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Sunday, September 30, 2007

Hummingbirds and Baghdad

Photo: Clear Lake (Texas) Hummingbird checking out lunch

I put up a hummingbird feeder on the balcony today, never having seen any such birds in the area before. Within an hour a hummingbird was hovering next to it, filling his tank. Then another. Amazing little creatures.

On the other side of the planet, I've been following the blog of an Iraqi girl for some years now whose code name is "Riverbend." She wouldn't know me from Adam, but she has written insightfully on life in Baghdad before and since the war. Recently I checked the blog and noticed that several months had gone by with no entries at all.

I was worried that she and her family had been killed in a car bomb or by one of the Sunni or Shiite death squads in Baghdad. But finally a new entry says that Riverbend and her family have found refuge in Syria. She says that Jordan wouldn't take them --they already have tons of Iraqi refugees.

I've been to Damascus (on a child kidnapping case involving Lebanon and a Lubbock girl). I've seen some ancient Christian churches in the hills outside of Damascus.

Syria is a contrast. It has been reported that the Israeli's made an airstrike on a nuclear facility in Syria recently - and not even Syria has whined about it publicly. That indicates to me that they had something to hide or they would have screamed about it loudly.

But there is a good side as well. The Syrians have tolerated having Christians in their country (unlike Saudi Arabia) and are taking in huge number of desperate Iraqis like "Riverbends" family -- vastly more than we have. We have not even taken 1,000 out of 2 million refugees caused by the war. To label them as potential terrorists is a real insult and slap in the face of people like Riverbend who are innocents who lives have been turned upside down by our country's actions. We should be responsible for those like Riverbend who should be allowed into the U.S. They are clearly NOT terrorists. They are just their Muslim victims.

Like Hummingbirds, they are trying to find a safe place to sleep and eat. We can do a better helping them and the folks in places like Burma, Darfur, Pakistan, etc.

Our President says we are fighting for freedom and democracy in Iraq. At the same time we ignore the lack of freedom and democracy in Pakistan, where a military dictator is beating up lawyers and throwing out his political opponents who are not extremists. This double standard is not missed by the rest of the world.

It is a policy whose failure will have nuclear consequences and will create a more extreme Pakistan instead of a more moderate one. In that event, the U.S. becomes less secure, for people and hummingbirds alike.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Flying South for the Winter

Yesterday morning, as I was sitting on the balcony looking at the calm water, sipping coffee before getting ready for work, I saw a distinctive V- shape flock of birds flying over the lake heading to the South.

A real sign of fall. This morning I felt a fresh northern breeze.

Burma's (Myanmar) leaders are also feeling a fresh breeze, the winds of democracy have come to their door as well. But they are backed by China, which wants its water and natural resources for its growing economy. Now the Monks have been locked up as prisoners in their monasteries and the troops are shooting civilians.

It's too bad all we do is impose sanctions in these brutal cases. The same for Darfur, where the terrorists are now roughing up the AID workers and stealing their equipment as they murder civilians. We should have a large UN presence in each place, with the U.S. in a supporting role.

Being too timid in our global leadership is as bad as being too aggressive. I'd like to see the military leaders of Burma flying "south" --not for the winter but on a one-way trip to exile. I'd like to see a lot of other dictators joining them...such as the one we seem to have in Pakistan who is now attacking lawyers on the Supreme Court grounds.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Missing Bin Laden (again)

Reports are that we missed another opportunity to get Osama bin Laden in Tora Bora.

One analyst said that "we are too slow and cautious" when it comes to mountingthese missions. By the time we mount up a big posse the bad guy has slipped away in a pass.

I agree. We are too slow and cumbersome to fight maverick mountain terrorists. We are in Afghanistan/Pakistan's "Hatfield and McCoy" territory over there--not big fighting areas like Iraq.

Duh! If we had an aerial Predator (unmanned aircraft) sending back views of a gathering of Al Qaida in Tora Bora -- and instead of using the missiles now attached to the newer Predators to hit that group of murderers -- they spent hours launching helicopters and troops from hundreds of miles away, then someone is dumber than dirt when it comes to getting the job done. By the time they got there, the bad guys had fled. We don't need a military version of Brownie after Katrina making these calls.

