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A Bunch of Moby Dicks

Saying that Japan has violated international rules by expanding its whale hunt, the White House plans to announce today that it is starting a process that could lead to economic sanctions against Japanese imports within two months. Earlier this summer, Japan began hunting Bryde's whales and sperm whales for the first time in years, claiming the hunts qualify as scientific whaling under International Whaling Commission rules -- even though some meat from the hunts is destined for Tokyo restaurants. Japan says that the White House is pursuing sanctions to bolster Vice President Al Gore's standing with environmental groups and that …

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Mighty Morphin' Power Arrangers

Alternative energy sources in Europe may get a boost as protests against high oil prices spread across the continent. A summit this week in Munich, Germany, pushing hydrogen as an eco-friendly power source for the future, is attracting more attention than expected because it is set against the backdrop of anger over soaring gasoline prices. Many summit attendees are touting hydrogen-powered fuel cells, though they acknowledge there are many hurdles to be overcome before hydrogen can be cheaply and safely distributed on a wide scale. Meanwhile, ScottishPower in the UK announced yesterday that it plans to expand its wind farming …

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Of Chinooks and Schnooks

Environmentalists are suing the feds over new salmon rules that give local and state governments more leeway in deciding how to protect the fish in the Northwest and California. The National Marine Fisheries Service in June released rules that offer exemptions from federal regulations to state and local governments that adopt their own, NMFS-approved salmon protection plans. NMFS says this approach is the best way to cut red tape and move forward on salmon protection, but enviros contend that it lets the feds go light on local governments and industry. In particular, they are protesting an exemption being granted to …

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How Interest-ing

The U.S. is canceling part of Bangladesh's debt and allowing future interest payments to go toward paying for forest protection in the tropical country, the first such agreement under a U.S. debt-for-nature law passed in 1998. The shift will free up about $8.5 million over 18 years for conservation of Bangladeshi forests. U.S. Treasury Deputy Secretary Stuart Eizenstat said the agreement reflects a "commitment to protect biodiversity and tropical forests around the world." The Clinton administration is discussing similar deals with Belize and El Salvador.

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And other words from readers

Dear Editor: I'm a little concerned with the pressure environmental groups are putting on less developed countries (whose standards of living are below those of the U.S.) to halt what many in these countries might see as improvements in their daily lives. I say this mainly because many people living in these areas look to the U.S., with its many conveniences like highways and shopping malls, cars and air conditioning, as something that they would love to emulate. What right do we have to halt highway development in Vietnam without halting suburban sprawl and the construction of additional roads and …

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The Price Is Wrong

French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin announced yesterday that his nation will launch a sweeping plan to conserve energy by the end of the year. As France emerged from a week of disruptive protests by truckers and others over high gasoline prices, Jospin said soaring fuel costs should be an incentive to conserve energy and promote alternative energy sources. Some political observers viewed Jospin's announcement as a move to appease environmentalists in his coalition government, who were angry that he responded to the protests by agreeing to cut gas taxes. Meanwhile, as gas-price protests are spreading to other European nations, Green …

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Miss-taken

The Miss Waldron's red colobus, a large West African monkey, has gone extinct, say scientists in the October issue of the journal Conservation Biology. This is the first time in several centuries that a member of the primate order, the taxonomic group to which humans belong, has gone extinct. The scientists warn that the pace of primate extinctions is about to pick up -- in countries like Ghana and the Ivory Coast, for example, logging and road-building have fragmented forests and created isolated pockets of animals that are being trapped and shot to supply a thriving market in bush meat. …

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Sink Like a Butterfly

Monarch butterflies may be in trouble due to the degradation of a forested region in central Mexico that serves as critical habitat for the migratory species during the winter. The first scientific study of the habitat found that in the past 30 years, the forest has been transformed by illegal logging, cattle grazing, farming, and development, even in areas that have been designated as protected monarch sanctuaries. The study by an international team of researchers has not yet been submitted for publication, but it has been given to the Mexican government, which responded last week by proposing a three-fold expansion …

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Don Cry for Me

A landmark conservation bill sponsored by Alaska Rep. Don Young (R) and Sen. Frank Murkowski (R) -- which also has the support of environmentalists, sports groups, local governments, and federal officials -- may not make it out of Congress. The bill, the Conservation and Reinvestment Act, would direct $3 billion a year from offshore oil drilling royalties into land conservation, wildlife protection, and parks programs. The bill passed the House overwhelmingly last spring, but has run into trouble in the Senate, where property rights advocates have opposed it -- and time is running out in the legislative session. Still, Young, …

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Deborah Tabart, Australian Koala Foundation

Deborah Tabart is executive director of the Australian Koala Foundation, an independent organization dedicated to the conservation of the koala and its habitat. Monday, 11 Sep 2000 BRISBANE, Australia When the Olympics begin this Friday, the world will be watching Australia. Beautiful images of koalas will be beamed across the globe, but there will be no mention that koalas in the wild face a series of threats, foremost habitat destruction. Won't you be my mascot? The koala is one of the most well-loved and well-recognized Aussie animals, second only to the kangaroo. This year, the world will be meeting the …

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