Posts Tagged ‘Ebola’

Letter From New York 11 22 2015 The world goes its crazy ways…

November 23, 2015

Anniversary of Kennedy’s death. Lionel White. Pierre Font. Brussels. Paris. National Registry for Muslims. Donald Trump.  Marco Rubio.  Jeff Cole. George Stephanopoulos. Jeb Bush. Ebola. Liberia. Earthquake in Afghanistan.

It is the 22nd of November and for some reason I remembered that today is the 52nd anniversary of the death of John F. Kennedy.  When I was reading the Times this morning with my first cup of coffee, it struck me.

I was in middle school and the principal came in and whispered to the teacher, who told us and we were all sent home from our Catholic School and began a mourning that I am not sure we are over.

It was a grayish day today and on the chill side but tonight there was the most spectacular sunset I have ever seen in my time here.  The sky was a lush red that filled the horizon.  I attempted a photo but it didn’t do the colors justice.IMG_1062

Also, the deer have returned.  There was a family of them scattered on the road, on my property and across the street at Lionel and Pierre’s home.  Standing proudly in Lionel’s yard was a young buck, watching as his family crossed the road in front of my very slowly moving car.

While I listen to jazz and wait for Lionel to arrive for Thanksgiving week festivities, the world itself goes on its crazy way.

Brussels seems to be in a virtual lockdown and a series of raids have been held during the course of the evening.  The city is on the highest level of alert, the Metro will not run tomorrow and schools are closed.  People are being advised to stay home and inside.

In Paris, they are searching for a third suspect and some are saying many “red flags” for the attacks were missed.

The world has changed, again, since the Paris attacks.  Trump is talking a “national registry” for Muslims.  He also claims that on 9/11 “thousands” of Muslims in New Jersey cheered as the Towers fell.  He claims to have seen it himself, on television.  Really?  George Stephanopoulos reminded him that the police say it didn’t happen.  But it did, George, but it did.

The Washington Post did an evaluation of the top Republican candidates and estimated that the nominee is likely going to be Marco Rubio, which my friend Jeff Cole suggested when we had lunch six weeks ago.

Jeb Bush comes in at number 5.  Number two is Donald Trump.  Is this really happening?  I have stopped laughing because The Donald might just pull it off and that is a really scary thought.

The Paris attacks have changed the tone of our electoral campaign and will continue to influence it as we progress toward this, to me, most bizarre of electoral cycles.

Sadly, Ebola has re-emerged in Liberia and 153 people are being watched to see how it develops in them.

There has been a 5.9 magnitude earthquake in Northeast Afghanistan, bringing even more misery to that land of misery.

Thankfully, the jazz is soothing and the fire cheery.  So I end the day, curled up in the comforts of the cottage, Tempting as it might be, I am not yet retreating into blocking out the news of the day.

When I was younger, globe trotting, I felt like a citizen of the world.  I still feel that way.

Letter From New York 05 10 15 On Mother’s Day and the existence of real world problems…

May 10, 2015

Today is the 10th of May. It’s Mother’s Day. My mother is long gone though I still am surprised that there are moments when I think: I need to call Mom and tell her this. So does my brother once in awhile.

So Happy Mother’s Day to all and sundry; when I was having my haircut today the woman cutting my hair asked me what I was doing for Mother’s Day and I had to tell her nothing. My mother has now been dead for twenty years. It seems impossible but it’s true. The last time I saw her she thought I was her brother Ted. It broke my heart.

And those are the things we have to face with aging parents and to worry about for ourselves as we age. I do, for myself. On Sundays I read the Wedding section of The New York Times and the Obituaries. Today there were a few people near my age who had died and it struck me how fragile our time on life earth is and how fleeting.

But these are existential questions and probably first world problems.

In Yemen, they are hoping that the conversation about a ceasefire will become reality. It will help get supplies to folks who are on the edge of starving. That’s a real world problem.

