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Thursday, Sep 18th

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Rich countries launch great land grab to safeguard food supply

Rich governments and corporations are triggering alarm for the poor as they buy up the rights to millions of hectares of agricultural land in developing countries in an effort to secure their own long-term food supplies.

The head of the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, Jacques Diouf, has warned that the controversial rise in land deals could create a form of "neo-colonialism", with poor states producing food for the rich at the expense of their own hungry people.

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New Rule Would Discount Warming as Risk Factor for Species

The Bush administration is finalizing changes to the Endangered Species Act that would ensure that federal agencies would not have to take global warming into account when assessing risks to imperiled plants and animals.

The main purpose of the new regulations, which were first unveiled in August, is to eliminate a long-standing provision of the Endangered Species Act that requires an independent scientific review by either the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration of any federal project that could affect a protected species. Under the administration's proposal, individual agencies could decide on their own whether a project would harm an imperiled species. 

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Government warns of "catastrophic" U.S. quake

People in a vast seismic zone in the southern and midwestern United States would face catastrophic damage if a major earthquake struck there and should ensure that builders keep that risk in mind, a government report said on Thursday.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency said if earthquakes strike in what geologists define as the New Madrid Seismic Zone, they would cause "the highest economic losses due to a natural disaster in the United States."

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EPA Proposal Would Loosen Rules for Air in National Parks

The Environmental Protection Agency is finalizing new air-quality rules that would make it easier to build coal-fired power plants, oil refineries and other major polluters near national parks and wilderness areas, even though half of the EPA's 10 regional administrators formally dissented from the decision and four others criticized the move in writing.

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Ex-EPA Official Faults Probe of BP Alaska Oil Spill

The former head of an EPA criminal probe into pipeline spills at a BP PLC oil field in Alaska claims the Justice Department prematurely shut down the investigation and settled with the company for less than the case may have warranted.

Scott West, a former special agent-in-charge of the EPA's criminal-investigation division in Seattle who supervised a team of investigators, said he needed as much as another year to determine if, in fact, "there was sufficient evidence to charge BP with a felony." Mr. West said his agents still had large volumes of evidence to go through to make that determination.

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Experts warn of severe water shortages by 2080

Half the world's population could face a shortage of clean water by 2080 because of climate change, experts warned Tuesday.

Wong Poh Poh, a professor at the National University of Singapore, told a regional conference that global warming was disrupting water flow patterns and increasing the severity of floods, droughts and storms — all of which reduce the availability of drinking water

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Times Square getting its first 'green' billboard

This winter, New Year's Eve revelers will have a close-up view of Times Square's first environmentally friendly billboard powered entirely by wind and sun.

But the billboard might not be quite as dazzling as some of its high-powered neighbors along the Great White Way.

Construction on the 35,000-pound sign advertising Ricoh Americas Corp. is to begin this month across the avenue from the building where the ball drops on New Year's Eve.

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