Midway, a Protected Area, Is Also Underfunded Even President Bush's staunchest environmentalist critics were singing his praises when he protected the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, including Midway Island. But it turns out that there's so much lead paint flaking off old buildings on Midway that thousands of Laysan albatross born there each year are getting poisoned.
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Midway, a Protected Area, Is Also Underfunded

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Midway, a Protected Area, Is Also Underfunded

Midway, a Protected Area, Is Also Underfunded

Midway, a Protected Area, Is Also Underfunded

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/6697385/6697386" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Albatross parents take turns sitting on their egg and traveling far out to sea to feed. Biologists say the birds are serene incubators. They can sit on an egg for weeks at a time when it’s their turn. They also take turns feeding their chicks until they’re ready to fledge. Alex Wegmann/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service hide caption

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Alex Wegmann/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Albatross parents take turns sitting on their egg and traveling far out to sea to feed. Biologists say the birds are serene incubators. They can sit on an egg for weeks at a time when it’s their turn. They also take turns feeding their chicks until they’re ready to fledge.

Alex Wegmann/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

The albatross engage in mating dances that seem to be elaborately choreographed. Mark McDonald/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service hide caption

toggle caption
Mark McDonald/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

The albatross engage in mating dances that seem to be elaborately choreographed.

Mark McDonald/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

The Layson Albatross come to Midway, the world's largest breeding ground for the birds. Alex Wegmann/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service hide caption

toggle caption
Alex Wegmann/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

The Layson Albatross come to Midway, the world's largest breeding ground for the birds.

Alex Wegmann/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Most of the world's Laysan Abatross return to Midway every year to meet their lifelong mates and breed. Alex Wegmann/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service hide caption

toggle caption
Alex Wegmann/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Most of the world's Laysan Abatross return to Midway every year to meet their lifelong mates and breed.

Alex Wegmann/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

All news is bad news. Or so the saying goes. Many Brits firmly believe this — and use it as a branch to beat their journalists, one of the more despised species in these isles.

It is, of course, untrue. There's no better example of the media's appetite for good news than the tsunami of euphoria with which they've greeted Andy Murray's Wimbledon triumph on Sunday.

The English are feting Murray as a British hero. They're calling for him to be made a knight of the realm to honor his prowess with racquet and ball, and his status as the first British champion in men's singles at Wimbledon in 77 years.

Murray's actually from Scotland. Many Scots view him not only as their hero — not England's — but as the greatest Scottish sports star since they all wore kilts, and horned ginger-haired highland cattle were freely roaming their hills.

Why does this matter?

Because next year, Scots will vote on whether to stay in the United Kingdom. The possibility of Scottish secession is the subject of a fierce political contest between British Prime Minister David Cameron — who has vowed to fight tooth and nail to save the union — and Scotland's first minister, the nationalist Alex Salmond.

Salmond was at Sunday's championship match, sitting in the Royal Box, behind his adversary, Cameron.

When Murray won, Salmond craftily whipped out a big Scottish flag and joyously brandished it behind Cameron's head in full view of the cameras — and violating Wimbledon's house rules. We can expect to see that image many times in coming months, as the fight for Scottish independence gathers momentum.

Britain's current appetite for Good News is not confined to sport. The cynicism and skulduggery of the British newspaper industry now comes hand-in-hand with a determination to peddle happiness.

The opening lines of a front page story in Rupert Murdoch's usually hard-nosed Sunday Times, (published before Murray's victory) captured this trend: "Britain is basking in unaccustomed sunshine, sporting triumph and the best spirits for three years this weekend," it gushed.

Those who find this happy-clappy stuff a little stomach-turning better toughen up. More, much more, is to come: A royal baby is due in a few days.

The tabloids are already churning out stories about "Baby Cambridge," along with maps of the royal maternity clinic. There are accounts of Kate's Yummy Mummy Baby Group, and her penchant, during pregnancy, for vegetable curries and Haribu candies.

The birth will be marked by a 41-gun salute in Hyde Park, popping champagne corks from the kingdom's royalists, a hurricane of unctuous guff from the nation's anchormen and women, and world-weary sighs from a dwindling band of Brits ... who're discovering they actually prefer bad news.

President Bush got rare praise from environmentalists earlier this year when he protected the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands as a marine national monument. Now the government is making plans to send tourists to Midway see the amazing array of wildlife on the island. But some conservationists are complaining that the government isn’t doing enough to fix a threat to one of the island’s most flamboyant residents: Laysan Albatross.

Midway, a cluster of three islets in the northwest Hawaiian Island chain, is the world's largest breeding ground for Laysan Albatross.

Each year in late autumn, most of the world's albatross return to Midway Island, meet their lifelong mates and settle down to nest in the same spot as the year before. The parents take turns incubating the egg and flying out to sea to feed. Meanwhile, young birds practice mating dances.

"It's a spectacular scene. They have a bunch of ritualized movements they shake their head and whistle. It's really fun," said Beth Flint, a Fish and Wildlife Service biologist who’s on the island leading a count of the birds.

The scene would be idyllic if it weren't for the threat faced by thousands of the Laysan albatross chicks when they hatch. The chicks eat lead-based paint that's chipping off of World War II-era military buildings.

"Their wings become sort of paralyzed and they can't use them. And we call that droop wing. At the end of the breeding season, the parents will leave and expect that their chicks will, within a few weeks, fledge and follow behind them. But these chicks will never be able to fly and they'll never fledge so they'll just stay on the island and starve to death," says toxicologist Myra Finkelstein, who visited the island four times in recent years to study the problem.