Archive for April, 2015

Letter From New York 04 30 15 A day without rain and with hope…

April 30, 2015

It is, unbelievably, the last day of April. It feels as if the month has skidded by, careening away from me. I started it in India and then returned and blinked and we’re at the end of the month!

Today, according to yesterday’s weather forecast, was to be cloudy and rainy. It actually is fairly sunny and warm, not as warm as yesterday but enough that a sweater and a light jacket are enough.

It’s the kind of day I rejoice in.

It is also good today in that Baltimore seems quiet, even as reports begin to come out that Freddie Gray’s neck snapped while in the police van in which he had been placed after he was put in custody. The city is still under curfew; a friend from Baltimore left New York early today to make it back home before the curfew fell.

Hopefully, the news of the day will not ignite another night of riots.

Joining Hillary Clinton in the run for the Democratic Presidential nomination is Bernie Sanders. While a declared Independent, he caucuses with the Democrats. He is, according to reports, a plain speaking man with socialist tendencies and, as one admirer put it, “not afraid to speak truth to power.”

He could peel away some support from Hillary. It will make Iowa interesting, for sure.

In ravaged Nepal, two survivors were pulled from the rubble today, an improbable five days after the quake, one a teenage boy and the other a woman in her twenties.

Frustration continues to grow over the slow speed of aid arriving. Some villages have yet to receive anything from the center. The UN is asking for $415,000,000 to help Nepal through the next three months. Tension continues to grow between the citizens of Nepal and the government.

Cholera and dysentery are real possibilities as the supply of drinking water diminishes.

To the west of Nepal is Iran and the Straits of Hormuz, a strategic shipping zone for tankers and cargo ships. The US Navy announced today that it would escort all American flagged vessels through the Strait after Iran’s Revolutionary Guards commandeered the Maersk Tigris, which sails under the flag of the Marshall Islands.

Nestled between Iran and India is Pakistan, where ten men were sentenced to life in prison today for their attack on Malala Yousafzai three years ago. She was shot in the head for her academic activism on behalf of Pakistani girls. Malala, now 17, was sent to Britain for medical treatment, including several surgeries. She was named a co-recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize last year.

Kim Jong-un, who was in the news just yesterday for perhaps killing as many as 15 top officials since the beginning of the year, today cancelled his first trip abroad, which was to see Vladimir Putin. It was cancelled, say the Russians, for “internal reasons in North Korea.” This, along with the executions, has led to speculation that the pudgy little dictator’s hold on power is none too strong.

In other news, some NATO officers are concerned that the lull in Ukrainian fighting is giving time for Russia to help prepare another offensive. It appears they have brought in more troops and added to the anti-aircraft weaponry on the ground. On the other side of the equation are reports that Putin is open to an international peacekeeping mission in Eastern Ukraine.

As I mentioned yesterday, today is the 40th anniversary of the fall of Saigon, now known as Ho Chi Minh City. There was a ceremony there to celebrate the end of “the American War.” Once enemies, the two countries are becoming closer. 76% of Vietnamese think well of the U.S. Only 16% think well of China.

Today I read a series of articles in the NY Times and from the BBC, written by members of the Vietnamese Diaspora on how their lives have been affected since the end of the war. For some of them, the war is not really over. It continues in their minds and hearts and souls, many having lost relatives who stayed behind, or wondering about mothers who surrendered their babies to strangers to give them a chance in that place called America.

It was heartbreaking to read sometimes.

Louie Andre, a Vietnam vet returning for the first time to that country, said, “if you want to have hope about the future, you have to stop wishing for a different past. The past is what it is.” [Chicago Tribune]

He said he was met with handshakes and hugs. That gives me hope.

Letter From New York 04 29 15 Another anniversary in 2015…

April 29, 2015

It is nearly impossible for me to believe that we have reached the end of April. Today has been a glorious day in New York City, probably the finest day of the year. Warm with a gentle breeze flowing, signs of flowers blooming, I passed tulips and pansies on my way to the subway this morning, all bringing a smile.

