Posts Tagged ‘European Refugee Crisis’

Letter From New York 01 22 16 While waiting for Jonas…

January 22, 2016

Winter Storm Jonas  DC  Claverack  James Green  Magnetic Media  Jerry May  Stock Markets  European Refugee Crisis  Alexander Litvinenko  Putin  Film Academy Diversity Crisis  X Files

I slipped out of the city today on the 11:20 and headed north.  It was chill in the city, feeling colder than the temperature. Once I reached the cottage I decided to remain in for the rest of the day.  A fire is burning and jazz is playing on Pandora.  I will probably turn in early, watch some video, read a book, have a rest…

The eyes of the East coast are all turned on Winter Storm Jonas, which threatens havoc to the coastal cities.  Washington, DC might get as much as two feet of snow and the Mayor there is calling it potentially life threatening.  And it well could be; DC is not particularly adept at dealing with severe winter weather.

Just now I looked at the weather forecast for Claverack and it looks like the storm might miss us.  Precipitation forecast is only 10%. The storm will batter the coastal areas and leave us relatively unscathed.  But that could, of course, change.  I’ll let you know tomorrow.

Thursday I had lunch with an old boss, James Green, who is now CEO of Magnetic Media and they are doing very well, thank you.  It was good and comforting to spend a couple of hours with him.  He is a warm and generous soul.

Dinner was with my long time friend, Jerry May, a chance to catch up, hear about the heart valve replacement he had had last year and to cherish each other’s friendship.  I am hoping his plane gets out of JFK tonight for Seattle, where he lives.

All the major financial indices were up today after a brutal week that challenged anyone faint of heart.

My well seasoned wood is burning wonderfully.  The music is lovely and I am glad to be home, snuggled in the warmth of the cottage.  There feels no reason to stir from here tonight. 

It has been a week to recover from…

Paul’s Memorial Service took more from me than I thought it would though being there gave back to me and I am so glad to have been part of it. 

The world remains a brutal place.

Dozens have drowned in attempting to flee Syria, continuing the flow toward Europe even though the seas are dangerous this time of year.  In ancient days, no ships sailed during this part of the year.  The dozens included more than a dozen children.

It has been ten years since Alexander Litvinenko died as a result of drinking polonium laced tea in London.  Once a Russian operative he became a fierce critic of Putin.  One of the things he accused Putin was that Tsar Vladimir was a pedophile. 

And there are creepy, creepy photos of Putin on a stroll in 2006 calling a five year old boy over to him, pulling up his shirt and kissing his stomach. Seems really inappropriate.  Litvinenko said that Putin had the films of him and underage boys destroyed when he gained power.

And it is those accusations think some that made Litvinenko a marked man.  A British judge said today that “probably” Putin ordered the removal of Litvinenko.  And polonium poisoning is not a pretty way to go.  The poor man lingered in horrific pain for three weeks.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences is embroiled in a controversy about the lack of diversity in its nominations.  It’s the second year there have been no people of color in them. 

The Academy says that it is going to work to broaden its membership.  As it should.  It is primarily male, white and the average age is 63.  Less than 2% are African American and less than 2% are Latino.  There are about 6,000 members. 

Charlotte Rampling, an actress that was very big in the 1960s and is nominated this year decried the protests as “anti-white racism” during an interview in Paris, where she now lives.  I used to really like her.

The “X Files” are returning in a six part mini-series.  Looking forward to that.  Hopefully better than the films.

It’s dark but not late.  No snow yet. Looking forward to the morning.  I’m going to believe we’ll miss the hit and I will be just fine.

Hope you are just fine too!

Letter From New York 11 02 15 Working on not to being a cranky old man…

November 2, 2015

Henry Hudson.  Hudson River. Russian Jet Crash. Halloween. The Red Dot. The Ghost and Mrs. Muir.  Amazon Prime. Benedict Cumberbatch.  Hamlet. Ophelia. European Refugee Crisis. Sumte, Germany. Nazi. Turkey. Erdogan.

I am gliding south on the 8:45 out of Hudson, down to the city for a few meetings this week and then will head back Wednesday evening. The Hudson River is still and mirrors the muted colors of fall. A barge makes its way north to Albany. In certain stretches, it is possible to imagine that this was the way the river looked when Henry Hudson first sailed north.

It is so placid a scene that it is almost possible to detach from the battering of the news.

It has been two days since I have written; Saturday afternoon I was having a late, for me, brunch at the Red Dot before heading home to service any Trick or Treaters. Several people were sitting not far from me, chatting rather loudly and raucously about their summer exploits of jet skis and pool parties, dancing and dating.

