Posts Tagged ‘Al Qaeda’

Letter From New York 06 04 2016 Thoughts on Main Street in Edgartown…

June 4, 2016

The sun is laughing down Main Street in Edgartown, with cars slowly moving down the street, toward the water but without the congestion that is coming toward the end of the month when “the season” really gets going.  Across the street, Sundog, selling clothes, is as empty as we are. 

A few people have wandered into the store and have wandered out, rarely with a book in hand.  A lovely mother and daughter came in, the mother buying her daughter a copy of “A Man Named Ove,” by Fredrik Backman, a book she insisted her daughter read before they left the island next week.

It’s been interesting, watching people come and go, looking at books, some are wildly enthusiastic, some are just looking as they look languidly at titles, hoping something will spark their interest.

As I said to someone yesterday, I have a whole new respect for those who work in retail.

The morning was foggy, the afternoon sun blessed.  Music from the 1960’s plays gently in the background, the soundtrack of my youth.  It is easy here to put away the woes of the world and believe in the loveliness of life. 

Unfortunately, the reality is quite different in the off island world.

Muhammed Ali is being mourned everywhere.  A figure in my youth, I watched with fascination, not quite understanding his moves but also not being bothered by them.  If he no longer wanted to Cassius Clay, then why not?  There were days then I didn’t want to be Mathew Tombers. 

Many of his moves outraged the world and shook people up.  All for the ultimate good…  Rest in peace, Muhammed Ali, rest in peace and may flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.

Bernie Sanders has announced he will contest the Democratic Convention, fighting down to the last moment.

In France, floods are beginning to recede but not until after claiming three more lives.  My friends, Chuck and Lois, who have an apartment in Paris, are somewhere else with friends, waiting to get back to their place when the waters do recede.  Guards are standing watch at Louvre and artwork has been moved to higher ground as a precaution.  It has been nearly 34 years since this kind of flooding has been seen in the City of Lights.

It has been determined that Prince died from an accidental, self-administered dose of fentanyl, a pain killer 100 times more powerful than morphine and 50 times more powerful than heroin. One doctor described self-administration of fentanyl as playing with death; it is not to be used outside of hospitals.

The opiate crisis is enormous.  Even here on bucolic Martha’s Vineyard, meetings are being held to combat the island’s heroin problem.  Everywhere you turn right now, opiates are a critical problem.  It may be that Prince’s death will be a catalyst for change.

It is the 27th Anniversary of the massacre in Tiananmen Square and tens of thousands have gathered in Hong Kong to commemorate the event, shunning the official memorial because it has become too “Chinese” oriented.

In the Mediterranean, with the beginning of warm weather, more migrants/refugees are risking the sea to reach Europe and what they hope will be a better life.  It is believed a thousand have drowned in the past week alone.  It will only grow worse.

Many are fleeing IS, which now finds itself fighting on four fronts in Syria and Iraq.  The unofficial capital of IS is Raqqa and Syrian forces, under the cover of Russian airstrikes and with help from Hezbollah have reached the border of Raqqa province.

Attempting to follow who is fighting whom in that part of the world is not easy.  IS is struggling for control of a town called Marea, which is controlled by the anti-Assad Nursa Front, which is associated with Al Qaeda.  There is also heavy fighting around Aleppo, once Syria’s largest city and commercial center.

The sun is beginning to set in Edgartown.  The streets are still quiet.  Anita, who works in the shop, has gone home as we are completely quiet.  Last night, after everyone had left and I was closing down, I had the most remarkable moment of peace, surrounded by books with the walls resonating with the laughter and voices of the people who had passed through yesterday, just looking for a good read.

Letter From New York 05 01 2016 From Church to Bin Laden…

May 2, 2016

Five years ago Osama Bin Laden, a rich kid who definitely went bad, was killed in his hiding place in Pakistan, apparently with a stash of video porn.  Born privileged, he rejected privilege and embraced fundamental Islam and wreaked havoc on the world, partly supported by his personal wealth as a scion of a family that had made a huge fortune in construction in the great oil years in Saudi Arabia.  It was said he only wore a shirt once and then discarded it.

Fast forward and Al Qaeda is in decline while its successor, IS, is on the rise.  Or is it?   Its territory has shrunk this year and there is a full on assault about to happen on Mosul, one of the chief cities it has conquered.

However, they are not a country per se and attack places like Brussels and Paris as terrifying terrorists.  The world is a crazy place, isn’t it?  Full of anger, full of hate, full of vitriol and absolutism.  I certainly hope we survive this as well as we survived the vitriol and absolutism of Nazism.  That thought gives me hope.

