It's a Gas

Quintana's birds: You covered the whole LNG problem comprehensively, especially all the political connections ["Welcome to Fire Island," by Sarah Fenske, May 27]. What about the mitigation project for the nearby bird sanctuary?

Burton Smart
Lafayette, Louisiana

Relative risks: You should have contacted recognized LNG experts Quest Consultants ( to get real, objective insight concerning LNG safety.

It is important to understand that LNG is not stored under pressure like propane or butane. Cryogenic liquid (LNG) at near-atmospheric pressure does not "flash" when suddenly released to the atmosphere via a rupture in a pipeline, storage tank or a specialized transport ship. LNG will vaporize because of heat input from its environment in a spill situation, be it on water or land. The resulting gas is primarily methane, which is lighter than air and will disperse without hugging the surface. Propane and butane (LPG, or liquefied petroleum gas) in the vapor phase are much more dangerous than LNG that vaporizes, because the LPG vapor can hug the surface in an extremely volatile vapor cloud. I know of no incident where something similar has been experienced with methane, and it seems most unlikely to occur because of its low density compared to air.

I am not an expert in LNG safety, but I did spend 11 years working as a process engineer on various projects in the LNG business in Houston, Jakarta and Bontang, Indonesia. I was associated with the Roy Huffington organization and a successor company, as was Charles Reimer.

Bill Chaffin
West University Place

Diploma Nil

Dropout blues: The fact that only 278 students will graduate this year from Austin High School, from the 1,000 students who started together four years earlier, was a completely mind-blowing, somewhat depressing and very concerning subject to read about ["Survivors," by Margaret Downing, May 27].

However, I can't help but bring up a question: How many of the 722 dropouts earned their GEDs? This fact, not given or discussed in the article, may help ease the pain lingering in my brain. Did you find this out?

John Paul Unker

Grapes of Wrath

Payback time: Christopher Massie did not refund my bidder's offer for the wine-tasting [Hair Balls, "Wonders Never Cease," May 27]. The Texas Chefs Association refunded her money. Thank you for printing the column item.

Life is too short and food is too good to drink cheap wine. Luckily, what goes around comes around.

Brenda Kieser

Gunning for Kids

Spare the student: Another juvenile goes down the tube of macho vanity accompanied by indifference from teachers -- the reason for the gun? -- and rejection by the "acceptable" social crowd at school [Hair Balls, "Rest Easy, Criminal Kingpins," May 20].

The third paragraph sums up the teachers' blindness toward a potentially hazardous situation and a person with very low self-esteem.

As a society, we need to let our youths know that weapons are negative tools in our struggle to build a civilization.

Surely that boy has a talent worthy of nurturing. He does not need to be shoved into the hell of "correctional" institutions to be molded into a psychotic, useless menace to society and into another candidate for lethal injection.

Barbara J. Thomas


Activities are essential: Police Chief Hurtt and Mayor White are moving too fast on some issues [Hair Balls, "Hey, PAL: Get Lost," May 20]. Eliminating the Police Activities League leaves 5,536 inner-city, at-risk kids back on their own with little or no mentoring or parental support. PAL programs are paid in full by private donations and delivered by HPD PAL officers, a unit recently reduced from 14 to seven officers.

PAL's after-school and weekend programs include life skills and learning-center mentoring, homework and meals. Food is PAL's greatest expense. The 14 vans, computer center and all athletic leagues are funded by Houstonians who know that these kids can and must make a difference in our future.

HISD is 57 percent Hispanic and 32 percent black. These kids need help to survive and succeed and become the core of Houston's future workforce. They are the key to Houston's becoming a world-class city, according to Stephen Klineberg of Rice University.

Eliminating PAL is false economy. Keeping kids in school and out of gangs and jail is much more productive and less expensive than catching them and putting them in prison for years. If White and Hurtt want to do the best for Houston, they should do the real math on PAL and look at the lifeline rather than the bottom line.  

Let's invest in the city's future rather than hold it back.

Charles Lutz

Silencing the Voices?