I hope the next time they get a view on a group of Al Qaida in the mountains they will act more like a bounty hunter instead of a slow military machine. Fire the Predator missiles THEN send in a helo to see what's left.

Unfortunately we have not had the strategic and creative thinking needed to deal with these complex issues in remote regions of the world, both politically and militarily. Bin Laden escaped Tora Bora the first time in 2001 when we were under Rumsfeld's crazy vision of using a platoon (or 10 boy scouts) to do what a division should. That helped bin laden escape Tora Bora in 2001 and to insurgents getting ammo from thousands of unguarded ammo dumps in Iraq after the invasion.

Now they are trying to use too many troops to nail bin laden on missions where the terrain and quickness is more important than numbers of troops flying in from remote bases.

Use the Predator next time guys, before we have a another attack on the U.S. and Europe. That's why we still need to be prepared.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Burma Shave - Or a Close Shave for the Monks of Myanmar

No wonder they have trouble in Burma - they changed the name to "Myanmar," which means nothing to most of us who remember the "Burma Road" not to mention "Burma Shave."

Now the Monks of Myanmar are in a lather, walking the streets, and praying for freedom from being shot by the military dictatorship that no one seemed to care about until a week ago.

Personally, I hope it results in the military being sent back to the barracks and the name being changed to something I can pronounce and spell (I'm still mad at Bombay, India for becoming "Mumbai" which sounds like someone mumbling "bye"). Apparently the President feels the same way.

Speaking of "bye" did you see that even if we starting working on global warming TODAY, the seas will still rise at least three (3) feet in the coming decades from the increased ice melting already happening! Bye bye icebergs and Greenland.

It probably all started when countries started changing their names. The Vikings gave us "Greenland" which is mostly white from ice and snow, and "Iceland" which is mostly green! Those slick seafarers had to be the first traveling salesmen -- offering real estate deals in "green" land!

No wonder why the monks in Burma are protesting. I'd join them if I could find a ticket agent who knew what a "Myanmar" was. zone agent said he didn't care how my aunt was; --where did I want to go?

Ummm, maybe I'll just book something to Vegas or London instead! Good luck to the monks!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

A Land With No School Books

Last night I attended a unique event - "WEPA - Women Empowering Africa" -- a Houston fundraiser to build a library for a school (Ngege) in Kenya. The guest of honor was Mrs. Odinga, an articulate lady who heads the Kenya League of Women Voters and may be the next Kenya first lady after elections are held next year. WEPA is the Swahili word for "excellence."

The video of the Ngege school shows a couple very bare buildings next to a rough narrow road isolated in the middle of hills 3 miles from Lake Victoria, housing kids in faded blue and white uniforms sitting with little more than an old blackboard and a few sheets of paper.

They had no books. Yet they have a tremendous desire to learn. This is something Americans of all kinds should support. This is a worldwide problem from Africa to Pakistan.

One statement from a speaker in the 5 hour dinner (the agenda ended at 12:30 a.m.) that stuck me the most: "The one policy that had the most positive impact in improving conditions and cutting crime, etc. was the education of girls."

Girls as young as 12 are still being put into forced marriages, face painful and damaging "female circumcision" and have even been subject to sex as virgins by men who thought having sex with a virgin would cure their AIDS. Most girls drop out of school under these conditions.

The WEPA women are working to stop this. They need your support. Their website is

Friday, September 21, 2007

Louisiana, TD10 - 11 etc. -- and Blackwater backlash possible

Just back from Dallas - in time to get near the coast again and see TD10 forming on the edge of the Gulf, then fading out as No. 11 may be forming in the southern Gulf.

So far we have dodged the bullet, but it is still a numbers game with increasing long odds. We really aren't prepared if another major storm hits. Mayor White of Houston was right to suggest at a recent League of Women Voters lunch that we need to beef up our building codes. We should be trying to match Miami-Dade. If a Katrina hits us, we'll have a lot of avoidable damage.

The Blackwater incident in Iraq could also pose a risk of a terrorist backlash here - why?

