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The government's climate change research is threatened by spending cuts that will reduce scientists' observations from space and on the ground, a study says.

A major problem, the National Research Council said Thursday, is the program director's lack of authority to organize spending and research among the 13 different agencies that study the impacts of climate.

Nonetheless, the report said, the U.S. Climate Change Research Program has made good progress "in documenting the climate changes of the past few decades and in unraveling the (human) influences on the observed climate changes."

In contrast, the report said progress in combining research results and supporting decision making and risk management "has been inadequate."

The climate research program is "an important initiative that has broadened our knowledge of climate change, needs to package more of that knowledge for policymakers from the national to local level, and place more emphasis on understanding how people will be affected by climate change and how they might react," said committee chairman Veerabhadran Ramanathan, professor of atmospheric and climate sciences at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego.

The world has moved into an era when climate change is accepted as real, he said, and it is accepted that human activities are the major drivers for many of these changes.

But progress has been inadequate in determining how climate change will affect people, Ramanathan said in a briefing Thursday.

In its report the research council, an arm of the National Academy of Sciences, did not make recommendations on how to improve the program. That is expected to be included in a follow-up report next year.

William J. Brennan, deputy assistant secretary of Commerce and director of the climate change program, welcomed the report as helpful.

"I don't take any issue with their recommendations," Brennan said in a telephone interview, adding that program officials had...

The Environmental Protection Agency will finish 24 Superfund toxic waste cleanups this year, far fewer than the average 76 completed annually during the Clinton administration.

EPA initially targeted 40 Superfund sites for completed cleanups this fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30. Forty cleanups were finished in fiscal 2005. Among the most common contaminants are asbestos, lead, mercury and radiation.

Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, blamed the Bush administration's efforts to cut EPA spending for slowing the pace of cleanups, even though Congress ultimately sets the agency's budget.

"This funding shortfall is a direct result of President Bush's declining budget submissions over a number of years, particularly when adjusted for inflation," Dingell said in a letter Wednesday to EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson.

In February, Bush proposed cutting EPA's budget for next year by almost 5 percent, to $7.1 billion. But he also proposed a slight increase in the Superfund program, to $1.24 billion.

EPA spokeswoman Jennifer Wood said Thursday that the Superfund cleanup work "remains steady and is now concentrated at larger and more complicated sites."

Since 1980, EPA has dealt with 1,562 Superfund sites, agency officials said Thursday. As of this week, 1,242 of those remain on the list of uncompleted cleanups, according to EPA's Web site.

But along with the 320 that have been removed from the Superfund list because all the work has been completed, most of the cleanup work has been completed at hundreds of other sites, the officials said.

According to EPA data provided by Dingell, the Bush administration will have averaged 39 finished cleanups a year between 2001 and 2007.

He said Johnson and his staff "have attempted to obfuscate the problem" by claiming that cleanups take longer than they once did because they are more complex and bigger.

The complexity "is really no different than historical averages,"...

The military's medical community got a black eye that "we didn't completely deserve" about conditions at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, the top Pentagon health official said Thursday at a ribbon cutting for a new amputee center.

The defense of conditions at Walter Reed by Dr. S. Ward Casscells, assistant secretary of defense for health, was a departure from the message by many military leaders who have taken responsibility for the problems.

In February, the hospital was besieged by news reports of poor outpatient care at Walter Reed, which is the flagship hospital of the Army's system of medical facilities.

The new, state-of-the art, $10 million rehabilitation center for amputees at Walter Reed is a source of pride for the hospital. Injured soldiers who have lost a limb will be able to relearn tasks at the 31,000 square-foot facility such as shooting a weapon or driving a car.

Parachutists from the Army's 101st Airborne Division parachuted to the lawn for the ceremony, which was attended by about 2,000 people -- including many amputees in wheelchairs.

The comment by Casscells came after he thanked Maj. Gen. Eric Schoomaker, the commander of Walter Reed, for his tremendous effort to improve the situation "to make it first class in every way."

Casscells then thanked doctors and other medical personnel "who didn't quit when many of us in the military health system got a black eye that we didn't completely deserve."

Rep. John Murtha, a critic of the Bush administration's handling of the war, said after the ceremony that he thinks problems at the hospital have been resolved.

"They were overwhelmed. They couldn't handle it, is what it amounted to," said Murtha, D-Pa., who is chairman of the defense appropriations subcommittee.

After the disclosures in February, three top Pentagon officials were forced to step down -- former Army Secretary Francis Harvey, as well...

A study released Thursday predicts more bad air days in the summer for Cleveland, Columbus and eight other eastern U.S. cities if global warming continues unabated.

Those cities are expected to have an increase in unsafe air days caused by ground-level ozone, which is formed from a combination of vehicle and factory pollutants and sunlight and heat.

The analysis was conducted by the Natural Resources Defense Council in partnership with several universities, including Yale and Johns Hopkins, and was published in the scientific journal Climatic Change.

"Its concerning. This is another health affect that global warming is going to have on people," said Dr. Cynthia Bearer, a neonatologist at Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital in Cleveland. "Smog is a significant pollutant in that it's associated with all sorts of health effects."

But Myron Ebell, director of energy policy for the nonprofit Competitive Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C., said the study was "the same old thing" coming from the environmental movement.

"This report is trying to scare the public about global warming through a highly selective use of the facts," Ebell said.

The study predicted that unsafe air days -- defined as days when ozone levels exceed an 8-hour quality standard set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency -- will increase in the two Ohio cities, along with Washington, D.C.; Philadelphia; Greenville, S.C.; Memphis, Tenn.; Virginia Beach, Va.; and Asheville, Raleigh and Wilmington, N.C.

Researchers also concluded that 50 eastern U.S. cities would see a 68 percent, or 5 1/2-day, increase in unsafe air days -- which affect asthmatics and cause respiratory problems, particularly in children and the elderly.

"The incidence of asthma is increasing," Bearer said. "There are more kids advised to stay indoors during these bad days."

Bearer believes the study is sound and that it took a conservative approach because it assumes other factors such as emissions...