At the moment, I was reading the New York Times and was feeling very aware of the various crises that are engulfing the planet. A Russian jet had crashed in the Sinai earlier that day. More had drowned in the Aegean and Germany is preparing to settle nearly a million refugees within its borders.

The conversation happening not far from me grated on me. Unreasonably, I wanted to walk over and say to them something like: you fools! Don’t you know serious things are happening?

I didn’t.

They were having a harmless conversation. I have had harmless conversations about silly things, too. And I am also aware of what is happening in the world. It bothered me at the moment because on the Saturday of Halloween it seemed no one was paying attention except me. I was having a cranky old man moment.

Last year, there had been a few Trick or Treaters. This year, there were none. As I waited, I watched “The Ghost and Mrs. Muir” from Amazon Prime. When I finished, I went off to bed to read a book, soon falling into the arms of Morpheus.

Early up on Sunday, I went off to Christ Church, slipping away after communion because I had a ticket for an HD version of Benedict Cumberbatch’s “Hamlet.” He and the production were superb. It is the first time I have witnessed a production that indicated that Ophelia was fragile even before the Prince of Denmark’s attentions.

At home, afterwards, I did some paperwork and read some more and am now heading down to the city.

The Russian airliner is much in the news; it apparently broke up in mid-air and it is being posited that some “external event” resulted in the loss.

In Germany, one small town of 102 individuals is being asked to take in 750 refugees. The Mayor of Sumte’s wife thought it was a joke when they were first notified. It has energized a youngish local Nazi who has a seat on the town’s council: it will be good for his brand of politics he thinks. This is a harbinger of the challenges facing Germany and those challenges also threaten Angela Merkel’s position as Chancellor.

Erdogan has won a big victory in Turkey, giving him the impetus to push forward once again with a plan for an executive presidency, not that it has been a de facto executive presidency since Erdogan took that office. He has been playing the role of both Prime Minister and President as he feels like it, a bit like the arrangement Putin had with Medvedev.

The day, which began gloriously, has turned grey as we have moved south. Mild temperatures are expected this week, a last gasp of Indian summer.

Loving to entertain, I am having two sets of people in for dinner this week.

We will talk, I’m sure, of silly things and serious matters and I will do my best to not be a cranky old man.

Letter From New York 10 30 15 Thoughts riding north through the autumn colors…

October 30, 2015

Autumn. Hudson River Valley. Obama. Syria. John Kerry. Saudi Arabia. Douma. European Refugee Crisis. Halloween. Marco Rubio. GOP Debate. Donald Trump. Jeb Bush. Ben Carson. The Donald. One child policy. China. Alexander the Great. Gordian knot.

The autumn colors on the trees may have just past their peak but they are still wonderful as I ride north on Amtrak. The west bank of the Hudson is awash with shades of orange, red and some green. I am heading home for the weekend, having been in the city a bit longer this week than I had planned.

As I waited for the train to exit the tunnels so that I might have Internet again, my phone buzzed twice. First it was AP and then it was the BBC, letting me know that President Obama is sending fifty special operations troops to Syria to assist the rebels we support.

While he was announcing this, Secretary of State Kerry is in Vienna, dealing with the countries that have a stake in Syria, though Syria is not, apparently, there itself. The eyes of the world are on how Saudi Arabia and Iran will react to being the same room together. They are positioned so that they don’t have to look into each other’s eyes.

Meanwhile, on the ground in Syria, at least 40 have died in Douma, a town ten miles north of Damascus, with another hundred wounded. So far a quarter of a million people have died and ten million have fled their homes.

The resulting refugee crisis means that millions of Syrians are living in camps or attempting to go west, sometimes dying in the effort. 570,000 individuals have transited through Greece this year, making the crossing from Turkey in small boats or rubber dinghies. Yesterday 22 more died and 144 were rescued.

It is all far from here as I move north, along the Hudson River, absorbing fall colors and contemplating a quiet weekend at the cottage.

It is Halloween this weekend and I’m not sure I am going to do anything. Generally, I have gone down to the Red Dot for their annual party. Last year I dressed as a Roman Emperor. This year, I am not feeling quite so festive. I was thinking more of a martini and a movie at home.

Since last I wrote, there has been another Republican Debate. Not well wired in the city, where I was, I have had to get a feel from it from written articles. General consensus, Marco Rubio won and CNBC, the platform for the debate, lost. The debaters turned the table on the moderators, putting them in their place. Trump wasn’t as Trumpish and Jeb Bush was still Jeb Bush.

Trump is genuinely surprised to find himself trailing Ben Carson in Iowa. Perhaps the Donald will learn a bit of humility.

