HEATED DEBATE: The U.S. climate bill splashed into the dark, choppy waters of the Senate on Tuesday, as the Environment and Public Works Committee began hearing testimony from top Obama administration officials. The president continued his full-court press for the bill by sending an all-star cast to defend it — the heads of the EPA, USDA, Energy Department and Interior Department all converged on Capitol Hill to push for senators' support. The House version of the bill survived only by selling a bit of its soul, though, and there are already signs of compromise in the Senate proceedings, such as Energy Secretary Steven Chu's call for the United States to "recapture the lead on industrial nuclear power," a favorite talking point of many Republicans who oppose regulating greenhouse gas emissions. Yet the GOP remains virtually united against the bill, with its senators questioning Obama's green team on familiar quibbles like a suppressed EPA report and emissions from developing countries. Senate leaders have said they hope to vote on the bill in the fall. (Sources: Houston Chronicle, Scientific American, Guardian, New York Times)

COOL RECEPTION: President Obama and other world leaders arrive in L'Aquila, Italy, today for wide-ranging G8 talks that will include discussions of how to combat climate change. That subject grows in importance as December's U.N. climate summit looms closer, but its prospects became hazier today when Chinese President Hu Jintao pulled out at the last minute, returning to China to address violent riots there that have killed 156 people. While China has criticized a specific provision in the U.S. climate bill, many European leaders, such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel, have deeper doubts that it goes far enough. "My argument to her and to the Europeans is we don't want to make the best the enemy of the good," Obama told the NY Times, and White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs warned reporters not to put too much stock into the G8 talks, often derided as goal-announcing photo-ops where little real action occurs. "I think in many ways success for us is going to be getting something through Congress and to his desk that puts in place a system, a market-based system, that lessens the amount of greenhouse gases in the air," Gibbs said. (Sources: Associated Press, Washington Post, NY Times, Reuters)

ANIMALS AND DISEASE: Scientists have long suspected that better biodiversity keeps human diseases in check, but they've lacked solid evidence until now. In a new "landmark paper," as the head of the Wildlife Trust calls it, researchers from Portland State University studied the occurrence of hantavirus in deer mice living in five Portland-area parks with varying degrees of biodiversity. More mice were infected in parks that had less mammal diversity, and disease rates were highest in the least diverse park, suggesting a direct correlation. (Source: New Scientist

CHEMICALS AND DISEASE: While biodiversity may reduce the risk of disease, the diverse array of environmental pollutants we live among often has the opposite effect — or so we think. The dangers posed by toxins like lead, mercury and other contaminants are well-known, but there are many chemicals whose health effects are still a mystery, largely because environmental and health data are collected and kept separately. The CDC is launching a project to close that gap, forming an environmental public-health network aimed at merging statistics on things like air quality and drinking water with disease data. Not only should this satisfy scientific curiosity, but it could potentially save billions on chronic disease treatment in the United States. "About 70 percent of the dollars spent on health care is on chronic disease," a CDC official tells the WSJ, "and the environment plays a role in the development and exacerbation of those diseases." (Source: Wall Street Journal)

TURBINE LEGEND: Energy tycoon T. Boone Pickens is scrapping his ambitious plans for a mammoth 200,000-acre wind farm in Texas, citing technical problems in getting the electricity from remote turbines to faraway urban centers. The 81-year-old billionaire had already placed an initial order for 687 turbines for the farm — which was to eventually host 2,700 of them — and says he'll scatter them among three to four smaller farms rather than one huge one. "My garage won't hold them," he told the Guardian. "They've got to go someplace." (Sources: Dallas Morning NewsKansas City Star, Guardian)

MICHAEL JACKSON'S WILDLIFE: As the King of Pop was memorialized in an appropriately larger-than-life ceremony Tuesday, the Huffington Post's Ami Cholia wondered what has become of all the animals M.J. collected during his roller coaster career, including giraffes, birds, snakes, tigers and his famous chimpanzee, Bubbles. It turns out most had already moved on before Jackson's untimely death as his financial woes mounted, including Bubbles, who now lives at the Center for Great Apes in Florida and has book and movie deals in the works. (Sources: Los Angeles TimesHuffington Post)

Russell McLendon

Photo (Senate hearing): Alex Wong/Getty Images

Photo (T. Boone Pickens): ZUMA Press

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