Article Overview:    The Bugs of Terrorism are all about us, hiding in the Christmas Trees like horrific little bells that explode when touched, causing happiness and joy to run for cover.   A dreary thought indeed, and one that needs great Vigilance to overcome unless Complacency masks their threat.  Find out what they are and how to keep the Beast of Bug Terrorism from affecting your family, neighborhood and the world.


Saturday--December 13, 2003—Ground Zero Plus 822
Weapons Of Mass Destruction Hiding In Starbucks' Stir Sticks?
Cliff McKenzie
   Editor, New York City Combat Correspondent News

GROUND ZER0, New York, N.Y.--Dec. 13, 2003--  Being threatened by Terrorism at Starbucks on 3rd Avenue and 23rd Street in New York City is not a pleasant way to approach the unfolding of the Christmas Season.   But that's exactly what happened to me yesterday at approximately 5:10 p.m. on a busy Friday night.

I was threatened by Terrorism yesterday at Starbucks

       The day started with a joyous bang and ended with a Terroristic thud.    Yesterday was our older daughter's 35th birthday.    She is now the mother of three lovely children, ranging from 7 years to eighteen months.   We have a close family relationship and enjoy each other's company, so we all went to lunch to celebrate the event.
       Our younger daughter hosted the event at a Mexican restaurant.  She was recently married, and to see our two lovely daughters laughing and sharing their life experiences as they celebrate the clicking of Mother's Nature clock was fulfilling.   Parents of Vigilance live for the happiness of their children and grandchildren.   It is the nature of parenting.
        My wife and I, the youngest one, Angus, and our two daughters ate a delicious lunch.    The recent snow blizzard that covered New York City in white had been erased by the rain a couple of days earlier but the air was brisk with Holiday joy.   The thought of Terrorism was far from my mind at that moment.  But then, it was early.
       Our television was on the blink.  I arranged to swap a t.v. with our younger daughter who had an extra one.   I hauled it up the 59 steps to our East Village apartment, replaced the new one with the old one whose sound had died, only to find the replacement was equally wounded.   The sound from it was also bad.

I unhooked our defunct cable box and took it to Cox Cable for a replacement

       Then it dawned on me that the problem was with the cable box, not the television.    I unhooked the cable box and, rather than wait a week for the cable guy to come and examine the problem, elected to subway up to Cox Cable on 23rd Street and replace the box.    One quickly learns in the City to do whatever repairs one can rather than wait for days for a repairperson.
        I got the new cable box and hoofed it from 7th Avenue to 2nd Avenue to catch the bus back home.   You learn also in the City that you can subway up one direction and ride back on the bus for free.   Instead of spending $25 in cabs grid locked on a Friday late afternoon, public transportation is much cheaper and faster--a total of $2 and a savings of more than ten times that amount.
        Plus, there is the fascination with people.  New York City is known as the Crossroads of the World.   Humanity of all sizes and shapes weave in and out on the streets, from the most beautiful of them to the most grotesque, from the richest to the poorest, from the most radical to the most conservative, the fattest and thinnest, the shortest and tallest.
        I'm sure Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden could walk around New York City for years and never be noticed, for everyone looks like someone.   Eight million faces flooded by minute after minute from the 193 nations of the world reduces everyone to commonality.
        Still, for a writer or just aficionado of human culture and habits, walking down the streets of the City is a thrilling, stimulating and engaging experience.    So, I hoofed the long avenue blocks with gusto, studying faces and walks, shapes and sizes, physiognomies and psychologies of all the hoards block by block.
        It was chilly.  The northern air blasting across the Midwest was en route again to the City.  I dressed with a light wool shirt rather than heavy coat to enjoy the chill without being cold.   Occasional blasts of the cold wind drove me into a favorite Starbucks on the corner of 23rd and 3rd Avenue.   


