Posts Tagged ‘Australia’

Letter from New York 04 28 15 Notes on a restless world…

April 28, 2015

As I was sitting at a Producer’s Guild event last night about Multi Channel Networks, I was also texting back and forth with my friend Lionel, who has moved recently to Baltimore where, last night, the city was rocked by violence. One person was critically injured, 235 were arrested and the National Guard was called in to help restore order. AOL, where Lionel works, closed for the day and offered hotels to employees who worked in areas where rioting was occurring. At ten last night, Lionel could hear gunshots from his apartment.

Today, President Obama made an impassioned plea for “soul searching” as another city was rocked by violence over the death of a young black man at the hands of police.

Down the road in Washington, DC, the Supreme Court heard the oral arguments on gay marriage. From what I can gather from reading reports, there was no clear indication from the Justice’s questions as to which way the Court will rule in June. Both sides left cautiously optimistic.

In the turbulent world beyond the US, events keep happening that make it easy to be uneasy.

Iran has seized a Marshall Islands flagged cargo vessel, the Maersk Tigris, operated for the Danish Maersk Line. Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, which forced the Tigris deeper into Iran’s territorial waters, claims the move was over legality and not for military reasons. The US has sent the Farragut to observe. No Americans were aboard.

Indonesia executed eight foreigners convicted of drug smuggling, today. They died at the hands of a firing squad. A ninth, a Filipino woman, was spared at the 11th hour. Australia, whose citizens were among those executed, may withdraw their Ambassador to Indonesia in protest.

Prime Minister Abe of Japan is in Washington to help sew up the Trans Pacific Partnership, which includes the US, Japan and 10 other Pacific Rim nations, including our old nemesis, Vietnam. Abe and Obama are also talking strengthening their mutual defense commitments as Obama is accusing China of using its “muscle” on its neighbors.

Tonight there will be a State Dinner for the Prime Minister and his wife.

Tsipras, Prime Minister of Greece, has pushed his Finance Minister into the sidelines as a conciliatory gesture to the Euro Group with whom Greece is negotiating. Mr. Varoufakis is known for his volubility and his strident stands. He has been replaced by Euclid Tsakalotos, an Oxford educated gentleman who is 180 degrees different from Varoufakis.

In Yemen, the number of displaced has grown to 300,000. Saudi warplanes bombed the airport at Sana’a to prevent an Iranian plane from landing.

The number affected by the earthquake is rising. Over 4600 are confirmed dead and the Prime Minister has said that the toll may rise above 10,000.

In the affected area of Nepal live 8,000,000 people. One million of them are children. Nowhere are supplies adequate and people are living in makeshift tents as rain continues to pour down on them. Hospitals are overflowing and lacking supplies. The country’s economy was fragile before the quake and seems ravaged now.

In Rome, Pope Francis’ Pontifical Academy of Science has convened a conference on climate change. In June, Francis will issue an encyclical on climate change that Ban Ki-moon of the UN says will come at a critical time. In September, Francis will address Congress during his visit to the US.

Francis is not the first Pope to take on climate change but he may be the most effective. His is a powerful presence.

Several American conservative groups, including one funded by the Koch brothers, attended the conference in order to refute its findings, not wanting the Pope and the Church to listen only to climate change alarmists.

In a sweet note, Prince William and Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, sent out pastries and coffee to the scores who are camped out in front of the hospital waiting for the Duchess to give birth to their second child.

The day here in New York is winding down. I am going to a screening of the new version of “Far From The Madding Crowd” tonight and will be looking for a nibble on my way there.

It is relatively quiet in Baltimore, according to my last text from Lionel. Supermarkets are closing at six and most restaurants and bars are not opening, battening down the hatches for another night.

Letter From New York 04 18 15 The most beautiful day yet…

April 18, 2015

Today is the most beautiful day the year has given us yet. A cloudless sky, warm but not hot with a soft, gentle wind blowing across the landscape.

This morning, for the first time this year, I saw the hedgehog that makes my property his home. I watched him out the window for a while and then he ran off, quickly, as if he sensed me watching him.

Returning from an errand and before I left for a lunch, I stopped and introduced myself to the people who have moved into the house just east of me. John and Stacie, with two German shepherds. I think the dogs are the reason the deer have found a new route and keep away from my land. They stopped crossing the creek at that point once the dogs arrived.

Down in Rhinebeck, I met Jack Myers, an old business friend, at Market for lunch and we spent a couple of hours catching up and mutually ruminating about the media business, which is, as almost everyone knows, going through tumultuous changes.

Returning home, I closed my eyes for forty minutes and then got up to write, feeling invigorated and interested. On my way down to Rhinebeck, I was thinking how much I am enjoying this time in my life and how I am interested in seeing what comes next.

This morning, as I do mornings at the cottage, I read articles from the NY Times and from my BBC app, looking to see what was going on in the world.

