Weekly Letter to President Obama
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INAUGURATION,   January 20, 2009

Drunk in its stale air
For two hundred years.
Fettered in mind and body,
The soul, the safe escape

To let me breathe the cries
Of my heart singing
Tears of mel-an-choly.

The tears flow free today
Washing the stains of blood
And sweat in brotherhood.

Raise the curtain then an'
Let the world look in
On this promised land --
We breathe free today.... almost.

--- Arshad M. Khan
We will be known forever by the tracks we leave.
---  Native American proverb
January 1, 2016

Mr. President:  Happy New Year!  Your hometown, Chicago, is enjoying balmy
weather this winter, thanks to El Nino, although states like Missouri are paying a
heavy price in flooding.

Forecasters are calling it a Godzilla of an El Nino, joining the intensity of the previous
big ones in 1982 and 1997.  One's heart goes out to the people enduring the floods.

All around, the weather systems are becoming more severe.  They now produce wine
in England, and winter flooding in the UK is not uncommon.  This year Aberdeenshire
has been hit, with flood waters reaching heights not observed in generations.

While one year's weather pattern does not constitute evidence for climate change,
the overall severity of storms appears to be increasing.  Of course, the low-lying
islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans provide visible proof in their encroaching sea

Politics, too, are becoming extreme.  We have our Donald Trump, the far-right
populist alienating almost every non-white group in the country -- and a headache for
the GOP.

In Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu is trying to pass a law making Israel the Nation State of
the Jewish People.  It will have the affect of delegitimizing around 20 percent of
existing citizens -- the Muslims, Christians, Druze and so on.

It is also what certain elements in India's BJP party, currently in power, seem to want
as they stoke religious hatred.  While the consequences have not been anywhere
near as deadly as the Gujarat pogrom when Mr. Modi was its Chief Minister, there
have been a few rural victims -- it has also helped the BJP win seats.

After shunning Pakistan until now, the pragmatic Mr. Modi made a surprise visit,
attending the wedding of Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's granddaughter in
his home village of Raiwind.  The few hours he spent in Pakistan allowed time for a
private session and it signaled a U-turn, at least superficially in policy.  Nobody knows
why, but speculations include an attempt towards stability to garner greater
investment in the region, and support for India's quest of a permanent UN Security
Council seat.

The crux of the problem is Kashmir and the ill-treatment of a restive population by a
700,000 strong security force, which India says is there to fight terrorism.  Of course,
the insurgency is the result of India denying Kashmiris the plebiscite it promised at the
behest of the UN.  Political autonomy for the state, since neither side wants the other
winning it, could be the answer, particularly in an economically cohesive framework --
like the EU but that is looking far ahead.

Today, New Year's Day, is special in Texas.  It has legislated an open-carry law
allowing citizens to pack a gun.  So is it back to the wild west?  Not quite.  It turns out
some 30-odd states already have such a law, so Texas was in the minority before.  
And the guns are no longer six-shooters -- the new automatics hold more than twice
the ammo.