Apparently, there is an attempt being made to get a five-day truce to start on Tuesday to allow for the delivery of humanitarian supplies. There is also going to be a meeting between Arab leaders and Obama at Camp David this week though today King Salman of Saudi Arabia announced he would not be attending. Instead he is sending his Crown Prince and his Deputy Crown Prince in a gesture intended to communicate his displeasure with the US and its effort to reach a nuclear deal with Iran.

In Liberia today the churches celebrated that the country now seems free from Ebola. That’s a real world celebration.

In devastated Nepal, efforts are being made to provide sanitation for all of those who have lost their homes in an effort to prevent cholera and other diseases in advance of the coming Monsoon season. It is critical for the country that has in the past few years made major progress in creating better sanitation; much of that has been reversed by the earthquake. That is a very real problem. And it’s not a first world problem.

In our first world set of problems, security has been increased at US bases in this country because of a heightened concern over ISIS attacks in the homeland.

“Homeland” is a word I don’t remember being used for this country before 9/11, before there was a Department of Homeland Security. It is vaguely unsettling to me – like the Nazis who called Germany “The Fatherland.” It evokes a sense of siege, which I suppose we are in, in a way.

ISIS is a very real world problem all over the world.

Raul Castro met with Pope Francis. He is now thinking about going back to church. That’s a “Saul on the road to Damascus” moment if there ever was one.

Two days of mourning have been declared in Macedonia for the death of eight police officers that were killed in a raid against a terrorist organization, which seemed to have been made of ethnic Albanians. In the story, there are threads of organized crime, heroin and the continued instability of countries that once made up Yugoslavia.

Speaking of a Yugoslavian kind of situation, the hegemony of the television networks is really beginning to splinter this year as we go into the “upfronts,” that moment in the year when television networks get as much as 75% of their inventory purchased by advertisers.

Television ratings, overall, are down 9% from last year to this. Digital is getting more dollars and networks are facing a moribund upfront. It will still be huge but probably flat or down. It is an amazing thing to watch.

What is also amazing to watch is the sunset happening outside. Today was supposed to be a day of thunderstorms but instead there were crisp blue skies and the warmest day of the year. Clouds are beginning to form and we’ll probably have rain tomorrow but today was spectacular.

Letter From New York 05 09 15 A day after the anniversary of the end of WWII

May 9, 2015

It is Saturday morning and I am preparing to drive from Baltimore with Lionel and Pierre to Frenchtown, New Jersey, where James Green, our mutual friend, is having his annual Cinco de Mayo party, which happens to be his birthday. Then we are going to drive to Claverack where L&P will spend the night before returning to Baltimore.

Yesterday was many things. It was a slightly off day for me. I slammed my finger in a door, which didn’t feel so good. And, in a combination of a bit of bad luck and a bit of bad planning, I missed my train from Baltimore to DC by three minutes.

I determined that I could either beat myself up or I could go with the flow as much as possible and I chose the later after a long conversation on Thursday evening with Lance McPherson, a friend, about the value of not beating oneself up.

I had good meetings in DC and found my way back to Baltimore and then on to a lovely dinner at Ouzo Bay, a restaurant in Harbor East.

Yesterday, if you missed it, was the 70th Anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe. Seventy years ago the Germans surrendered and the fighting ceased.

Russia did it up big, having the largest end of war anniversary celebration in history. Thousands of troops marched. Planes screamed through the skies overhead and new armor was displayed, demonstrating how much the Russians have built up their arsenal in the last few years.

Most European leaders attended festivities in their own countries and so avoided having to attend to Moscow’s celebration. There is that pesky matter of Ukraine. The biggest guest in Moscow was the Premier of China.

There were events at Gdansk, formerly Danzig, which is war the war actually started.

Yesterday, too, it became absolutely clear that David Cameron had won an unexpected win and a big win at that to return as Prime Minister of the UK with a majority in Parliament. He will not have to look to the Liberal Democrats for help, not that they could be much help as they were trounced and lost most of their seats, resulting in Nick Clegg, their leader, stepping down. Ed Miliband, who was leading the Labour Party, also resigned because of their defeat.

Pollsters had predicted a breathtakingly close race and it wasn’t. Their reputation is tarnished right now.

Not stepping down is Nicola Sturgeon, who leads the Scottish National Party, which won almost all the Scottish seats in Parliament.