On Tuesday, Indiana votes.  It looks like it is going to be another Trump victory.  Some polls have hime with a 15% lead. Others have him with a smaller lead but in all polls he has a lead.  It may be a “make it or break it moment” for Ted Cruz.

And as so much of the 2016 campaign has been, this is a fraught moment.  Cruz fights for his political life and Trump sails on, turning every disadvantage into an advantage.  It has been mind boggling to watch and frightening to contemplate. 

This is where we are in politics.  And it is Ted Cruz who helped set the stage for the current scene.

Last night was the White House Correspondents Dinner and while I didn’t watch it in real time, the video clips have been good and demonstrated that Obama has a ready wit [I am sure helped by good writers].  People I know found it great fun and I will look at clips tonight, once I have finished this missive.

The days are growing longer.  It is nearly eight and there is still light and I am looking at the creek in twilight but not darkness.  I love this time of year as the world moves towards the longest day of the year. 

It is a moment of happiness.

It has been a sweet day.  There was a good dinner party last night.  My guests were Larry and Alicia.  A while ago had been his birthday and last night we celebrated it.  Today Larry and Alicia invited me to join them at Ca’Mea for lunch after church, which I did and which was great fun.

I am sitting at my dining room table and am looking out over the creek and am so grateful for this place and this time.

May you be happy in your place and time.

Letter From New York 10 14 15 A toxic brew in a seething cauldron…

October 14, 2015

Obama. Biden. Greene County. Indianapolis. Minneapolis. Baltimore. Syria. Russia. Putin. Assad. Refugees. Turkey. The Kurds. Al Qaeda. Saudi. Yemen.

I’m sitting here at my desk at the cottage, looking out at the drive, littered with leaves. The world around me has become a riot of color and I passed by crimson trees on my way west to an appointment on the far side of Greene County, flaming to the sky against a grey horizon.

Most of the day has been like that, grey and forlorn, right for this time of year, the time of year a year ago when I determined I would write more frequently even though I mailed the letters less. They are up on Facebook and LinkedIn and at my website,

Monday evening, rather late, I returned from two weeks of traveling. Baltimore, New York, Indianapolis, Minneapolis and when I opened the door of the cottage I was flooded with relief at being home and in the safe sanctuary of the little world I have built here.

For two weeks I mostly avoided the news but it has been catching up with me in the last 48 hours, the strum und drang of the world wails on.

By the hundreds of thousands, humans are throwing themselves on the shores of Europe, fleeing ravaged homelands. Half the population of Syria is on the move, internally, externally with more and more attempting to reach Europe. The size of the movement of humans is almost incomprehensible to me.

And there is a toxic mix brewing in this horrible cauldron.

There is IS, Assad, Putin, Turkey, the US, the Kurds, the non-Al Qaeda anti-Assad forces, the Al Qaeda anti-Assad forces, the Iraqis, the Iranians, the Saudis and Yemenis and all sorts of forces and individuals leading them all wanting to defeat someone but not necessarily the same person.

Turkey is complaining we have given arms to the Syrian Kurds. We’re complaining that Russia isn’t targeting IS but forces against Assad that aren’t IS. It is nearly impossible to keep the players straight. The Russians and the US have different outcomes in mind in Syria.

And all the while that the players play, the human condition continues to deteriorate and so millions begin the long journey from somewhere hellish to somewhere less hellish.

It is hard to imagine here in my cossetted corner of the world with the leaves turning and deer roaming the street, slowly sauntering as if there was not a concern in the world.

I feel concern for the world and am struggling with the best way to address it. What does one do in a world that is coming unhinged?

Not long ago I read a great book, “The End of Your Life Book Club.” A woman in her seventies has spent her life in public service and when diagnosed with cancer was running an agency dealing with refugees. She got the diagnosis after return from a camp in Afghanistan. She and her son read and compare books while she is treated with chemo.

It inspires me. As does my brother who is off to Honduras next week to train doctors on some equipment his little organization donated to a hospital there.

Smiling out at the woods, I am hoping the sum of small good gestures will one day overwhelm the acts of evil.

Letter From New York 05 28 15 Things that make me cringe and things that make me smile…

May 28, 2015

I both look forward to the moment in the day when I write my blog and also dread facing the blank digital piece of paper on my screen. Usually, it’s a time to wrap my head around the world and do a bit of sorting out.

Today I am feeling a bit more dread than usual and I’m not sure why. Is it because I have fears about the state of the world today and don’t want to face the news? I’m doing one post a week, at least, on my field, media. I post it on LinkedIn then, too, and it’s been getting some reads.

