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Maxed out

We’ve borrowed more than we can afford to borrow, sprawled more than we can afford to sprawl

There are a lot of moving parts involved in the current, sputtering condition of the economy, which can't yet be declared a recession but may well become one. I'll summarize as best I can. Very cheap credit led to a housing upturn, which became a boom, which became, in many parts of the country, a speculative bubble. The cheap credit was the result of a number of factors, including lax monetary police at the Federal Reserve, but of high importance were the huge foreign exchange reserves accumulated by a number of commodity-exporting nations, which led to a global savings glut. …

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The terrorists have won

Reflections on death by SUV

It was just a matter of time before a World Trade Center survivor became a victim of a different sort of terrorism: death by automobile. It finally happened last month, in lower Manhattan, when a speeding sport utility vehicle struck and killed a woman who had fled the Twin Towers on 9/11. Florence Cioffi was leaving a dinner celebrating her upcoming 60th birthday when a Mercedes-Benz SUV slammed into her on Water Street at 60 miles an hour, according to a Manhattan assistant district attorney. Six years, four months, and thirteen days earlier, Ms. Cioffi narrowly averted death when she …

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Cities run into roadblocks in attempts to reduce CO2

Announcing an ambitious plan to reduce a city's greenhouse gases is the easy part; when it comes to putting goals into action, local officials tend to run up against significant roadblocks. To take just a few examples: The subprime mortgage crisis has left taxpayers across the country unable to fund efficiency-minded proposals. Across the country, homeowners' associations have vetoed plans for home solar panels on aesthetic grounds. In one city, police pushed back against plans for less-polluting cop cars, saying it would restrict needed speed. And everywhere, individuals are resistant to changing their habits. "They've seen the Al Gore movie, …

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Enterprise and other rental companies move into car-share market

Enterprise Rent-a-Car is zooming ahead with a car-sharing program à la the successful Zipcar. The Enterprise venture, called WeCar, started on the campus of St. Louis's Washington University last month, but will kick off in urban style in the city downtown next week. WeCar will begin with nine Toyota Prius hybrids and will target employees who commute without a car to work and then need a vehicle during the day. (Zipcar, which targets residential areas, is not available in St. Louis.) WeCar joins a U-Haul program with the self-explanatory name U Car Share, available in college cities like Ann Arbor, …

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Fast-growing Atlanta loses rights to major source of drinking water

An 18-year water war between Georgia, Alabama, and Florida has come to an end of sorts: A federal appellate court has voided an Army Corps of Engineers agreement that would have given Georgia the rights to nearly 25 percent of federal reservoir Lake Lanier as a source of drinking water for metro Atlanta. Alabama and Florida had sued over the plan, saying it would siphon off water that would otherwise flow to their states. Atlanta, which has been accused of not being mindful of water resources while encouraging rampant growth, is "the big loser here," says water-law expert George William …

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Leggo my Yazoo

EPA set to kibosh Mississippi Delta boondoggle

Successive presidential administrations -- including the current one -- have tried to rein in the Army Corps of Engineers and its projects, which are mostly known for their tangy combination of high cost, arguable utility, and disregard for the environment. Tried -- and largely failed, thanks to the level-10 force fields erected by congresscritters who covet the flood of Corps project dollars into their districts. So it's startling and welcome news that apparently, the EPA is initiating the process to veto a massive Corps project known as the Yazoo Pumps. The pump project is situated in the Mississippi-Yazoo Delta, a …

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Polluting vehicles must pay to drive in London under new scheme

Starting today, high-pollutin' trucks and buses will be fined for driving in London's new Low Emission Zone, which stretches for a not-too-shabby 610 square miles. Diesel vehicles weighing over 13 tons must register with the city transportation agency and have their emissions monitored; vehicles can be charged up to $400 for exceeding exhaust limits. A system of cameras will catch unregistered vehicles, which can be fined up to $2,000. After July, the rule will be expanded to apply to vehicles weighing over 4 tons, which would include large vans and ambulances. The zone is "the first in Britain and the …

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Commission approves NYC congestion charge

A New York commission has approved a plan to charge a fee to drivers entering Manhattan during peak hours. The proposal, aimed at reducing traffic congestion and pollution, differs only slightly from what Mayor Michael Bloomberg proposed in April; it would charge $8 to drivers entering a certain area between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m., and put the funding toward public transit. The plan must now be approved by the city council, Bloomberg, and the state legislature -- where some expect it will hit a snarl. But if the state does approve the plan, the federal government has allocated a …

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Majora Carter

If this doesn't get you in your gut, you've got serious problems:

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New CIA campus goes green

The CIA has apparently been green for years -- yet somehow, nobody managed to find out. But the secret-keepers' Chantilly, Va., campus was just outed as neerg gniog (that's code for "going green"). The new campus is LEED certified and features a green roof, preferred parking for carpoolers, energy-efficient equipment, waterless urinals, and more. We'd tell you more, but then we'd have to kill you. Or kidnap you and fly you to secret prisons offshore to be tortured. Or maybe, just maybe, we'll go old-school and support a coup against you. (But don't worry, we'll buy carbon credits to offset …

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