South of here, in Baltimore, the city is quiet but very tense. Offices and restaurants that have been closed are reopening. In a first for Major League Baseball, a game between the Baltimore Orioles and the Chicago White Sox was played in an empty stadium, it being considered too dangerous to bring people together in a public venue.

Schools reopened and protests continued, peacefully. The Maryland Governor is hoping that the peaceful night that preceded a peaceful day marks a turning point in the city. It is a city of fragile calm, a place that is delicately balanced between peace and violence.

In Washington, Prime Minister Abe of Japan, made a speech to Congress, acknowledging Japanese responsibility in WWII and making his case for a strengthened, resurgent Japan as a counterweight to China. He also made his case for the Trans Pacific Partnership.

Kim Jong-un, the pudgy little North Korean dictator, is reported as having killed 15 senior officials since the beginning of the year – that’s at the rate of about one per week. It may be true. It might not be true. It’s hard to know with North Korea but we do know little Kim Jong-un has a very itchy trigger finger.

Far away in Nepal, itself very, very fragile after the earthquake that has destroyed much of the Kathmandu Valley, there was a moment of hope today when a man trapped for 82 hours in the rubble was rescued. But hope is wearing thin and survivors clashed with soldiers as supplies continue to have difficulty reaching outlying villages that have been devastated. The death toll continues climbing and is now officially over 5200.

In Saudi Arabia, King Salman has re-ordered the succession and named as Crown Prince a member of the third generation, a grandson of the founder, King Abdullah. Prince Mohammed is said to be very pro-Western and very much against Al-Qaida [they attempted to assassinate him a few years ago],

In Nigeria, 300 women and girls have been rescued from the Boko Haram. They are traumatized and some have no home to return to as their villages have been razed in the fighting between the government and Boko Haram. They are described as needing psychological care and physical support.

While the group was being rescued, Boko Haram seized a town in what has become a back and forth battle between Nigeria and its allies and the Boko Haram, who are determined not to pushed off the stage.

I said in one letter that 2015 was a big year for anniversaries and another one is upon us. Forty years ago tomorrow Saigon fell and we ended our involvement in Vietnam.

As a young boy, I remember some older boys talking about our sending troops to Vietnam. I’m not sure why I remember it. Perhaps it seemed like a great cloud passed over me. For some reason, I remember exactly where I was standing when that conversation happened. I think some of those boys grew up, got drafted and went to Vietnam.

And now it is forty years after those horrific shots of helicopters departing the rooftop of the American Embassy in Saigon, with thousands screaming for rescue as they lifted away for the last time, forty years since we lost that war.

Last year, I went to a conference on “moral injury” and spoke with a man who had been to Vietnam, returned and lived what he thought was a normal life until one day, not long before I met him, it all cracked open and he came to wrestle with the demons that had stayed with him all those years from caring for wounded soldiers in the jungles of Vietnam.

We all carry our wounds. It is part of living, unfortunately. But so are the joys that come along, unexpectedly, like the tulips and pansies I passed this morning, lovingly planted on 93rd Street.

Letter from New York 04 28 15 Notes on a restless world…

April 28, 2015

As I was sitting at a Producer’s Guild event last night about Multi Channel Networks, I was also texting back and forth with my friend Lionel, who has moved recently to Baltimore where, last night, the city was rocked by violence. One person was critically injured, 235 were arrested and the National Guard was called in to help restore order. AOL, where Lionel works, closed for the day and offered hotels to employees who worked in areas where rioting was occurring. At ten last night, Lionel could hear gunshots from his apartment.

Today, President Obama made an impassioned plea for “soul searching” as another city was rocked by violence over the death of a young black man at the hands of police.

Down the road in Washington, DC, the Supreme Court heard the oral arguments on gay marriage. From what I can gather from reading reports, there was no clear indication from the Justice’s questions as to which way the Court will rule in June. Both sides left cautiously optimistic.

In the turbulent world beyond the US, events keep happening that make it easy to be uneasy.

Iran has seized a Marshall Islands flagged cargo vessel, the Maersk Tigris, operated for the Danish Maersk Line. Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, which forced the Tigris deeper into Iran’s territorial waters, claims the move was over legality and not for military reasons. The US has sent the Farragut to observe. No Americans were aboard.

