Monday, September 19, 2022

Five Stars! The Reader's Favorite Book Review of Project GrandSlam & The Zhongguo Orchestra

Project GrandSlam & The Zhongguo Orchestra by Jos Ilagan is a political thriller with strains of religious themes. York Ryder is a photojournalist tasked to cover US Secretary of State John Berzowski’s diplomatic delegation to the Philippines. However, things don’t go as planned, and before they knew it, Berzowski is killed and there are bomb threats.

Ryder was then given a new assignment: figure out who killed the secretary, locate the bombs, and make sure the killers don’t get a chance to kill anyone else. With the USA allies offering no help, Ryder works with the CIA and National Intelligence Coordinating Agency to figure out who did it. Turns out Hong Kong’s Kowloon Dragon is behind it all, and their next target is the President of the United States. The Kowloon Dragon has major plans, and it looks like York Ryder has to stop them before it is too late. 

Entertaining from the very start, Project GrandSlam & The Zhongguo Orchestra opens with an intriguing scene and makes you wonder if Ryder is more than just a photojournalist or a government agent. However, it is also a nod to Ryder’s capabilities as a journalist and as a reliable protagonist for readers.

The story is very complex and intriguing. Readers are always looking for the next clue, the next twist, and the next turn; however, they are never able to guess what will happen next.

Author Jos Ilagan maintains the suspense of the story even when we know the culprit. You can never guess what will happen next and if Ryder will be able to get the job done or not. The characters are well-rounded, they have space to develop and grow, and this is all a reader needs from an author! Fantastic!

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

A Basic Study of Postal Bomb: A Guide to Personal Security Measures

Monday, April 2, 2018

Personal Security Measures: How to Protect Yourself from Postal Bomb


                                                                                          (Photo Credit: The Atlantic, March 30, 2018 Issue)

          The spate of bombings that took place in Austin, Texas from March 2 to 20 this year had put the nation on edge.  Five package bombs exploded. Two people killed. Five critically injured. 
          For three weeks the lingering questions in the minds of law enforcers were: Is this another Ted “Unabomber” Kaczynski-style operation? Is the bomber (or bombers) domestic-bred or from a foreign group? What’s the bomber’s motive or objective? 
           The news report later revealed that the bombings were the handiworks of Mark Anthony Conditt, a self-professed psychopath who detonated a bomb and blew up himself when the police pulled him over on March 21. 
           Now, would this kind of terroristic act also happen in a place like Santa Clarita Valley? Yes, it could. In my eight years in counter-terrorism operations, I would say terrorists know no boundaries—they strike in rural and urban areas, in populated and isolated places. 
           Postal bomb is one of the methods used by terrorists in sowing chaos. A bomb of choice could be in the form of explosive or incendiary device. They come in envelopes no thicker than one-fourth inch or packages not more than twenty-two pounds in weight.
           So, what do we do to protect ourselves and our families? Two words—be vigilant. Always be observant at home and at work for any suspicious mails. 
           Below are pointers in handling postal deliveries. Although they’re designed for persons working in sensitive-government positions overseas and for executives in multinational corporations, personal security, however, is everyone’s responsibility, and so the succeeding guidelines apply to all even to the Santa Claritans. 
          The bomb can explode when opening the mail so one must be aware of the following tell-tale signs in handling a letter or a package. 

     Do you normally receive letters or parcels from domestic or abroad? Pay attention to the foreign name and address of the sender. 
     A key to look for is the postmark. Do you recognize the writing? Is it written in foreign style? 
     Is the letter or parcel balanced? If it’s lopsided, treat it as a suspect. 
     If the weight is excessive for its size, treat it as a suspect. 
     Are there any small holes that could’ve resulted from wire punctures? 
     Are there any grease or stain marks that could’ve caused by explosive sweating? 
     Is there an unusual scent or aroma coming from the letter or parcel, something like the smell of almonds?   
     In case of a letter (usually in brown envelope), check if there’s a stiffer that holds the content flat—like cardboard or metal. 
     If the feel isn’t like just a folded paper inside, treat the envelope as a suspect. 
     Check if there are any unusual outlines if you hold the envelope up to the light. 
     Is the flap of the envelope sealed completely? Usually there’s a small gap on both sides. If so, treat it as a suspect. 

          What to do and not to do when you receive a suspected postal bomb in the office or at home:

     Place the letter or the parcel on the flat surface. 
     Make sure to place it in an open space away from the house or office.  If not possible, leave it on the flat surface, and then open the windows and doors. 
     A bomb explodes strongly when it’s in a closed room. 
     Clear the area of all persons immediately. 
     Call the Security Staff if you’re in the office to make proper determination of consequent steps. 
     When at home, call the LASD-SCV for determination and assistance. 
     Don’t bend the envelope or the package. 
     Don’t open the letter or the package. 
     Don’t place the letter or the package in the water.

          What’s the chance of Austin-like incidents happening in Santa Clarita Valley? Not even one-percent. So why this article? Just a heads-up so you or your family members won’t become part of the 0.99-percent targets. There will always be copycats. Remember Thanh Cong Phan from Washington who mailed postal bombs to US military facilities and to the CIA HQS at the time Conditt is wreaking havoc in Texas? 
          Lastly, I would’ve you think twice of letting your minor children get the packages from your porch or mail box. I’m sure they want to help, and you want to see them off their Xbox and PlayStation. I never let mine. Paranoia? Friend, we’re living in different times. 
          Please take note, security is always inconvenient, but it’ll keep you and your loved ones safe.