- The Washington Times - Friday, September 15, 2000

North Pole climate coverage calls into question science

The North Pole is melting.

Though it is true that the recent sighting of open water at the North Pole is not, in itself, definitive proof, it is part of a growing body of evidence that global warming is indeed real.

In his Sept. 6 Commentary column, "Warming whimsies," Joseph Perkins is unjustified in attacking this anecdotal evidence to dismiss the reality of global warming. In fact, the Aug. 29 New York Times follow-up article is hardly a retraction, as Mr. Perkins asserts, but rather a reiteration that the polar melt scientists witnessed firsthand is backed up by abundant scientific evidence of global warming.

Though not unprecedented, large gaps in the arctic ice cap are emblematic of calamitous changes under way. Data from satellites, submarines and weather stations show that over the past three decades, average polar temperatures in the winter have risen 11 degrees, while in just 20 years, the arctic ice cap has become 14 percent smaller and 40 percent thinner unprecedented changes.

Meanwhile, all around the world, events that could be exacerbated by global warming, from New York's West Nile virus outbreak to Western fires, are harming the global economy and adding to an ever-growing consensus that climate change is a major problem.

Mr. Perkins' trite article attacks scientists' credentials and the costs of regulation, but at no point does he cite evidence for his blanket statement that science simply does not show that an environmental calamity is under way. Perhaps next time he should consult a member of the vast scientific majority on the facts of global warming before crying conspiracy.

KERT DAVIES

Science policy director

Ozone Action

Washington

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I enjoyed reading Kenneth Smith's Aug. 31 Op-Ed column "Earth to activists." The problem you address is one I have spent considerable time thinking about: Science is not only complex, it seems to be getting more so. This exacerbates an aspect of the problem that you did not address: that many of our top newspapers are getting rid of their dedicated science and environmental reporters, usually through reassignment.

For instance, your own paper does not have a single reporter (to my knowledge) assigned to follow and cover science news, and your paper's wonderful science page has been discontinued. Reporters formerly on science beats are now covering the biotech industry, health and feature stories and all kinds of other issues that have little or no relation to the topics they previously covered in depth.

What this means to science organizations such as ours is that when a reporter calls us, often on deadline, we generally do not have the time to ensure a thorough background education on the topic at hand. Nor does the reporter have the knowledge base that would enable us to skim over some of the more detailed information. What we frequently end up with is a story with misleading or erroneous information because most of these topics are too complex to be covered easily or quickly. This certainly does not help bring readers any clarity about debates over complicated topics such as climate change.

I am not suggesting this was the case with the New York Times article you cite. As far as I know, we were not interviewed for that story, and the Times has a sizable investment in science reporting.

With so many officials decrying the state of our nation's science and technology education, one would think newspapers might dedicate more print and staff to the responsible reporting of in-depth science news.

TRUDY HARLOW

Public Affairs Officer

U.S. Geological Survey

Reston

Navy's new politically correct toilets still smell bad

In response to your Sept. 13 front-page article "Sloppy sailors threaten Navy's urinals," I must add a key item of information to the points made by Vice Adm. John B. Nathman, Capt. William D. Needham of Naval Sea Systems Command, and Corrosion Engineering Services Inc. spokesman Merritt Allen: Navy restrooms typically smell bad, even when clean. Why? Because they employ sea water as a flushing medium. Sea water left in a warm, humid, confined space stinks after a short while, often overpowering normal human odors.

Ships use sea water for flushing because they must create their own fresh water by distilling sea water, and capacity for freshwater production and storage is limited.

My point is that incorporating new S4 ("Stainless Sanitary Space System") technology in Navy restrooms may solve a maintenance problem, and it may help the forces of political correctness in their war against our military, but it ain't gonna fix the smell trust me.

MARK STOFFEL

Arlington

Majority's belief in God should be on the ticket

Nat Hentoff's Sept. 11 Commentary column, "Keep God off the ticket," is typical of the atheists' push to silence those who dare exercise their freedom of speech.

His sophisticated remarks about the founders' intent to separate religion from government may have fooled me in the past, but no more. Some of us have taken the time to study this issue.

Far from wanting government free of religion, the founders based our Constitution and republican form of government on religious principles. They understood that it is necessary that religion play a role in government, but that government should not interfere in religion. There is a big difference.

For too long, schools, the news media and government have obscured the truth. Mr. Hentoff and his anti-religious minority would have the majority deprived of religion. Thomas Jefferson was correct that "the will of the majority, the Natural law of every society, is the only sure guardian of the rights of man." Why should the will of the minority be the deciding factor in this decision?

H. LYNN GALBRAITH

Kaysville, Utah

Kosovo jail conditions reflect U.N. and NATO mismanagement

Your report on the escape of 13 Serbian prisoners from the U.N.-run jail in Kosovska Mitrovica ("Area man punished in Kosovo jail break," Sept. 5) invoked the memories of my visit to the jail in June. I met there with 43 Serbian and Romany inmates and interviewed a number of them. Their tragic stories mirror the fate of the entire Serbian and Romany population in Kosovo since NATO occupation began in June 1999.

These inmates were arrested by the German, French and British police forces. The accusers, who led the police to the inmates' homes, were Albanian, as were the translators for the police. The police turned the detainees over to the Albanian jail, where they were sentenced summarily by Albanian judges. The charges typically were "genocide per Article 26," "multiple homicide" or "arson." The sentences were "temporary" two months in jail. After that time, the sentence would be extended for another two months. This process was repeated indefinitely.

The homes and property of the prisoners were taken promptly by the Albanian accusers after the arrests. No valid trial took place, and the accused had no counsel. No evidence was presented to the court.

A.G., 55, from Prizren, a Muslim Rom, was arrested in October along with his two brothers on "homicide" charges. There was no trial or evidence of crimes. A.V., 58, a Serbian plumber from Orahovac, paralyzed and half-blind because of a stroke in 1990, was charged with "multiple homicide" as a Serbian commando. He had no trial. His son, who was abducted by Albanians in July 1998, is presumed dead. V.V., a 15-year-old boy from south Kosovska Mitrovica, was charged with "torching 100 Albanian houses." He is retarded.

The U.N.-run prison is shameful. It is a smelly, filthy, inhumane dungeon where the accused not tried inmates live for months. Vincent deCellier, the Maryland man who was prison director, has been replaced by another American. His deputy also is an American, as are the U.N. chief prosecutor and governor for the Kosovska Mitrovica District. Chief U.N. Kosovo Administrator Bernard Kouchner says he feels "humiliated, frustrated and guilty" because of the escapes. It seems that the United States is at the helm of the troubling scenario that is the U.N./NATO-occupied Kosovo.

TIKA JANKOVIC

San Jose, Calif.

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