BACKSEAT DRIVERS: The era when Washington pampered Detroit — delaying airbag mandates or fighting fuel-economy standards — has clearly ended, but the Washington Post looks back at how strong and long-running automakers' influence over lawmakers was. The juxtaposition is on full display this week as GM and Chrysler woo legislators at the Washington Auto Show. (Source: Washington Post)

CLEAN POWER OUTAGE: The U.S. renewable energy industry has been charging hard in recent years, which helped the United States pass Germany in 2008 as the world's No. 1 wind-power producer. Reflecting on that progress only makes its sudden short circuit even more bitter — the New York Times and BusinessWeek both report today on how the recession is battering clean-power investments, forcing several wind and solar companies to lay off workers. And while creating green jobs in this sector is a major focus of the economic stimulus bill currently in the Senate, a report issued Tuesday by congressional Democrats pointed out that not all green jobs bring in a lot of green. (Sources: NY Times, BusinessWeek)

FOX NEWS: The Catalina Island fox, which once numbered around 1,300 but dropped to 100 about a decade years ago, has now rebounded to 784, scientists report. The foxes, which are only found on the 75-square-mile island off the Southern California coast, were nearly wiped out by a distemper outbreak in the late '90s, possibly spread by a person's pet. Their comeback is so substantial, however, that biologists might seek to have them removed from the endangered species list. (Source: Los Angeles Times)

SLEEP OF FAITH: Mammals that burrow, hide or hibernate have a better chance of avoiding extinction, according to a recent study, whose authors believe such "sleep-or-hide" animals may be better suited to weather climate change than their perkier or braver contemporaries. That strategy unfortunately hasn't worked for bats in six Northeastern states, however, as a bat-killing fungus sweeps through caves, attacking bats as they hibernate. The white-nose fungus causes bats to burn through their fat stores before spring and awaken early, and many then die on cold, fruitless searches for food while healthy bats continue hibernating. Scientists are studying ways to combat the fungus, which may have already killed hundreds of thousands of bats. (Sources: TerraDaily, Associated Press)

A WHALE OF A FIND: The earliest whales dabbled in both aquatic and terrestrial living, and appear to have even given birth on land, according to an analysis of newly discovered fossils found in Pakistan. The 47-million-year-old bones belonged to a primitive whale mother, her unborn calf and a nearby male. These first whales probably stayed near the shore and made occasional trips to land, scientists say, and would have moved similarly to modern sea lions. While scientists know whales descended from ancient hoofed mammals that began venturing into the sea, the fossil record is sparse and very little is known about early whales' behavior or appearance. (Source: New Scientist

Russell McLendon

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