HE BLINDED US WITH SCIENCE: The New York Times' editorial board this morning praises President-elect Obama's high treatment of scientists, not just in his Cabinet but in picks such as John Holdren and Jane Lubchenco, announced Saturday as science adviser and head of NOAA, respectively. The NYT and The Guardian both glow about Obama's 180 on climate policy from the Bush administration. The Detroit Free Press also expresses hope, although a bit more warily, that the new EPA administrator, Lisa Jackson, and climate czar Carol Browner will be good for the auto industry. (Sources: NYT, The Guardian, The Detroit Free Press)

MILLING AROUND: The Los Angeles Times profiles Baikalsk, Russia, a small Siberian town suffering bleakly as its backbone, a Soviet-era paper mill, is shuttered. The global recession has evaporated the demand for pulp, and most workers are furloughed, leading to excess free time and excess drinking. While environmentalists are relieved by the shutdown of an ecological nightmare that has long polluted nearby Lake Baikalsk, the town of 17,000 may also soon vanish into the tundra. (Source: L.A. Times)

BEYOND THE SHADOW OF A DROUGHT: While metro Atlanta's Lake Lanier has garnered most of the regional attention for the Southeast's ongoing drought, the "forgotten" lake just to the northeast, Lake Hartwell, is in even worse shape. Motorists crossing the Georgia-South Carolina border on I-85 are familiar with the tall banks of exposed red clay, as the 56,000-acre lake sits 18 feet below full pool despite fall rains that soothed some parts of the region. (Sources: The Atlanta Journal-ConstitutionThe Associated Press)

SOLD DOWN THE RIVER: Increasing pressure on the Colorado River threatens the viability of the American West, much of which depends on the dwindling waterway for drinking water and irrigation. A joint report by ProPublica and The San Diego Union-Tribune examines what effects ramped-up mining of the river's oil, gas and uranium deposits will have on its water, and how federal officials are doing little to protect it. (Source: ProPublica)

NOW MUSEUM, NOW YOU DON'T: The Washington Post reviews the new California Academy of Sciences, recently redesigned by architect Renzo Piano. The surrounding park has been "draped" over the museum, blending it into its natural environment both aesthetically and ecologically. The museum has also earned the Green Building Council's highest sustainability rating, sporting such features as a rooftop solar canopy and insulation made of recycled blue jeans. (Source: WaPo)

JUNGLE GEM: British scientists who found some mostly unexplored forest in Mozambique while scanning Google Earth recently returned from an expedition there, claiming discovery of several new species. The Guardian has photos of some here. The scientists hope that by raising awareness of Mount Mabu's biodiversity they can help protect the area from war and deforestation. (Source: The Guardian)

— Russell McLendon

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

The Morning Briefing: 12/22
Are the American West and Southeast drying up? Is a Siberian town's collapse good for the environment? Can science save Detroit and an unexplored jungle?