Archive for March, 2015

Letter From New York 03 20 15 As the snow swirls on the first day of spring…

March 20, 2015

Outside the window of the office where I am sitting, big white flakes of snow are falling today, the first day of spring. I am hoping that by the time I return from India, winter will finally have loosened its grip on the northeast.

It has been a tiring winter and no on will be sorry to see it go.

I have had a busy day, spending the morning packing for India and then off to a couple of meetings, now with a little space between one meeting and the next so I thought to get off today’s Letter.

Part of the time I was in one of my meetings, the conversation turned to all the changes happening on the media landscape. While I don’t think television networks are going to go away anytime soon, especially since “cord cutting” is real but minimal, I do think we have probably hit some kind of tipping point in the television landscape.

During television’s prime time, people watching Netflix, which has emerged as a behemoth on its own, consume a third of the Internet’s bandwidth. Next year, it will spend more money on content than the BBC, which is staggering.

It is reported Apple will launch a TV service with approximately 25 networks, which will probably only accelerate the changes happening – if it indeed happens. Apple has always seemingly had a love/hate kind of thing going with content. This time, though, I am guessing it will happen.

Media is the business being most disrupted these days it seems to me.

The word “disrupted” adequately describes the relationship between Obama and Netanyahu. Now John Boehner, Speaker of the House, is on his way to pay “Bibi” a visit. The press is wondering if the leaders of the US and Israel can pass olive branches back and forth. Right now there are only hard feelings.

Hard times have fallen on Representative Aaron Schock of Illinois, who abruptly resigned recently. It is being reported that the Justice Department is opening an investigation into his affairs. Subpoenas have been issued, according to sources, and served on his staff in Peoria.

The Iranian nuclear talks have broken off but will resume next week. It is getting very close to the make it or break it moment. We will see what happens.

What didn’t happen in Europe today was that the lights didn’t go out. Europe is far ahead of the US in the use of solar energy and there were concerns that today’s solar eclipse could have a huge effect on the European power grid. Thankfully, it didn’t. Fossil fuels rode to the rescue during the time of the eclipse.

The dollar is down and oil is up which resulted in the market trending higher today. As I am writing the Dow Jones is up 225.

Not up but down is the maximum area of Artic Sea ice this year, at its lowest point in recorded history, in fact.

Vanuatu is still reeling from the effects of Cyclone Pam, communications are still patchy at best and the island nation has been transformed from a lush green tropical forest to a dirty brown now that foliage has been ripped away by the winds. Fires are burning all over the islands that make up the country as residents try to clear the land.

While it is still almost two years before the Obamas leave office, speculation is growing as to where they might live once they leave the White House. It is not expected they will return to Chicago. Today, a major Obama supporter and donor, through a series of companies, purchased the home outside Honolulu that was used in the television series “Magnum, PI” back in the 1980’s. In political circles it is being whispered that the Obamas would like to return to Hawaii, at least part time, when finished in the White House.

Outside, the snow continues to fall, thick, white flakes, swirled around by the wind, giving the impression I am looking into a snow globe.

Letter From New York 03 19 15 Hard to believe…

March 19, 2015

It is a little after eight in the morning and to my left is the Hudson River with morning sun glinting off the water as we roll south. I am heading into the city for a few meetings and to organize for my departure to India. Most of the clothes I will be taking are in the apartment in the city and I need to sort and organize them, deciding what I will take. I have been warned to bring sweaters and a jacket or two as the nights will still be cool.

It is definitely still on the chill side today in New York. Sometime this winter will end but it is not today. It is good though that the sun is out and the day is bright; it lightens the feel of the day against the cold. Snow will come tomorrow, the first day of spring.

While I find it hard to believe after the winter the Northeast has had, this has been actually the warmest winter on record.

The front page of the NY Times is filled with exegesis of the victory of Netanyahu in Israel and attempts to parse what directions he will take as well as what twists and turns will come in his relationship with President Obama.

There is still a manhunt in Tunisia for accomplices in the killing there of 19 outside a museum. No one has claimed responsibility. Just now, as I was searching the news, my iPhone sent a breaking news alert from the BBC announcing that four people had been arrested.

