a look back at this week in Chicago

5 THINGS TO KNOW     ALL IN THE FAMILY.  Chicago became the backdrop last week for the highly publicized "Family Secrets" trial that began in federal court. You practically need a scorecard to keep everything straight, but the racketeering-and-murder case has rounded up several defendants who allegedly were members of the "Chicago Outfit" or connected to it.

            The three-month trial promises to give observers an insider's view into local organized crime, thanks in part to a former Outfit member who is expected to testify.

  RATTED OUT. Neighboring Cicero - a burg known as Al Capone's onetime hometown - has too many rats and is spending more than $700,000 on pest control this year. Town officials have agreed to allow a company to test steel wool as a way to control the rat population. A contract could follow, depending on the results.


The idea is to clog the entrance of rat nests with the irritating material, driving the rodents to areas where poison bait awaits them, town spokesman Dan Proft said.

Is there a chance the rats will flee to Chicago? "Well, rats go where they go," Proft said.   GONE TO THE DOGS. The sculpture cluster "Agora" in south Grant Park depicts abstract, headless human forms walking. Because the cast-iron figures are rooted to the ground - sans pedestals - they have been easy marks for dogs that need relief.


The Park District earlier banned dogs from the display area, but now has installed signs instructing dog owners to curb their pets (i.e., keep them on a leash and off the statues). That is a fair compromise to park activist Bob O'Neill, who says canines add to the ambience of the area.

"It's always the dogs that get blamed" for owners' transgressions, he said. "We want the dogs and the dog walkers in the park."                 WHO'S STEERING THE SHIP? The already much-criticized administration of Cook County Board President Todd Stroger took even more flak when it was revealed Stroger underwent radical surgery for prostate cancer (an illness he did not disclose during the fall elections). Stroger's reps said his medical condition was a personal matter, but the secrecy only served to fuel negative perceptions about county government.


Advocates for prostate-cancer screenings hope Stroger, who is only 44, becomes a spokesman for the cause.

  WHAT'S NEXT? American Medical Association delegates are meeting in Chicago through Wednesday. Among the policy issues the doctors will consider is whether to create an "addiction" diagnosis category for people who play too many video games.   Mike Ramsey is Chicago reporter for GateHouse News Service. He can be reached at (312) 857-2323 or ghns-ramsey@sbcglobal.net.