Indonesia executed eight foreigners convicted of drug smuggling, today. They died at the hands of a firing squad. A ninth, a Filipino woman, was spared at the 11th hour. Australia, whose citizens were among those executed, may withdraw their Ambassador to Indonesia in protest.

Prime Minister Abe of Japan is in Washington to help sew up the Trans Pacific Partnership, which includes the US, Japan and 10 other Pacific Rim nations, including our old nemesis, Vietnam. Abe and Obama are also talking strengthening their mutual defense commitments as Obama is accusing China of using its “muscle” on its neighbors.

Tonight there will be a State Dinner for the Prime Minister and his wife.

Tsipras, Prime Minister of Greece, has pushed his Finance Minister into the sidelines as a conciliatory gesture to the Euro Group with whom Greece is negotiating. Mr. Varoufakis is known for his volubility and his strident stands. He has been replaced by Euclid Tsakalotos, an Oxford educated gentleman who is 180 degrees different from Varoufakis.

In Yemen, the number of displaced has grown to 300,000. Saudi warplanes bombed the airport at Sana’a to prevent an Iranian plane from landing.

The number affected by the earthquake is rising. Over 4600 are confirmed dead and the Prime Minister has said that the toll may rise above 10,000.

In the affected area of Nepal live 8,000,000 people. One million of them are children. Nowhere are supplies adequate and people are living in makeshift tents as rain continues to pour down on them. Hospitals are overflowing and lacking supplies. The country’s economy was fragile before the quake and seems ravaged now.

In Rome, Pope Francis’ Pontifical Academy of Science has convened a conference on climate change. In June, Francis will issue an encyclical on climate change that Ban Ki-moon of the UN says will come at a critical time. In September, Francis will address Congress during his visit to the US.

Francis is not the first Pope to take on climate change but he may be the most effective. His is a powerful presence.

Several American conservative groups, including one funded by the Koch brothers, attended the conference in order to refute its findings, not wanting the Pope and the Church to listen only to climate change alarmists.

In a sweet note, Prince William and Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, sent out pastries and coffee to the scores who are camped out in front of the hospital waiting for the Duchess to give birth to their second child.

The day here in New York is winding down. I am going to a screening of the new version of “Far From The Madding Crowd” tonight and will be looking for a nibble on my way there.

It is relatively quiet in Baltimore, according to my last text from Lionel. Supermarkets are closing at six and most restaurants and bars are not opening, battening down the hatches for another night.

Letter From New York 04 27 15 The drumbeat of news…

April 27, 2015

Waking this morning, I checked the headlines on my phone and saw that the disaster in Nepal keeps getting worse as the country finds itself unable to do much to stem the aftereffects of the monster earthquake. The country is continuously being wracked by aftershocks. There is minimal organizational infrastructure.

Aid organizations all knew that this quake would happen eventually. The Kathmandu Valley is highly seismically active, a place where two tectonic plates meet. They knew it would be very bad.

The death toll is closing in on the 4000 mark. People are still sleeping in the streets, frightened to go indoors. Food and water are running out in some areas and the threat of disease will grow with each passing day.

Four Americans are so far counted among the dead, including a popular executive at Google, Dan Fredingburg, as well as a documentarian who was making a film about the base camp on Everest.

Compounding the difficulties is that the UN and other aid organizations are all attempting to deal with multiple “Level 3” crises in numerous spots all at the same time. There is no Level 4.

In Sudan, Syria, Yemen, Iraq, and many more places, needs are exceeding resources. Governments aren’t donating as much as usual nor are individuals. Need has never been greater than since the end of World War II.

Elsewhere on the world stage, the leaders of Sudan and Kazakhstan were re-elected with 90 plus percent of the votes in their respective countries. Almost too good to be true, don’t you think?

In Colorado, James Holmes, who in a gun rampage in a movie theater, killed twelve and wounded seventy, is going on trial today. He is pleading insanity though some of his examiners have proclaimed him sane. Prosecutors are protesting his plea.

It is bringing wounds to the surface for the survivors just as the trial for Tsarnaev did in Boston.

He is now facing sentencing and people in Boston torn between death and life in prison.