Corporate America critic: Thanks to Paul Kix for his bit on the Young Conservatives ["Lessons to the Left," May 6]. The fact is, penetration of academia, like the media, has long been a goal of corporate America. Over the last decade the generous corporate donations and the upward mobility offered to ambitious Young Conservatives via corporate contacts have dramatically raised the visibility of these little beards.

The career of baby Bush demonstrates the power of big money to make a major player of a person of limited intelligence.

I witnessed the same thing in public education. Intelligent, well-qualified teachers are driven out and replaced by the TAAS morons, the majority of whom glance with envy at corporate salaries. The same old scams are used to Enronize public education finance. Phony corporate bookkeeping translates into phony dropout rates and the teaching of tests -- and bonuses and hush money, just like Enron, etc. Ken who?

Now the educated are slandered as "unpatriotic" for pointing out that Dick Cheney needed the war to bail out Halliburton and that Gore won the 2000 election. I remember when, as a half-educated student spouting lies and half truths fed to me by the old Nixon gang, everybody -- town fathers, local papers, the Houston Chronicle -- printed my Young Conservative garbage with gusto. But now I know the score; the Chronicle is just about appearances.

The Nazis got to 'em young, and the first group the Nazis got rid of were -- they said -- the liberal, degenerate professors who were union members, socialists and Jews. Imagine: anti-labor, anti-social welfare and anti-ethnic minority. And look at America now. It is a kinder, gentler version of something, and you know what it is.

Michael Arrington
Anderson, Texas

Professorial pay: While the Young Conservatives of Texas have a point, they should remember that no one really cares whether college professors are liberal or conservative or allow expression of views other than their own. For example, Yale, the alma mater of President Bush, has 2,000 faculty members, of which three are Republicans. According to professor Bork, some faculty think this is three too many. Furthermore, Mark Steyn has pointed out that 59 percent of grade-school teachers are unable to tell what a noun is or spell the word imminent.

If, however, the Young Conservatives want to have an impact, I suggest that they publish the professors' salaries (this is an obscure but public record) and divide their salaries by the actual number of hours a professor spends in the classroom. They should ignore factors such as time thinking great thoughts, three-hour lunches, conferences in Cancún, etc. The public, parents and taxpayers will be fascinated by comparing their incomes to how much professors make and how little work they do to earn it. Indeed, one of the perks of being a "person of tenure" is that he or she can dump classroom lectures and grading papers on their graduate students, some of whom are on food stamps. Those graduate students who do not die of malnutrition teach themselves.

I can even imagine that a university president, upon returning in his private jet from a disappointing meeting in Washington and taken to the president's mansion in his student-driven limousine, would find the table useful in deciding what cuts he should make to satisfy the board.

John Griffith

Pan Quakes

Taking offense: I can't believe what I read in your comparison of the demise of vinyl records and pancreatic cancer ["The Final Scratch?" by Michael Serazio, May 27]. I'm extra-sensitive about this, as an activist for the need for pancreatic cancer research (

I read a lot of stories that mention the disease, which is the fourth leading cancer killer in the U.S. It has a 4 percent survival rate and kills most people in six months. The insensitivity of your reference boggles. I can't imagine you've encountered this disease in your loved ones. You clearly have no idea of how cruel your cheap, offhand remark truly is.

Tom Cole
Worcester, Massachusetts

Bass Drums

Save the fish: It is irresponsible for River Oaks Grill to offer Chilean sea bass on its menu, and it is irresponsible for the Houston Press to provide positive publicity for the restaurant's choice [Hot Plate, by Carol Rust, May 20].

Heavy fishing is depleting the Chilean sea bass population, according to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Additionally, the fishing practices are harmful to other sea life. Although limited fishing for Chilean sea bass is permitted, many commercial fishers do not observe these limits.  

Restaurants can remove Chilean sea bass from their menus, and consumers can select alternative seafood or decline to patronize restaurants that contribute to pushing this fish to extinction.

Matthew Brown
The Woodlands

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