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Crichton Mad

A review of the distorted plot and politics in Michael Crichton’s State of Fear

Michael Crichton,author of State of Fear. Photo: HarperCollins Publishers. Michael Crichton's State of Fear is an attempt to meld serious politico-scientific critique with a modern techno-thriller. It's an ambitious undertaking, but to paraphrase Thomas Edison, success is 1 percent ambition and 99 percent not writing an awful book. Crichton's novel, alas, is unilluminating as a critique and unsatisfying as a thriller. In many books of this ilk, authors work up a certain level of suspense by following several characters' storylines at once, cutting back and forth at each cliffhanging juncture. In State of Fear, however, the reader is shackled throughout …

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Yucca, Who Needs Ya?

Nuclear advocates take back the whole "Yucca is a necessity" thing Nuclear advocates have long insisted that the planned nuclear-waste repository at Nevada's Yucca Mountain is necessary before new nuclear reactors can be built, because on-site storage of waste is just too dangerous. But with Yucca's prospects (at least in the short term) looking dim, and the prospects for new reactors looking bright under the "nuclear is renewable" Bush administration, the industry's in a bit of a bind. Industry reps are starting to suggest that hey, maybe on-site or aboveground storage isn't so bad after all. The nuclear-power industry is …

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Here a Whitman, There a Whitman, Everywhere a Whitman-Whitman

Christie Whitman does the rounds criticizing Republican radicalism Ex-EPA chief Christine Todd Whitman's new book It's My Party Too is out now, and she is having her moment of media ubiquity, bashing what she calls the increasing extremism of the Republican Party. In interviews and appearances on such commie-pinko outlets as NPR's "Fresh Air" and "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart," Whitman is revealing some of the details behind her decision to bail on her thankless job in 2003. The final straw, she says, was when it became clear that the White House was going to get behind weakened rules …

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Pretty Pleas

At Davos, Blair pushes U.S. for climate-change action Addressing the annual World Economic Forum powwow in Davos, Switzerland, yesterday, British Prime Minister Tony Blair had what observers called unusually sharp words for the Bush administration, saying the U.S. should join the global battle against climate change if it seeks global cooperation in its battle against terrorism. "If America wants the rest of the world to be part of the agenda it has set," said Blair, "it must be part of their agenda too." Blair intends to focus his 2005 presidency of the G8 group of industrialized nations on climate change …

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Bush team pushes Clear Skies, but disagreement over CO2 could stymie the bill

Barely a week into the president's second term, the emboldened Bush team -- even whilst juggling plans for a Social Security overhaul and major new expenditures on the Iraq venture -- has signaled that it's bound and determined to pass its Clear Skies Act, the first major amendment to the Clean Air Act since 1990. The administration has kicked off a lobbying blitz in cahoots with GOP leaders in Congress and key industry players to help push the legislation through the Senate in the next few weeks. Clear skies? The bill was reintroduced in the Senate on Monday by James …

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They met on the Prius showroom floor …

Environmentalists were there to lighten their ecological footprint. Neocons were there to lighten the fat Saudi pocketbook, full of petro dollars that fund terrorism. According to Robert Bryce, writing in Slate, the strange bedfellows have come together to advocate measures that would increase car fuel efficiency, lessen foreign oil dependence, and pump up renewables. While Bryce pitches the "sleeping with the enemy" angle, the key point is there are multiple, compelling reasons to aggressively pursue (and for the government to subsidize) energy efficiency, renewables and alternatives to fossil fuels, and reduced dependence on overseas oil. Greens have often worked this …

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Give Peas a Chance

War-torn countries fight to protect genetic variability of crops Scientists and agricultural breeding specialists have developed a system to recover and restore rare but valuable crop varieties that might otherwise be lost forever to the ravages of war and heedless development. Called "smart aid," the strategy involves searching out important genetic varieties -- such as those able to withstand flood or extreme drought -- and revitalizing those stocks to help replenish damaged farmland. "Restoring agriculture is usually the first step in creating economic growth and laying the foundations for durable peace," says Ian Johnson, head of the Consultative Group on …

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The Clear Skies’ the Limit

Lawmakers defend states' rights, introduce Clear Skies competition Govs. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-Calif.) and George Pataki (R-N.Y.), in a letter to a Senate committee that's convening today to deliberate the Bush administration's Clear Skies bill, emphasized the importance of protecting state environmental enforcement powers. Both California and New York have put in place environmental regulations stricter than federal standards, which some enviros say may be weakened if Clear Skies is approved. Meanwhile, a bipartisan ... no, make that tri-partisan trio of senators -- Jim Jeffords (I-Vt.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), and Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.) -- yesterday introduced a competing, more-strict clean-air bill. …

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The Lion, the Switch, and the … Oh, Forget It

Neoconservatives and greens find common cause on energy conservation And the lion shall lie down with the lamb indeed. A strange political alliance is taking shape in Washington, D.C., as neoconservatives anxious to sap political strength from their Middle Eastern nemeses form common cause with enviros anxious to slow global warming. What unites them? A desire to reduce oil consumption. The neocons who pushed for the Iraq invasion largely come out of the academy and think-tank circuit, and do not have the political and economic ties to the oil and gas industry that, well, just about everybody else in the …

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Two Degrees of Separation

Report warns of major climate catastrophe in as few as 10 years A task force of leading politicians, academics, and business leaders from around the world has quantified global warming's so-called "point of no return." And it's bloody soon! In as little as 10 years, says a report by the task force, the global average temperature could rise 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit from its pre-industrial level. At that point, the authors contend, the tipping point will have been reached and major droughts, sea-level rise, and widespread crop failures are all but certain. So far, global average temperature has risen about 1.4 …