China orders corrupt environmental protection officials to go straight

In the wake of several destructive and internationally embarrassing pollution disasters, China is ordering local environmental protection officials to start, um, protecting the environment. A government announcement on Tuesday warned officials to stop covering up accidents, turning a blind eye to polluting projects, and canceling penalties for illegal industrial-waste discharges — or face disciplinary actions that may range from warnings to losing their jobs. Eco-activists are guardedly optimistic. “There have always been laws, but very little enforcement,” said Kevin May of Greenpeace China. “Now we have new laws. How will they be different? That remains to be seen.” Last week, Beijing announced cabinet-level directives to clean up China’s thoroughly abused environment in the next 15 years — with improving air, water, and soil quality at the top of the list.