Hello, UK

New installments in the First Team series are now available at Amazon.UK here.
My loss, your gain . . .

I busted out of the NCAAs in the first round (yikes), so in honor of that . . . and the bet I lost . . . Threat Level Black*, an early Andy Fisher thriller available on Kindle, is $2.99 from now until April Fool's Day. (Here's the link.)

Teach me to bet on college basketball.

* The book is set partly in New York during the NCAA Final Four tourney, which was the connection.
We're back . . .

Technical difficulties took the Hogs 1 Kindle edition out of circulation temporarily, but we're back and available here.

Speaking of technical difficulties, there was a glitch in some versions where two chapters weren't showing up in the table of contents. That reportedly has been fixed.

I appreciate hearing directly from readers when they're having problems. That helps me get to the bottom of things quicker. Of course, whether I can get them fixed or not is sometimes another question . . .

By the way, we are working on getting book 4 out as quickly as possible.
Are independent bookstore coming back?

I hope so. Item:

...community support is by no means unique to Bank Square Books, and it may be the secret ingredient behind a quiet resurgence of independent bookstores, which were supposed to go the way of the stone tablet – done in first by the national chains, then Amazon, and then e-books.
A funny thing happened on the way to the funeral.
While beloved bookstores still close down every year, sales at independent bookstores overall are rising, established independents are expanding, and new ones are popping up from Brooklyn to Big Stone Gap, Va. Bookstore owners credit the modest increases to everything from the shuttering of Borders to the rise of the "buy local" movement to a get-'er-done outlook among the indies that would shame Larry the Cable Guy. If they have to sell cheesecake or run a summer camp to survive, add it to the to-do list.


50 Shades of North Korea

China to U.S.: defending against North Korea will only make them more pissed off:

Hong Kong (CNN) -- The United States' plans to beef up its missile defenses against North Korea are likely to inflame tensions that are running high over Pyongyang's nuclear program, China said Monday.
"Bolstering missile defenses will only intensify antagonism, and it doesn't help to solve the issue," Hong Lei, a spokesman for the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said at a regular news briefing in Beijing.


This is like telling a kid who's getting beat up at school that putting up his hands to ward off the blows will only make things worse.

But in a way China is right -- removing the threat would be much more effective than positioning interceptors to stop the missiles once launched.

Wonder what they'll say when that happens.

Less LCS, more CGs?

Item: Navy may rethink LCS program.

From DefenseNews.com:

Whatever the future holds for the U.S. Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) program, it’s becoming less likely the service will continue to buy both variants after 2015.
The successor may either be the Freedom-class or Independence-class designs now being built, an up-gunned, multimission variant of the current ships, or a completely different type of ship, according to senior Navy officials familiar with high-level thinking.

Translation: Maybe "one ship fits all" isn't the way of the future.

The LCS recommendation is getting most of the attention, but it's this recommendation that's the more critical one:

Copeman recommends creating a new, large surface combatant fitted with AMDR and designed with the power, weight and space to field “top-end energy weapons” like the electromagnetic rail gun under development by the Navy.
The new ship could also be developed into a replacement for today’s Ticonderoga-class missile cruisers in the air defense mission of protecting deployed aircraft carriers — a mission Copeman says needs to be preserved. All flattops have a “shotgun” cruiser that accompanies them throughout a deployment, but the missile ships are aging and, by 2025, only four will remain in service to protect the fleet’s 11 carriers.

Full story.

Phantom play


WASHINGTON — An Iranian jet fighter pursued an American surveillance drone over the Persian Gulf this week but ended the chase after a radio warning from an American escort plane, Pentagon officials said Thursday. . . .
The Pentagon press secretary, George Little, said that in the episode on Tuesday, an Iranian F-4 jet fighter approached within 16 miles of the Predator, which was being escorted by a pair of American military aircraft. United States officials did not say what type of American planes were involved.
The type that could shoot him down with the push of a button, obviously.

The lunacy of trying to score points by targeting unarmed (and slow) UAVs aside, it's good to know that F-4s are still flying somewhere. That old iron was an impressive beast.


Climate change and its effects

One of the more controversial aspects of the Red Dragon Rising series has been the premise that the war starts because of turmoil seeded by climate change and its vast effects on China.

Even the science hadn't been pretty well established, the fact that China has been experiencing severe droughts over the past few years makes the premise a no-brainer, but apparently some people have their doubts. It's certainly possible that China won't go to war - that part is definitely fiction. But the country is absolutely facing a host of environmental challenges, and will continue to do so in the future. As we all will.

If you're looking for some information about climate change in general, the people at Learnstuff.com have put together an informational graphic with a set of bullet points. You can look at the whole thing here:


It baffles me that climate change has become a political issue. Dealing with the effects of droughts, rising tides, etc., should have nothing to do with political ideologies - just as dealing with aggressive acts from other nations shouldn't. Reasonable people can disagree over what should be done, but it makes no sense at all to ignore the science.

I don't know that American innovation can completely solve the problem, but it can be a huge part of the solution. As I suggest in the more serious passages* of The Helios Conspiracy, private American companies can build a satellite-to-earth solar energy system that will take care of most of our energy needs. And there are a whole range of other new technologies - from LEDs to weather modification - that not only deserve serious consideration but will get it from scientists, entrepreneurs, and leaders in some country, if not ours.

* - Those would be the ones between the cigarette smoke and coffee stains.
American Sniper: an international hit

We debuted on the London Times best-seller list a few days ago. (Number 10.)

Nanny State suffers reversal . . .

