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Financial Crisis Endangers Global Emissions Cuts

Just as the world seemed poised to combat global warming more aggressively, the worldwide economic slump and plunging prices of coal and oil are upending plans to wean businesses and consumers from fossil fuel.

From Italy to China, the threat to jobs, profits and government tax revenues posed by the financial crisis has cast doubt on commitments to cap emissions or phase out polluting factories.

Automakers, especially Detroit’s Big Three, face collapsing sales, threatening their plans to invest heavily in more fuel-efficient cars. And with gas prices now at $2 a gallon in the United States, strapped consumers may be less inclined than they once were to trade in their gas-guzzling models in any case.

Washington Power Shift Shakes K Street, Too

Richard Hunt, a top Republican lobbyist for the securities industry, was among the first to go, just a week after the election. Marc Racicot, the president of the American Insurance Association and former Republican Party chairman, resigned a few days later. So did Frank L. Bowman, the retired admiral and Republican-leaning chief of the nuclear energy lobby, citing “this period of dramatic change in Congress and the White House.”

All were casualties of a broad shake-up of the lobbying world set off by the Democratic ascendance in Congress and at the White House. Republican lobbyists are feeling the demand for their services plummet as struggling businesses slash their lobbying budgets, the outgoing Bush administration hemorrhages resumes, and their party retreats to its lowest ebb of power since the election of President Jimmy Carter 32 years ago.

“This is rather unique — much more difficult for Republicans than in past transitions,” said Eric Vautour, a former Reagan administration official who recruits former officials for lobbying jobs.

After eight years of the so-called K Street Project — the effort by Republican lawmakers and operatives to pressure companies, trade associations and lobbying firms to hire their fellow Republicans — the tasseled loafer is on the other foot. Companies and interest groups are competing to snap up Democrats. And scarcity has added to their value because so many well-connected Democrats are angling for jobs in the Obama administration, which has promised ethics rules that may block lobbyists from certain jobs, while recently passed congressional ethics rules restrict the ability of departing congressional staff members to lobby as well.

Along This Stretch, Workouts Warrant Stakeouts

From his squad car on a sun-drenched corner, Lemont Davis, a Santa Monica park ranger, spotted the perpetrator: white male, 40 to 45 years old, feet pressed against palm tree, legs fully extended in situp position.

Davis strode from his vehicle, stopping just feet from the wide traffic median where Kieran Clarke was clearly breaking the law. “Sorry, sir,” he said, “I need to inform you that this area is for walking and jogging only.” Clarke, who had been working his abdominals, stood up and quietly walked away.

That warning the other day was among hundreds that have been issued in a culturally tumultuous crackdown by Santa Monica officials against violators of a city ordinance, rarely enforced till now, that bars congregating on traffic medians.