How would Americans feel if a private group from another country was riding our streets and shooting at cars they thought were getting too close, but were immune from prosecution even if some of them got out of hand and shot innocent civilians. Even our soldiers are subject to the legal system, as we have seen when incidents occur. So why should a private group have privileges that our troops don't? To have any group that is untouchable only increases the anger at the U.S. It could lead to future attacks here.

Since I have no control over what is happening in the Middle East, and its potential backlash here, there is one thing I can do -- help people protect themselves.

The best security defense for people is "Sheltering in place." That means protecting people at work or at home, from terror generated by nature or man.

Next time: The recent air raid on a Mideast nuke plant no one is talking about...Why?

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Typhoon Hits China - Asia's Hurricanes Getting Stronger Too

This is a photo of Typhoon "Wipha" which is hitting China as this is written. Our hurricanes are "Typhoons" in Asia. They do the same thing.

Typhoons regularly hit China, Taiwan, Japan and South Korea towards the end of August and in September. Earlier this month Typhoon Fitow hit Japan, killing seven people, while on Sunday Typhoon Nari killed at least nine in South Korea.

This one is expected to be one of the worst in over a decade -- another indication that the storms are getting STRONGER worldwide. The Chinese are blaming "global warming" for it.

"Due to global warming, the number of strong typhoons is increasing and more areas are vulnerable to the attack by typhoons," Xinhua quoted Zheng as saying at a conference in Beijing.

Wow. At least they aren't sticking their heads in the sand. Last night I saw a program on the increased ice melt in Greenland, which is going critical and could raise ocean waters by over 20 feet --drowning our coasts.

We need some leadership in DC on this issue pronto, not starting in 2009. We are way beyond theory here folks. Common sense is in short supply and it is our future, and our children's future, that is at stake - from America to China. It's a global threat.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Fall Day in Clear Lake - Feet Up

Fall has fallen on us. There is nothing finer than having the doors open, feeling the fresh cool air, with the feet up, watching the sparkling waters of the lake that is always a different hue day to day and even hour by hour.

But don't let the pretty water fool you.

It's no time to totally forget that recent polls show that Osama bin Laden is more popular in Pakistan (which has nuclear missiles) than the present leader Musharraf --the guy our government has bet all of its eggs. He's the same guy who just booted out a potential Presidential challenger last week. Polls show that dictators help generate support for radicals like bin Laden in places like Pakistan. Pakistan needs a real democracy or it could fall, along with control of its missiles, to the radicals.

And hurricane season isn't over yet - and it will be back next year. The Gulf Coast still doesn't have a regional protection plan in place to "Shelter in Place" --or deal with another bin Laden inspired attack.

After a wild week it's a little break time to relax today -- but tomorrow its back to work. Much remains to be done to prepare people for what lies ahead...expect the unexpected. Houston's old motto still rings true.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

New Plan After Humberto: "Shelter in Place"

The startling lesson from Humberto is that we may not be able to evacuate people with a 3 day warning as the current plan calls for. That plan went out the window with Humberto. It went from depression to Cat 1 hurricane in 14 hours!

So the "next big one" could be a Category 1 - 5 hurricane that balloons up from the Gulf of Mexico near shore, eliminating the possibility of escape. A friend of mine in Port Arthur went to sleep assured by the weather man that a mere tropical storm was going to blow through. He and his family woke to a roar of a Cat 1 hurricane at 2 a.m. that snapped trees in their backyard - over 80 mph! So how does one evacuate in that situation?

So, "Shelter in Place" is
the new and improved hurricane strategy being promoted by people such as former Kemah Mayor King. He is right.

"shelter in place" should not be limited to making schools into shelters as suggested by one legislator, although that is a good thing.

Every home should also be a potential
"shelter in place." But they will need some structural changes to qualify. The only way to do that is by protecting the weakest link of every house (and office) -- its windows.

And the only way of doing that on a certified retrofit basis is XO Armor. I saw nothing at the glass convention in Atlanta that was like it -- and that you could actually see through!

