Sometimes an issue surfaces-in a magazine article or on a newspaper op-ed page, via an interest group or in a politician's speech-and one thinks, "Surely this is a 'nonstarter.' Surely no one will take this seriously." And sometimes the newly discovered "issue" does vanish. But all too often one watches, incredulous, as it catches on, popping up with increasing frequency.

That's what we think is happening with computer homework, or "telecommuting"-or, in the view of those who see this as a new issue to be dealt with, the "electronic sweatshop" phenomenon. So we assigned a reporter to check out the home work scene-who does it and why, who's against it and why, and what they're doing about it. "Telecommuting: Will the Plug Be Pulled?" begins on page 24.

More Reason regulars have had articles published elsewhere recently. Contributing editors Tom Hazlett and Alan Reynolds each had op-ed pieces in the Wall Street Journal during July, the former on the Democratic convention, the latter on deflation. (And both are slated to appear in our upcoming pre-election issue.) Frequent contributor Bill Havender, coauthor of the article on saccharin on page 33 of this issue, had an excellent review of Edith Efron's new book, The Apocalyptics, in the July 23 issue of Fortune. (Reason's May cover story, "Behind the Cancer Terror," was an excerpt from this important volume.) And frequent book reviewer Jane Orient, M.D., took second place in the Private Practice essay contest on the subject "Who should control medicine?" Her essay, "Close the Door on Government Controls," was printed in the magazine's June issue.

-M. Z.

Reason magazine and the Reason Foundation that publishes it have a new controller, Katherine E. McKenzie. She has varied experience in financial management, having worked with a health club, a large food processing company, and a real estate investment firm. She also has a personal interest in voluntary, grass-roots groups working for social change. Katherine picks up the reins from John Northrup, who accepted an offer to return to his alma mater, Northeastern University in Boston, as director of the Graduate School of Professional Accounting.

''Shoebox for Liberty" provides a way to support the families of the freedom fighters of Nicaragua, profiled in Jack Wheeler's June-July cover story. The project has been organized by Louisiana state legislator Louis (Woody) Jenkins. Based on several of his refugee-aid trips to Honduras, where most of the Contras' families live as refugees, Woody realized the need for everyday items that we take for granted-things like soap, Band-aids, and toothbrushes. The idea is for American families to prepare individual shoeboxes in accordance with a list provided by the nonprofit Caribbean Commission, which will distribute the shoeboxes to refugee families. A copy of the shoebox list can be obtained from Louis (Woody) Jenkins, Caribbean Commission, 732 North Blvd., Baton Rouge, LA 70802.

See how they privatize: As reports in Reason indicate, privatization of government services is not just an American phenomenon. Indeed, there's a boom in privatizing municipal services in England, Denmark, and West Germany. To gain a first-hand perspective on these developments, the Washington-based Council for International Urban Liaison, together with London's Adam Smith Institute and the Reason Foundation, is arranging a Privatization Study Tour of northern Europe. Planned for late spring of 1985, the week-long tour will include London, Copenhagen, and Hamburg. Visits will be made to facilities of leading suppliers of public services (for example, Denmark's Falck International, Europe's largest private fire and emergency rescue firm), and both European and American experts on privatization will take part.

The total cost of the trip, including airfare, is estimated at $2,000 per person. Places are very limited, and reservations will be taken on a first-come, first-served basis. So if you're interested in going, let us know now. Write Privatization Tour, Reason Foundation, 1018 Garden Street, Santa Barbara, CA 93101. (By the way, if you have a professional interest in the subject, the cost of the trip will be tax-deductible.)

-R. W. P.