Posts Tagged ‘Assad’

Letter From New York 10 02 15 In rain and mourning…

October 2, 2015

Chill and damp in Baltimore. Oregon shooting. Papal denial. Syrian airstrikes. Allies demand of Russia. Amazon bans rivals. Weak jobs. Market panic?

It is chill and damp here in Baltimore, where I am today to celebrate Lionel’s birthday. It is grey and gloomy, a perfect background for a day which is filled with mourning.

Yesterday, as we all must know by now, a young man, 26, killed nine and wounded 20 before being killed by police. He targeted a Community College in Umpqua, Oregon. Authorities are trying to discern what, if any, connection he might have had to this particular school.

President Obama made a live appearance and was as angry as most had seen him, frustrated by the number of times in his Presidency he has gone on air to offer condolences after a mass shooting.   He warned that his comments would be described as “politicizing” the situation but that this was a situation that should be politicized. It has become routine, said the President, and it has. We have become inured to the tragedies that unfold before us when crazed gunmen slaughter men, women and children.

This young man engaged with others on social media about his intentions. Disgustingly, some respondents encouraged him and gave him tips. No one alerted authorities. Hearing this I was not surprised; my lack of surprise horrified me. I felt thoroughly ashamed of my fellowmen. Who would encourage murder? Are they not culpable?

The young man asked victims if they were Christians. If they said yes, he shot them in the head.

Another young man, a former soldier, Chris Mintz, launched himself at the shooter and was shot seven times.

As I write this, Mike Huckabee is on CNN talking about this tragedy. He has often said that more guns are needed to protect us rather than less. The network’s anchors are giving him a challenging time about his positions.

The Vatican is attempting to push back at the controversy that has bubbled up about Francis’ meeting with Kym Davis, the Kentucky County Clerk who opposes gay marriage. The meeting tarnished the glow among liberals from the Pope’s trip to America. It had been described as a private meeting between the two, with the Pope giving her support and a rosary.

Now the Vatican is saying it was not a private meeting but she was part of a group.

Conservatives, including Huckabee, just now, deny the denial.

Both the U.S. led coalition and Russia are leading airstrikes in Syria. All of the U.S. Coalition’s strikes have been against IS. Russia has been targeting both anti-Assad groups and IS. They are using “dumb” bombs, which will cause indiscriminate damage.

Western nations are demanding that Russia only target IS. My sense is that Russia is shrugging its shoulders and is calling all rebel forces, terrorists.

Friction, of course, exists between Russia, and every one else fighting IS. It’s very messy.

Paris meetings today that were to focus on Ukraine probably will now shift to Syria.

Amazon has its own OTT devices and in a push to get them sold, it has pulled other OTT makers like Roku from its shelves. It will be interesting to see what this will do. Their Fire devices have not been particularly successful in the marketplace.

There was a weak jobs report today with only 141,000 jobs added this past month. It has sent the markets into a wobbly day. Credit Suisse is wondering if the markets are panicking.

They are certainly down.

However, despite the national mourning and the bad economic news I am feeling centered and upbeat today while acknowledging tragedy and grief.   I’m off to have my iPhone screen repaired; I shattered it yesterday. Then I am going to see if I can have my haircut.

Letter From New York 09 22 15 The Pope, Putin, Syria, Refugees and so much more…

September 22, 2015

As I am sitting in the Acela Club at Penn Station, I am watching CNN, which is covering the arrival of the Pope. He landed at Joint Base Andrews and at this moment is arriving at the Diplomatic Mission of the Vatican in Washington, DC, on Massachusetts Avenue.

When Francis touched down, President and Michelle Obama and Vice President Biden were present to greet him, an unprecedented honor. He is waving to the crowd as he slips into the residence for a night of rest.

Tonight is Yom Kippur, the holiest of nights to Jews, and Pope Francis does not want to detract from that. Tens of thousands have been mobilized to keep him safe. The Secret Service sent a man to Rome to watch how Francis interacts with crowds so they might anticipate what they needed to do.

While waiting for Francis to address a Joint Session of Congress [a first], we are, once again, facing a shutdown of the government. The Republicans want to defund Planned Parenthood and the Democrats are opposed to that. Somehow I fail to see why the Republicans are SO against Planned Parenthood.

My Republican respect keeps descending.

While all eyes are watching Francis and his movements, EU leaders have been meeting, working to decide how to handle the thousands of refugees and migrants. I found the information a little confused and oriented to dealing with the future rather than the present.

