"Ain't Gonna Study War No More"

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Right-To-Life Party, Christian, Anti-War, Pro-Life, Bible Fundamentalist, Egalitarian, Libertarian Left

Friday, September 24, 2004

Glaciers Quicken Pace to Sea

A number of massive glaciers in the West Antarctic are sliding into the ocean at an accelerating rate and raising sea levels, according to new data released Thursday.

The new study, published Thursday in the journal Science, found that six glaciers flowing into the Amundsen Sea have quickened their march into the ocean over the past 15 years, and the pace has accelerated recently. The fastest of these, the Pine Island Glacier, is ripping along at a six-yards-a-day pace -- 25 percent faster than it was moving in the 1970s -- making it one of the fastest-moving glaciers on Earth.

"What we're seeing here is a comparative gallop," said Eric Rignot, a glaciologist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory who worked on the study.

Ice-penetrating radar onboard research aircraft discovered that these glaciers were, on average, 430 yards thicker than previously thought, dramatically increasing the volumes of ice flowing into the seas. Should all six glaciers completely slide into the ocean and melt, sea levels would rise worldwide by more than three feet, Rignot said.

"That amount of fresh water is enough to disturb the global ocean-current circulation," he said.

The Antarctic continent measures 5.4 million square miles -- nearly 1.5 times the size of the United States -- and 98 percent of it is covered in ice year-round. This ice is nearly three miles thick in places and locks up more than two-thirds of the planet's fresh water.

Vast floating ice shelves fringe half of the continent and comprise 11 percent of its total area. Ice shelves are the long fingernails of glaciers, averaging 500 yards in thickness. The sea gradually melts the bottom of these shelves, thinning them until storms or waves break off pieces, calving icebergs.

Glaciologist Robert Thomas of EG&G Technical Services at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia has long believed that the ice shelves act like a cork in a bottle, greatly slowing glaciers' procession to the sea. However, in this area the bottom of the ice shelves are melting rapidly, becoming thinner at a rate of 10 to 15 feet each year since the early 1990s.

The "corks" have been loosened, allowing the glaciers to flow more quickly, Thomas said. "The climate is warming up in this region, and many ice shelves are thinning and some are breaking up," he said.

Most surprising is that while warm coastal water thins the floating ice shelf, the main trunk of Pine Island Glacier is also thinning -- by four feet a year, as far as 185 miles inland.

"These thinning rates are double those seen in the 1990s and extend much further inland," Thomas said.

If this continues, within five years at least 270 square miles of very thick ice from Pine Island Glacier will be floating in the ocean. And that will further accelerate the flow of the rest of the glacier. "It could double its current speed within five years," he said.

Glaciers flowing into another part of West Antarctica that lost their ice shelf in 2002 are indeed flowing faster, according to another study released this week. Not long after much of the Larsen B Ice Shelf broke up in the Weddell Sea, nearby glaciers began to flow up to eight times faster than before, said Ted Scambos, a glacier expert who headed the study at the University of Colorado's National Snow and Ice Data Center.

The speed of change was surprising and strongly supports the idea that ice shelves act as brakes on glacier movement, Scambos said.

The West Antarctic region, and in particular its far northern tip just south of Chile and Argentina, has seen a rise in mean annual temperatures of up to 4.5 degrees Fahrenheit in the past 60 years -- faster than almost any region in the world. In the past 30 years, ice shelves in the region have decreased by more than 5,200 square miles.

However, there are far larger and more important ice shelves. The Ross Ice Shelf, the main outlet for the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, bottles up several large glaciers; sea levels could rise by 16 feet if they melted completely.

"Ice-shelf thinning could be happening elsewhere in the Antarctic, but we just don't know," Scambos said.

It's a difficult place to do research, and there is very little data on how much the oceans around the frozen continent may be warming or currents changing. What is certain is that this new evidence means current predictions, which estimate that global warming will cause global sea levels to rise 10 to 36 inches by the year 2100, will have to be revised upward, Thomas said.

"It is cause for concern and that we need to pay much more attention to what's happening in the Antarctic," said Rignot. "But it's not necessary to start running for the hills yet."

Stephen Leahy

Haitian Island Allegetely Disappeared

ECTV Exclusive: Tortuga Island Disaster Now Confirmed --from Mitch Battros: I have now received no less than six news agency confirmations reporting the small island of Tortuga has "vanished". The entire island along with its 26,000 inhabitants have been washed away by "large waves". This unthinkable event happened as a result of hurricane 'Jeanne', which has also killed over 2,000 people and displaced 250,000 in Haiti. An expedition of United Nations officials were dispatched via two helicopters to evaluate the damage to the island of "Tortuga". A radio transmission was sent back to base on the island of Haiti. The message stated "we can't find the island". It is reported the tandem UN helicopters circled for a long period, most likely in stark disbelief nothing was to be found. Not a trace of life or land. It is now reported all 26,000 may have perished." (No link, via email)

Posted at 05:17 pm by R7fel

... Unless It's All Greek to Him

During a lull in the war between Athens and Sparta, the Athenians decided to invade and occupy Sicily. Thucydides tells us in "The Peloponnesian War" that "they were, for the most part, ignorant of the size of the island and the numbers of its inhabitants … and they did not realize that they were taking on a war of almost the same magnitude as their war against the Peloponnesians."

According to Thucydides, the digression into Sicily in 416 BC — a sideshow that involved lying exiles, hopeful contractors, politicized intelligence, a doctrine of preemption — ultimately cost Athens everything, including its democracy.

