Like grizzlies, American gray wolves are caught in a sort of ping-pong match between environmentalists and local pro-hunting activists who claim they're a menace to livestock and humans. Wolves were reintroduced into Yellowstone National Park in the 1990s, and the reintroduction was so successful (meaning that a population that once numbered in the thousands is at about 1,500) that they've finally been taken off the endangered species list in Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, and parts of neighboring states. So it's time to start shooting at them again!
Lest anyone think that Isabella Rossellini's foray into zoophilia for the cover image of our environmental issue was a one-time deal, check out this year's Sundance Film Festival, which features a series of short "Green Pornos" directed, written by, and starring the most genetically perfect human being on the planet (thanks to MoJo for the link). The films feature Rossellini in insect costumes that look remarkably like my "garden fairy" outfit from hippie summer camp, saying in a deeply solemn voice things like: "I have sex several times a day. Any opportunity!
In other cool animal news, a group of scientists in New Zealand have released more information about that colossal squid carcass they've been studying for the past year. The 32-foot-long squid has eyes about the size of beachballs, and may not even be full-grown—it's possibly even just 2/3 the size of a mature adult.
Because she's a dominant hermaphrodite with the social intelligence of a primate, that's why. Smithsonian magazine has up an amazing piece about spotted hyenas in Kenya, detailing their matriarchical clannish society and bizarre private parts (hyenas were long thought to have witch-like powers, including the ability to change gender at will to foil predators—in fact, female hyenas have extremely long "peniform" clitorises and bulbuous labia that look like testicles, and even scientists can't always tell the difference).
A California judge has ruled that Bush has 16 days to decide whether polar bears are now endangered due to climate change. I have nothing to add except for this, this, and this. (But not this. Hopefully Bush doesn't read the English papers.) -- Britt Peterson
(Image courtesy the Libary of Congress.) Having found success throughout Europe, a sponsored bicycle-sharing program is now coming to Washington, DC. Previous attempts at launching bike-share programs in Portland and elsewhere have typically met with failure -- for one, in a good example of a tragedy of the commons, the bikes get stolen (in one attempt in Cambridge, UK in 1993, all 300 shared bikes were gone by the end of the first day).
It's April, which means taxes and magazines putting out green issues. After the first flush of Al Gore portraits and photos of polar bears on tiny ice floes in the early days of "green issue" covers (say, in 2006), magazines are now forced to get a little creative with their cover images. Vanity Fair's Madonna-as-world-hugging-dominatrix cover is a good example of this. (It's not really worth deconstructing this one.
Jonathan Rosen's very lovely piece in the upcoming issue muses on the gray moral shades of extinction -- why we get so upset when we hear about certain species (dolphins, spotted owls, etc.) dying out, but don't bat an eyelash for the less fuzzy ones. Rosen begins his piece with a meditation on John James Audobon's bird paintings, all of which are available here for those curious about the Manks Shearwater, the Hairy Woodpecker, or the Surf Duck. -- Britt Peterson
Andrew Sullivan points out, via a reader, the "often overlooked point" that we can understand Barack Obama best in the context of his Hawaiian upbringing: "Everything that's essential and appealing about him is Hawaiian in character, and reflects his years growing up there." For further elaboration on Hawaii and its impact on Obama's ideas about racial and socioeconomic divides, see Allegra Goodman's beautiful essay from our February 13 issue, "Rainbow Warrior," describing the background she and Obama share as graduates of Honolulu's Punahou school. -- Britt Peterson
The Times article today on how all med students are going into dermatology and plastic surgery instead of general medicine was rather fascinating -- maybe the answer is some sort of Harvard Law-style loan forgiveness program for med students who actually want to be, you know, doctors? -- but the thing that most jumped out at me was this quote: "Dermatologists say they enjoy the variety of a specialty that encompasses serious illnesses like skin cancer and psoriasis as well as conditions like uncombable hair syndrome." Uncombable hair syndrome?!