Letter From New York 01 13 15 Deciding for yourself…

On this Friday the 13th, I find myself in the Acela Lounge at Penn Station, warding off the freezing temperatures that have descended on the Northeast. Actually, I am waiting here to hear from my friend Paul, who may need some help from me after he has outpatient surgery today. He is having a stent put in his leg this afternoon. I am waiting to hear from him about going to his apartment, not far from Penn, to be with him after his surgery.

While Claverack will probably only get bitter cold today and tomorrow, the coastal areas of New England will be hammered again by snow, another foot added to the already record amounts that have fallen. Locally, the harsh winter has resulted in a road salt shortage and rationing has been started.

While a peace deal has been signed in Minsk, fighting is continuing in Ukraine and there is some skepticism that fighting will end when it is supposed to at midnight Saturday night. Ukraine has a slumping economy and has received a promise of $17.5 billion from the IMF to prop it up.

The negotiations to reach the agreement were difficult and “buckets of coffee” were drunk, according to the host, the President of Belarus. It was the first time in years any western leader had visited his country. He’s known as Europe’s last dictator. He met Angela Merkel with a small bouquet of flowers and seemed very pleased she and Hollande were there.

Probably not very pleased right now is President Cristina Kirchner of Argentina as a prosecutor has launched an investigation concerning her potential involvement in a cover-up regarding facts about a 1994 bombing in Buenos Aires of a synagogue in which 85 people were killed. Iran has been blamed, a statement they deny.

It is the latest twist in a bizarre case. The last prosecutor, Nisman, was found dead in his apartment the night before he was testify in the case. Supposedly a suicide, it is now being investigated as a potential murder. The case is riveting Argentina.

Another riveting scene is watching who will blink first in the Greek debt restructuring negotiations. Greece isn’t budging from its position of wanting a restructuring and European Finance Ministers are not moving from demanding that Greece honor the terms of the bailout. Particularly severe is Schaeuble of Germany, a formidable figure, in a wheelchair as a result of a 1990 assassination attempt.

The Boko Haram launched their first attack on Chad. The BBC reported that the savagery was severe. Soldiers had their throats cut and women were carried off as “war booty.” President Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria is requesting American troops to fight Boko Haram.

In another chapter in a sorry week for media, David Carr, the well-respected media critic for the New York Times, collapsed last night in the Times’ newsroom and died. He had battled drug addiction in his younger years and had climbed out of that hole and become one of the most respected reporters in the country.

Brian Williams is reported to be considering an apology tour of the country after seeking counseling. As he considers his next moves, investigations are continuing into many comments that he made that are now doubted. Was he with Seal Team 6 as they flew into Baghdad? Did he actually shake the hand of Pope Paul II? Was he at the Brandenburg Gate the night the wall fell? He might need to wait to make that apology tour until he knows exactly all that he needs to apologize for.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg of our Supreme Court is reported as having had a bit too much wine the night of the State of the Union address and drifted off during Obama’s speech. It made her seem so human.

Speaking of things human, the film version of Fifty Shades of Grey opens this weekend. The reviews I’ve read or heard are all over the place, from superb to terrible, beautifully acted to woodenly performed. One reviewer reported that at the end of the screening she attended, everyone began to giggle, probably from a combination of factors. If you are interested [and it is assumed a lot of people are going to be interested], you will probably have to rely on your own take.

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