The UN has stated that IS may have committed genocide against the religious minority Yazidis. There were about a half million of them, living mostly in the plains of Nineveh province in Iraq. They captured the world’s attention last year when many fled ahead of IS to Mount Sinjar where they remained trapped until the US led coalition managed to break the siege via aggressive airstrikes coupled with an offensive from the Kurdish Pesh Merga.

Hundreds have been killed. Women have been given to IS soldiers “as spoils of war.” That’s if they were lucky; many, including girls as young as six, were regularly raped. Boys as young as eight have been abducted and sent away to train as IS soldiers.

On the other side, the Iraqis have not been so innocent either if UN reports are correct. They have been taking revenge on Sunnis for the killings of Shia.

The land between the Euphrates and the Tigris rivers, the “cradle of civilization,” is a bloody mess.

The British have sent 35 trainers to Ukraine to help Ukrainian forces in defensive tactics. Putin’s spokesman has said this does not “strengthen trust.” He says it with a straight face, too.

In other British news, Charles, Prince of Wales, and Camilla, his wife and Duchess of Cornwall, are making a visit today to the Oval Office.

Office productivity will probably take a nosedive today as March Madness descends on America. There are sixteen games today and sixteen tomorrow. Many will be hunched over their computers, not working but watching the games stream.

Apple is part of the Dow Jones index, as of today. The Times noted that blue chip stocks in the index tend to underperform. Not happy news, I’m sure, to my friends who have Apple stock.

In Basel, Switzerland, Buddy Elias passed away. He was the closest living relative of Anne Frank, who left behind a diary before being transported to Auschwitz, where she died.

The French are considering legislation to set minimum body index measures for models to fight anorexia. Over the last few years several models have died, including a French model that weighed 55 pounds at one point.

I am finishing this in the Acela Lounge, where I retreated after arriving in New York. The day is going to be a busy one and it would be challenging to find another time to write.

Letter From New York 03 18 15 The Day After…

March 18, 2015

As I start this, I am sitting in the café car of a train that will soon head north, bringing me back to the Hudson Valley. Once back, I am heading over to the Old Inn on the Green, a restaurant in Great Barrington, MA for a small farewell party for Lionel and Pierre, who are moving to Baltimore shortly after I return from India.

Riding the train down into the city this morning, a bevy of bald eagles flew north above the Hudson River as the train rumbled south. It was a magnificent sight to watch them soar over the river, their great expanse of wingspan helping them sail north.

There was a panel today at the “God Box” at 475 Riverside Drive in New York. Actually named The Interchurch Center, it was built in the early ‘60’s by the Rockefeller Brothers Foundation to house, exclusively, not for profits that have a religious affiliation of some kind.

Church World Services is there and hosted a meeting of the Religious Communicators Council today for a panel on Twitter that I moderated. Also on the panel was Jaweed Kaleem, the Senior Religion Reporter for The Huffington Post, Ryan Koch, formerly of the State Department and now at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Teri Tynes, web and social media strategist for the General Board of Global Ministries, United Methodist Church.

It was great. I love moderating panels and all the panelists were in very good form.

The very big news of the day was that “Bibi” Netanyahu received a victory, bigger than could have been expected, in yesterday’s Israeli elections. I know much more now about Israeli politics than I ever have. My thinking is that I will keep up with the Israeli scene. I follow an Israeli political blogger, Dan Berman [Mind Crawl on WordPress]. As a member of the Left he was depressed this morning.

In Tunis, the capital of Tunisia, 19 people, 17 of them tourists, were killed today in a terrorist attack. They were getting off a bus to go into a museum. Two of the attackers are dead and a manhunt is on for at least one other.

There has been a shooter situation in Mesa, AZ, a suburb of Phoenix. One is dead, five have been wounded and police were hunting a bald white man with a tattoo on his neck. He is apparently now in custody.

Markets rallied today on the careful wording of statements from the Fed and its Chairperson Janet Yellen on the timing of a rate increase.