A phalanx of Republicans is in New Hampshire, working to make their mark and stake a claim to the nomination. From Jeb Bush to Marco Rubio to Lindsey Graham, they are there to see what impact they might have and what momentum they might pick up. Rather than attack each other, they have been focused on their ire at Obama and sharpening their political swords for Hillary.

In Washington, DC there was a rally today for Earth Day, which is actually this coming Wednesday. There was an announcement from Earth Day officials and executives at Rovio that there would be an in game experience in Rovio’s Angry Birds game to raise environmental awareness. Angry Birds has been downloaded 2.8 billion times.

IS, seeking to grow its influence, has carried out an operation at a bank in Afghanistan that has killed 33 people. They also carried out a suicide attack in Iraq that killed two Turkish nationals.

Australia has arrested 5 young men, accused of planning an IS inspired attack on Anzac Day, celebrating the first military co-venture between Australia and New Zealand at Gallipoli in 1915. The Australians believe 150 of their countrymen are in Iraq and Syria fighting with IS and that 200 have been prevented from leaving Australia to join them.

Google’s regulatory problems in Europe could be pretty severe and alter the way the company manages search. The EU is thinking of attempting to break the company up.

Apple has pre-orders of over two million of its watches, surprising some tech pundits who didn’t think the watch would go this far this fast.

It appears that in the UK, Labour is slipping behind the Conservatives in the polls. Elections are May 7th and it is going to be a rough slide to get there for all concerned.

Migrants are flooding into Italy from Africa and the Pope is calling for the international community to help with the crisis. Prime Minister Renzi of Italy has stated the solution to the migrant problem rests with finding peace in Libya, which is absolutely true but it’s a far way off at this moment.

South Africa’s President Zuma cancelled a trip to Indonesia to stay home and deal with the anti-immigrant riots that are racking the country.

And now the afternoon is coming towards an end and I am going to get ready to go down to the Hudson Opera House to see if I can get a ticket for a young Russian exile who is going to appear tonight, playing contemporary and classic Russian composers on his violin. It should be good. I’m looking forward to it.

Letter From New York 12 15 14 Terrorists or madmen…

December 15, 2014

Last night, my friends Lionel and Pierre came over for dinner – asparagus soup, mashed sweet potatoes, baked squash and a sirloin fresh from the farmer’s market. We were just into the soup course when his phone made a noise; a news alert was coming in.

The alert was that hostages had been taken in Sydney, a drama that would be played out into the morning today. Lionel is from Sydney originally and he excused himself to phone his family to make sure none were involved. All were accounted for and far from the scene.

I arrived in New York this morning and went into the Acela Club at Penn Station as I had a bit of time before I was to meet my friend Mary Dickey for lunch. My arrival at the Acela Club coincided with the moment that the Sydney police stormed the café and I watched events unfold, live and in real time.

It seemed a bit surreal, to be seated in the Acela Club, sipping a coffee, while half a world away this drama was being acted out, in a city I once knew fairly well and which I loved.

Little was known at the time and much is yet to be revealed, even though the crisis is over. There are two dead plus the gunman, an individual who identified himself as a Muslim cleric. He had some of the hostages hold up what appeared to be a black and white Islamic flag in the windows of the Lindt Chocolate Café, an unlikely seeming place for a hostage crisis.

Turns out he was quite the fellow, this Man Haron Monis. He had served community service time for pleading guilty to sending threatening letters to the families of dead Australian soldiers, calling the deceased “child killers.” He called himself a spiritual healer and had allegedly sexually abused some of those he was supposed to be healing and it seems that he was being linked to the murder of an ex-wife. He apparently had no religious training.

A website by Monis or his supporters claim that all the allegations were trumped up.

Some believe he was committing suicide by police, a thing not unheard of. He certainly seemed to have gotten the attention he wanted. From what I can gather, it’s believed in Sydney that he wasn’t really a terrorist but a deranged man.

Whatever the truth, two innocent people are dead.

In a gesture that was affecting, citizens of Sydney began a twitter campaign to combat a potential Muslim backlash. #illridewithyou was the campaign’s hashtag, offering to ride with Muslims needing to get around Sydney on public transportation. It has since gone viral. It seems very Australian.

My eyes watered up when I read the story.

Australia is an “open and generous” country said Prime Minister Tony Abbott and that is how it has struck me and it has struck me as a place removed from the violence of our terror stained world. But it is not. No place is safe from terrorists or madmen, whatever Man Haron Monis turns out to be.

In Pennsylvania, as I write this, a manhunt is ongoing for an individual who apparently killed six members of his family in a domestic dispute. That was happening as I was sitting in the café above the Fairview Market on Broadway, having a delightful lunch, chatting with Mary about the fallout from the Sony hacking scandal.

It is on days like this that I treasure the peace of the countryside and am grateful for the respite it provides from the terrors of the world in which we live, counterbalanced by the incredible human generosity of those who took the #Illridewithyou viral.