While the EU is determining what to do with the refugees there, Turkey and the US are working to figure out what Putin is up to in Syria. He intends to start bombing ASAP. They’re not sure who it is he will be bombing. Will it be IS as he says OR will it be the anti-Assad Syrian rebels who are also fighting IS? Turkey and the US fear it will be the latter as Putin and Assad have been playing footsie for decades.

I’m now on the train, heading north, on my right the Hudson River glides by with the setting sun glinting off its surface. It’s been mostly a grey day in New York but now the sun is bursting out from behind the clouds as it descends in the west.

All the way out west, in Burbank, CA, a 24 year-old man was taken into custody after he punched a 78 year-old in the face over Nutella Waffle Samples at a Costco. It seems like something that should be in “The Onion” and not real news. But it is real. The young man could face up to 11 years in prison.

There is a soft, golden glow in the west as we move north. The landscape is inescapably beautiful. I am closing down now for the night, wanting to enjoy the beauty around me before the sunset and we are gathered in the dark.

I am coming to the end of reading Steven Saylor’s Roman novels – at least all the ones he’s written so far. Another one is coming out in October. But they remind me that world has always been full of travail and that gives me hope that we will survive this time and find our own next future.

Letter From The Train 09 15 15 Unsettling times…

September 16, 2015

As I start to write this, I am sitting in the café car [which has no service] on the 7:15 train out of New York Penn to Hudson. For the rest of the week, I’ll be upstate. On Thursday, I am driving down to Connecticut to visit with a friend/business colleague.

This morning, I had a lovely breakfast with my friend David McKillop, who had been EVP/GM of A+E. He has since left and they have set him up in a production deal. He splits his time between California and New York and this week he was in New York.

My admiration of David is tremendous. He has an interesting view on what is going on in media and we have great conversations about what’s going on. It’s always an intellectually stimulating conversation and he turned me on to some podcasts I will listen to as I am on my way to Connecticut.

It’s been an interesting few days. I have been a little out of sorts and I’m not sure why. Nothing bad is going on. I just feel a little cranky after many days of feeling quite wonderful. I’m hoping a few days upstate will restore my equanimity.

There is restlessness in the world. Europe is in the midst of an enormous refugee crisis. Even Germany, with its opening arms, has regulated its borders to try to maintain some order. Hungary has raised fences and barbed wire. The flood of people is overwhelming a system that is used to open borders. Their needs are tremendous. And the resources to address those needs are not tremendous.

Putin is placing tanks and troops in Syria to bolster up the Assad regime. They are placing tanks at the perimeters of an airport in Latakia. It looks like they are setting up a base there.

Syria grows more complicated by the moment. Half its population are refugees. These are not necessarily poor and uneducated people. They are often the middle classes that no longer feel safe. I listened to a report the other day on NPR; the Syrian refugee interviewed was a successful businessman. He had two homes but no longer felt it was safe for his daughter. They were fleeing so she might have a life that was not marred by barrel bombs.

It is an extraordinary situation; it has not been seen since the end of World War II.

In Egypt, the military killed eight Mexican tourists, mistaking them for a caravan of terrorists. They were on the way to camp in the western desert. There are, of course, conflicting reports on why this happened. President al-Sisi of Egypt has apologized. Another reason not to go see the pyramids this year.

Australia’s Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, has been toppled by his own party. The liberals in Australia, including my friend Lionel’s brother, are ecstatic.

There is a new Labour head in the UK who is very left leaning. He is not off to a good start. He seems to be alienating his own party and set some veterans off because he kept a “respectful silence” during the singing of “God Save the Queen.” He is a republican.

But they’re not rid of Queen Elizabeth II yet. He has also put in place a shadow government of a mostly boy’s club and that has been met with derision.

It’s dark now. I can no longer see the Hudson River; it is lost in the darkness. Lights gleam on the west side of the river. I’m tired and will wrap up now.

Letter From the Train 09 10 15 On the train south, with an eerie landscape slipping by…

September 10, 2015

It is a grey and almost cool day as I ride the train south to the city; tomorrow I am making a day trip with a client to Washington, DC. The Hudson River is almost bronze in color, with small waves rocking the boats at anchor. It is a day that feels depressing; I have worked hard to be cheery and not cranky.

Mostly I have succeeded.

