TAKING CHARGE: Gas-electric hybrid cars are the stars of the 2009 Detroit auto show, which kicked off this weekend. But the story isn't as much their mpg as it is whether anyone will buy them. High gas prices this summer made SUVs pariahs and hybrids heroes — but seven months later, gas is cheap and hybrids less tantalizing. Still, electrification is undeniably the automobile's eventual future, and reeling automakers are anxious to prove they've finally learned their lessons. (Sources: The Detroit Free Press, The Washington Post, The Associated Press, The New York Times)

LAND'S SAKE: The U.S. Senate advanced a package of 160 bills Sunday that would set aside 2 million acres of land in nine states as wilderness, thus safe from oil and gas drilling. The rare Sunday session drew arguments from some Republican senators who complained the package moved too quickly and didn't allow amendments, but it went ahead with a vote of 66-12, more than the 59 favorable votes it needed to avoid debate. The Senate could vote on the package later this week. (Source: AP)

GOOD WITH CHICKS: Topa, the California condor who in 1967 was one of only 22 left in the world, has now sired 21 chicks since 1993. He went two decades without seeing another condor, which threw off his instincts and had him romancing tree stumps and tufts of grass. But one aggressive female finally pinned him down, and by '93 had transformed him from a "lovable nerd" into a pillar of his species and conservation success story. (Source: The Los Angeles Times)

KNOCK ON WOODS: Deforestation in the Amazon rainforest is speeding up, "dismembering the Earth's functional heart and lungs," according to a report from the National Science Foundation. While logging for timber is a significant factor — encouraged by buyers such as a New Jersey town shopping for a new boardwalk — 80 to 90 percent of all cleared land in the forest is for cattle ranching or pastureland, according to a Michigan State researcher. Brazil is the world's top beef exporter and its output is only rising. (Sources: LiveScience, AP)

CARCASSES DOT NET: A 9,000-pound fishing net from a trawler that sank off the California coast in 2006 has been snagging sea lions, dolphins, sharks and fish ever since, creating a sea-floor graveyard of scattered skeletons around the wreckage. A team of volunteer scuba divers began cutting away at the net Sunday morning, using only filet knives and flashlights. (Source: L.A. Times)

YOUR LYIN' ANTENNAE: Worker ants are sworn to chastity, letting their queen churn out an army of siblings while they toil. Once in a while the urge is too strong, though, and worker ants get busy in a different way. Scientists from Arizona State have discovered that such cheating ants give themselves away by releasing a hydrocarbon scent, which draws a crowd of fellow workers who attack and physically restrain the mating pair from reproducing. (Source: ScienceDaily)

Russell McLendon

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