UKIP, the far right British party, did not do very well either.

However, all of this leads Cameron into very stormy political weather. He has promised a referendum on Britain’s place in the European Union and Nicola Sturgeon is agitating for another vote on Scottish independence. It will be an interesting tightrope for Mr. Cameron.

Nepal is still shattered but foreign journalists and helpers are leaving. The death toll has climbed above 7,000. The UN called for $435 million dollars in aid for the country but so far only about $23 million has been forthcoming. Hundreds of bodies still lie beneath the ruins and aid is still slow in reaching the remotest parts of the country. In a few weeks the Monsoon season will arrive.

In discomforting news, North Korea claims it has successfully test fired a ballistic missile from a submarine thus increasing the range of their nuclear weapons. Another worry for the world.

Liberia, once one of the centers of the Ebola outbreak, has been declared Ebola free now that no new cases have been discovered for six weeks.

In poor Yemen, the Houthis are claiming that Saudis have launched over a hundred raids on the country in the last day. Supplies still float at sea and people are beginning to starve. There is some talk of a truce but no real movement.

At home in America, tornadoes have ravaged Oklahoma with more storms predicted. Golf ball sized hail fell in Norman, OK.

Republican Presidential hopefuls are gathering in South Carolina to line up support at a gathering there. But apparently Jeb Bush won’t be there nor will Chris Christie or Rand Paul.

I will not be in South Carolina. I am leaving now for Frenchtown and then home.

Letter From New York

September 29, 2014

Or, as it seems to me…

It is Sunday afternoon as I begin to write this; the day is impeccable: mid – 70’s for a temperature, cloudless blue skies and a soft wind blowing through the changing leaves. Fall has arrived; there is no going back and next week I’m sure one of the major tasks will be to blow the drive clear of fallen leaves. But today is perfect. In the background, soft jazz plays on Pandora while in the kitchen I am slow cooking appetizers for a neighborhood party later today.

I am a world away from everything here. While sun sparkles off my creek, the world beyond me implodes. While soft jazz plays, more are dying of Ebola.   While my appetizers simmer, refugees go hungry. I am constantly, continually baffled by the contrasts in the world. And while I am baffled, I realize I live in a world of contrasts and that it has always been a world of contrasts.

Outside my window, my local groundhog happily nibbles on the fallen acorns, a lovely moment in my afternoon, watching him. Two days ago when I went out to the car, a family of deer was in my drive, watching me with idle curiosity before they sauntered off into the woods.

It is bucolic here. There are woodland creatures that remind me of the rhythm of nature; there is an expanse of trees, leaves turning yellow and crimson, reminding me of the same. The seasons are changing, time is moving on. The natural progression of things is happening.

In a few weeks, I face another birthday. It’s another mark of progression. I am getting older. We all are.

Now, as I write this, the sun is setting in the west. Twilight grey is spreading across the cottage and its bit of land. Another day is moving away from me.

Last night, sitting in my living room after a lovely dinner at the Red Dot with my friends Lionel and Pierre and Lionel’s sister, brother-in-law and nephew, I found myself ruminating about life and aging.

Not unsurprisingly, I am feeling the winds of time. I am older than I have ever been. Stories come to me of my contemporaries leaving us, too soon, too much before what I feel should be their time. Yet it is happening. Nothing is secure and nothing is sacred – everything, including us, is susceptible to the churning of the clock and the vagaries of the universe. Suddenly, one day, health deserts us and we lay vulnerable when perhaps just the day before we felt invulnerable.

A contemporary of mine travels more than anyone I know and he has begun to wonder if when he locks the door of his hotel room at night it might not be his last night. These are thoughts he had never had had before, thoughts that come to us unbidden now that age creeps up on us and becomes part of our reality.

So last night I was thinking of several friends who have been wonderful friends over the years and I wanted to reach out to them to say: I am grateful you have been part of my life. However, I hesitate. What would they think? Would they appreciate it or would it disturb them in some unanticipated way?

