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Low expectations for new climate meeting

WASHINGTON ­— With wounds still raw from the chaotic U.N. climate conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, last December, negotiators are making final preparations for next month’s meeting in Cancun, Mexico, in a surly mood.

There is no chance of completing a binding global treaty to reduce emissions of climate-altering gases, few if any heads of state are planning to attend and there are no major new initiatives on the agenda. Copenhagen was crippled by an excess of expectation. Cancun is suffering from the opposite.

Delegates in Tianjin, China, at the last formal meeting before the Cancun conference opens Nov. 29, are hung up over the same issues that caused the collapse of the Copenhagen meeting. Even some of the baby steps in the weak agreement that emerged from last year’s meeting, a slender document known as the Copenhagen Accord, have been reopened, to the dismay of officials who thought they had been settled.

A like-named website seeks to part with MSNBC

NBC Universal and Microsoft, the parents of msnbc.com, are holding high-level talks about changing its name, an unusual and potentially risky endeavor for the third most popular news website in the United States.

The two parents have not yet agreed on what to call the site. But according to internal memorandums obtained by The New York Times this week, the parents have concluded that the brand known as msnbc.com, a strictly objective news site, is widely confused with MSNBC, the cable television channel that has taken a strongly liberal bent in recent years.

Charlie Tillinghast, the president of msnbc.com, wrote in one of the memos, “Both strategies are fine, but naming them the same thing is brand insanity.” The channel and website are already separate companies.

Under the current plan, the msnbc.com Web address would become a site exclusively for the cable channel, fulfilling the channel’s desire to have an independent site to promote its TV programs. The existing news site, called the “blue site” internally, would move to a new and as-yet-undetermined Web address. There is a subsection on msnbc.com for the cable channel.

Bloomberg plan to ban food stamps for sodas faces hurdles

NEW YORK — Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg may face legal and political hurdles in carrying out his ambitious plan to bar food-stamp recipients from using their benefits to buy sugar-sweetened drinks, food policy experts said Thursday.

New York City on Wednesday asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture for permission to conduct a two-year experiment barring the city’s 1.7 million users of food stamps from spending them on soda and other beverages with added sugar. But experts said the Agriculture Department lacked the authority to grant such permission, and that the proposal would require Congress to change laws governing the food-stamp program.

Congress has considered the idea before, said Joel Berg, executive director of the New York City Coalition Against Hunger, who served in the USDA from 1993 to 2001. “They considered doing it and decided not to,” he said. “What you can purchase and not purchase in the food-stamp program is described in extraordinary detail by federal law.”