Bernie Sanders is “stunned” by the fact he is pulling close to Hillary Clinton in polls in key states like Iowa. Hollywood Democrats are re-thinking their support for her; wondering if Joe Biden will cease biding his time and jump into the race. One headline today from the Washington Post suggested it might be time for Hillary to go into panic mode.

On the Republican side, Trump and Ben Carson, both outsiders, are now doing a bit of infighting, while dominating the field. Carson questioned The Donald’s faith and Trump, of course, shot back. He also took a slam at Carly Fiorina, saying something that sounded like he thought she was ugly. He responded, nah, not her face, just her persona.

It certainly is keeping things amusing if not just a little frightening.

Scientists stunned the world with the announcement of a new human ancestor, Homo Naledi, found in a dark cave in South Africa by a team that was supported, in part, by the National Geographic Society.

That estimable group has now sold the majority interest in all its media properties to 21st Century Fox, including the venerable magazine, raising nearly three quarters of a billion dollars for the society. For the first time in its history, National Geographic Magazine will be a for profit operation.

I was stunned when I heard the news. Somehow it feels wrong.

Today there was a procedural vote to disapprove the Iranian Nuclear Deal. It was blocked by a vote of 58 to 42. Obama will not have to use his veto. It was a significant win for Democrats. We will all see how it plays out over the next decade.

A mist is now hovering over the river, obscuring the west bank of the Hudson. It is barely visible and slight streaks of rain are splashed against the window next to me. It is oddly comforting to be here, sitting on the train and watching the eerie landscape slide by.

We just slipped by Bannerman’s Castle, a structure built in the 19th century as a munitions depot that has fallen into ruins. It looks like a haunted castle, sitting on a small island that hugs close to the east bank of the Hudson. Dark and threatening clouds hover over the river.

IS is offering a Norwegian citizen and a Chinese citizen “for sale” in their online magazine. The Chinese government has not responded and the Norwegians have said they won’t pay ransom. A wealthy individual could rescue them, I suppose. The amount requested is, according the Norwegians, substantial.

To assist President Assad of Syria cling to power, the Russians have sent military advisers and troops to that country, bolstering Assad and his forces at a time when they seem to be losing on all fronts. Syria has been close to Moscow since 1955 and Putin is determined not to let it slip from his side. It complicates the equation for everyone.

In a story that brought me a smile, Queen Elizabeth II of Britain, is now the longest reigning British monarch, having now reigned longer than her great-great grandmother, Queen Victoria. She has now been Queen since 1952 and Britain today is much different from Britain then, wildly more diverse with great gaps in wealth between the cities and the countryside. Through it all, the slow devolution of a great Empire, Elizabeth has been there, a calming presence.

How it will go with Charles on the throne is yet to be seen. But in the meantime, good on you, Ma’am…

The rain has increased. It looks like a scene from a thriller out my window. Soon I will be arriving in New York.

Have a good evening.

Letter From New York 09 04 15 Refugees, destruction and murdering grandmothers…

September 4, 2015

It started as a lovely day here in New York that has gradually become grey but it is not blistering hot, as it was yesterday. My brother, sister-in-law and his daughter and her husband, are out at the U.S. Open and so the weather should be kind to them as they are going to be out there all day long, not expected back until near midnight.

I met them for breakfast and then came down to Broderville to do some work though I found myself easily distracted today as we slip into the Labor Day Weekend, the unofficial end of summer.

The advent of this weekend always makes me a little sulky, as I know the winter is in front of us; we can’t quite touch it but it is definitely coming. The feel of fall was in the wind that channeled through the concrete valleys of the city this morning.

Tonight, while my family watches tennis matches, I will be having dinner with my friends David and Bill at their West End apartment, where David has lived since he was in law school at Columbia. His decision to go to law school was triggered by a conversation with none other than Ruth Bader Ginsberg, now sitting on the Supreme Court.

Their refusal to hear Kim Davis’ appeal regarding providing marriage licenses to same sex couples in Rowan County, Kentucky, and her continuing refusal to obey the law, has resulted in her finding herself in jail, in contempt of court.

Rachel Held Evans [@rachelheldevans] tweeted today: No one’s being jailed for practicing her religion. Someone’s being jailed for using the government to force others to practice her religion.

Much re-tweeted and frequently shared on Facebook, including by me, I thought her insight offered a bit of clarity.

Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio have leapt to the defense of Kim Evans and she is becoming a potent symbol for the Christian right. I wonder where the Christian Left is on this; don’t recall hearing anything from them.