. . . or maybe I should say, Nanny City. Item:

A judge invalidated New York City’s ban on large sugary drinks on Monday, one day before it was to go into effect, dealing a significant blow to one of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s signature public health initiatives and a marquee project of his third term.

Speaking of Hogs . . .

Book one in the series, Going Deep, is available here.

There are a total of six books in the series. Currently three are available on-line for Kindle. We are working on converting book four. (Unfortunately, the book was published in the old-school way, and my wife, er, I mean my immense staff of assistants, has to input it by hand, then make corrections, etc., so it's very time-consuming. We're working as quickly as possible, I promise.)

Watch that tanker . . .

Had a very generous note from Mark "Nukes" Williamson, who'd noticed something that got by me in the first Hogs book regarding tankers.* I'll let Nukes tell it:

You have a small technical error in Chapter 22 of Hog Down. KC-135s can only be configured to be refuel with the boom only, or through a drogue adapter on the boom. It cannot do both like the KC-10. In chapter 22 you have an A-10 following an F-18, that couldn't happen from the same KC-135. 

At some point I'll hopefully have a chance to get that fixed. In the meantime, Nukes was kind enough to correspond a bit, and after a bit of prodding shared his biography, which I think a few readers will appreciate - and at the same time give us all a chance to thank him for his service to our country:

I've spent a lot of time hanging on the boom of 135s. Air refueling in a heavy aircraft is some of the best and most challenging flying I've done. Nothing will get the heart pumping as much as taking on 100,000 pounds of gas with a night air refueling in the weather, and that of course is usually when the tanker loses its autopilot...just to make it more "fun". 

Thanks Nukes - for the correction and especially for your time in the air protecting us.

If there's going to be a first strike . . .

. . . it makes a lot more sense for NK to be on the receiving end.


North Korea on Thursday threatened a preemptive nuclear strike against the United States and other purported aggressors, describing Washington as a “criminal threatening global peace.”
Though Pyongyang routinely vows to demolish the United States in a sacred war, the threat issued Thursday marked a major escalation of rhetoric just hours before the United Nations Security Council is to discuss new sanctions aiming at reining in the North’s weapons program and restricting illicit overseas trade.

Washington Post story.

The question is this: At what point should North Korea's threats be taken seriously? Because if they are taken seriously, then an American raid against their missile and nuke facilities would not only remove their threat but clearly endanger many less civilians (including North Korea's own) than any other war scenario. And it would be relatively easy to accomplish.

At some point, the logic of such an attack becomes irrefutable, even if North Korea's new leader can't work it out. In fact, the only argument against doing it is that South Korea and China would then have a basket case on their hands. But how far from that are we anyway?

The cost of medicine . . .

. . . and its assorted obscenities:

Medicine had obviously become a huge business. In fact, of Houston’s top 10 employers, five are hospitals, including MD Anderson with 19,000 employees; three, led by ExxonMobil with 14,000 employees, are energy companies. How did that happen, I wondered. Where’s all that money coming from? And where is it going? I have spent the past seven months trying to find out by analyzing a variety of bills from hospitals like MD Anderson, doctors, drug companies and every other player in the American health care ecosystem.
When you look behind the bills that Sean Recchi and other patients receive, you see nothing rational — no rhyme or reason — about the costs they faced in a marketplace they enter through no choice of their own. The only constant is the sticker shock for the patients who are asked to pay.
Yet those who work in the health care industry and those who argue over health care policy seem inured to the shock. When we debate health care policy, we seem to jump right to the issue of who should pay the bills, blowing past what should be the first question: Why exactly are the bills so high?
What are the reasons, good or bad, that cancer means a half-million- or million-dollar tab? Why should a trip to the emergency room for chest pains that turn out to be indigestion bring a bill that can exceed the cost of a semester of college? What makes a single dose of even the most wonderful wonder drug cost thousands of dollars? Why does simple lab work done during a few days in a hospital cost more than a car? And what is so different about the medical ecosystem that causes technology advances to drive bills up instead of down?

Read more: http://healthland.time.com/2013/02/20/bitter-pill-why-medical-bills-are-killing-us/#ixzz2Ml2Gm5bv

Chavez dead, VP blames cancer on U.S.


"We have received the toughest and tragic information that... Comandante President Hugo Chavez died today at 4:25 pm," said Mr (Nicola) Maduro in a nationally televised address.
He spoke of a plot against Venezuela, saying he had no doubt that Mr Chavez's cancer, first diagnosed in 2011, had been induced by foul play by Venezuela's enemies - the US promptly rejected the accusations as "absurd".
He said a scientific commission could one day investigate whether Mr Chavez's illness was brought about by what he called an enemy attack.
Struggling to hold back tears, Mr  Maduro called on the nation to close ranks after their leader's demise.

And here I thought we were only assassinating people with drones these days.
Number one, Times 2

Tomorrow, the NY Times will publish its best-seller lists. American Sniper will be number one on both the hardcover and mass market paperback lists. As far as the publisher knows, it's the first time that's ever happened.

It is a humbling moment. But to say I have mixed feelings is an understatement. On the one hand, I'm certainly proud of the book - and even prouder of Chris and Taya, thankful to have worked with them, honored to call them my friends. They and their extended families - fathers, mothers, brothers, wives, children - are all exceptional people.

On the other hand - certainly I would trade every sale if time could be turned back a few weeks.

I guess the only thing to do is to take the attitude Chris took toward the book's success from the very beginning: to be grateful for the tremendous response from people, who so generously have listened to his story and taken the time to thank him, and all of our veterans and their families, for their service to our country.

Thank you all.

Rhino Wars . . .

. . . and a volunteer.

In all seriousness, it's an important cause. The show debuts next week on Animal Planet.