In Baltimore, thousands showed up for the funeral of Freddie Gray, who died of spinal injuries incurred while in police custody. There have been reports that gang members intend to “take out” police officers. It’s not known if those threats are directly linked to Gray’s death but Baltimore is advising police to take all necessary precautions to protect themselves and their families.

In breaking news, seven police officers have been badly injured there.

Techies will be delighted that Facebook has added video messaging capabilities to its Facebook Messenger.

Jayne Meadows, actress and widow of comedian Steve Allen, died today at 95. Her late husband was the first host of “The Tonight Show” and her sister, Audrey, starred in “The Honeymooners.” She was nominated for Emmy Awards three times in her career.

“Fast and Furious” remained the most popular movie at the box office this past weekend, now having grossed more money than “Frozen.”

“The Bali Nine” are a group that has been convicted of smuggling drugs in Indonesia. They are facing death by firing squad. One of them, Andrew Chan, has married his fiancée in the days just ahead of his scheduled execution. Many governments have been putting pressure on Indonesia not to carry out the executions but there have been no signs of it bending so far.

In Europe, markets rallied as optimism about Greece resolving its debt crisis rose today though many think it is just a matter of time before the drachma becomes the Greek currency again. Some politicians in Europe are talking about the possibility of a Plan B for Greece, which is resulting in the optimism.

In the far east of Russia, workers building a new space port are being told that they will finally receive millions of rubles in back wages after they complained on a call in show with Putin.

Putin says Russia’s “quasi partners” were apparently counting on a collapse in the Russian economy but that, he says emphatically, has not happened.

What is happening today is there is a panel being produced by the Producer’s Guild of America, of which I am a humble member, on multi channel networks, which I am attending tonight.

Outside it is sunny but there has been talk of rain and perhaps hail this evening, so I made sure I had an umbrella with me today, just in case. I am definitely hoping not to have to use it.

Afterwards, I am going out for a drink with my friend, Greg Nelson, and then home to my apartment to catch some sleep. The cottage is being repainted so I am staying away this week.

Letter From New York 04 26 15 Bright day mixed with cloudy news…

April 26, 2015

Last night, most of our train community showed up for Dairo’s 39th birthday party, held in a deconsecrated church in Tivoli, about 30 minutes south of Claverack. It was great seeing old friends, especially ones who aren’t riding the train that often anymore. My friend Ty West was there with his wife, Cathy. Now that he is working in mid-town he takes Metro North into the city rather than Amtrak.

We traded stories of “the old days” of ten years ago before the Great Recession cost so many their jobs. We held parties on the train, great sumptuous feasts of parties, celebrating holidays and special events. We held a particularly raucous baby shower for Kelly and George, complete with blue and red “babytinis.” They had chosen not to know the sex of their child before birth so we had a drink for each potential sex.

Getting home not too late, Lionel and I stayed up for awhile chatting and catching up. He went home and I went to sleep, to wake to a day that was brighter than predicted with dreary news to be consumed.

While I was partying in Tivoli, there was violence in Baltimore as a thousand people came out to protest the death while in police custody of Freddie Gray, whose family appealed for calm.

The situation in Nepal remains dire. Aftershocks have rattled the country regularly, some as large as 6.7, resulting in more avalanches on Everest. People in Katmandu are sleeping in the streets, leaving almost no space for anyone to get around. Katmandu is a village that has grown into a city and is relentlessly crowded and shoddily built. The area affected by the earthquake is home to six million people. Roads have buckled and communications are out, hampering international efforts to bring relief.

The NY Times had many an article this morning on the Nepalese earthquake, all sad.

Here is where you can go to donate to UNICEF, if you should want to:

Fighting is escalating again in Yemen. There were bombing raids on Sana’a, the capital. The ex-president has called for peace talks but the current, Saudi Arabian supported President’s Foreign Minister has ruled that out.

In Syria, Assad’s regime is striking back after losing a strategic town yesterday, sending warplanes into bomb. 34 people were killed in a market, with the death toll expected to rise as many were seriously injured. Many were women and children.

In not so violent but still very disturbing news, hackers have been reading President Obama’s email but not the classified ones. Still… The White House is not pointing fingers at anybody but conventional wisdom is suggesting the Russians are the guilty parties.

