Using your brain while shoppingcan be a big part of the problem

Christmas is the one time of year when almost everyone gives at least some thought to shopping. But there are those among us, more women than men, who find shopping a form of entertainment that elevates their mood and provides intense satisfaction – at least for a while.

Scientists now can explain why there's a euphoria attached to shopping, whether it's simply looking and admiring or looking and acquiring. It comes down to dopamine, a chemical that is unleashed into the brain's reward center. Shoppers who say they feel giddy or euphoric during their excursions through shopping centers aren't kidding.

No need for Champaign council to amend its human rights law

It may be merely an academic issue whether the city of Champaign amends its human rights ordinance to require landlords to participate in the federal government's Section 8 rent subsidy program.

But if there's any discretion left, it would be best if landlords in Champaign continue to be permitted to decide for themselves whether they wish to participate. If the Section 8 program really is a good program that treats both tenants and landlords fairly, there is no need to compel anybody to do anything.

Business group needs to come clean on campaign funds

Last week, the Justice For All Foundation, a shadowy group created to spend $561,000 on behalf of a Democratic candidate for the Illinois Supreme Court last year, finally detailed where the money came from. To the surprise of few, all of the contributions that were supposed to help Gordon Maag get elected to the Supreme Court came from five law firms – two in east Alton, two in St. Louis and one in South Carolina.

Under a settlement of a complaint filed with the Illinois State Board of Elections by the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, the Justice For All Foundation voluntarily disclosed where it got its money for Maag's unsuccessful race. That's the way campaign disclosure is supposed to work, although it's suppose to be a lot more timely than a year after the election.

Republican Party should offer alternative to Rep. Jakobsson

After a state House race last year in which their candidate was able to muster just 35 percent of the vote, Champaign County Republicans seem resigned to leaving incumbent state Rep. Naomi Jakobsson, D-Urbana, unchallenged next November. Retiring party Chairman Steve Hartman says he is discouraging Republicans from taking on Jakobsson so that the party focuses instead on election races with more potential.

Thus the unimpressive Jakobsson, who may never be more vulnerable than she is now after her unpopular vote last spring in favor of a state pension raid, may go unopposed in the 103rd District race.

Changes in cable television pricing are long overdue

It's Christmastime, when the local cable television provider always seems to give itself a nice Christmas present. This year, it will be a 6.9 percent increase in the monthly cost for the "classic" cable TV package provided by Insight Communications.

The cost of the 69-channel package will be $47 a month, effective Jan. 1.

Phony video games legislation was doomed from the start

Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich and his demagogic friends in the Illinois Legislature got a well-deserved slap in the face last week when a federal judge struck down a state law aimed at restricting the sales of video games with sexual and violent themes.

Blagojevich, true to his political nature, responded to the court's decision by declaring that "the fight is not over." He's right to this extent: the fight is not over because it never began. This bill was fatally flawed from the beginning, and almost everyone associated with its passage had to know it.

Be careful suggesting limits on long-held rights of Americans

Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn said he's backing legislation that would prohibit protests within 300 feet of any military or civilian funeral.

The Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kan., has been protesting at dozens of military funerals around the country, including some in Illinois. The church's pastor, Fred Phelps, said soldiers are dying in Iraq because God is upset with the United States for its "acceptance of homosexuality." Phelps and other church members have been seen marching outside churches and cemeteries, carrying signs that read "God blew up the troops," "God hates fag enablers" and "God hates America."

New payday loan rules aimed at limiting borrowing excesses

A new state law regulating so-called "payday loans" takes effect Tuesday, and it's hard to imagine that most people are not sympathetic to its goals.

The law, which is intended to prevent price gouging, puts limits on fees and costs and:

Governor should leave menu choices to parents, local schools

Gov. Rod Blagojevich wants Illinois' elementary and middle school students to be healthier and to avoid junk food. And he's asked the State Board of Education to use its authority to ban the sale of soft drinks and unhealthy snacks in schools.

Great idea. But the governor would be better off preaching to parents, not to school districts, because prohibiting the sale of junk food in schools will have virtually no effect.

Facing big bills, school boards flee from effort to hike pensions

State legislation intended to force Illinois schools districts to think about big end-of-career salary increases for retiring teachers and administrators is having the intended effect. Districts now are opting not to give pension-boosting 20 percent annual salary hikes because they are required to pay the extra pension costs themselves and can't shunt them off on state taxpayers.

New teacher contracts signed in Champaign and Mahomet-Seymour are limiting end-of-career salary hikes to 6 percent, as permitted under the new law, for outgoing teachers. The Urbana School Board, which is in the middle of a three-year contract, is expected to revoke a board policy providing an extra salary boost for retiring teachers and administrators.