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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 …

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Bill McKibben sends dispatches from a conference on winning the climate-change fight

Tuesday, 25 Jan 2005 MIDDLEBURY, Vt. A crisp, cold, blue-sky New England day, fresh snow on the ground, and everything right with the world. Except that last night, as I was preparing to attend a three-day conference on climate change here in Middlebury, Vt., yet another disturbing report on global warming drifted across the net. This one comes from the International Climate Change Taskforce, co-chaired by Stephen Byers, a Tony Blair confidant from the U.K., and Olympia Snowe, the Republican senator from Maine. In one sense, it's nothing new: yet another document from moderate world leaders calling for urgent action …

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EPA offers air-pollution immunity to factory farms

On Friday, in the shadow of the splashy presidential inauguration jamboree, the Bush EPA offered factory farms a tempting tradeoff: more than two years of immunity from the Clean Air Act and certain toxic-discharge standards in exchange for participating in a data-collection program that would monitor air emissions from their facilities. Factory farms may be getting off easy, but not so the chickens. Photo: Farm Sanctuary. EPA enforcement honcho Thomas Skinner hailed the agreement in a statement as "a huge step forward" in the effort to reduce factory-farm emissions, while environmentalists say the deal stinks as bad as the mountains …

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Executive Disorder

Industry unhappy with Bush's back-up air-pollution plan President Bush's Clear Skies legislation has stalled out in Congress, unable to muster support even from a sufficient number of Republicans. To compensate, Bush is planning to implement some of the bill's provisions by issuing executive orders -- for instance, an order establishing a mercury-emissions trading program. But the electric-utility industry, the very constituent that enviros say the bill is most friendly to, is not happy about the strategy. They say a regulatory rather than legislative approach opens the door to multiple lawsuits, and they complain that the executive orders would establish inconsistent …

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Ex-FBI agent charges feds with radioactive coverup at Rocky Flats

The plotline sounds as absurd as a made-for-TV movie: An FBI agent exposes deadly contamination at an old nuclear-weapons plant, but the federal government conceals the findings. Years later, Congress votes to convert the tract into a wildlife refuge and open it to school field trips and public recreation. The site becomes a poster child for eco-friendly nuclear-waste disposal -- with a dangerous radioactive secret lurking below the surface. An aerial view of Rocky Flats. Photo: Los Alamos National Laboratory. Fact, of course, can be stranger than fiction -- even bad Sunday-night-on-CBS fiction -- and former FBI agent Jon Lipsky …

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You’re Fired Up

Former Berkeley professor fights biotech industry Former University of California at Berkeley professor and one-time biotech supporter Ignacio Chapela is fighting against what he alleges are huge sums of money being used by the biotech industry to influence research at U.S. universities. After what he says was a coordinated PR push by the industry, the science journal Nature abandoned support for his research into GM crop contamination in Mexico, which it had previously published. After that, Chapela objected strenuously when his university was offered $50 million by GM giant Novartis. For that, and for the Nature kerfuffle, Chapela was essentially …

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Bush judicial nominees could shake the foundations of environmental law

William G. Myers III is George W. Bush's choice for a lifetime position on the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. That court's jurisdiction covers three-quarters of all federal lands, in nine Western states where contentious battles rage over energy, mining, timber, and grazing. Which way will the scales of justice tip? Unlike most judicial nominees, Myers has never been a judge. Instead, his qualifications include decades as a paid lobbyist and lawyer to the coal and cattle industries. In his recent position as the Bush Interior Department's chief attorney, Myers tried to give away valuable federal lands to a …

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