Posts Tagged ‘Al-Shabaab’

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.”

Letter From New York 02 23 15 Any shame or guilt?

February 23, 2015

Ah, the joys of the bitter cold. Just as I was headed to Amtrak to catch my train, I received a text message alerting me my train would be at least ninety minutes late and I would thus miss the conference I was scheduled to attend this afternoon in the city.

Thankfully, I can partially make up for it by the fact a good friend is being ousted from his office early today so it can be painted, so we will get together for a late lunch, early cocktail or a trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art or some combination thereof.

Feeling rather on the low side last night, I ended up sleeping instead of watching the Oscars so my only experience of it was this morning, reading about it online and in the NY Times. The Wrap did a very funny montage of moments from this Awards season, which seems to have gone on forever this year.

And, not unexpectedly, the Oscars are the top story this morning, everyone weighing in on the good and bad moments. I missed them all. I wish I had been able to see in real time Patricia Arquette’s remarks for winning Best Supporting Actress. She addressed gender equality in Hollywood. I must look for the video of it.

As of this moment, the world stage is mostly a retread of yesterday’s news.

The ceasefire in Ukraine has yet to take hold; Germany is very worried. Everyone should be worried.

The families of three young British schoolgirls who appear to have departed for Syria via Istanbul have yet to be found; their families continue to plead with them to return.

Potential Presidential Contender, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, was at the White House last night for a dinner. He took a selfie with his son and posted it. The response wasn’t kind. Governor Walker was accused of looking a bit tipsy, if not as mashed as Johnny Depp was once during this Awards season giving out an Award. Depp had trouble reading from the teleprompter.

The dinner Walker was at with his son, Alex, was for the National Governors Association, jokingly called the National Association of Aspiring Presidents.

US Malls are stepping up their security measures since the Al-Shabaab threat against them, particularly the Mall of America in Minnesota and the West Edmonton Mall in Alberta, Canada. The Head of the Department of Homeland Security, Jeh Johnson, has asked all to be extra vigilant.

Of course, the Department of Homeland Security faces defunding this month unless a compromise is reached. Congress is unhappy with President Obama’s Executive Order on Immigration and DHS is caught in the crossfire.

Ah, the joys of politics.

A political figure in Egypt has been sentenced to five years in prison. Alaa Abdel Fattah, a renowned blogger in Egypt, was found guilty of organizing an illegal demonstration and “thuggery,” among other things. He and hundreds of others who have protested have been sent off to prison. This was a retrial for him; the first time he was sentenced to fifteen years. More than twenty others were sentenced along with him, receiving sentences of three to fifteen years.

At the same time, Egyptian President al-Sisi is saying that he would release wrongly detained young men.

Egypt is also calling for a Pan-Arab force to battle terrorist groups, not to invade but to defend.

In an event that is deeply disturbing, chilling and troubling, a suicide bomber in Nigeria killed five, including herself and wounding another forty-six. The bomber was a child, a girl, perhaps as young as seven. It is believed the lovely Boko Haram is behind this event.

As I sit on the train, watching the ice clogged Hudson slide by, I wonder if the poor child had any idea of what she was doing, what was being asked of her, and if the ones within Boko Haram who directed her, had any sense of guilt and shame about what they were doing?

Letter From New York 02 22 15 Happy Oscars Viewing…

February 22, 2015

Unusually, I am starting work on my blog early in the afternoon; usually I wait until the sun has begun set but about that time today I will need to be down at the Hudson Train station to pick up friends who are returning from Baltimore, where they spent the weekend.

The Hudson Train Station is charming in its way. It is the oldest operating train station in the Amtrak system. It looks much the way I imagined it looked in the 1940’s.

Almost a hundred and fifty years ago, the train carrying the body of Lincoln and his son, Willie, back to Illinois, stopped for a few minutes in Hudson, greeted by a tableaux that was described by Edward David Townsend, Commander of the train, as “one of the most weird ever witnessed.” There was a coffin, with a lady in white draped over it, mourning; the station was draped in black and white bunting, with evergreens. At either end of the coffin were a soldier and a sailor. A number of women, also dressed in white, sang dirges. All of this was lit by torchlight. No wonder Townsend thought it weird. [Thank you to The Gossips of Rivertown for the details.]

The town is planning to recreate that weird scene this April 25th, the Sesquicentennial of the event. I can’t wait.

Hopefully, by April, the weather will have warmed. We are still living in the land of snow, ice and cold. Today it is warming up to thirty degrees, only to plunge again in the days ahead with more snow predicted.

What I would not have predicted was turning to the news today to find that Al-Shabaab, the Somali terrorist group, had released a video suggesting there should be attacks against American and Canadian shopping malls, including Mall of America, which is in Bloomington, a suburb of Minneapolis, my home town. Particularly of concern is that the Minneapolis area is home to many refugees from Somalia. Al-Shabaab has been actively recruiting young men from there and some have gone back to Somalia to fight for them.

Perhaps more predictable is that there is still heat in Giuliani’s comment about Obama not loving America. Republican Representative Darrell Issa of California suggests we should thank Giuliani for questioning the President’s love of country. Not unexpectedly, the NY Times has countered with a chronicle of the number of times President Obama has declared his love of country. Giuliani reports he is receiving death threats.

Brian Williams continues to take it on the chin. Today he is being criticized for not giving money to his “cash strapped” high school. I haven’t given money to my high school either. I didn’t like the place very much.

Tonight, of course, are the Oscars. But have you paid attention to last night’s Razzie Awards? They’re given out to Hollywood’s worst. SAVING CHRISTMAS, starring Kirk Cameron won Worst Picture. He won Worst Actor, too. Cameron Diaz won Worst Actress for SEX TAPE and THE OTHER WOMAN. Worst Screen Combo was won by Kirk Cameron and “His Ego.”

I attended the Razzies the year Halle Berry won for Worst Actress for CATWOMAN. She arrived clutching her Oscar and was quite funny. They have grown from a personal party to Hollywood’s anti-Oscars.

Tonight’s Oscars will be interesting. It appears that BIRDMAN and BOYHOOD will be duking it out for Best Picture. Having seen both of them last night, I would be hard pressed to make a choice. Both were excellent, neither of them blockbusters, just very, very good films.

The sun is brilliant today, casting clear dark shadows on the freshly fallen snow. Marcel, the dog I am babysitting, sits asleep at my feet as I write this. Having not eaten yet today, I am going to head down to the Red Dot for a bite before picking up my friends.

Happy Oscar viewing!