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The Daily Grist: March 23

Free Falling
Federal Judges on Board of Anti-Environmental Group

Speaking of questionable judicial behavior, three federal judges are serving as directors on the board of an industry-funded foundation that regularly opposes environmental regulations, even while hearing cases in which the foundation's members have direct interests,
charges a public-interest group in a report released yesterday. The Community Rights Counsel's report details the activities of the Foundation for Research on Economics and the Environment, a Montana-based organization that receives money from Texaco, ExxonMobil, GE, and other big corporations and advocates for environmental policy based on cost-benefit analysis and property rights. Critics say FREE (get it?) opposes most environmental regulations and tries to buy access to judges with expense-paid junkets to Montana resorts. The Community Rights Counsel is filing ethics complaints against the judges serving on the FREE board.

Knocked Out of Our Census
Population Growth Rate Slowing, But Growth Still Notable

world's population growth is slowing, according to a U.S. Census Bureau report released yesterday. From 2001 to 2002, the population grew by 1.2 percent, down substantially from a peak of 2.2 percent between 1963 and 1964. The bureau projects an annual growth rate of 0.4 percent and a total population of 9.1 billion people by 2050. In positive news, some of the slowing growth can be attributed to women in the U.S. and Europe having fewer children. In mind-bogglingly depressing news, much of the rest can be attributed to AIDS killing millions of people in Africa. The bureau projects that by 2010, some African countries will have a life expectancy of 30 years or less, numbers not seen since the early 1900s. The big wildcards in projecting future population are, one, how the world's nations deal with the AIDS crisis, and, two, the effect of family-planning programs in poor countries.

Memo Random
GOP Memo Reveals Electoral Strategy on Environment

GOP leaders in the House of Representatives, worried that Democrats are going to "
hit us hard on the environment" in the coming election year, have issued a strategy memo on the subject. Its contents are ... uh, what's the charitable term here? ... revealing. It recommends that Republicans stick with the following talking points: Global warming is not a fact. Links between air quality and asthma are "cloudy." America's rivers and lakes are healthier than the U.S. EPA says. And the environment as a whole is improving, despite statements to the contrary from "extremists." Meanwhile, back on Earth, some GOP centrists worry that this head-in-the-sand approach could alienate swing voters, who will be central to the coming campaign. Rep. Mike Castle (R-Del.), who leads a group of 69 moderate members of Congress and governors, said, "If I tried to follow these talking points at a town hall meeting with my constituents, I'd be booed."

Do Good
Take Action to Halt Padre Island Drilling

If you don't care for the prospect of oil and gas development on North Padre Island, a critical nesting ground for endangered sea turtles, then make your voice heard:
Sign a petition that calls on President Bush to intervene and protect the seashore from development.

For more environmental news and humor go to Grist Magazine.

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