A GREENHOUSE DIVIDED: There's good news and bad news from international climate-change talks in Italy this week. The good news is that leaders of the Earth's eight richest countries agreed to keep global temperatures from rising more than 3.6ºF above a fixed level (although they didn't say how they'd do that). The bad news is that developing countries like China and India aren't agreeing to much of anything without a firmer commitment from elite G-8 nations. Climate talks continue today, but many environmentalists are already calling the summit a "missed opportunity." Chinese President Hu Jintao helped hamstring its prospects earlier in the week by abruptly leaving to address ethnic violence back in China (although he left diplomats in his place). The deflating effect of Hu's departure raises questions about how relevant the G-8 can remain without including China and other developing nations — as the LA Times asks today, "if the G-8 can be dealt such a major blow by the absence of a leader whose country isn't a member, then why isn't that country a member to begin with?" Despite the impasse, U.S. climate envoy Todd Stern tells Politico things aren't as bleak as they might seem. "This is still a work in progress," he says, "but we don't think that that is something that is off the table." (Sources: Guardian, Washington Post, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Politico)

RUSHMORE PROTEST: Greenpeace activists demanded on Wednesday that President Abraham Lincoln stop global warming, draping a large banner next to the Great Emancipator's face at Mount Rushmore. The 2,300-square-foot banner, which read "America honors leaders not politicians: Stop Global Warming," also featured the face of current President Obama, raising the alternative possibility that Greenpeace was actually addressing living elected officials. The environmental group says it was urging Obama to push Congress for tougher limits on greenhouse gas emissions, but the House and Senate are already struggling to pass the watered-down version at hand. Greenpeace's face-climbing banner hangers were arrested after Mount Rushmore tourists alerted park officials to their stunt. (Sources: Washington Post, Associated Press)

KILL, BABY, KILL: Sarah Palin is a polarizing presence, equally capable of energizing her supporters and her critics — for example, $8 million in donations flooded into then-candidate Barack Obama's presidential campaign within a few hours after her speech to the Republican National Convention last September. So when the Alaska governor announced last weekend that she plans to resign from office, one wildlife conservation group lost a powerful, if unwitting, fund-raiser. Defenders of Wildlife had made Palin a key target thanks to her high-profile wolf-hunting and efforts to reduce protections for endangered species, featuring a call to action on its website that reads: "Help Stop Palin's Wolf Slaughter: DONATE NOW." (Source: Reuters via Huffington Post)

(UNSATIS)FACTORIES: As General Motors eases into bankruptcy, the Detroit automaker is abandoning 16 factories across the country, many of which are contaminated with lead, methane and other toxic chemicals. Bankruptcy protection allows GM to dodge expensive cleanups of the sprawling facilities, which the company estimates will total about $530 million at sites scattered among several states. Chrysler is in a similar situation, planning to ditch seven factories and an office building by 2010 as part of its bankruptcy plan. (Source: Bloomberg News)

BOTTLE SHOCK: An Australian town has become the country's — and maybe the world's — first to ban the sale of bottled water, a bold backlash aimed at highlighting the wastefulness of packaging and reselling a natural resource that's already available for free. Residents of Bundanoon packed a town hall for the nearly unanimous vote, with only two people objecting: One was afraid the plan would lead people to drink more sugary soft drinks, and the other was the president of the Australasian Bottled Water Institute, which represents the bottled water industry. (Sources: APAgence France-Presse)

MONKEY IN THE MIDDLE: Scientists have discovered a new species of monkey, and it's already threatened by encroaching human development. Mura's saddleback tamarin is tiny — just 7.5 ounces and 9 inches tall — and features gray and brown fur and a long tail. It's named after the native Mura Indians who share the monkey's river-basin habitat in the Amazon rain forest. Unfortunately for both the human and nonhuman Muras, however, they aren't the only ones with designs on the region. Brazil is already building a major highway and two hydroelectric dams nearby, and a gas pipeline is also planned for the swath of forest. (Source: Scientific American)

Russell McLendon

Photo (Obama at G-8): Haraz N. Ghanbari/AP

Photo (Mount Rushmore): Kate Davison/Greenpeace/AP

Photo (bottled water): Kentucky Division of Water

Russell McLendon ( @russmclendon ) writes about humans and other wildlife.