And while we are thinking about Russia, they have arrested three women for twerking in front of a World War II Memorial. One was sentenced to 15 days in jail; the other two to ten. They were accused of “hooliganism,” the same charged hurled at Pussy Riot a couple of years ago. This is the second arrest in two weeks in Russia for twerking. What I wonder is why would anyone want to imitate Miley Cyrus?

Last night was the Washington Correspondents’ Dinner where President Obama made fun of everyone but mostly of himself. Alfre Woodard, who plays the President on NBC’s “State of Affairs,” said that President Obama “has a wicked sense of humor.”

This week, also in Washington, the Supreme Court will begin to hear arguments about gay marriage. There are a lot of people who will be tuning in closely on this on both sides of the equation. Opponents to gay marriage rallied on the Mall in Washington on Saturday but they are increasingly in the minority. A recent survey mentioned by Voice of America indicates 61 percent of Americans now favor gay marriage.

I have to say, this isn’t something I expected in my lifetime.

But what I have come to expect in my lifetime is that when the dishwasher is full, you have to go empty it. That’s what I am about to do.

Letter From New York 04 25 15 A good day for a party…

April 25, 2015

It is nearing 5:00 and the sun is beginning its slow fade to dark. I am sitting at my desk, looking out at the drive and the yard, still waiting for the trees to bloom. While the sun was bright today, it was none too warm.   Not bad but not a full blown spring day.

Trees in the city are beginning to bloom but not here in Claverack, a hundred miles to the north. And I’m eager for the weather to improve so we can begin to see some green. Usually by this time, the daffodils out the living room window have bloomed. This year they are barely out of the ground.

Over my morning coffee, I read that Bruce Jenner announced that he is really a woman and will continue his transformation, which, of course, will be covered in a reality series.

In far away Nepal, fifty miles outside the capital of Kathmandu, an earthquake struck and, at last count, nearly 1500 have died. It was a magnitude 7.8 quake that struck, huge, 22 times stronger than the 7.0 earthquake that ravaged Haiti.

Kathmandu was seriously affected; its narrow streets and old buildings were vulnerable to the quake. The death toll will likely mount. Perhaps hundreds are trapped under rubble. Hospitals are treating people in their parking lots as the buildings themselves are either compromised or overrun.

Lionel and Pierre are living in Baltimore now and that city is being disrupted by protests over a black man who suffered a spinal injury while in police custody and later died. His name was Freddie Gray.

Also in police custody in New York is a coyote that was cornered down near Battery Park City in Manhattan. The city has been experiencing an uptick in coyote sightings as they become less afraid of the big city and find good hunting in it. There was one in Chelsea earlier in the week as well as one not far from my apartment.

Despite international protests, Indonesia is going ahead with executing nine foreigners convicted of drug trafficking. If the protests do not change the mind of Indonesia’s President, they will die by firing squad perhaps as early as Wednesday.

Islamist rebels have seized a city in northeast Syria, Jisr al-Shughour in Idlib province.

It is a key city and the loss is a blow to Assad’s government. As seems to be the norm with Assad, his troops executed detainees before fleeing the city. It also appears many civilians were killed in the thirty air strikes that were done by Assad’s Air Force in an effort to break the Islamist advance.

The Italian navy has rescued 274 migrants in danger of drowning in the Mediterranean. Recent tragedies have not slowed the flow of refugees.

Tonight, I am going to a birthday party for my friend Dairo; it’s his 39th and he intends for it to be memorable. I am sure it will be.

Letter From New York 04 24 15 2015, a big year for anniversaries…

April 24, 2015

First of all, my apologies…

I thought the Bruce Jenner/Diane Sawyer interview was last night and it is tonight. I misread the paper yesterday. Sorry about that.

But it is tonight and the Kardashians are gathering to watch it together. He’s their stepfather. Bruce says that 2015 is going to be a wild ride. And I am sure that it already has been for him.

2015 is a big year for a lot of things.

Los Angeles has a large Armenian community and thousands of them marched today to remember the Armenian Genocide. The centenary of that gruesome event is happening today.

