Letter From New York 02 12 15 A very interesting week…

From Washington, DC to battered Boston, the east coast is being plunged into a dose of bitter winter cold. The temperatures will drop into minus territory tonight and tomorrow and Sunday. At this very moment, the sun is flashing down on the snow-covered drive. As I’ve said before: this is the coldest winter I’ve experienced in the fourteen years I’ve been in the cottage.

The breaking news this morning was that a ceasefire has been announced for Sunday in Ukraine. The pact was announced in three separate news conferences. One was held by Putin, another by Ukraine’s Poroshenko and the third by Merkel of Germany and Hollande of France. That there were three press conferences rather than one has caused observers to already speculate that this is an agreement fraught with trouble.

Already it is known as Minsk II and Poroshenko has announced it will be difficult to implement. Ukraine said that even while the marathon talks were happening more Russian heavy armor entered eastern Ukraine in advance of the stand down.

Minsk II is not too similar to last fall’s Minsk Protocol, which was violated within weeks of signing. Regardless, markets responded well and Merkel and Hollande cautiously celebrated.

The West has made it relatively clear that it will not use military means in Ukraine while Putin plays that hand continuously. His economy may be shattering but he has got a good army on the ground.

While I was in New York yesterday, Bob Simon of CBS News was killed in an auto crash on New York’s West Side Away, near 30th, a spot I have passed many a time. One of my first memories of a network news correspondent was of him, reporting from Viet Nam. He was on one of the last helicopters out of Saigon before it fell. He survived many a war zone; it seems ironic he would pass in an accident on the West Side Highway.

It is another marking point in an extraordinary week for news organizations. Brian Williams is on suspension, Jon Stewart is stepping down and Bob Simon has died.

In news that is hardly happy and seems incomprehensible as I look out at nearly six feet of snow piled outside my window but droughts in the continental US are predicted to become incredibly severe in the second half of this century, the worst in a thousand years.

Judicial disarray reigns for yet another day in Alabama over same sex marriages. A minority of counties are obeying the Federal rulings, a majority are not or are just not marrying anyone, gay or straight. The Probate Judges in Alabama are the ones who give out marriage licenses and the one in Mobile today was ordered to get going and give them out but that ruling was for one specific jurisdiction and it is unclear whether that will influence other counties. Probate judges are declaring themselves caught between two courts.

Ah, sweet Alabama!

And while we are visiting issues in the South, three Muslim students, shot execution style by their neighbor, were buried today. Supposedly it was about parking spaces though Keith Ellison, Democratic Congressman from Minnesota and first Muslim elected to Congress, doubts that’s all there was to it.

A labor dispute is closing West Coast ports for four days. Each side blames the other, of course, but ships will be floating out at sea unable to offload their cargoes. The father of a friend of mine was bankrupted in such a situation many years ago.

Ashton Carter has been named the new Defense Secretary. It was widely expected he would be. Though President Obama’s nominee, he is widely liked by the Senate. The nominee for Attorney General has not been so lucky. Her nomination was not voted on today. The Senate doesn’t convene tomorrow nor is it in session next week.

The sun has almost set. The deer have yet to make their appearance. I have begun to think that it is timed to a moment when the sun is setting. I expect them soon. I have already started the cold-water faucet in the kitchen dripping against the bitter cold of tonight.

As I finish this, my brother is landing in Honduras to begin his two-week trip giving medical care. I will keep him constantly in my thoughts.

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