I purchased a  Grande coffee

             I bought a regular or Grande, nothing fancy for I am a fan of the "burnt coffee" taste Starbucks is famous for.    They burn their beans in the roasting process to give it a zing, unlike most coffee.   Since my taste buds have been dulled by smoking, I find the smart of the coffee stimulating, and, the warmth of it traversing down my gullet a good counter to the chill.
          As I approached the counter where you anoint your coffee with cream, sugar and cinnamon sprinkles--if you're into that--I spied something of great concern.   It was like looking down the barrel of a Terrorist's missile launcher as your Blackhawk helicopter is lifting off the ground.
          For some strange reason Starbucks has elected, at least in this one store, to let the customers know where the coffee stirrers come from and what they are made of.    A computer printed sign announced that the box of a couple of hundred eight inch stir sticks were "Made From Beech Wood."
         The message leaped out at me.  I stood back and studied it.  "Why," I thought, "would anyone be interested in what kind of wood stir sticks were made of?"   I pondered the question as I doused a couple ounces of half-and-half in my coffee and fished out one of the wooden stir sticks from the repository.
         "I guess it is important we know what kind of wood we're stirring our coffee with," I noted to the man next to me dressing up his coffee.  He grunted something.  People aren't used to casual conversations in the City when you are blending your coffee with sundries.

Wood stir sticks

        "It's odd," I said, hoping to elicit a response.  "My brother is a wood broker and once provided the wood for wooden arrows.   Now, restrictions on cutting down trees that make for wooden arrows has made it virtually impossible to find the right kind of wood.  The wooden arrow business in America is defunct.   I should tell him that he should shift his efforts to making coffee stir sticks for Starbucks."
          The man, about my age, grunted again.    Of course, I knew better than to babble mundanely at the coffee fixing counter, but I was eager to know if anyone else was as taken by the sign as I.  Like, "Who cares what the source of the wooden sticks are?   What possible value can there be in knowing if your stirring your coffee with beech or Douglas Fir or maple or elm or any of the countless species of wood?    It seemed I had to know, or, at least express my nagging question to someone over the inconsequence of information being advertised.
        Then my eyes traveled to the small print below the "Made From Beech Wood" 36-point letters pasted on the stir stick box.   In smaller letters were the words:  "Made In China."
        "Ah," I said with satisfaction, "I get it.   They are telling us the wooden stir sticks are made from Beech Wood in China.  They are warning us we have a chance of getting SARS." 

Could Starbucks' Beech Wood stir sticks from China  vaporize any and all of us

         Now, the man next to me who was swirling his coffee with a stir stick looked up at me.  His eyes grew large.  "Don't say that!"
         He glared at me as though I had pulled a gun and told him I was about to shoot selected patrons in the coffee house.   "Don't even joke about that."
         Then he capped his coffee and exited.
         I was left alone at the coffee fixing counter, just me and the sign:  "Made From Beech Wood.   Made In China."
         There sat the box of stir sticks, all lined up like terracotta soldiers, eternal warriors, guarding the Fifth Emperor of the Han Dynasty (157-141 BC for history fans).    I had always thought that when I die I would like to be buried in a great tomb with terracotta Sentinels of Vigilance protecting me from the Beast of Terror.
         The Chinese were masters of myth.  They buried their Emperors in great tombs underground, protecting them with virtual armies fashioned in pottery to protect them in the afterlife.  Once the tombs were finished, they buried the artifacts of the Emperor and ran their horses over the plot, disguising it so grave robbers couldn't find it.  Then, all who worked on the project were killed, forever silencing any knowledge of the location of the tomb.
         But, the stir sticks were much more contemporary to me than mere history.  I saw them as a new form of Terrorism.
          I saw the sign as a warning.

My paranoid mind clicked to the current danger of biological contamination

         My paranoid mind--or Vigilant one, depending on your point of view--immediately clicked to the current danger of biological contamination.    Perhaps, I thought, the hands that touched the Beech Wood stir sticks in China might have touched a nose or tongue that had been infected by SARS.
          Recently, I was reading about the danger of SARS.   The Chinese quashed the epidemic in their country before the world knew of its danger.   Now, San Francisco and other ports of entry are bracing for a new surge of the disease, including quarantine facilities where those infected will be forced to live until the disease is under control--if at all.
          My interest in the danger of biological threat has been enhanced with the flu danger.   Recently, I got my flu shot as did my wife.   Immediately following getting the shot, the news has been full of stories of the vaccine's scarcity.   Rationing of the flu shots is being limited to older people and young children.
         Then, there was the recent stories on Threat Matrix, a television show about Homeland Security my wife and I enjoy.   One of the episodes was about unleashing an Ebola bug, not by Terrorists, but by accident.    A town in Texas was quarantined, but the information on the show was accurate about the rapid spread of the virus and its deadly impact on society.