A long time ago I made a promise to do my best to not let go unexpressed the care I had for another. For the most part, I think I have done that. But there are those I only see once in a great while you have been so much of my life and have I said enough to them that they know how much they mean to me?

It is a challenge for me to consider in the next weeks. I am fine today but we are, as I have said, susceptible to the vagaries of the universe. Perhaps we should all remember that as we move from day to day. If we reminded one another of how much we cared, perhaps the violence quotient would go down?

Letter From New York September 16, 2014

September 16, 2014

Or, as it seems to me…

As I begin to write this, it is a quiet night. I am sitting in the kitchen of my friends Dawn and Gail’s home in Provincetown, Massachusetts. They are out with friends and I am sitting putting together my thoughts about the past week.

It was another anniversary of 9/11, the 13th. There was for me a certain symmetry to this one. On September 10th, 2001 I spent the evening with Jon Alpert, the visionary filmmaker, at a screening of a film he had done about the election in New York that was about to happen, Mark Green versus the billionaire Mike Bloomberg.

An early review of the film said that it would topple Bloomberg’s chances of winning the election. Mike Bloomberg came across as arrogant, privileged, ill-mannered, capricious and not a good candidate for Mayor. But then 9/11 happened and the world changed and a billionaire businessman seemed the best person to take over a city that was reeling from a great catastrophe. And, it turned out, he wasn’t a bad mayor. He may have been capricious, ill-mannered, arrogant and privileged but he brought the city back from the brink and carried it through the dark days of 2001 and 2002 when the city was so wounded it didn’t understand how it would survive its pain.

So on September 10th, 2014, on the eve of the 13th anniversary of 9/11 I found myself back in the company of Jon Alpert. He and I had dinner with our mutual friend Diana Sperazza, currently an Executive Producer for Investigation Discovery. Before that, she had been at Discovery Times Network and had been the EP on a project we had done ten years ago, OFF TO WAR.

We laughed and reminisced and talked about 9/11, 2001. Diana had been living in Washington. I had been in New York. Jon had been in New York, too. Filmmaker that he is, he grabbed a camera and headed towards the catastrophe and caught poignant images of that day. He had marched from his organization’s headquarters in the oldest firehouse in New York, mere blocks from Ground Zero and managed to get past the barricades. His footage ended up in an HBO special.

The weather has been eerily like that surrounding 9/11. Beautiful, sun kissed days. All summer I have thought about how like that time this summer has been and have had an uneasy feeling. 9/11 in New York was the most beautiful day and we have had the most beautiful summer. Some part of me has lived in fear that some terrible event would befall us this beautiful summer.

We made it through. There was no repeat of 9/11. No mass terrorist event.

But we now live in a world that is the child of that day. Since then, we have invaded Afghanistan and Iraq and made a bloody mess of them. ISIS has just killed yet another Western hostage. The Caliphate rises; Arab states want to stop them but are tepid in their support of our desire to stop them. Various terrorist groups now seem to be starting to cooperate, lending their “expertise” to each other. Beheadings are becoming a trend. Egyptian terrorists have started using the gruesome practice in hopes of getting as much attention as ISIS or ISIL or IS, whatever they are being called.

The world feels like a more dangerous place these days. Our outrage against beheadings doesn’t stop them. Sanctions haven’t tempered Mr. Putin’s expansionist tendencies. And our response to Ebola has been slow and strangely muted.

A strange exhaustion has fallen upon us. Everyone seems tired on all sides of the political equation. Boehner seems reading a script as opposed to acting from conviction. One pundit described Obama as a bird in gilded cage, waiting to be let out. Like many Presidents, the office is aging him rapidly.

So we go on, living our lives as best we can while the world seems whirling out of control. Here at home our infrastructure is decaying as we fight wars to keep the barbarians from the gates.

Letter From New York August 19, 2014

August 19, 2014

Or, as it seems to me…

The sun continues to play hide and seek and it is still unseasonably cool in the Northeast; which makes for beautiful weather. I have called these days “Goldilocks” days, not too warm, not too cool, just right.  And today is one of those “Goldilocks” days.  Clear, sharp shadows splatter the gravel circle in front of the cottage.  It is only in the low 60’s with promises of greater warmth for the day.