Sounding much like the Tsars of yore, Putin declared that the peoples of Russia and Ukraine were “one people” while admitting that Western sanctions had been painful. 100,000 thousand people screamed “Russia! Russia!” while he spoke. It is the one year anniversary of the annexation of Crimea by Russia.

Even as Tsar Vladimir was speaking, the EU is working to decide how to counter the growing threat of Russian propaganda, which is at a fervor level not seen since the Cold War.

Michelle Obama and her two daughters have arrived in Tokyo for a visit to promote education globally for girls. At the same time, Caroline Kennedy, JFK’s daughter and current Ambassador to Japan, has been receiving death threats. Authorities are taking this very seriously and are attempting to find out who has been calling the Embassy and issuing the threats, in English.

Representative Aaron Schock of Illinois has announced he is going to resign. He has been widely in the news of late but not in a good way. He redecorated his office in Washington based on the BBC series “Downton Abbey” and then was questioned about the number of aides he brought to New York for a conference. There were a number of very expensive dinners involved.

It is too bad for him. He could have easily spent the rest of his life in Congress. He is a Republican in a severely red district.

In the tech world, Apple seems to be investigating launching a streaming service this fall. It is reported to be in talks with Viacom, Discovery, Disney and others about including their content. It is not in discussions with NBCUniversal. There has been a falling out between Apple and NBCUniversal parent, Comcast. If it happens, it is another blow to the traditional TV business.

The afternoon sun glitters silver over the Hudson. The ice is breaking up and we are rolling toward home.

Letter From New York 03 17 15 The many aspects of nature…

March 17, 2015

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

This is an odd day for me, always has been, as I am of German/Scandinavian descent and so there isn’t a lot of resonance in my background with the day. And the feel of the bacchanal that accompanies the day was far from the emotional bandwidth that resided within my family of origin. We were good German Catholics.

If you are celebrating today, be careful. Apparently tomorrow is a great day for dentists, having to deal with the results of fistfights from tonight.

It’s been a grey, grey, drear, damp day in Claverack with sudden bursts of sun breaking through the dark clouds for a few seconds, teasing one to hope for more.

Just back from a walk around from the neighborhood, I immediately went online to see if there were any updates on the Israeli election. There aren’t any yet. It’s a tight election and tomorrow we may know more but there are likely weeks of wrangling ahead to see who can actually form a government. Poised for the first time to be a power are Israeli-Arab voters who have joined together their numerous small parties under a single banner for this election.

Netanyahu has claimed they are coming out in droves and has said it is US money that is hiring buses to bring them to the polls. It has brought accusations of racism upon Netanyahu.

The result of this bitterly fought election, as ugly as anything American politics serves up, is important to America. Israel and the US have been historically close and I believe the majority of Americans would like to keep it that way but right now the relationship is frayed.

Chris Borland, a player for the SF 49ers, has decided at 24 to retire rather than to face the possibility of permanent brain damage. He is one of the best rookie players in the league.

Every year during “The Upfront,” billions of dollars are exchanged between networks and advertisers, buying great swaths of advertising inventory in exchange for what is hoped will be an advantageous price. NBC is facing a particularly trying Upfront this year with lingering problems from the Brian Williams situation, Today being in second place among the morning shows and has a ratings slump occurring at MSNBC.

It will be very interesting to see how the Upfront plays out this year. Discovery’s head, David Zaslav, has announced that he thinks this year will be “tepid.” Money is beginning to move toward digital alternatives.

I follow this because this was once part of my life, when I worked at A&E and Discovery.

Veering from advertising to humanitarianism, the island nation of Vanuatu is beginning to run out of food and supplies. While the death toll has been low so far, communications are still down and needs are going up. One organization ramping up to help is Save the Children, http://www.savethechildren.org/.

Living alone, as I do, gives one a great deal of time to think. My friend, the writer Howard Bloom [“The Lucifer Principle” and others], calls nature a “bloody bitch.” And when I consider situations like Vanuatu, I have to agree. It will be years for it to recover. 40% of its income comes from tourism, cruise ships stopping by mostly. That is indefinitely suspended.