While some of us are melting down over the Kim Davis situation, IS has blown up three “Tower Tombs,” ancient artifacts that were uniquely Palmyran. UNESCO is calling their actions: intolerable crimes against civilization. The ancient world must have felt the same toward the Romans when they tore down buildings as they conquered towns or the barbarians as they overtook the Romans. We have a new set of barbarians loose in the land and they are taking with them what we had at long last started to preserve.

The death of little Alyan Kurdi, the three year old who died with his mother and brother, attempting to cross to Greek Kos from Turkey, was brought home to Kobane in Syria for burial.

The heartbreaking images of the boy seem to have stirred the EU into sorting out what they are going to do with the masses of refugees swarming upon them.

Cameron of the UK has said it will take 65,000 refugees. Individuals in the UK are gathering together, offering to help. Local Councils are beginning to do the same. Iceland has a movement agitating for their government to listen to the individuals and organizations that are willing to help with refugees.

A little boy has died; he will not soon be forgotten.

Hungary has been attempting to contain refugees there but they have broken out and are walking toward the borders. Nearly a thousand refugees are marching across Hungary after trains and buses to Germany were denied them.

Viktor Orban, Hungary’s right wing Prime Minister, has had the borders closed and raised a razor wire fence to prevent refugees from crossing the border. His actions have been denounced across Europe.

Right and Left are at odds all across Europe as the crisis continues.

An Egyptian billionaire has said he wants to buy an island from Greece or Italy to provide a new homeland for refugees.

Putin has admitted that Russia is giving logistical support to Assad’s government in Syria, something that has been suspected but had remained unconfirmed. The Russian President has left the door open for Russian troops though he has said he wants to keep conferring with his “partner,” the United States.

And, out of Russia, came the story of an elderly woman who has been jailed, suspected of perhaps as many as eleven murders. She was caught on video as she was disposing of a woman after having used a hacksaw to remove her hands and head. She then boiled them.

Her home contained books on black magic. The latest victim was a 79-year-old woman who was in her care. The Russians are calling her “Granny Ripper.”

Today is Force Friday. I hadn’t a clue about it until I read the Times this morning. Stores like “Toys R Us” and Walmart opened at midnight to start selling merchandise related to the upcoming Star Wars movie that is premiering in December. There is a new version of the Lego Millennium Falcon; an item that is on the top of many lists of must have items.

The day is ending. The sky is less grey and there’s more sunlight. I am heading out to buy a bottle of wine to give to my dinner hosts.

Letter From New York 06 02 15 Muddling through…

June 2, 2015

It’s been downright chill in New York City today and I wish I had worn a wool sweater instead of a cotton one. I am heading this evening up to Hudson; Alana, my friend who is the owner of my favorite bistro, The Red Dot, is having a special Japanese meal at the restaurant and asked me if I could be there for it. Hard to say no to such a good friend so I am up tonight and back tomorrow.

When I get to the cottage, I may have to turn on the heat, as it will be chiller there than it is in the city. If I weren’t coming back to the city in the morning, there’d be a Franklin stove fire in my future.

What is not in the future for Sepp Blatter, head of FIFA, is more time as head of FIFA. I subscribe to VICE News and its news of the resignation popped up on the upper right corner of my screen while I was on a conference call. The paper trail is moving closer to him in regards to the corruption scandal. His right hand man, Jerome Valcke, apparently was a recipient of a letter that links him to the alleged $10,000,000 bribe for the World Cup to be held in South Africa.

Bruce Jenner has now officially become Caitlyn Jenner, doing so with a splash in a Vanity Fair spread. She gained a million twitter followers more quickly than Obama did when he launched @potus. As someone who remembers her when she was Bruce and the triumphant Olympian, I can only imagine what a journey this has been for her. So public a life, so private a journey.

Last night on the Yangtze River, a river cruise ship named the Eastern Star or Oriental Star, depending on how you translate its Chinese name, was sailing through a storm when high winds struck and the ship capsized. So far, only fourteen people have been found alive of the 456 aboard. One survivor, a cruise director, floated fifty miles downriver before rescue.

There was no distress signal and the first realization of the disaster was when a few survivors reached shore and raised the cry.

Most of the passengers were elderly Chinese on holiday.