I am sipping that incredibly important first coffee of the day after having just perused the headlines of the New York Times on my iPhone.  This is the last of the five consecutive days I have spent at the cottage, lost in the thrall of these “Goldilocks” days, able to feel detached from the world while surrounded by green comfort of the countryside.  While I have been here, events move on and I have viewed them dispassionately for the most part.

Yet, even cosseted in the country, I am not able to ignore events here and abroad.  They feel further away but that is emotional distance not real distance – real distance has been compressed to jet flight hours.  Yesterday a woman on her way to treatment for cancer fell sick in Dubai from what might have been Ebola.  The total death toll from that disease is now above 1200 and mounting with the day.  Those who have sickened but lived to tell the tale are treated with suspicion and fear when they return to their villages.

The fragile Gaza ceasefire seems to have been broken by rocket attacks on southern Israeli towns.  While the tension continues there, anti-semitism is rising in parts of Europe.  In France, Jews are leaving for other countries, many for Israel. In Germany, similar things are happening.  Since the war, a place where Jews have lived, for the most part in peace, there is a sense of shadows falling upon a population that once felt safe.  Hungary has been turning anti-semitic for some time now.  Generally tolerant Italy has seen businesses and synagogues defaced.  There are anti-semitic gatherings in the Netherlands.  Britain is on its way to recording its worst year of anti-semitic incidents in years.  Jews were blamed in Spain for the defeat of Soccer teams. A Belgian doctor refused to treat a Jew for a broken rib.  

Ancient hatreds rise to the surface, it seems, when events scratch away choreographed civility.  And it is shame that civility is choreographed.  Why can’t it be a part of the civil fabric?  Because we have not learned that the “outsider” is not the cause of our troubles?

In Ferguson, MO the National Guard was called out to maintain order.  31 were arrested; unrest continues, fueled by an apparently small number of agitators and outside disruptors.  The wounds of racism have not healed in Ferguson; apparently they were only papered over.  Michael Brown’s death ripped that away and fury erupted.  And it is likely that racism’s wounds still remain to be healed in much of this country.  We’ve come a long way but not as far as we could or should.  If we had, Ferguson might not have happened.



Letter From New York August 17, 2014

August 17, 2014

Or, as it seems to me…

The sun has been an inconsistent friend these last few days; mostly the days are grey with brief moments of satisfying sun pouring through the trees around the cottage.  

The cottage encourages contemplation.  While I have been here, I have not paid as much attention as I normally do to the world around me.  It has seemed distant, faraway, events of the week feel as if they are taking place on a distant planet. All here is calm, placid, the beat of ordinary life going on peacefully, tranquilly.  An evening passed with neighbors and while we acknowledged the world outside, most of our conversation was about our little world:  the circle where the cottage resides, the little town of Claverack and the big city of Hudson.  We talked of golfing days and high school reunions, of neighbors and local politics.  It was intensely rich.

But not so far away, things are happening, things that are deeply disturbing.  A handbook will be written on what not to do after a police shooting, based on what has happened in Ferguson, MO.  A tragic event spiraled into a chaotic melange of toxic negativity.  Photos showed what has happened with the militarization of police in America.  Awash after 9/11 with funds from the Department of Homeland Security, police departments across the country armed themselves to the teeth but for the most part the country didn’t see it – until Ferguson.  Police officers looking like combat troops stormed through the streets of the town, fueling the flames of rage by their presence.  A mishandled tragedy produced more violence and piled wrong upon wrong.

Protests became riots, protestors devolved into looters.  Patrolling police became riot squads.  Some calm returned when the Ferguson police were replaced by State Troopers.  Last night though, despite a curfew, seven were arrested and one shot, critically.  It will now take a long time for this to heal with hopes that all learn from this series of tragedies.

Tragedies.  Our world is full of tragedies.  In Africa the Boko Haram have now abducted about a hundred men and boys, demonstrating their abilities to cross great swaths of Nigeria with impunity, unhindered by the military.  In neighboring Liberia, the Ebola dead are being abandoned where they lie.  Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea are vastly under resourced to cope with the ravages of the disease and it looks to be months before the outbreak is contained.  