2015 is also the centenary, celebrated tomorrow, of Gallipoli. The Allies in World War I wanted to break the back of Turkish participation by capturing Istanbul. They landed at Gallipoli and remained there for months, unable to advance, starving, dying and suffering from dysentery. Something like 45,000 Allied troops died there as did 80 some thousand Turkish troops.

Charles, Prince of Wales, and his son, Prince Harry, are there to lead the British delegation to the remembrance. Australians and soldiers from New Zealand died in the thousands there too. It was the their military debut on the world stage and it is remembered every year there and on the centenary, the Prime Ministers of both countries have traveled to Gallipoli to be present for the ceremonies.

While that conflict has long been ended, the one in Yemen seems nowhere near ending. The Houthis have advanced and the Saudi led coalition has bombed back. 150,000 Yemenis have been displaced and the country is collapsing. Nearly everything they need has to be imported and right now almost nothing is coming in as cargo ships are detained in the waters off Yemen.

A number of Afghans and Pakistanis were arrested in Italy today, accused of planning to carry out Al Qaeda attacks, including one aimed at the Vatican.

In the United States there has been a huge buzz all day about the demise of the Time Warner Cable and Comcast merger. Called off today, it once looked like a sure thing. But since the deal was announced the media revolution that is occurring caused the spotlight to shift from cable homes reached to broadband houses served. If the deal had gone through, the combined companies would have owned, according to some estimates, as much as 57% of broadband service to US costumers.

That was too much for anyone.

Senator Al Franken of Minnesota was a lonely voice a year ago in disapproval of the deal. He is hardly alone now.

Feeling a bit isolated today is Ed Miliband, Labour’s candidate for Prime Minister of Britain. He set off a row by claiming in a speech that the migrant disaster in the Mediterranean could be traced back to a lack of planning after the fall of Gadhafi. The Tories declared he had reached a new low.

We’ll see. The elections are two weeks away. A new low could be just around the corner.

Not going to Poland are the Night Wolves, a Hell’s Angels sort of biking group in Russia that is very fond of Putin as Putin is fond of them. They planned to ride through Poland on their way to celebrate Soviet victories in World War II, 70 years ago this year. Nope, said the Poles. Russia is “indignant.”

Less indignant will be some parts of American society now that Abercrombie & Fitch is set to dial down the sexiness of their advertising. No more male shirtless models everywhere.

The NASDAQ had its highest intraday moment in history today, propelled by Google, Amazon and Microsoft, the tech triumvirate. They all soared on individual good news.

Good news here is that sun is out. I saw “Ex Machina” last night and it was good; not what I expected but good and disturbing at the end.

In about an hour I will head over to Penn Station to take the 5:47 train up to Hudson. Lionel and Pierre will be home this weekend to attend a birthday party and we’ll all go to the Dot tonight.

Should be a good weekend.

Letter From New York 04 23 15 Posting and running…

April 23, 2015

It’s grey and drab here in New York and a little on the chill side. I have been working part of the afternoon at my friend Todd’s office while he is prepping for production on some show or other. All I know is that there are lots of clothes for little girls hanging in the office.

I looked at the clock and realized I would have to rush this blog a bit as it was later than I thought. I’m slipping away to see “Ex Machina,” a movie about artificial intelligence, in a little while with a friend.

Loretta Lynch was finally confirmed as Attorney General after a record-breaking wait for confirmation. There was a part of a bill on human trafficking that I believe Republicans objected to and they tied Ms. Lynch’s confirmation to the passing of that bill. Well, they must have come to an agreement because the bill has passed and Ms. Lynch was confirmed.

Also in news from Capitol Hill: the Benghazi Committee wants to hear from Hillary again on her email and about the event in 2012. It’s another piece of bad news in a week that has been rough on the candidate. The NY Times had a story about the flow of money to the Clinton Foundation that, at the very least, leaves one uncomfortable.

I probably won’t be able to see it but Bruce Jenner is sitting down tonight with Diane Sawyer for an interview. It should make for fascinating viewing. I’d like to know what’s really happening with the former Olympian.