Nature is wonderful and awe inspiring. It is also destructive and capricious.

Right now a vast solar storm is occurring. If it gets bad enough, you might see damage to satellites, overloading of power grids and other fun things. And should you be living in the high latitudes, it will also be beautiful to behold.

Do you remember the movie “The Breakfast Club?” It was released thirty years ago and there was a special screening of it last night at the SXSW Film Festival. Amazing; seems like yesterday. Its stars Molly Ringwald and Ally Sheedy were there, also a little in disbelief that it had been thirty years.

Twenty years ago, Microsoft gave us Internet Explorer. Now they are going to kill it off and will launch a new web browser, specifically oriented to mobile users and integrating Cortana into it [their version of Apple’s Siri]. It doesn’t officially have a name but is codenamed Project Spartan.

Now I must finish up and go to the drugstore to pick up a prescription so I can keep getting everything together for India.

Letter From New York 03 16 15 Not all bad news…

March 16, 2015

I woke early this morning, daylight savings time dark outside. Making coffee, I came back to bed and flipped open my laptop to see if Putin had made an appearance. He had. Some said he looked a little pale. Others said he looked very healthy. But he was back on the scene in St. Petersburg, his hometown and Russia’s second city.

He is also appearing in a documentary on Russian television. In the interviews, he rattles the nuclear saber – a very frightening thought. He is very likely communicating that 1) he is in charge and 2) he has no intention of negotiating on Ukraine.

In Ukraine, the feeling is growing that the Minsk accord is “hope, not reality.”

The temperature at the cottage was relatively warm, almost 50 degrees, with a chill wind blowing across town. It’s my plan to make spaghetti carbonara tonight, something I have never tried before.

I am a little late in writing this; I spent some time today working on the speech I will give in India plus I spent some time organizing things I will need to take with me. It’s only a few more days and I will be off.

The dollar is a bit weaker and the markets were happy! The Indian Rupee to Dollar exchange has been pretty steady which makes me pretty happy.

Tomorrow is St. Patrick’s Day and I might try cooking an Irish stew recipe I found online today.

Tomorrow is also voting day in Israel. Netanyahu is proclaiming today that there will be no Palestinian State while he is Prime Minister. The chance of his losing is growing and he has warned his supporters he could lose.

One of the things I found out while reading about the Israeli elections is that American billionaire Sheldon Adelson has founded a free newspaper in Israel that blatantly supports Netanyahu. Wonder what will happen to it if Netanyahu loses?

McDonald’s has been having trouble making marketing magic of late, sales have been down and the Golden Arches have been a bit tarnished the last year or so. Now it is being hit by claims from employees about unsafe work conditions. Allegedly, some employees were told to treat burns with mayonnaise. OHSA is looking into the situation.

The death toll is rising in Vanuatu but nowhere as high as I might have thought. It could still go higher as there is still no communication with outer islands. Almost every house has damage and there is a desperate need for fresh water.

It is now official. This was the snowiest year on record for Boston. It has been a slow moving catastrophe for that town. Floods come quickly with their devastation. This has just gone on and on and therefore the disruption from this winter has attracted less attention.

And also in that city, gay groups are going to be able to march in the annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

In Egypt, Mohammed Badie, head of the Muslim Brotherhood, as well as thirteen others has been sentenced to death for planning attacks on the state. He has been sentenced to death several times but each time the sentence has been commuted to life imprisonment.

The Syrian Civil War has cost approximately 220,000 lives. Speaking on CBS News, Secretary of State John Kerry suggested peace talks could include Syrian President Assad, marking a change of stance toward the Syrian President. Assad welcomes any “sincere” change of attitude.

Sincerely happy is Sir Martin Sorrell, who heads advertising group WPP. He has been awarded a pay package for 2014 that comes out to about $60,000,000. That’s quite a pay packet. WPP’s stock is up over 100% over the last few years.

Not unexpectedly, Hillary Clinton’s poll numbers have sagged since the email flap. They are their lowest since 2008 but the news is not all bad. 57% of Americans said they’d be proud to have her as President.

