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Just how necessary is nuclear power? Lately, politicians around the globe have been asking themselves that question as they watch a small handful Japanese technicians race to prevent three reactors from spewing out radiation at the quake-ravaged Fukushima Daiichi plant. In recent years, a consensus had taken hold that the world needed many, many more nuclear plants to meet its low-carbon energy needs and avoid drastic global warming.

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Here's a quick sketch of how environmental policy will get made for the next two years. Congress won't pass any new laws. The EPA will try to use the authority it already has to mop up pollution from coal plants, factories, and vehicles (and the agency has a fair bit of existing authority to do so). Industry groups, Republicans, and more than a few Democrats will moan about the costs. And the Obama administration will then have to decide just how much confrontation it can really stomach.

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Spike Lee's wonderful 2006 documentary When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts, wasn’t just about Hurricane Katrina. Rather, it explored the social inequities that the hurricane laid bare, and the incompetence, confusion, greed, and stupidity that made a terrible situation worse. His latest effort, If God Is Willing and Da Creek Don't Rise, which premieres on August 23and 24, casts a cold eye on the opportunism that followed in the wake of Katrina, finishing with a devastating hour about the BP oil spill and the political and economic forces that allowed it to happen.

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Jiayuguan, China—My first question to the mayor, naturally, is about the porpoise. On the outskirts of Jiayuguan, an industrial city of about 300,000 smack in the middle of the Gobi Desert, there's a 15-story-tall steel dolphin, standing erect, balancing a giant ball on its nose. After dusk, the structure is set ablaze in bright neon, its flashing flippers visible from miles away. "That's not a, uh, native species around these parts, is it?" Nope.

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We’ve had more than a few homilies from the president about how Islam is a communion of peace. And I don’t doubt that there are hundreds of millions of Muslims who yearn for quiet and productive lives. May Allah be with them, according to their prayers. If they are a majority in Islam--and I’m not sure they are--they are a silent majority. In any event, the defining strain among many Arab and Muslim states is the reign of violence and the dread fear of it.

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Fox News All-Star panelist Charles Krauthammer says the Senate health care bill starts collecting revenue immediately, but runs an annual deficit, so that it will explode the deficit in the long run: In the House bill, and I'm sure in the bill that we will hear about tomorrow in the Senate, it's ten years of people paying in, and six or seven years of health care [paying out] because [the benefits] kick in later. So that is how you make the numbers look good. But annually it runs at a huge deficit.   In fact, this is completely false.

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All told, the draft Senate climate bill that John Kerry and Barbara Boxer unveiled today looks awfully similar to the Waxman-Markey bill that passed the House back in June. Everything you've read about that earlier bill, griping and cheering alike, basically still applies. Plus, lots will change as this bill shimmies its way through at least five different Senate committees, so there's no use pretending this is a final product or anything.

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President Obama gave a good speech yesterday in Troy, N.Y.

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Self Service

For Washington lobbyists, these were supposed to be the salad days. The Bush administration was to be their playground, the regulatory agencies their dolls to dress up and knock down. And on paper they’ve made out pretty well—tax cuts, the squashing of costly ergonomics rules, favorable appointments throughout the government. But for all their influence, D.C. lobbyists have failed to attain one elusive goal: public respect. During the 2000 primaries, John McCain denounced them as one side of the “iron triangle” of special interests that corrupt American politics.

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