Letter From New York 05 07 15 Rolling south on the Anniversary of Lusitania’s sinking…

As I write this, I am traveling south on the Northeast Regional Amtrak to Washington, DC, passing through an unattractive industrial zone right this minute. I am going down for a few appointments and to visit my friends, Lionel and Pierre, who are now living in Baltimore. I’ll take a train back up there this evening after I finish my 5:00 meeting.

They have already made dinner reservations at The Oyster House, one of their favorite restaurants.

As I am gliding down to DC the British voters are at the polls to decide who’ll be the next Prime Minister though I rather suspect there is going to some coalition building that will need to be done to form a government. It could all come down to the Scots, who have been surging in the polls and may hold the key to forming a new government, something neither the Tories nor Labour seem to want to contemplate.

The NY Times had an article about unusual polling places in the UK that included a pub and a hairdressing salon. Might be nice to have a vote at the pub, preceded or succeeded by a good draught of ale.

My friend Nick Stuart is going to a party tonight at the British Consulate for expats like him to watch the results. As I recall, Nick told me he tends to vote Liberal Democrat, the party brought in last time by the Tories to form a government.

France just strengthened its surveillance laws while here an appeals court has declared that the NSA, as revealed by Edward Snowden, has gone too far and has ruled its phone data collection illegal.

Tom Brady, quarterback for the Patriots, and arguably the biggest sports star today, has had his luster tarnished by fallout from Deflategate with the NFL saying it was probable that knew the balls were probably being deflated. It’s not a pretty tale.

A pretty tale for Maersk is that their ship, the Tigris, has been released by Iran and its crew is safe. In a sign of de-escalation of tension, the US Navy is no longer escorting American ships through the Straits of Hormuz.

To the west of the Straits of Hormuz is Yemen, now staggering under a humanitarian crisis triggered by the inability of ships to get permission to land their cargoes of food and fuel. Yemen imports 90% of what it consumes and there are at least ten ships laden with goods being prevented from landing by Saudi Arabia. It’s estimated that 80% of the country is going hungry. Anything that does get in finds its delivery delayed by the ongoing fighting, power outages and loss of foreign workers, who have fled the violence.

Continuing to the West, in Africa, disturbing allegations have risen against some of the French forces that were stationed in the Central African Republic last year. At least fourteen soldiers are suspected of having sexually abused minors in a refugee camp. Also disturbing is that it is also alleged that the UN slowed an investigation into the charges while suspending the UN worker who reported the abuse.

My impression of Thailand is generally that of a reasonably gentle country and one that is also reasonably safe. Yet mass graves have been found there. They are believed to contain the bodies of individuals from Myanmar [Burma] and Bangladesh, which had paid smugglers to get them into Thailand. Fifty police officers, some senior in rank, have been transferred from their current jobs to other positions. Eighteen arrest warrants have been issued.

General Prayuth, who runs Thailand after seizing power a year ago [I also forget about the regularity of the coups there] was confronted with the issue almost the moment he came to power but though he promised the US immediate action there was not much movement. Thai officials seem often to be passive about the issue or are actually involved in the game.

If you missed my note about it yesterday, today is the 100th Anniversary of the sinking of the Lusitania. After it was torpedoed, men on the deck exhorted each other to “Be British, boys, be British!” There were 39 babies aboard the Lusitania; only four survived. If you’re interested, I do recommend “Dead Wake,” a book by Erik Larsen chronicling the last voyage of Lusitania.

We are now south of Wilmington, Delaware and the scenery has improved. There is still another hour or so to go. I look forward to seeing Lionel and Pierre’s apartment and to experience a bit of Baltimore.

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