SECRETARIES' DAY: Obama's energy and environmental appointments are complete, so our focus now shifts to their focus — fighting climate change. While all share Obama's general vision on the matter, not all are drawing as much praise as energy secretary-to-be Steven Chu did. The reviews are generally mixed on Ken Salazar, Tom Vilsack and Ray LaHood, named secretaries of the interior, agriculture and transportation, respectively. (Sources: The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Des Moines Register, The Associated Press, The Chicago Tribune)

LAND OF BILK AND MONEY: Seven conservation groups are suing to stop the federal Bureau of Land Management from selling leases to oil and gas companies on 110,000 acres of picturesque Utah plateaus and canyons, including parts of two national parks. Environmentalists, lawmakers and Robert Redford are accusing the Bush administration of trying to sneak the sales through before leaving office as "an early Christmas present to the oil and gas industry." (Source: CNN)

MONEY DUBAI HAPPINESS: The ostentatious Emirate city has plans for a refrigerated 820-square-foot swimming pool and a beach with artificially cooled sand and wind machines to create breezes, since temperatures can reach 122 degrees Fahrenheit. (Source: The Guardian)

PLAYING FUR KEEPS: American celebrities such as Sharon Stone and the Clintons are helping popularize Australian brushtailed possum fur as an environmental accessory. Introduced to New Zealand in 1837 in hopes of creating a fur industry there, the possum had no natural predators has become an ecological nightmare. It destroys trees, eats birds and eggs, competes directly with native animals and may soon drive the kiwi to extinction. The fur industry is hoping to wipe out the possum in New Zealand. (Source: Agence France-Presse

DEVILS BEDEVILED: Tasmanian devils' advocates are dismayed that Cedric, a devil they thought was immune to a viral facial tumor that threatens the species' existence, is now showing signs of the deadly disease. (Source: The Independent)

UNCHARRED TERRITORY: Scientists from the University of Georgia are borrowing from ancient Amazonian Indians' playbook, using "biochar" — any charred organic material, which the Amazonians used to replenish infertile soil  — to replenish spoiled soils are the world, combating food shortages and global warming. (Source: Environmental News Service)

RECESSION IS UNIVERSAL: Not even the totality of existence is immune to the current recession. A team of international scientists is reporting this week that dark energy — that barely comprehensible antigravity force we can't detect — is stunting the growth of once rapidly growing galactic clusters, even while simultaneously speeding up the expansion of the universe itself. (Source: N.Y. Times)

— Russell McLendon

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