The Daily Grist: Feb. 13

Google Gaga
Google Bans Ads from Environmental Group

The popular search engine Google is facing accusations of censorship after it refused to carry ads from an environmental group that is protesting a major cruise line's sewage-treatment methods. The Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit Oceana paid Google to run an ad that read "Help us protect the world's oceans" when people entered search terms such as "cruise vacation" and "cruise ship." The ad itself didn't mention the cruise line by name, but it pointed web surfers to a site that criticized Miami-based Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines for dumping pollutants at sea. Google ran the ad for two days last week, but then banned it, citing a policy against ads that criticize groups or companies. "I am shocked that they will post information about pornography and yet they will censor information about cruise ship pollution," said Jim Ayers of Oceana.


The Minnow Would Be Lost
Senator's Plan Would Move Endangered Fish to Wetter Habitat

The New Mexico habitat of the silvery minnow, an endangered fish, too often goes dry, so Sen. Pete Domenici (R-N.M.) has come up with an unusual plan: relocate the fish to wetter territory. The minnow, which lives primarily in the Rio Grande River south of Albuquerque, has been the subject of substantial controversy because when the river gets low, water is diverted from towns and farmers to sustain the species' habitat. Domenici wants to turn that equation on its head and move the fish upstream where there are more consistent flows. "We should bring the minnow to the water instead of the water to the minnow," he said. Interior Secretary Gale Norton said yesterday that the department would consider Domenici's proposed scheme. As if that weren't enough upheaval for the minnow, the Bush administration has proposed cutting funding for restoration of the species' habitat by about two-thirds, from some $14.5 million this year to about $5 million next year.


Bleeding Between the Lines
Longline Fishing Takes Heavy Toll on Turtles

Yesterday we wrote about longline fishing wiping out large numbers of albatrosses; today, there's news that the fishing technique is messing with another charismatic critter -- the sea turtle. "In the year 2000, longline fishermen from 40 nations set at least 1.4 billion hooks on longlines that average about 40 miles long," said Duke University researcher Larry Crowder, speaking at a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Seattle, Wash. Loggerhead and leatherback turtles in the Pacific Ocean have a 40 to 60 percent chance of meeting up with one of those hooks in the course of a year, he reports, and though not all die as a result, too many do: 200,000 loggerheads and 50,000 leatherbacks annually. Crowder, who has submitted his research to the journal Ecology Letters, says fast action is needed to prevent the turtles from being wiped out.


Stuck in Trafficking
Enviros Accuse Malaysia of Enabling Illegal Timber Smuggling

The Environmental Investigation Agency and the Indonesian environmental group Telapak yesterday accused the Malaysian government of turning a blind eye to the widespread trafficking of timber illegally logged from Indonesia. According to an investigative report by the two groups, large quantities of the endangered tropical hardwood ramin are smuggled from Indonesia to Malaysia and made into furniture for export with falsified documentation. The illegal logging destroys the habitat of rare species such as orangutans, sumatran rhinos, and sun bears. The EIA and a number of U.S. environmental groups called on the U.S. government to impose sanctions against Malaysia because of the alleged smuggling. Malaysia vehemently denied the accusations.


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