I’m off now to cook my carbonara and a soft night of British mysteries on Acorn TV.

Letter From New York 03 15 15 Great Operas in the Future…

March 15, 2015

As I do on many Sunday mornings, I went down to Christ Church Episcopal for Sunday Services. I started a tradition a few weeks ago, lighting a candle for myself and one for my friend Tim and his wife, Vidya. Tim, who lives in London, has multiple tumors in his brain and the prognosis is not good. I am scheduled to see them on my layover in London on my way to India. We hope to have lunch and spend a few hours together before I fly off to Delhi.

After church, I ran out to Staples to get a plastic container for this year’s tax receipts and an additional international adapter for electricity. With all the devices one carries, one adapter is no longer enough.

After Staples, I went back into Hudson for Eggs Benedict on potato latkes while perusing my phone for the latest stories of the day.

The advance in Tikrit continues. Iraqi forces have chosen to pause while they work out a coordinated plan on how to deal with the snipers and booby-trapped roads. Commentators on NPR today all agreed that the loss of Tikrit would be a psychological blow to IS.

There were also more stories of young Brits and Americans who have chosen to go fight against IS.

Plus there is a story of Turkey turning back three young Brits on their way to join IS, who are now back in London and in jail.

The guessing game continues in Moscow as to where is Vladimir Putin. Likeliest explanation is that he has been felled by the flu. Least likely is that he is dead or that a secret coup has been staged.

It is no secret that Venuatu has been devastated by Cyclone Pam with no one really knowing the extent of the destruction because many of the nation’s islands have had communication cut off. Aid has begun to arrive but caregivers are estimating much, much more will be needed to get the country on its feet again.

20-year-old Jeffrey Williams has been arrested in the shooting of two police officers in Ferguson, MO. He claims he was firing at someone else. In jail, he’s been held on an all cash $300,000 bail.

Robert Durst is the scion of a wealthy real estate family in New York, owning something like twenty skyscrapers in Manhattan. He admitted that he killed his neighbor and chopped him up and scattered his remains in Galveston Bay. He claimed self-defense and the jury bought it.

He is also suspected in the disappearance of his wife and in the murder of one of his closest confidants. You would think a man with this much baggage would keep a low profile but he allowed himself to be the subject of a six part docu-series on HBO called “The Jinx.” It may well have jinxed Mr. Durst. In it, there is potential new evidence regarding the death of Susan Berman, his confidante, killed just before she was to be interviewed about the disappearance of Durst’s wife.

Will make a great opera one day.

Another great opera will be one day made about the saga of Bill and Hillary Clinton. House Republicans are going to ask her to appear before them about Benghazi. Again. They are also continuing to scrutinize her use of a personal email while at the State Department.

And thinking of the State Department, I have to remember to register my trip with the American Embassy in Delhi.

Next thing on my deck is to call my oldest friend in the world – we’ve known each other since we were three – and chat with her before I leave for India.

Letter From New York 03 14 15 In celebration of PI Day

March 14, 2015

Having successfully survived Friday the 13th, I awoke to a dark, drear, drizzly world. At least it is relatively warm. As I write this, I am doing the mundane things of life, doing a load of wash after finishing picking up around the house today. This week a desk made by my grandfather, a master furniture maker, was returned to me after being away some months having all its joints worked on. Old age had made it more than a bit wobbly; now it’s back, sturdy as ever.

For those of us who are not nerds, let me tell you that today is PI Day. PI is the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter. Its first five digits are 31415, an event that will not happen for another century. 3/14 is also the anniversary of Einstein’s birth and therefore a cause of celebration of all things math related. I would have been in blissful ignorance of this if not for one of my train companions yesterday, who is a computer geek nerd wonderful chap, explaining it all to me in some detail.

So tonight, when I make a martini, I will lift my glass to PI Day. And Einstein.

There is no celebration happening today in the South Pacific as Cyclone Pam has left a trail of destruction as it passed through the island nation of Vanuatu. Winds up to 170 mph roared through accompanied by torrential rains. The full damage will not be known for days as communications have been severely crippled in the wake of the storm.