The lesson from Humberto is that we can't always leave, so we must upgrade our building codes and our homes -- by using the best technology available -- to protect our property and families from storm debris breaching our windows. Plus it will also make windows the equivalent of double paned, cut UV, keep out burglars, save energy, and (unlike shutters which it replaces) allow you with a clear view of what is going on outside with 24/7 protection.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Out of Nowhere - Humberto

It's kind of strange to be in Atlanta and see a Tropical Storm - whoops --Hurricane Humberto - blow up out of nowhere. I have to fly back tomorrow so it will be interesting if the flight makes it in (or WHEN). It went from a depression to a hurricane in 14 hours according to the Weather channel.

I got two reports - from Clear Lake it is raining sideways and blowing. On the Ft Bend side, nothing is happening. Most of it seems to be moving over Galveston Bay and east.

And there is TD No. 8 out in the Atlantic starting to come our direction as well. It's still too early to tell WHERE it is going to hit. It could be a hurricane soon enough.

It's a different world here in Atlanta, Georgia. It is all hills and there isn't a straight road to be found. Lots of two lane roads curving left, right, up, down. If you get distracted for a second you are in the ditch.

Hopefully tomorrow I will not end up sitting in some airport lounge for hours as Humberto dumps its load. It should be interesting...

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

View from Atlanta

I'm in Atlanta checking out a glass convention while Osama bin laden hits the video airwaves again. I was wondering when he would rear his ugly head again - too bad we forgot about him the last six years. Like the Terminator, "He's baaaack!"

At the show I saw a couple companies with what they call "bullet resistant" or "hurricane" glass. It was THICK and EXPENSIVE -- nothing like XO Armor. Apparently a lot of people are looking for a solution, but I didn't see any product at the show that really fit the bill. Like I said, most of it was for new construction, very thick and would drain your wallet faster than a teenager.

None of it was for existing glass structures that need hurricane or bomb blast protection. XO Armor is the only thing I saw that can actually be used on existing buildings (as well as new).

From the sound of bin laden, we will be needing more bomb protection for some time.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Mayor White's advice on Hurricanes etc

I had the unique opportunity to hear Mayor White speak yesterday to the League of Women Voters lunch on issues from air quality to hurricanes.

It was hurricane preparedness that seemed to be foremost on his mind. He recommended people get window protection before the next storm, because there will be one. He said that we really needed to upgrade our building codes throughout the region. (And 2 years after Katrina, FEMA had not reimbursed the city one dime of the $60 million it spent on the evacuees--HeckofaJob FEMA!)

He should know: it was Mayor White and Harris County Eckels who "weathered" Rita and Katrina -- the largest forced migration of people due to a natural disaster in our nation's history.

He's right. I visited one new 30 story condo on Clear Lake which is outside of Houston's jurisdiction. It's windows were rated for 75 mph wind - that was within code!

Two lawyers in a room could generate 75 mph winds, so those windows offer minimum protection from flying debris from a Category 1 -- for the buyer of a $600,000 to $2 million condo filled with furniture you won't find at Sears.

Until those codes are improved, the only thing buyers can do to protect their families and belongings from a hurricane or a bomb blast is to install XO Armor on their windows.

I don't think the Mayor knows about it yet because it is so new, and just passed the Miami Dade test --the toughest standard in the U.S. I hope that he'll look into it.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Fossett is Missing but Bin Laden Apparently Not

Aviation pioneer Steve Fossett is now missing nearly four (4) days after taking off for a "3 hour tour." I saw TV footage from a Civil Air Patrol flight looking for him. As a former CAP pilot I can attest how small a downed aircraft can look - not much bigger than a refrigerator when viewed from even minimum flight distance of 1,000 feet over the terrain.

Apparently Mr. Bin Laden is not missing - word is out today that he will release a new VIDEO before the next 9-11 anniversary. If so, and if he really has put on weight and is no longer "Mr. Graybeard" then it would confirm that the worm is still alive, and dangerous.

This comes right after the arrests in Denmark in Germany of European nationals who went radical with their conversion and wanted to become suicide bombers.

It would be good if we found both Steve Fossett and Osama - one to save and one to put on trial for mass murder.