Nicias, the most experienced Athenian general, had not wanted to be chosen for the command. "His view was that the city was making a mistake and, on a slight pretext which looked reasonable, was in fact aiming at conquering the whole of Sicily — a considerable undertaking indeed," wrote Thucydides.

Nicias warned that it was the wrong war against the wrong enemy and that the Athenians were ignoring their real enemies — the Spartans — while creating new enemies elsewhere. "It is senseless to go against people who, even if conquered, could not be controlled," he argued.

Occupying Sicily would require many soldiers, Nicias insisted, because it meant establishing a new government among enemies. "Those who do this [must] either become masters of the country on the very first day they land in it, or be prepared to recognize that, if they fail to do so, they will find hostility on every side."

The case for war, meanwhile, was made by the young general Alcibiades, who was hoping for a quick victory in Sicily so he could move on to conquer Carthage. Alcibiades, who'd led a dissolute youth (and who happened to own a horse ranch, raising Olympic racers) was a battle-tested soldier, a brilliant diplomat and a good speaker. (So much for superficial similarities.)

Alcibiades intended to rely on dazzling technology — the Athenian armada — instead of traditional foot soldiers. He told the Assembly he wasn't worried about Sicilian resistance because the island's cities were filled with people of so many different groups. "Such a crowd as this is scarcely likely either to pay attention to one consistent policy or to join together in concerted action…. The chances are that they will make separate agreements with us as soon as we come forward with attractive suggestions."

Another argument for the war was that it would pay for itself. A committee of Sicilian exiles and Athenian experts told the Assembly that there was enough wealth in Sicily to pay the costs of the war and occupation. "The report was encouraging but untrue," wrote Thucydides.

Though war was constant in ancient Greece, it was still usually justified by a threat, an insult or an incident. But the excursion against Sicily was different, and Alcibiades announced a new, or at least normally unstated, doctrine.

"One does not only defend oneself against a superior power when one is attacked: One takes measures in advance to prevent the attack materializing," he said.

When and where should this preemption doctrine be applied? Alcibiades gave an answer of a sort. "It is not possible for us to calculate, like housekeepers [perhaps a better translation would be "girlie men"], exactly how much empire we want to have. The fact is that we have reached a state where we are forced to plan new conquests and forced to hold on to what we have got because there is danger that we ourselves may fall under the power of others unless others are in our power."

Alcibiades' argument carried the day, but before the invasion, the Athenian fleet sailed around seeking allies among the Hellenic colonies near Sicily. Despite the expedition's "great preponderance of strength over those against whom it set out," only a couple of cities joined the coalition.

At home, few spoke out against the Sicilian operation. "There was a passion for the enterprise which affected everyone alike," Thucydides reports. "The result of this excessive enthusiasm of the majority was that the few who actually were opposed to the expedition were afraid of being thought unpatriotic if they voted against it, and therefore kept quiet."

In the face of aggressive posturing, Nicias appealed to the Assembly members to show true courage.

"If any of you is sitting next to one of [Alcibiades'] supporters," Nicias said, "do not allow yourself to be browbeaten or to be frightened of being called a coward if you do not vote for war…. Our country is on the verge of the greatest danger she has ever known. Think of her, hold up your hands against this proposal and vote in favor of leaving the Sicilians alone."

We don't know how many Athenians had secret reservations, but few hands went up against the war.

In the end, the Athenians lost everything in Sicily. Their army was defeated and their navy destroyed. Alcibiades was recalled early on; Nicias was formally executed while thousands of Athenian prisoners were left in an open pit, where most died.

The Sicilians didn't follow up by invading Attica; they just wanted Athens out. But with the leader of the democracies crippled, allies left the Athenian League. Then the real enemy, Sparta, ever patient and cautious, closed in over the next few years. But not before Athens descended, on its own, into a morass of oligarchic coups and self- imposed tyranny.

Barbara Garson, Barbara Garson is the author of the 1960s antiwar play "Macbird" and, most recently, "Money Makes the World Go Round" (Penguin, 2002).

Cat Stevens to Take Legal Action

Yusuf Islam, the British singer formerly known as Cat Stevens, is taking legal action after he was refused entry into the US.

Mr Islam said the decision to deny him entry on grounds of national security was "very serious and wholly unfounded" and he wants an explanation.

His Washington-bound flight was diverted to Maine on Tuesday and he was told to leave the country by the FBI.

He said a legal process had been put in place to find out what had happened.

In a statement Mr Islam, who grew up living above his parents' restaurant in London's West End, said: "Never would I believe that such a thing could happen in the 'land of the free' - unfortunately, it did.

"I was not given (and have still not been given) any explanation as to what it is I am accused of, or why I am now deemed an apparent security threat.

"I was simply told that the order had come from 'on high'.

"We have now initiated a legal process to try to find out exactly what is going on, and to take all necessary steps to undo the very serious, and wholly unfounded, injustice which I have suffered.

"I am a man of peace and denounce all forms of terrorism and injustice; it is simply outrageous for the US authorities to suggest otherwise."

Action was taken against the musician, who converted to Islam and changed his name to Yusuf Islam in the 1970s, after US officials realised he was on a security "watch list".

As a singer Cat Stevens had a string of hits in the 1960s and 1970s, including Moon Shadow, Wild World and Morning Has Broken.

He became interested in rock music in his teens while attending Hammersmith College in London and began performing in 1965 under the name Steve Adams.

He abandoned his music career in the late 1970s.

In 1983 he founded a Muslim school in London and is now an active member of the British Islamic community.