Cyclone Pam may be one of the worst storms to have ever passed through the region.

In Israel, Netanyahu is also facing a storm. His polling numbers are flagging and he is blaming a worldwide global conspiracy of the left for his slippage. While we are celebrating St. Patrick’s Day, the Israelis will be voting and the world will be watching.

Some within Likud, Netanyahu’s party, are saying that if they fail in Tuesday’s election, Netanyahu may lose his position as head of the party. The stakes are high for “Bibi.”

Stakes are high, too, in Iraq. There some government officials are saying Tikrit may be liberated within the next three days, a week at the most, despite booby-trapped roads and fierce resistance. It will be a psychological blow for IS to lose Tikrit, hometown of Saddam Hussein. IS is still holding on to a cluster of palaces built for the former dictator.

In Rome, Pope Francis has said he does not think his papacy will be a long one. Pope Benedict XVI may have started a precedent of retiring popes. Personally, I hope he doesn’t go too soon.   He also has said that he misses being able to go to a pizzeria and getting a slice. He’s too famous now.

Also famous is Vladimir Putin, who still has not been seen in Moscow. Rumors are flying rampantly around the Russian capital. The most logical one is that he has been felled by a virulent flu that has broken the back of the capital. It is also rumored that he has been in Switzerland for the birth of a child by his mistress. It has also been whispered that he’s dead or a captive in the Kremlin of the far right. [It’s hard for me to think of anyone more right than Putin.] But rumors are all that the city has. He’s just not been seen. Tomorrow he is supposed to travel so if he doesn’t the rumor mill will probably explode.

Also exploding, but in a good way, is the live action version of “Cinderella” that opened last night, zooming its way toward a magical $70,000,000 weekend. Starring Lily James, Downton Abbey’s Lady Rose, and Cate Blanchett as the evil stepmother with Helena Bonham Carter as the Fairy Godmother it has rocked past the competition and garnered brilliant reviews.

Hoping to garner brilliant reviews for the dinner I am preparing for four neighbors tonight, I must head off to the store to pick up a couple of ingredients I forgot when I did the morning shopping.

Letter From New York 03 13 15 Greater love than this…

March 13, 2015

It is around nine in the morning as I begin writing; early for a Letter From New York but I fear if I don’t write this on the train ride down to New York, it just won’t happen today. I will arrive in the city in time for a meeting, then a lunch and then another meeting and then home on the 5:47, which tends to be occasionally a riotous ride as it’s the train many “Empire Regulars” take home on Friday. Unlike most trains on our route, it has a bar car as it continues on past Albany to Rutland, VT. Then I am scheduled for dinner with friends, making a long and busy and probably fun day, despite this being Friday the 13th.

It was a little hard to wake up this morning and I hit the snooze feature on my phone twice before actually rising so I scurried through my morning rituals this morning and only began to peruse the Times as I was sitting having coffee at Relish, the little restaurant across from the Hudson Train Station.

The morning lead story in the NY Times app was that IS [or ISIS or ISIL] is still fighting fiercely, attacking Ramadi while being pushed back at Tikrit. In months of heavy bombing, they have actually lost relatively little territory and are proving to be a tenacious enemy. Islamic groups in Africa, Boko Haram in Nigeria and a group in Libya, have claimed allegiance to the “Caliphate” as has a group in the Sinai Peninsula.

Various groups in Iraq, such as forces loyal to Shiite Cleric al-Sadr, are beginning to join the fray, sensing victory in Tikrit and jockeying for places of power in the event of a win.

While tenaciously fighting, IS is having some internal struggles to fight while governing. They are viciously executing anyone they suspect of wanting to flee the fighting. There is a nascent resistance to them that seems to be slowly growing and while about 8,000 have been killed, they are being reinforced by approximately a thousand foreign recruits each month.

Some IS fighters are repulsed by the violence of the group, causing restlessness in the ranks. And there is tension between the locals and the foreigners who are leading IS.

