- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 21, 2009

WHAT IS THAT?

Could it be true that protruding in stone from high atop the holy and majestic Gothic-style Washington National Cathedral is a crooked politician?

“The iconography inside the cathedral was planned out to exact specifications, but the exterior was another matter,” cathedral spokeswoman Elizabeth Mullen tells Inside the Beltway, referring to 112 grotesque, if not quirky gargoyles that look down day and night over Washington.

“Many of the artists and carvers were given lots of latitude in the designs,” Ms. Mullen points out.

She’s not kidding.

Perched up there on the cathedral’s lofty ledges and porches alongside St. Alban and St. Paul, archangels Michael and Gabriel,and Adam and Eve’s first and second sons, Cain and Abel, are a peace-waving “hippie,” a “lawyer” who appears to be wearing blinders, and a cigar-chomping “crooked politician” (this grinning version sporting a pair of devilish horns).

“Stories abound about the carvings and the carvers, some of them quite amusing,” said Ms. Mullen, who steers us in the direction of Joseph Alonso, the cathedral’s stonemason foreman.

“Among my personal favorites is the hippie,” Mr. Alonso said. “It was carved in the late 1960s by Constantine Seferlis. The story as I heard it was that Constantine had seen a lot of the protests in those days, and he took some inspiration from that.”

The resulting, none-too-frightening gargoyle camped out on the cathedral’s northwest tower reveals a long-haired, bearded man, barefoot, clad in torn jeans and ripped sweater, and holding a protest sign.

“The cool thing with the gargoyles is the carvers were allowed to use their imagination and creativity,” Mr. Alonso explained. “The older parts of the cathedral feature the scary, monster-type gargoyles, which have progressed over the years, starting in the 1960s and ‘70s, to reflect more modern sorts of things.”

Not that crooked politicians are anything new.

OBAMA VS. SCIENCE

The headline reads, “Obama flunks Global Warming 101 on Fargo.”

Writing in the Canada Free Press, Tim Ball, an adviser to the International Climate Science Coalition and previously climatology professor at the University of Winnipeg, says President Obama carelessly used the recent flooding in Fargo, N.D., to push a “misguided belief in global warming.”

Mr. Obama commented: “If you look at the flooding that’s going on right now in North Dakota, and you say to yourself, ‘If you see an increase of two degrees, what does that do, in terms of the situation there?”

The president’s remark, Mr. Ball said, was “speculative and completely wrong.”

“A two-degree-warmer North Dakota would mean less snowfall; therefore, less flooding,” the scientist says. “Spring flooding along the Red River of the north is due to snowmelt and the geography of the region. This year, the cold winter caused heavy snow in the south basin and all across the northern continental U.S.”

TWO SIDES

So is Antarctica’s ice melting or not?

We constantly hear that the continent is “calving” - massive, towering chunks of frozen fresh water, crashing into the salty ocean and melting like ice cubes.

Just this past weekend, Energy Secretary Steven Chu went on national TV to warn about “very, very scary” rises in the sea level that potentially could flood the Caribbean, Florida and California.

Not to worry. Like every story, there’s two sides to the continent.

Yes, ice is melting in parts of west Antarctica; specifically, the Wilkins ice shelf, which is what generates the headlines.

“However, the picture is very different in east Antarctica, which includes the territory claimed by Australia,” Greg Roberts reported over the weekend in the Australian, citing new ice-core drilling data and other scientific material. “Ice is expanding in much of Antarctica, contrary to the widespread public belief that global warming is melting the continental ice cap.”

East Antarctica, Mr. Roberts says, “is four times the size of west Antarctica, and parts of it are cooling. The Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research report, prepared for last week’s meeting of Antarctic Treaty nations in Washington, noted that the South Pole had shown ‘significant cooling in recent decades.’ ”

In addition, he adds, an upcoming paper by the British Antarctic Survey is expected to confirm that over the past 30 years the area of sea ice around Antarctica has expanded.

John McCaslin can be reached at 202/636-3284 or jmccaslin @washington times.com.

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