The Patriot Act, with some revisions, was resuscitated on the Hill today and will go to President Obama for his signature, which he has pledged to do. I have some mixed feelings about this. I have friends who rant that the Patriot Act has turned us into a police state while others are equally adamant that it is absolutely necessary for protection.

The process has elevated Rand Paul who worked against it and weakened Mitch McConnell, who thought it should be passed without revisions. Somewhere along the line he miscalculated the misgivings of his fellow Senators.

To me, whatever you think of Snowden, he revealed some unsavory aspects to our spying that have left, at least me, uncomfortable.

The situation in Syria is deteriorating. IS has begun to encroach upon Aleppo and non-IS affiliated rebels are accusing Assad of using his air force to support IS against them. Which in the convoluted realities of Syria today might actually be true.

A meeting of anti-IS countries concluded a meeting with Secretary of State Kerry attending by video link. Everyone agreed more needs to be done but didn’t seem to come up with any concrete steps beyond muddling along in the same way they currently are.

Which is what we’re doing, muddling along through one of the great crises of our time.

The EU seems to be muddling along through the Greek crisis, with more meetings scheduled for tomorrow. The EU financial ministers can’t seem to get their arms around the political realities on the ground in Greece.   Greece is living through a Great Depression experience and is desperate, which is why Tsipras was so overwhelmingly elected. He promised to change that and Greece needs some positive changes.

In a startling rewrite to biology books, the endangered smalltooth sawfish, has found away to avoid extinction. They have now seemed to have mastered “virgin births.” Seen occasionally in animals in captivity, it is not entirely unknown but what happens to men when women can experience “virgin births?”

On the train going up north, it has been a frustrating ride. North of where we were, a Metro North train had become disabled and we waited thirty minutes for the track to be cleared. I will probably arrive in time for dessert. But so it goes when you travel the rails, in America.

Letter From New York 05 20 15 A stark world on a moderate day…

May 20, 2015

First of all, I made a mistake in my “media musings” yesterday; last night was not the last night for David Letterman. Tonight is. Last night was his penultimate show. I must have read the article incorrectly. Sorry about that.

Today, I am in New York City and will be until Friday around noon when I am heading up to the cottage for the long weekend. I have no plans for the weekend and expect it will be a quiet one with some reading and binge viewing. I am hooked on “Frankie and Grace,” the Netflix show that stars Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, Martin Sheen and Sam Waterston. It’s an adult comedy, feels a little rough around the edges, as if it hasn’t quite figured itself out but it is very endearing.

Today in New York, the day is caught between spring and fall; not quite sure what it’s about. Sort of warm, sort of cool but not just right. I had coffee with my friend Erica Gruen this morning and it was delightful to catch up with someone I hadn’t seen for a while and then had my quarterly lunch with David Arcara. I met him casually years ago and we have settled into what he called our quarterly “lunches with Andre.” Nothing is off limits in the conversations and they are always satisfying.

The world is atwitter about revelations today of documents seized when Osama bin Laden was killed. He told anyone who would listen to not think about an Islamic State but to stay focused on killing Americans. He left a will, enjoining his wife [I wonder which one, he had several] to marry his daughters to jihadi or, failing that to “good people.” As has long been rumored, it was confirmed there was a stack of porn but that was not released. We will have to remain curious about what turned Osama on.

Speaking of IS, which is very much a reality despite bin Laden’s admonitions, it has advanced into the Syrian town of Tadmur, near where lie the ruins of World Heritage Site Palmyra. It has also been reported that the ruins themselves are now under the control of IS.

An ancient queen of Palmyra was named Zenobia and early on local rebels, fighting Assad, called themselves “Grandchildren of Zenobia.” The ruins have emotional significance to both the anti-Assad forces and to those loyal to him. IS has no emotional attachment to the ruins and it is feared they will destroy them as they have other ruins and loot what is portable to sell to help finance their campaigns.

The fall of Palmyra in the west and Ramadi in the east show that IS is able to bounce back from setbacks like the fall of Tikrit. It is vexing for Obama because any strikes against IS in the area near Palmyra and Tadmur will mostly benefit Assad, a man for whom Obama has called to be removed.

Ratcheting up the world’s level of nervousness are reports that North Korea has miniaturized nuclear weapons so they can be mounted on missiles. North Korea has recently also claimed it has long range missile capability that can get as far as the West Coast of the U.S.

It is believed that their boast of being able to launch a missile from a submarine is not yet true. Looks like the photos were doctored.