The media today is filled with the FIFA fallout. Some brands are nervous but no one has cancelled yet while everyone is watching to see what everyone else is going to do.

I wake up in the morning, most days in the city. I have my morning cup of coffee, having cut down from three to one and, with the background of city noises, read from the New York Times and generally take a look at the news on my BBC iPhone app.

Finding out that Boko Haram is using girls they have captured as suicide bombers doesn’t brighten my day – at all. Nor does the plight of women in most countries. Today there was an article on how Tunisian women have endured years of violence, cruelty and rape from the police of that country. The Indian rape problem is well known and well documented and mostly not spoken about there.

Though the Brits have just named the first female Vice-Chancellor of Oxford. Good for them.

There are things in the news that brighten my day. The French have passed a law that rooftops on new buildings must either have a garden or be equipped with solar panels. That makes me smile.

It doesn’t make me smile to know that Putin has declared military deaths a state secret – another step in his plans to keep the lid on Ukraine. Independent researchers using YouTube, Google Street View, Instagram, Twitter and Russia’s version of Facebook, have concluded that the Russians are conducting military moves in the rebellious east. It’s been done by the Atlantic Council, a Washington based research center. It’s all open source data and that’s the kind of thing that makes Vladimir seethe.

Not making me seethe was a glowing report in the U.K.’s Daily Mail, on today’s Royal Garden Party for 8000 held on the grounds of Buckingham Palace. The Queen, accompanied by a bevy of her family, wandered around greeting people, including a 92-year-old survivor of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. The Queen will visit there when she makes a state trip to Germany. It sounded so British and regal and so comforting and very, very far away from the fighting that is consuming other parts of the world.

500 bodies were exhumed from mass graves in Iraq while IS killed twenty more at the ruins of Palmyra.

Perhaps we should feel better that the Al Qaeda chief in Syria has no plans to attack the West? He has received instructions from Al Qaeda central, wherever that is, not to but if the bombing keeps up, who knows?

What is also fearsome out there in the world is Mother Nature. People are digging out in Texas even as it continues to rain. In India, 1500 have died in the current heat wave and hospitals are being asked to make victims of the heat their priority.

And lest we forget, aid has still not reached some of the remoter parts of Nepal, which is now trying to get back to some normalcy though it will take years. Classes are being held under tarps, with the first weeks devoted to play and talking about the earthquake that ravaged the country. Many schools were destroyed and those standing have been used as shelters. Three million people are homeless in Nepal. The World Food Program has hired 20,000 porters to carry supplies to where the roads have gone.

$423 million was pledged to Nepal but only a little over $9 million has arrived.

In the tech world, Yahoo will have to face a class action lawsuit for spying on people’s emails in order to better target advertising. Google is going deeper into Virtual Reality.

What is not virtually real but actually real is that I need to clear up and go off to a meeting.

It’s a wild world out there. I think a martini is in order.

Letter From New York 03 23 15 Halfway to Delhi…

March 23, 2015

Sitting in the Upper Class Lounge for Virgin Atlantic at Heathrow Airport, I am surrounded by people traveling to the far corners of the world. The man to my left, who checked in just before me, is on his way to Capetown. The woman in front of him was off to Dubai. I am heading to Delhi.

In front of me, behind a plate glass window, two men are having their hair cut. A very nice lady brought me a martini and a couple of deviled eggs for a snack.

Thank goodness for the mileage that got me here! If you are traveling all the way to Delhi from New York, it’s best to be in at least business. On the way to London, I actually got a few good hours of sleep. The seat folded out to a flat bed. I was laying there thinking about my first flight to London and remembered then, all that time ago, I was so excited I couldn’t think of sleeping.

In London, I had lunch with my friend Tim and his wife, Vidya, who came all the way out to Heathrow to collect me. We drove into London and then went to a tony part of London [Primrose?] and ate at Greenberry, a charming restaurant, having good English breakfasts, followed by a cappuccino.

In the afternoon, Tim and I stayed at their house and chatted while Vidya ran errands. He was demonstrating the BBC iPlayer for me and we watched some news. One of the Conservatives was on the BBC announcing that she was introducing measures to contain extreme Islamists. They would not be tolerated. Those who didn’t subscribe to “British” norms would be excluded from citizenship and entry.

Britain has been especially sensitive because of the four young girls who flew to Turkey, crossed to Syria and joined IS as well as the revelation that Jihadi John was a British citizen.

Tim expressed his concern about the growing anti-Muslim sentiment rising in Britain today. We discussed various examples of it in both our countries. It is a fraught time. One friend of mine in the States believes with all his heart that all Muslims are raised to hate “infidels.”

