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Eternal Sunshine of the British Mind

U.K. freedom-of-information rules promise access to crucial enviro data In sharp contrast to America's growing number of terror-inspired no-right-to-know rules restricting citizens' access to government info crucial to environmental health and safety, new rules in Britain that took effect Jan. 1 are intended to do just the opposite (no, not incite terrorism): ensure citizens' access to information about their environment. The new freedom-of-information rules also cover some private companies' records, especially concerning emissions data. Friends of the Earth U.K. has already submitted 60 requests for information on subjects ranging from the dangers of genetically modified crops to land contaminated by …

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Exeter Stage Left

Climate eggheads conclude we're toast, not sure when we'll hear the ding A three-day scientific conference on global warming in Exeter, U.K., that wrapped up today vividly illustrates the frustrating current state of the climate-change debate. There was a palpable sense of urgency among the scientists in attendance, as various studies predicted that global warming will yield rising sea levels, outbreaks of infectious disease, droughts, floods, famine, and up to 150 million "environmental refugees" fleeing arid or submerged land. Poor countries in South Asia and Africa are expected to be hardest hit, but aside from some areas of Canada and …

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Reid Between the Mines

Senate Democratic leader Reid is a friend to the mining industry Sen. Harry Reid, the new leader of the Senate Democrats, knows full-well that his home state of Nevada isn't a liberal or environmental stronghold. Thus he has had to balance his party's political agenda with his state's economic interests, and one of those big interests is mining. Reid has repeatedly fought environmental regulation of the mining industry while championing its access to public lands, and the senator relies on the industry for political and financial backing. But despite this lacuna in his eco-credentials, Reid is on board with other …

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It Takes a Six-State Caucus to Raise a Child

Midwest states announce effort to protect children from eco-hazards Youngsters in six Midwestern states may soon be safer from environmental dangers ranging from pesticide use in schools to toxic fumes from school-bus tailpipes. Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin lawmakers in the National Caucus of Environmental Legislators have agreed to work together to create stricter laws to prevent ill health effects in children stemming from pollution and toxic chemicals. The legislators also want to instigate a study into the long-term effects of chemicals on kids. "It seemed logical that we should work across state lines to pursue these proposals," …

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Are Too!

Judge says Bush admin wrong in claiming NW wolves aren't endangered Yesterday, a federal judge rescinded the 2003 federal rule downgrading gray wolves in the Northwest U.S. from endangered to threatened under the Endangered Species Act, saying the Bush administration's decision was "not based on the present or future threats to the wolf or the best available science." Interior Secretary Gale Norton based the move on thriving wolf populations in the Northern Rocky Mountains -- in effect, said Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity, "gerrymander[ing] the entire contiguous 48 states so that wolves in a few areas would …

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Paying Flip Service

California puts John Muir on its official quarter California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) and state first lady Maria Shriver yesterday introduced the new California quarter, bearing the likeness of venerable conservationist John Muir and the once-almost-extinct California condor he did so much to preserve. "Muir lit the torch of conservation in our state," said the governor, whose environmental record, while not perfect, shines in comparison to many of his fellow party members in Washington, D.C., where the torch of conservation is, shall we say, sputtering. Muir, a Scottish transplant, traveled over and wrote extensively about the Western U.S., laying the …

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The Shallow End of the Secretarial Pool

Senate confirms Bodman to head Energy Department Sam Bodman's nomination to serve as energy secretary sailed through the Senate yesterday, despite his having little to no experience working on energy issues. Now he can get to work pushing Bush's big energy bill through Congress, fighting for the opening of the proposed nuclear-waste repository at Yucca Mountain, Nev., and pressing for oil and gas drilling within the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. A public fight over the refuge may flare up (again) as soon as next week, as the House Resources Committee is scheduled to vote on Feb. 9 on whether to …

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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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