But, at the end of the day, we have a pudgy, grumpy, paranoid little dictator in Kim Jong-un and he has nuclear weapons. This is not good.

Gloria Steinem, along with Mairead Maguire, Nobel Peace Laureate from Ireland and Leymah Gbowee, Nobel Peace Laureate from Liberia are in North Korea with a number of other women to stage a peace march through the DMZ on Sunday.

Ban Ki Moon, Secretary General of the UN, was to have made a visit to North Korea tomorrow but Kim Jong-un cancelled him. He would have been the first UN Secretary General to visit the North in two decades.

A couple of years ago it was revealed that a popular British performer, Jimmy Savile, was a serial sexual predator of adults and children. The British formed a group called Operation Hydrant to look into historical child sexual abuse cases. The publicity surrounding the Savile case has the abused coming out in droves, over 1400 so far and thousands more expected before the end of the year. Among the alleged sexual predators are sports figures, politicians, and music industry elites. The picture that is being formed is “stark.”

It is a stark world out there and there is not much about the starkness that I can do, except do my best to be not stark. I am off to the New York Video Meet-up and then for a bite to eat.

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: www.unicefusa.org/nepal.

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 03 16 15 Not all bad news…

March 16, 2015

I woke early this morning, daylight savings time dark outside. Making coffee, I came back to bed and flipped open my laptop to see if Putin had made an appearance. He had. Some said he looked a little pale. Others said he looked very healthy. But he was back on the scene in St. Petersburg, his hometown and Russia’s second city.

He is also appearing in a documentary on Russian television. In the interviews, he rattles the nuclear saber – a very frightening thought. He is very likely communicating that 1) he is in charge and 2) he has no intention of negotiating on Ukraine.

In Ukraine, the feeling is growing that the Minsk accord is “hope, not reality.”

The temperature at the cottage was relatively warm, almost 50 degrees, with a chill wind blowing across town. It’s my plan to make spaghetti carbonara tonight, something I have never tried before.

I am a little late in writing this; I spent some time today working on the speech I will give in India plus I spent some time organizing things I will need to take with me. It’s only a few more days and I will be off.

The dollar is a bit weaker and the markets were happy! The Indian Rupee to Dollar exchange has been pretty steady which makes me pretty happy.

Tomorrow is St. Patrick’s Day and I might try cooking an Irish stew recipe I found online today.

Tomorrow is also voting day in Israel. Netanyahu is proclaiming today that there will be no Palestinian State while he is Prime Minister. The chance of his losing is growing and he has warned his supporters he could lose.

One of the things I found out while reading about the Israeli elections is that American billionaire Sheldon Adelson has founded a free newspaper in Israel that blatantly supports Netanyahu. Wonder what will happen to it if Netanyahu loses?

McDonald’s has been having trouble making marketing magic of late, sales have been down and the Golden Arches have been a bit tarnished the last year or so. Now it is being hit by claims from employees about unsafe work conditions. Allegedly, some employees were told to treat burns with mayonnaise. OHSA is looking into the situation.

The death toll is rising in Vanuatu but nowhere as high as I might have thought. It could still go higher as there is still no communication with outer islands. Almost every house has damage and there is a desperate need for fresh water.

It is now official. This was the snowiest year on record for Boston. It has been a slow moving catastrophe for that town. Floods come quickly with their devastation. This has just gone on and on and therefore the disruption from this winter has attracted less attention.

And also in that city, gay groups are going to be able to march in the annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

In Egypt, Mohammed Badie, head of the Muslim Brotherhood, as well as thirteen others has been sentenced to death for planning attacks on the state. He has been sentenced to death several times but each time the sentence has been commuted to life imprisonment.

The Syrian Civil War has cost approximately 220,000 lives. Speaking on CBS News, Secretary of State John Kerry suggested peace talks could include Syrian President Assad, marking a change of stance toward the Syrian President. Assad welcomes any “sincere” change of attitude.

Sincerely happy is Sir Martin Sorrell, who heads advertising group WPP. He has been awarded a pay package for 2014 that comes out to about $60,000,000. That’s quite a pay packet. WPP’s stock is up over 100% over the last few years.

Not unexpectedly, Hillary Clinton’s poll numbers have sagged since the email flap. They are their lowest since 2008 but the news is not all bad. 57% of Americans said they’d be proud to have her as President.

I’m off now to cook my carbonara and a soft night of British mysteries on Acorn TV.