In the staggeringly complex world in which we live there are no absolutes. But the rise of extreme Islamic movements like Al Qaeda and IS are more than troubling. I have no ready answer. I don’t believe all Muslims actually hate infidels like me. I do believe some do and I would prefer not to encounter them this side of paradise.

On this side of paradise, for once the global news isn’t peppered with reports of IS atrocities. I’m sure they are occurring; they just haven’t made headlines.

One of today’s headlines is that Lee Kuan Yew, founder of Singapore, died today at 91. Early on, he predicted the rise of China. He is being mourned as a political giant. I also think he’s the one that banned chewing gum in Singapore.

Attempting to be a political giant, Ted Cruz has announced he is running for the Presidency. I believe he is the first official entrant in what is going to be a very crowded field this year. Half of America seems to be seeking the Republican nomination. If we thought it was crowded in 2012 wait until this year.

Jeb Bush is fundraising in Texas and his brother W, the former President, and Laura, his wife, are the special guests of honor at a big event in Dallas. It’s the first time the former President and his wife have publicly appeared in support of Jeb, who is big with the donors and not so big with voters. It will be interesting to watch Jeb’s progress.

The flight to Dubai has just been called. There has been an exodus from the lounge, seeming practically empty until the next wave comes. I’m told my flight will be called in about an hour, which is why I am hurrying this.

I think the flight to Delhi is about eight hours, a long time in the air. I will sleep some and then will go to my hotel in Delhi to sleep some more and work on the speech, slowly coming together in preparation for Sunday, when I speak.

Letter From New York 01 14 15 In a world of contrasts…

January 14, 2015

Awaking to the bitter cold of the Hudson Valley, I ventured out and went down to the city today to have lunch with a friend, Nick Stuart, whom I had not seen for nearly a month. He had been in England for the wedding of his older daughter. When he returned, the mother of his partner, Lisa, took a turn for the worse and slipped toward death. He kept Lisa company while they watched her fade.

So it was great fun to see him today to thread together the weeks that had passed since last we saw each other. When I arrived in the city this morning, the first thing I noticed when I came up the escalator into Penn Station was the number of Amtrak police in the station. They were a swarm, complementing the armed soldiers and State Police.

It caused me to wonder if anything had happened that I wasn’t aware of. There had been a fire the day before in one of the tunnels serving the LIRR. Perhaps that was it. Or perhaps security has just been beefed up because of the Charlie Hebdo affair in Paris. It is my guess is that is the reason.

Charlie Hebdo underscored one of the great fears of security forces – hard to track lone terrorists determined on action. Also, this morning Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula claimed responsibility for the Charlie Hebdo attacks, saying it had planned and financed the brothers who committed the killings.

Perhaps it is my imagination but the folks on the subway seemed tenser today, quieter, a little more subdued, a bit more wary. Certainly I felt that way and did from the moment I stumbled into the swarm of Amtrak police at the top of my escalator ride.

Returning to Penn Station this afternoon, I was once again aware of the beefed up police presence. It caused me to sigh; it has been this way since 9/11. Some days I notice it more and some days less. And some days it is more. Today is one of those days. Nestled in the calm of the Acela Club, I await the train that will take me back to the country, to the little patch of country that is mine, to the calming influence of the trees and creek and the ever-present deer roaming the property.

Much of the news of the day still focuses on Charlie Hebdo and its aftermath with more attention being paid to the situation in Nigeria, the Boko Haram having killed a couple of thousand there while all eyes were on Paris.

Our rock star Pope is in Sri Lanka where he met with a multi-faith delegation, something that did not happen when John Paul II went there. Francis is off after this to the Philippines where he is expected to say Mass in front of a crowd of six million. To help with the potential sanitation problems, the Philippine government is encouraging people to wear Depends. They are issuing them to all the police. Practical, if not a bit disconcerting in concept. I learned that on Saturday listening to my favorite radio program, “Wait! Wait! Don’t Tell Me!”

We live in a world of stark contrasts. The Holy Father travels the world preaching peace and reconciliation while Jihadists evoke the Prophet to justify murder. In France and Germany there are marches to denounce Islam and to support it. Hundreds of thousands in France have carried signs that declared: Je Suis Charlie while others carried placards that declared: Je Suis Juif, I am Jewish. France has declared war on radical Islam and in New York there are more soldiers and police on the streets and in gathering places.

It is small wonder that I am pleased to go home tonight to the little cottage for a moment’s respite before I return again to the city, which I will do tomorrow or Monday.