN reporter allegedly “outraged” over Steubenville rape trial coverage criticism.

GOOGLE’S NEW NOTE-TAKING SERVICE. Google Keep is aimed at services like Evernote, promising to “save ideas and organize to-dos the moment they happen by creating notes, lists, photos and voice recordings right from your phone.”
* YouTube now reaches 1 billion unique visitors a month -- 15 percent of humanity.

THIS LINK UNSUITABLE FOR ALL AGES. Tired of the traditional NCAA bracket? Deadspin offers a 64-slot “Swear Word Bracket” -- because “68-team brackets are stupid.”
* Tech Crunch: “Google Embeds March Madness Bracket In Search, Because Screw Sports Sites.”

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