The New Republic

It's definitely not advisable to grow food in southeastern Belarus. The region is still so contaminated by fallout from the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear accident that crops grown there will be unfit for human consumption for hundreds of years—until the radioactive isotopes decay. (Thanks to wind patterns during the disaster, which happened in Ukraine, about 70 percent of the fallout splashed over onto Belarus.) For years, Belarus has been racking its brains trying to figure out a way to decontaminate soil in the region—which is home to about 1.5 million people.

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At this week's G-8 get-together in Italy, the world's 17 biggest polluters agreed to work together to limit world temperature increases to no more than 2C (3.6F) above pre-industrial levels. It was the first time the United States had agreed to that goal. To put that number in context, the Earth has already warmed 0.8C in the past century, and the carbon pollution we've thrown up in the air has locked in another 0.6C or so. Not much wiggle room left. One basic question is, why 2C?

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Roman Holiday

WASHINGTON--When President Obama meets with Pope Benedict XVI on Friday, there will be no right-wing Catholic demonstrators upbraiding the pontiff, as they did Notre Dame earlier this year, for conferring the church's legitimacy upon this liberal politician. In fact, whether he is the beneficiary of providence or merely of good luck, Obama will have his audience with Benedict just three days after the release of a papal encyclical on social justice that places the pope well to Obama's left on economics.

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Okay, then. Forget my post yesterday on how Barbara Boxer was planning to get a climate bill out of the Environment and Public Works committee before the August recess. According to Reuters, Boxer is now postponing completion until September—and says Congress may not be able to pass a big climate and energy bill in time for December's international climate summit in Copenhagen. So what happened? Over at Streetsblog, Elana Schor notes that Boxer has her hands full dealing with a massive shortfall in the highway trust fund, which is expected to run out in mid-August.

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That is, unless the South Carolina Senator meant his explicit comparison to Nazi Germany as a compliment... --Christopher Orr

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I don't believe I've seen a clearer sign of the impending cinematic apocalypse than the news earlier this week that Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci, the writing duo who gave us the semi-nightmarish script for Star Trek and the entirely nightmarish script for Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, are in discussions to help produce a movie based on the old Fisher-Price View-Master toy. I promise that I am not making this up. Evidently it's no longer enough that we endure a film based on every 1970s action figure (G.I.

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The Project for Public Spaces has a neat post on how lots of towns are replacing intersections with roundabouts. Not only can roundabouts cut down on congestion by up to 20 percent, but they can reduce the number of crashes at intersections by as much 75 percent, as compared with traditional stop signs or traffic lights.

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For those wondering when the Senate's going to take up climate-change legislation, the answer's... very soon. 1Sky's Jason Kowalski has an invaluable preview of the Senate schedule, and notes that Barbara Boxer's Environment and Public Works Committee should have a draft climate bill ready by July 15 or so, with a full markup happening in or around July 27. Boxer has said she's going to base her legislation on the House climate bill, although she may try to strengthen the short-term 2020 targets (she's also hinted that she may crack down on carbon offsets, which would be a terrific idea).

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Peter Baker reports that the climate talks in Italy this week made progress in a few areas, but hit a stalemate on the really hard questions: [N]egotiators for the world’s 17 leading polluters dropped a proposal to cut global greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent by midcentury, and emissions from the most advanced economies by 80 percent. But both the G-8 and the developing countries agreed to set a goal of stopping world temperatures from rising by more than 2 degrees Celsius from preindustrial levels.

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Blogger Rob Bricken accomplishes the near-impossible: making Michael Bay's latest Transformers movie highly entertaining by providing a FAQ/summary of its countless idiocies. A sample: A lot was made of how Shia the Beef's hand injury was written into the film. How was this done?Well, sometimes Shia had a huge bandage on his hand, and sometimes he didn't. That doesn't sound "written in" at all.Well, no actual words are used to explain it. It might be more accurate to say it "shows up sometimes." --Christopher Orr

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