Spin the globe and arrive in the cradle of civilization.  American airstrikes have broken the siege of Mount Sinjar, letting the religious minorities there to flee into Kurdish territory or to parts of Iraq not gobbled up by ISIS.  The Kurds will likely get Western Arms to fight ISIS, who have been successfully using the materiel left behind by fleeing Iraqi soldiers.  

Arms and death seem to be how resolutions are being reached.  A fragile cease fire exists this moment between Hamas and Israel, with peace talks ongoing in Cairo.  One set of proposals has already been shot down by Hamas.

It seems difficult to find hope and happiness in all this malaise.

But yesterday, as I was driving, I heard a TED Talk on NPR.  The speaker was saying we humans are hard wired for happiness, that we find ways, despite all, to find happiness in our lives. 

If only we were hard wired for peace.

Letter From New York August 11, 2014

August 11, 2014

Letter From New York
August 10, 2014
Or, as it seems to me…

Sunday mornings usually have a bit of a ritual. I wake up, start the coffee I’ve prepared the night before and while sipping that first, oh so important, cup peruse the New York Times on either my iPhone or my iPad. If I am ambitious, which is not as often as I think it should be, I go down to Christ Church for services.

At some point on Sunday, I go through the “Weddings/Celebrations” section of the Times. It gives me great pleasure to see same sex wedding announcements. I didn’t think that would ever happen in my lifetime. So I honor those folks by reading their stories. Many of them cause me to smile.

I think I enjoy it because it gives me a sense of hope for the world; that we’re actually moving on from old prejudices. It is heartening in a frequently disheartening world, a gentling of the world, reflected in one major thing having changed in the universe.

My good friends, David and Annette, came up this weekend and stayed with me. We celebrated years of friendship over an excellent dinner of farm fresh foods – salad fixings direct from the garden, recently butchered organic meat, summer squash, potatoes pulled from the earth only the day before. They brought an excellent Pinot Noir and we ate at the dining room table after David had grilled the steaks on the barbeque. Spectacular.

We had great conversation. The world is fodder for it and it is impossible to run away from the trouble that is assaulting the world. Ebola is now an International Health Crisis. Ann Coulter has raged against the doctor who contracted the disease while serving as a Christian missionary in Africa. He should have stayed home according to her.

ISIS, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, now controlling a great swath of the both Syria and Iraq, seems determined to drag the region they control back to feudal times. Christians have been driven from their homes, as have Yazidis, who practice a faith that seems to combine Christianity, Islam and Zoroasterism. They, along with Christians and Shiites are “infidels” who deserve to die according to ISIS. Some Yazidis have been reported buried alive and some women taken as slaves while other have fled to the desert hot Mount Sinjar, where there has been some relief provided by the US dropping humanitarian supplies while fighter planes and drones attack the advancing ISIS troops, who are proving hard to beat back.

There is not a huge amount I can do about the Christians and Shia and Yazidis, except to donate to relief services – though I haven’t seen many appeals.

We are a world in need. I agonize over the daily pleas I get from any number of worthy causes, sometimes slipping toward a kind of despair because the needs are far greater than my wallet. We have a border crisis that revolves around children, illegal immigrants, yes, but children too. Many of them are fleeing San Pedro Sula in Honduras, now the murder capital of the world, a city I visited as a teen when my brother was running a clinic for children in nearby El Progresso, itself then described as the “armpit of Central America.” Things have gone from bad to worse there – as they seem to be in so many places, going from bad to worse.

It is unbelievable to me in some ways that I can have a wonderful and civilized dinner with two wonderful and civilized friends while some thousands of miles away ISIS is burying alive people because they believe differently. It reminds me of the way Catholics and Protestants treated each other several centuries ago during the Thirty Years War.

We live, so many of us, blessed lives here in the West while in other parts of the world madmen seem to roam freely, seeking to enforce a way of life that appears insane to us in the West. I wouldn’t call the leadership of ISIS enlightened.

But then we are the Infidel.