Once he stood as if on Olympus but now he is on probation. That’s what the court decided for David Petraeus, former commander in Afghanistan and CIA Director, for leaking secrets to his mistress.

Earlier today, the President accepted responsibility for the deaths of an American and an Italian in an anti-terrorism operation earlier this year.

A group of Iranian cargo ships heading to Yemen has reversed course while the country is still shuddering under bombings from the Saudi led coalition.

The President of Germany has declared the events of a hundred years ago in Armenia as genocide. Turkey will not be pleased.

A battle of words has erupted again between the US/Ukraine/Russia over where the US trainers are operating in Ukraine. Russia is claiming they are in the battle zone in eastern Ukraine; the US and Ukraine say: nonsense.

What is not nonsense is that I am rapidly running of time and so must post and go.

Letter From New York 04 22 15 From robotics to singing in the rain…

April 22, 2015

Last night, on a balmy New York spring night, I went at 5:00 to Junior’s Deli on 45th Street in the heart of New York’s theater district and met Cathy, my middle niece, her husband and their two daughters, Clare and Isabel, for a pre-theater dinner. They were off to see “Matilda” and I was off to see “It’s Only A Play.”

Cathy and Michael live in Portland and my brother is there watching after their two sons who had just accompanied he and his wife to Machu Picchu. I don’t get to see Cathy and her family very often so it was a cheery visit and then we went off to our respective performances.

Amazingly, after the performance, as I threaded my way through a hideously congested Times Square, I ran into them on the corner of 44th and Broadway. We laughed and hugged and then moved on.

I curled up in bed and started to read a Peter Wimsey mystery but soon feel asleep, Kindle in hand, only to wake later to turn out the lights.

This morning I had breakfast with David McKillop, who recently stepped down as GM of A&E and stepped into the role of Chief Creative Officer at a new production company called Propagate, which is being funded by A&E. He’s partnered with Howard Owens who used to run Nat Geo.

It was a glorious spring morning and we walked around Union Square for a while after breakfast, strolling past all the vendors that form the Union Square Farmer’s Market, then walked over to 7th Avenue where we parted. He off to a meeting and me to day of talks called “Imagination,” being held in conjunction with the Tribeca Film Festival.

The morning was devoted to robotics. While Elon Musk is terrified of intelligent machines, all these speakers were gung-ho enthusiasts of artificial intelligence and robots, as long as every one followed Asimov’s Three Rules of Robotics.

It was fascinating. The demonstration of Watson, IBM’s Supercomputer, was impressive. The video they showed reminded me of “Star Trek.”

Tim Armstrong, CEO of AOL, spoke in the afternoon about the technology advances they are making in serving ads and video content to their 250,000,000 users and that was impressive, too.

After the 3-D printing talk “Eating Your Way Into 3D Printing” I had to leave to go view a cut of a sizzle reel my friend Todd’s company is working on.

While I was involved in all these fun and rather joyful activities, the world ticked on.

Yesterday the Saudis said they’d stop bombing Yemen but this morning bombs were still falling there, with the country lurching toward a humanitarian crisis as supplies are floating out at sea because of the Saudi embargo.

When I was in India there was lots of news about a land development law that the Modi government is attempting to pass. It would ease the government’s ability to expropriate land belonging to farmers for other uses. It is hugely controversial and hotly debated and stridently opposed by the Congress Party, the opposition to Modi’s BJP.

Today there was a rally in Delhi protesting the bill. At it, an Indian farmer committed suicide, hanging himself from a tree. He left behind a suicide note saying the recent extraordinary rains and hailstorms had ruined him. Rahul Gandhi raced to the hospital and the PM, Modi, is said to be “shattered” by the incident but probably not so much that he will withdraw the law.

Britain, which is facing elections on May 7th, is working overtime to figure out what is going to happen if the Tories lose. If the Scots become the power brokers in the formation of a new government, there is a concern about the results. “Constitutional crisis” is on the lips of a few.

Thousands of Ethiopians have taken to the streets to march in protest against IS’s killing of thirty of their countrymen for being Christian.

