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Courts Emerging as Battlefield for Fights Over Climate Change

The tiny village of Kivalina, Alaska, does not have a hotel, a restaurant or a movie theater. But it has a very big lawsuit that might affect the way the nation deals with climate change.

Kivalina, an Inupiat Eskimo community of 400 perched on a barrier island north of the Arctic Circle, is accusing two dozen fuel and utility companies of helping to cause the climate change that it says is accelerating the island’s erosion.

Blocks of sea ice used to protect the town’s fragile coast from October on, but “we don’t have buildup right now, and it is January,” said Janet Mitchell, Kivalina’s administrator. “We live in anxiety during high-winds seasons.”

The village wants the companies, including ExxonMobil, Shell Oil, and many others, to pay the costs of relocating to the mainland, which could amount to as much as $400 million.

The case is one of three major lawsuits filed by environmental groups, private lawyers and state officials around America against big producers of greenhouse gases. And though the village faces a difficult battle ahead, the cases are picking up steam.

Allies Doubt Taliban Leaders Would Accept Olive Branch

As the Obama administration pours 30,000 additional troops into Afghanistan, it has begun grappling with the next great dilemma of this long war: whether to reconcile with the men who sheltered Osama bin Laden and still have close ties to al-Qaida.

The Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, has said he wants to reach out to the leaders of the Taliban, and administration officials acknowledge privately that they are considering the idea. But they warn that the plan is rife with political risk at home and could jeopardize a widely-backed effort to lure lower-ranking, more amenable Taliban fighters back into Afghan society.

The debate, still in its early stages, could shape the next phase of America’s engagement in Afghanistan, officials said, and is every bit as complicated as the decision on whether to commit more soldiers, not least because it rekindles memories of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

On Thursday, donor countries, led by the United States, Britain and Japan, are expected to commit $100 million a year to an Afghan fund for reintegrating the foot soldiers of the Taliban with jobs, cash and other inducements. But the allies are less sanguine about dealing with the Taliban’s high command, particularly its leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar, and other “hard-core” Taliban elements which, the administration bluntly declared last March, were “not reconcilable.”

Four Arrested in Plot to Tamper With Phones of Senator

Federal officials charged four men on Tuesday with plotting to tamper with the telephone system in the New Orleans office of Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La. One of the men was a filmmaker who gained fame last year by secretly recording members of the community group ACORN giving him advice on how to set up a brothel.

All four of the men arrested Monday in New Orleans, each in his mid-20s, were charged with entering federal property under false pretenses with the intent of committing a felony, according to the U.S. attorney’s office for the Eastern District of Louisiana. They appeared in court Tuesday,

If convicted, the four would face sentences ranging from a fine to 10 years in prison.

The filmmaker was James O’Keefe, 25, who has gained renown in conservative circles by poking fun at the left through pranks and undercover video.

The men were arrested by U.S. marshals.