MOVING ON: Anne Cadwallader says that Ireland appears to have a new pride in itself, a new confidence. "It seems to have turned its back on the bad old days when Ireland's best and brightest were forced to leave to find work abroad," she says.
After traveling around the country in glorious spring weather for the past three weeks, talking to election hopefuls (story, page 7), Anne says the country's recent economic success has been obvious.
"Neat gardens, freshly painted homes, tidy villages, new tourist attractions, and modern hotels have replaced the run-down appearance of many places just a few short years ago," Anne says.
Deputy world editor
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WEBBY BEARS: The BBC reports that the Norwegian Polar Institute (NPI) and WWF, the global environment network, have launched a website (www.panda.org/polarbears/) to track the movements of polar bears across the Arctic.
In an effort to gauge the impact of climate change on the big lumbering furballs, two female bears have been fitted with tracking collars. The hunting patterns of Louise and Gro are watched intently via the Web by scientists and spectators alike, with special attention paid to the late April through mid-July season of feasting.
Polar bears eat most of their food out on sea ice during the summer months, when the bears (particularly pregnant females) must consume sufficient grub to stay healthy throughout the year. As the Arctic climate warms, sea ice melts and recedes more quickly, depriving the bears of platforms from which they hunt their primary prey: seals. "A two-week increase in the ice-free season results in an 8 percent weight loss for polar bears," reports the WWF.