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The Supreme Court considers an extortion suit against federal land managers

The Supreme Court heard argument in a curious case this week. No, I'm not talking about the celebrated "Bong Hits for Jesus" case. The second case on Monday's docket involved an Alabaman turned Wyoming rancher claiming that government bureaucrats had engaged in extortion by enforcing the letter of the law. An appellate court in Denver, Colo., ruled that Harvey Frank Robbins (the rancher) could sue Charles Wilkie and other Bureau of Land Management employees under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (also known as RICO) -- a law used to prosecute mobsters involved in organized crime. Now the chance …

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Next Stop, Wonderment

Last year, U.S. saw highest public-transit ridership since 1957 Hooray for sky-high gas prices! Thanks to the manipulative maneuverings of Big Oil, public transit ridership in the U.S. is on the rise too. A report from the American Public Transportation Association says miffed tank-fillers and others took 10 billion mass-transit trips last year -- 2.9 percent more than in 2005, 28 percent more than in 1996, and the most since 1957. Cities including Philadelphia, San Francisco, Salt Lake City, and Tulsa have seen a spike in riders, and are adding buses and trains to meet growing demand. Besides outlandish fuel …

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She prefers a ‘people’s waterfront’

Seattle is facing a difficult decision: what to do with a crumbling highway that serves as a major north-south corridor through the city? Below, we hear from Cary Moon. Cary is a landscape and urban designer and co-founder of the People's Waterfront Coalition. The PWC's No-Highway option won second prize in a national design competition sponsored by Metropolis magazine, called "Next Generation: Big Idea." ----- Faced with a maddening choice between two miserable highway options to blight our downtown shore for another century, Seattleites are wondering how in the heck we got here. How did our beautiful green city end …

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She says no and hell no

Seattle is facing a difficult decision: what to do with a crumbling highway that serves as a major north-south corridor through the city? Below, we hear from Erica C. Barnett. Erica is the senior news writer for Seattle's alternative newsweekly, The Stranger, where she covers City Hall and transportation, writes a weekly politics column, and serves on the paper's editorial board. She also has a blog. ----- Voters in Seattle are being asked to take up-or-down votes on options to replace the dangerous (so we're told) Alaskan Way Viaduct on our waterfront -- a new, larger elevated viaduct and a …

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Because local transportation choices aren’t local any more

As Bradley noted below, the citizens of Seattle face a dilemma. The Alaskan Way Viaduct -- an elevated highway that enters Seattle on its west flank, offering stunning views (to drivers) of the city and the waterfront -- is falling apart. There's real danger that an earthquake, or just Father Time, could send it tumbling down, along with lots of cars. Nobody wants that. That's where the consensus ends. The question is: what should we do about it? In some sense this is a local decision, of course. But in an age of climate change, such decisions are never purely …

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Electric motorcycles may be bridge to electric cars

I see this pea-green electric car biffing around the neighborhood now and then. I test drove a similar car a year or so ago. Entrepreneurs just can't resist testing the electric car market. One company after another goes out of business, only to be replaced by the next guy in line. It might help if they would make them less silly looking. Adding a fourth wheel might have been worth it in this case. However, the problem isn't just marketing. You can't just make an electric car look sexy -- it also has to perform. The weak link, as everyone …

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And You Thought It Was the TPS Reports

Your commute may be killing you, says clean-air advocacy group Here's one more reason to hate your commute: it could be making you sick. Commuters -- on car, train, bus, bike, or foot -- breathe in up to eight times more diesel soot particles than they would just being in a downtown area, according to a new study by the nonprofit Clean Air Task Force. Based on air-quality monitoring on routes through New York City, Boston, Columbus, Ohio, and Austin, Texas, the task force estimates that during the 6 percent of the day spent commuting, the average person breathes in …

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A journey on China’s controversial new train to Tibet

Each night, the Qinghai-Tibet train leaves Beijing at 9:30. A mere 48 hours later, it rolls into Lhasa, 2,525 miles away. Waiting to depart from Beijing. Photos: Erica Gies Shortly after 9 p.m. one warm night last fall, my travel companion and I raced through the sprawling West Beijing train station, weaving our way through a crush of humanity sitting on newspapers and bits of cardboard, eating cups of noodles while waiting for their own journeys. Winded, we boarded our soft sleeper car on Train 27 and made our way to our compartment -- only to find it overflowing with …

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Detroit Should Get an Award for Ending Every List

New report ranks U.S. cities on environmental and social realities A new report ranks 72 U.S. cities on their greenness -- but we're not talking just parks and bike paths. The Urban Environment Report, put out by the Washington, D.C.-based Earth Day Network, includes a "vulnerable population index" that takes into account the segment of a city's population that is most susceptible to environmental changes, including those who are unemployed and uninsured. "This study is the first of its kind, not only because of the sheer quantity of environmental data analyzed, but also because it redefines the term 'environmental' to …

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The Land of Electric Enchantment

Tesla Motors to build electric-car plant in New Mexico In April, electric-car start-up Tesla Motors will break ground on a manufacturing plant in Albuquerque, which beat out Flagstaff, Ariz., and Pittsburg, Calif., for the honor. The plant will churn out 10,000 WhiteStar sedans a year starting in 2009 -- "zero-emission" cars that will go 250 miles on a full charge and start at $50,000. The 150,000-square-foot plant, which will provide 400 jobs, has officials singing the company's praises. "Tesla is committed to clean energy and so is New Mexico," sang Gov. Bill Richardson (D), while Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) warbled …

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