Prime Minister Abe of Japan paid slight attention to Japan’s wartime responsibility in a speech in Jakarta, which raised the ire of Japan’s neighbors but not so much that Xi of China wouldn’t meet with Abe. The two had a thirty-minute meeting and stressed their determination to continue working on their relationship. It almost sounded like an estranged couple continuing their therapy sessions.

The Vatican announced today that Pope Francis would stop in Cuba while en route to the US for his visit here. Cuba will probably go mad for the Pontiff.

The bright spring morning turned to afternoon clouds and rain, which has now stopped though the grey continues. I am off to dinner tonight with my friends David and Annette Fox, celebrating my return from India with take out from Indus Valley, our favorite neighborhood Indian restaurant. Will be a good time.

Letter From New York 04 21 15 A city in sunshine instead of rain…

April 21, 2015

The very first thing I did today was look at the Weather Channel app on my phone. It told me that New York was going to have a rainy morning and cloudy afternoon. Well, all day the sun has been pouring down joyfully and relentlessly upon the city, to my great delight. I hope it stays that way.

Just now, it was announced that the Saudis are stopping their month long aerial attack on Yemen’s Houthis, called “Operation Decisive Storm” and replacing it with “Operation Restoring Hope.”

Yemen needs some hope. Its feeble infrastructure has been overwhelmed by the attacks and food and medical supplies are in short supply due to the Saudi sea blockade, holding up ships to make sure they weren’t carrying arms. Yemen is desperate for hope.

However, while the bombing is over the fight may not be. The Saudis are still determined to keep the Houthis from power.

In Egypt, former President Morsi has been ordered to spend twenty years in jail. He still faces several more trials on accusations against him from his year in power.

In 2005 a then 83-year-old German denounced Holocaust deniers and spoke of having seen the gas chambers and the ovens with his own eyes. Today, at 93, Oskar Groening, went on trial in Germany for his role as a bookkeeper for the Nazis at Auschwitz.

He has told the court he feels morally guilty even though he did not actually kill anyone personally. It is, he said, up to the court to find him legally guilty or not.

Italian courts will decide if the captain of the migrant smuggling vessel that capsized this week is guilty of human trafficking, reckless homicide and causing a shipwreck. He was one of the 28 survivors; as many as 950 may have perished.

In the last six days alone, almost 11,000 people have been pulled from the Mediterranean, attempting to reach the Italian coast.

The European Union will now play a bigger role rather than leaving it to Italy to shoulder this burden alone.

Almost all the human smuggling originates in Libya, which is in chaos and where IS has made some gains even as they have had to pull back in Iraq. There are conflicting reports today regarding Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the self-styled Caliph of the self-styled IS Caliphate. He either was or was not gravely wounded in a March air attack near Mosul.

Whether he is gravely wounded or not, the war with IS grinds on and there is fighting around Ramadi with residents torn between returning and staying away. They fled by the thousands as IS entered the city’s center. Now Iraqi forces seem to have retaken most of the town but there is still fighting going on.

At least six died in Mogadishu, Somalia as a result of a car bombing. Al Shabaab takes responsibility.

Certainly not dead or wounded is Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, who turned 89 today though the country celebrates her birthday in June. There has been a royal tradition that if a monarch is born during the winter months, celebrations will be in the summer, when the weather is better.

There were numerous gun salutes today while Her Majesty celebrated quietly with her family at Windsor Castle, where she has been in residence the past month.

Crowds are already lining up outside the hospital where Kate, Duchess of Cambridge and wife of Prince William, is due to give birth to their second child. Some people have already been there for two weeks.

While the overall popularity of the British Royal Family is not in question, the popularity of the American President has not been so good of late. However, it is up right now, back in positive territory for the first time in months. As is the public’s view of Obamacare.

And in the world of entertainment, if you were a fan of “Full House” which ran on network television from 1987-1995, it will be returning for 13 episodes on Netflix, interestingly described in one news article as an “online network.”   Not all cast members are signed on; some are, some are still in negotiation. But with or with out the full cast, “Full House” will return to Netflix.

Since I never watched it on network television maybe I will have to see what the fuss is about when it reaches Netflix. But that will be awhile in the future. Tonight I am off to the theater to see Matthew Broderick and Nathan Lane in “It’s Only A Play.”