PALIN VS. JUDD: If Alaska's gray wolves only knew a former Miss Alaska runner-up (and failed VP candidate!) was fighting with the Golden Globe-nominated star of De-Lovely over them. Actually, now that I put it that way, they might not be impressed. But the tiff is still getting a lot of attention. It began with a commercial from a conservationist group featuring Ashley Judd calling out Gov. Sarah Palin for her aerial wolf-hunting tendencies; Palin then shot back (not from a helicopter), calling Defenders of Wildlife an "extreme fringe group" that "distorts the facts" for fundraising. It's worth noting, which Politico does, that Defenders of Wildlife has attacked Palin in the past for her wolf hunting, but the governor never responded until the group put Judd in an ad. I guess someone saw De-Lovely after all. (Sources: Los Angeles TimesPolitico)

EFFICIENCY PROFICIENCY: President Obama has been proactive today in pressing his case for economic relief via energy efficiency. First he wrote an op-ed in this morning's Washington Post urging support for the stimulus bill, in which he highlighted key aspects such as weatherization, alternative energy and building a "smart" electrical grid. (My favorite part of the column, though, is its editor's note at the end: "The writer is president of the United States." Ohhh, that Barack Obama.) Later in the day, Obama went to the Energy Department and demanded new rules by August that will make nine appliances more energy-efficient: ovens (including microwaves), lamps, drink vending machines, residential dishwashers, commercial boilers and commercial air conditioners. While the new standards could make the appliances more expensive to buy, the White House estimates they'll save consumers more than $500 billion in electric bills over the next 30 years. (Sources: Washington Post, MSNBC

LIKE A LEAD BALLOON: Manufacturers and retailers are walking the thin line this week of publicly asking Congress to delay a new regulation on toxins in toys and clothes while still striking a populist tone. A law passed last year requires products that may contain dangerous levels of lead to be pulled from the shelves, but doing so would be "[b]ankrupting small businesses," according to an ad taken out in The Hill newspaper Wednesday. Opponents of the law, which is scheduled to take effect Tuesday, say it's confusing and are asking for six more months. (Sources: LA Times, USA Today)

COMPOUND FRACTURE: Hydraulic fracturing, aka "fracking" (and aka "fracing," but that looks like it rhymes with "tracing") has literally opened up a vast new potential for oil and gas drilling in the hard, rocky American West. In places where conventional drilling would be cost-prohibitive, companies inject a pressurized mixture of water, sand and various secret chemicals into rock formations thousands of feet underground, widening existing cracks and letting gas rise through. But, as the CS Monitor reports, that clandestine cocktail — which may contain things like benzene and methane — doesn't just go away. Most returns to the surface, but up to 40 percent disappears into the earth, and residents of western Colorado who live near fracking operations have compelling evidence the toxic compounds are seeping into their water and homes. Incidentally, fracking is likely how the energy industry would get at natural gas on the Utah land parcels that were unleased Wednesday. (Sources: ProPublica, Christian Science Monitor)

Russell McLendon

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