After the shooting of two officers, protests have resumed in the streets of Ferguson, MO. The protests were calm.

The House Oversight Committee is going to formally ask for answers from Hillary Clinton about her State Department email. Not unexpected. They also want the electronic versions and not the printed copies she gave to State.

A Univision host said on-air that Michelle Obama resembled a character in “Planet of the Apes.” He was fired.

In a sad note, Michael Graves has died. A postmodern architect, he is perhaps best known for the household wares he designed for Target, Alessi and Disney. He continued vibrant work even after he was paralyzed from the waist down in 2003 as a result of a spinal cord infection.

Perhaps the most awaited literary event of the decade, if not the century, is the release of “Go Set A Watchman,” the sequel to Harper Lee’s “To Kill A Mockingbird.” The announcement set off a great debate as to whether Harper Lee, now 88, had been manipulated into agreeing to publish the book. The State of Alabama started an investigation to see if there had been elder abuse. It has now closed the investigation, saying its questions had been answered to its satisfaction. The debate had divided the small town in which she resides in an assisted living center.

In a move that will make little girls around the world swoon, Disney has announced a sequel to “Frozen.”

Sweden is sending people to the UK to question Julian Assange, the Wikileaks founder, who has for the last few years received political asylum at the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, over sexual assault allegations.

The world has a new island, created in Tonga by the eruption of an undersea volcano.

As we know, Tim Cook went on to replace Steve Jobs at Apple when Jobs died. What we didn’t know was that Cook offered part of his liver to Jobs to attempt to save his life when he was rapidly declining before actually getting a liver transplant. Jobs angrily refused, shouting at Cook almost before the words were out of his mouth, according to a new book, “Becoming Steve Jobs.”

Greater love than this, no man has…

Letter From New York 03 12 15 Some charming and some not so charming things…

March 12, 2015

The sun has been out brilliantly all day and the temperature has been around fifty degrees. Though it has been a bright and cheery day, I have only enjoyed it by sitting at my dining room table while working on the speech I will be giving at the Indian Institute of Technology, Roorkee, on March 29th. Since this morning I have been attempting to find a through thread for my remarks. I am speaking at a conference that seems to be largely about robotics and applying engineering and technology to social problems. I suppose that out of all this I can find things to say and to hope the students will ask a lot of questions.

All in all, I’m looking forward to it. As usual, I started the day with coffee and The NY Times. It is a pleasant way to ease myself into the day.

I woke with regret that opensalon.com shut down abruptly this week. It was the other site I posted my blog on, other than WordPress and I consistently got more views there. Now it’s gone. Minutes after I posted my last blog there, I received an e-mail saying: good-bye, we’re done. Good-bye.

Nobody is saying good-bye to the open letter written by the 47 Republican Senators to the leaders of Iran. The normally conservative New York Daily News blasted them as “traitors.” The Ayatollah has slammed them back while continuing to support the Iranian team that is negotiating but he thinks, after the letter, that we are “deceitful and backbiting.” Somewhere between 165,000 and 225,000 people have signed petitions asking they be tried for treason. Germany has piled on, too, more than irked by the Letter of 47.

Nor is anyone saying good-bye to the Clinton email fiasco though it seems quieter out there today. Notable is that not many Democrats are piling on her for the ruckus she has caused and that may be because no one is really contesting her run for the Presidential nomination.

In Ferguson, MO two police officers were shot outside police headquarters, throwing kerosene on the fire that still burns there. Thankfully, while seriously hurt, their lives are not in danger. As resignations from city officials were beginning to tamper down the heat, this only makes it worse.

In Moscow, the rumor mills are spinning wildly as Putin has been visibly absent for the last week, skipping some important dates in his diary. He will not be making a speech this year to the FSB, successor the KGB, as he usually does. He has cancelled trips. All unusual for the macho man, Putin. The rumors run from him being ill to staying put to contain an internal Kremlin power struggle. Shades of the Soviet past.

Boko Haram seems to be in retreat in Nigeria. IS seems to be in retreat in Tikrit.