One Sunni leader in Iraq said that he turned against AL Qaida when he saw one of them behead an 8-year old girl. How can they kill innocent (Muslim) girls? It has turned Iraqis against them. But as long as bin laden remains in his Pakistan mountain sanctuary, who knows what atrocity he will dream up next.

Osama would definitely applaud Southwest Airlines for kicking off a passenger for being "indecently attired" or whatever they said. Bin laden was appalled when a sister in law of his turned up onetime not wearing a head covering. He wouldn't even speak to her he was so "shocked, shocked" at the sight of a woman not entirely covered up. His cohorts would behead an 8 year old for such a thing.

This whole Al Qaida thing got started when an Egyptian Sunni named Qutb visited the U.S. and was "shocked, shocked" at American behavior. He thought we thought only about money and had no morals. So definitely Southwest's step to force more female modesty from the Hooters girls riding their planes would be pleasing to the likes of Osama bin laden.

Think about it guys.

Better blast protect those windows folks. Check out this new security website:

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Europe Terror Plots - Coming here?

Cell Phones record images of London subway bombing 7-7-07

Officials in Denmark claim to have broken up a terrorist plot - but the news from Germany is that a group there had acquired 1,500 pounds of peroxide based liquid explosives, which is enough for several car bombs or a very large truck bomb.

Each group had links back to Afghanistan and Pakistan (no ties to Iraq apparently) Osama bin laden's mountain sanctuary.

Some of the group were local "converts" to radical Islam. That means future threats could be radicalized locals who convert with the idea of becoming "jihadi's" - which makes prevention even harder than merely screening out "bad" people through the visa process.

This attack on U.S. targets in Europe could have been planned for the 9 11 anniversary date, which is coming up next week. If bin laden has a 9 11 anniversary surprise planned, even the U.S. could be hit again.

The fact that these groups keep rising up shows that the failure to get bin laden in Tora Bora in 2001 and the lack of focus on Afghanistan has still left us vulnerable to further 9 11 attacks six years later in 2007.

In light of these attempted terrorist attacks in Germany and Denmark, I would recommend caution in the U.S. on the anniversary of 9 11. Expect the unexpected.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Missing the Cat 5 - but Getting Zapped from PACIFIC storm

Photo: Felix hitting Central America

Felix has become a 160 mph Cat 5 swirling hell (especially if you are in its path) - and the Mosquito coast is taking the hit instead of us. This time.

But oddly, we are getting weather from a hurricane - a PACIFIC Ocean tropical storm. Tropical Storm Henriette, now near Baja California, is throwing moisture all the way to Texas and will give us more weather than Felix as it tracks to the north and east.

We have now had more Cat 5 storms come ashore in one season than anytime in recorded history. We also seem to be getting more of the bigger Cat 4 and 5 storms. Felix went from nothing to a Cat 5 in a couple days -- that is like taking off in a plane and reaching Mach 2 at Concorde speed.

That spells trouble for anyone within 100 miles of a coastline in the U.S. We are looking at a big hit when it comes.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Another Day Another Hurricane

From nothing on Friday, a tropical wave appeared and morphed into a Cat 1 on Saturday and a Category 2 Felix by Sunday. This baby is growing fast. Whoever it hits is going to feel it.

It looks like it will stay south of us -- but keep in mind that the peak of hurricane season is the entire month of September. We aren't out of the woods yet.

And as I've said before and will say again, even if we squeak by this year, there is always next year.

We can't repeal the laws of nature or geography: Hurricanes are annual events and we still live on the coast or within 100 miles of it. Sooner or later the odds will catch up with us. We've had Rita, Katrina, Allison, Alicia, Carla, yada yada -- back to the 1900 storm that got Galveston.

Then I read in the Houston Chronicle that so many Houstonians have a second house as a weekend retreat on Galveston or the coast. So I encourage everyone to keep preparing --with installing XO Armor on the windows being job 1.

And don't forget the people that do get hit by Felix even if we get fortunate and miss it.

Late Note: Eight years later...and suddenly the predictions are that Felix will turn north and get into the Gulf of Mexico by next Friday. Now WE are a potential target. Felix is predicted to be close to a Cat 5 when it hits the Yucatan -- so it is BIG. This could be the second hit for the Cancun area as well...