Letter From New York 05 17 15 Beauty contrasting with tragedy…

It has been a beautiful, summer like day in Claverack. The creek is still and the trees that overhang it are reflected back in the mirror that is the water. The trees have bloomed and a canopy of green has arrived to the view in front of me as I write. The days are longer and when I have finished today’s letter, I will find myself something to eat.

Today, I took the day for myself, caught up on my cluttered email inbox, luxuriated in waking early and reading The Times along with a mug of good, strong Honduran free trade coffee picked up a couple of weeks ago at the Farmer’s Market, on the day it opened its summer season in a parking lot at 7th and Columbia in Hudson.

I am relaxing in my freshly painted living and dining rooms and have had a lovely day. Yesterday, while doing some work I discovered that my vehicle inspection was now seriously overdue and so I went and had that done. I plowed through two weeks of mail, so much of it that it came home in a Post Office plastic bin.

Other than the vehicle inspection and picking up my clothes from the laundry, I have not wandered from my two little acres on the creek.

The news is not good. Ramadi has apparently fallen to IS, giving them a foothold seventy miles from Baghdad, which is closer than comfortable I would imagine if I were sitting in the Presidential Palace there.

In Syria, in a rare ground involvement, the US Army’s Delta Force made a daring nighttime raid Friday, killing Abu Sayyaf, a leading IS figure who had a commanding role in IS’s finances. They scooped up buckets of data before they departed with his wife, Umm Sayyaf, who is now being held in Iraq. She, too, was in the know about many things and is being “debriefed.”

Ukraine is claiming to have captured two Russian soldiers near the rebel held eastern zone. They are shown in a video, which has not been independently verified. More to come on this, I’m sure.

Whenever I hear the word “Macedonia” I think of Alexander the Great, who hailed from there. But it is a real country, once part of the former Yugoslavia, and it is in crisis. Tens of thousands of Macedonians have taken to the streets to demand the resignation of the Prime Minister, who has been revealed to be pretty dictatorial in a series of conversations that had been recorded. Think the Nixon tapes. He says he isn’t going anywhere and there is a chance this could become ugly.

In Nepal, the toll in the earthquakes which have ravaged the country are now climbing toward 9,000, surpassing the death toll in the last great earthquake in 1934. Six American Marines and two Nepali soldiers died when their helicopter crashed. Their bodies have now been recovered and returned to Kathmandu. They died on a mission to evacuate survivors.

Pope Francis, who never ceases to amaze, has canonized two 19th Century Palestinian nuns. He has also called Abbas of Palestine “an angel of peace.” The Vatican has implicitly implied that it recognized the “State of Palestine.” I am sure this is causing deep concern in Tel Aviv.

The canonization of the Palestinian nuns is seen as a way of offering encouragement to Middle Eastern Christians who are more embattled today than they have been for centuries.

In Egypt, former President Morsi has been condemned to death and the sentence has gone in front of Egypt’s Grand Mufti for consideration. I was once at a panel on which the last Grand Mufti sat. He resigned shortly thereafter. I think he didn’t want to have to deal with issues like this.

There is a very good chance that Ireland’s voters will vote in gay marriage. Stunning for a country that is heavily Catholic. In a recent poll, 63% were in favor. The Church’s influence in Ireland is on the wane.

Obama has said that full gay rights won’t be won overnight. And it’s very true. Even if the Supreme Court legalizes same sex marriage in June there will be other, local battles to be won. Discrimination against gays is not forbidden in many states and then we have Mike Huckabee…

Outside the room in which I am writing, I hear the distant sound of birds singing. A stray cat has wandered over my deck, calmly until it noticed me. It is a stunningly beautiful night.

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