My wife believes microscopic organisms might be the cause the termination of our human race

         My wife, a microbiologist by profession, is well acquainted with the danger of "bugs" and the threat of mutating viruses that can attack the world either by human manipulation in biological weapons, or, as part of nature's attempt to control population. She has on more than one occasion mentioned microscopic organisms through Terrorism or by accident might cause the termination of our human race
          Adding insult to injury was a recent episode of Star Trek, The Next Generation.    We watch the show because our grandson and granddaughter are fans of Star Trek.   We talk about the messages delivered, and believe that human beings will one day explore the vast universe.
          In the most recent re-run, it was centered on the Cardassians, an evil empire of fundamental Terrorist-minded beings, who were planning to use biological warfare on planets to destroy all life and then take command.   Of course, Captain Picard and his crew of the Enterprise thwarted their efforts, but not before seeding the fact that ultimately, biological warfare not only kills the targets but those who attack.

Star Trek Voyager's Captain Picard hunting for weapons of biochemical warfare weapons is captured by the Cardassians

          In the 24th Century, as in the 21st, biological warfare was outlawed among "civilized" worlds, but, uncivilized Terrorists don't conform.
          Thus, the Chinese stir sticks were more than mere pieces of wood jammed into a box awaiting the unsuspecting to pluck one out and stir his or her coffee with what might contain a contaminate, part of a sneeze or cough of a Chinese laborer in some remote village not screened by the modern world's Vigilant health care systems.
          So it wasn't unusual that the man next to me took  umbrage at my comment about all of us being infected by SARS from Chinese-made coffee stirrer sticks.
          Plus, the television newscasters reporting the dangers of the flu virus in New York City suggest people don't touch public doorknobs or public railings. Hello!  Millions of people each day jam and butt their way onto subways and busses, herding themselves into the cities, touching, coughing, sneezing on one another.
         Now, my day was less than joyous.  I thought of an epidemic of "Terror bugs" unleashed by either cruel Terrorists or by Mother Nature--it didn't really matter.
        Terrorism feeds on our Fears, our Intimidation and our Complacency.   It seeks to render us all cripples to fight it, and wants us to buckle under the yoke of its power to crawl before it.
         I remember following my witnessing of the Twin Tower Terrorist attack, I was invited to a First Response seminar.   It covered all the threats of biological attacks on the United States and our inept systems to contain and control such an attack.
       From smallpox to anthrax, the seminar left you weak in the knees, aware that if there was a real threat by biological Terrorism, our nation and the world would be less than prepared to handle it.
       So, we ignore the threat.
       The average citizen is not prepared to comprehend the devastation of a virus or "bug" rendering our civilization unfit, sick, poisoned.    I tried not to imagine the horror of it all, which is what Terrorism wants me to do.  It wants me to feel so oppressed by its forces I just shake my head as the man next to me did, and say to myself:  "Don't think about it.  It's far too much for the likes of you."

Somewhere in one or more of the Middle East countries are vials of dangerous bugs

          In our political climate, much has been said against President Bush by pundits that there were no Weapons of Mass Destruction found in Iraq, and therefore, the war against that country was invalid, perhaps in some camps, illegal.
       I cannot imagine that to be true.
       Somewhere, in the sands of Iraq, or, moved to other Terror-harboring nations, are vials of dangerous bugs waiting for some execution of their contents in some place to prove the power of Terrorism once again.
      While the stir sticks may only be a comma in the on-going saga of biological warfare, there is an exclamation point out there waiting to dropped at the end of the world Terrorism!
       I believe that people obsessed with hate and hostility will go to any lengths to prove their point, even when it means risking their own lives.  What difference is there in a suicide bomber killing himself or herself to a mad group unleashing a deadly virus?

Fight the Bugs of Terrorism

        I don't think much.
       Ultimately, I believe there are Weapons of Mass Destruction waiting somewhere.   I hope the great mass of humanity doesn't wash away the belief in them, or beat their chests in joy that we didn't find any in hopes that might get them a vote in the next election.
        Those weapons of mass destruction just might be in the next coffee stir stick.
        The Bugs of Terrorism Live.  Fight them.  Take the Pledge of Vigilance today.  Be ready for anything, counting on nothing.

Dec.12--Gift Of The Magi--The Pledge Of Vigilance

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