IS has accepted the allegiance of Boko Haram, they announced today in an audiotape, saying their “Caliphate” had now grown to include the territory held by Boko Haram.

In a new twist to the Nigerian situation, South African mercenaries are fighting alongside Nigerian soldiers. Apparently they have been around now for a while and have had a positive influence in turning the tide though the South African government has said they will be arrested on their return.

Not returned are the three British girls who crossed through Turkey to join IS. It is now being reported that a spy working for one of the coalition countries fighting IS, helped them across the border and is now in Turkish custody.

In much brighter news about something British, Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, visited the set of Downton Abbey today, shooting its sixth season at Ealing Studios. She apparently charmed everyone.

Charming, too, is the day I’ve had and now I am prepping to go off to Coyote Flaco to have their fajitas, I think. Then home to sleep and off to the city tomorrow for a few meetings.

Letter From New York 03 11 15 As the sun glints down…

March 11, 2015

As I move north toward Hudson, the sun glitters sharply off the Hudson River, the ice floes seem more diminished and it was nearly sixty degrees in New York City today. On a day that was supposed to be cloudy, the sun has been present in all its yellow glory.

On my way home after several meetings, I will be meeting friends at the Red Dot for dinner tonight and then home to sleep and to work from the cottage tomorrow.

In Ferguson, Missouri, the Chief of Police, Thomas Jackson, has stepped down, following the City Manager yesterday and a judge earlier this week. All of this, of course, is fall out from the report issued by the Justice Department that was harshly critical of the practices of the City of Ferguson, accusing the town of systemic bias against African-Americans.

As I left the Acela Lounge, a report was airing on CNN regarding the apology of a University of Oklahoma student identified as one of the leaders of a fraternity’s racist chant.

In Atlanta, an unarmed black man was killed today, the third unarmed black man to have been killed by officers since Friday. Naked and acting deranged, he was shot by a police officer.

In a story that will keep on giving, Hillary Clinton declared that she used one email for “convenience” and that perhaps that wasn’t such a good idea. No, Hillary, it was not a good idea. As she marches toward the declaration of a run for the Presidency, it seems her opponents are not other members of the party but the media. Her relationship with the media has long been tumultuous and it looks as if it will stay that way.

Moving further north, the ice floes have thickened but it looks like the ice pack of two days ago is beginning to break.

While we hear frequently about the number of foreigners slipping away from their home country to fight with IS, we don’t hear much about Americans who are flying to Iraq to fight IS. Apparently there are a few, mostly veterans who have become dissatisfied with life at home. The US government is actively discouraging this and pushing anti-IS troops in Iraq to keep them away from the front lines. Some have gone across to Syria and join groups there after their battle hopes have been frustrated. Officially, the Pesh Merga says that there are no Americans fighting with them at this point. At one point, they said there were about a hundred.

On the BBC app this morning, I read a heartbreaking story out of China. Apparently there are 20,000 children who are abducted every year in China and then sold online to individuals desperate for a child. It may be that there are as many as 200,000 abducted every year. The man profiled today had his five year old son abducted and has spent years looking for him to no avail. It did not sound as if stopping this was a priority for the authorities.

In Nigeria, approximately 150 children five to seven years of age have been rescued from Boko Haram. They do not remember who they are or where they came from, recalling nothing of the lives they lived before their kidnapping, making it difficult to return them to their families.

The Iraqis are making steady progress in Tikrit while IS set off 21 car bombs in Ramadi, just to remind people of their abilities. Because defenses have been strengthened around Ramadi, the car bombs mostly exploded before they reached their targets.

A member of a Russian Human Rights group has said that one of the suspects in the death of Boris Nemtsov, the anti-Putin activist, probably gave his confession after torture. The activist is facing jail for having spoken out. Ah, the beauty of democracy in Russia.

New York City announced this morning that it will continue its ban on ferrets while in Italy, a young woman is devoting her life to rescuing pigs. She claims, and I have heard from others, that pigs are smarter than cats or dogs.

The train is rolling slowly north and soon I will be back in Hudson and on my way to the Red Dot.