China has revoked the “one child” only policy though most are indicating they won’t have more than one child. It’s too expensive in time and money now. More and more couples are choosing to remain childless. China will begin to look like Japan, with an aging population. Hard to fathom…

As I finish writing my letters, I find myself pondering the state of the world, working to grasp it. I don’t always get it, usually not at all. The complexity of the politics in the Middle East are so knotted that it is probable that they may never get undone. It will take an Alexander the Great to undo this Gordian knot. He didn’t undo it; he cut through it with his sword.

Letter From New York 10 16 15 Kardashians, Refugees, Turkey and a night out..

October 16, 2015

Lamar Odom. Khloe Kardashian. Israel. Palestine. Israeli knifings. Turkey. European Union. Refugees. Erdogan.

It is unbelievable to me that we have rounded into the second half of October in the year 2015. Stunning, the way time has been slipping through my fingers.

The last three days have been a battle with paperwork and machines. I had some complicated documents to complete and must have printed page two of the forms four times before I filled them, hopefully, correctly. They got sent off today by UPS and will arrive on Tuesday.

My Internet connection fluttered, my printer won’t print wirelessly and I have done everything in my power to get it back online, to no avail. Time to call in the experts.

Because of all of this, I am behind on a report for a client. ARGH! But all will be well, I’m sure.

All may be well for Lamar Odom, who apparently regained consciousness and is breathing on his own after losing consciousness while on a spree that reportedly included alcohol, cocaine and herbal sex stimulants. He was at a legal brothel in Nevada.

Soon to be ex-wife, Khloe Kardashian, is at his side. Do I see a reconciliation coming for the cameras? Pardon me if I am cynical.

All is not well in Israel, where Palestinians are killing Jews in knifings while the Israelis are killing Palestinians who attack them. Hamas has praised the men killed by Israel as martyrs. And that sad beat goes on; defying efforts to have any kind of peace break out.

It came to me that this violence has been a constant backdrop of my entire life.

Turkey and the EU are bickering over an aid deal to help Turkey with the refugee crisis, a deal that the Turks have called “insincere.” In the mix are suggestions from the EU that they will start accession talks with Turkey again about admission to the EU. Turkey’s Erdogan is skeptical.

In the meantime, it’s estimated 5,000 refugees slip out of Turkey and into Europe every day, not counting all the others that are striving for Europe from all across the eastern and southern Mediterranean.

Like last night, I set up a fire in the wood stove. I just got up and checked it and realized that absorbing the day’s news had made me feel physically tired. It causes me to sit down sometimes and put my head in my hands. It is no surprise that for a day or two, I might ignore the world outside my little glen.

We are all like that, I’m sure.

In the meantime, I must get ready. In twenty minutes, I am headed to the Dot to meet a friend for dinner.

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 New York 09 20 15 Getting ready to go on the road…

September 20, 2015

Today begins three weeks of travel for me. I am heading down to the city this noon to attend a party for my friends, Kris and Eric, who now live in California. They are stopping by New York on their way to Martha’s Vineyard for a week.

Monday and Tuesday I am in the city, Wednesday I leave for Provincetown to visit friends, back to the city, down to Baltimore for Lionel’s birthday, off to Indianapolis for a conference and then on to Minneapolis to visit family and friends, circling back to the city before heading home.

I am squeezing in all of this, fulfilling promises to visit, before winter hits. I do my best not to go to Minneapolis when it’s freezing.

It’s a gentle morning here, temperature in the sixties with no rain forecast either in the Hudson Valley or down in the city. It has warmed enough that I am now on the deck with my coffee and my increasingly cranky laptop. It is now three years old and beginning to feel its age. Oh well, aren’t we all?

There is a touch of fall in the morning’s air, cool with no humidity, a desire to go put on a sweater. Yesterday young Nick and I discussed the need to fill the racks near the house with seasoned firewood from the piles out by the shed. I am settling in to a comfortable fall.

Not so in Europe where refugees and migrants find themselves trapped at borders, struggling to get around them. The nights are already cool and I doubt any of them are prepared for a chill walk across Europe. The seas will be getting rougher and therefore more dangerous.

Pope Francis has arrived in Cuba and is asking for more freedom for the church. If anyone can convince the Castros to loosen their grip, it’s this man. Tuesday he arrives in New York, one of the reasons I am choosing to be gone. It will be a little bit of chaos; no it will likely be a lot of chaos. Pundits think it will be worse than when the President is in town. But the town is revving up for him.

On the west coast, Seattle is getting ready for a two day visit starting also on Tuesday by Xi Jinping, President of China, in which he will immerse himself in all things tech before heading on to visit Obama in Washington on Thursday.

Ben Carson has declared a Muslim should not be President and The Donald has had to respond, which he has done in typical The Donald style, to not having corrected a man in an audience who said the country had a problem: Muslims and the President was not an American and was a Muslim.

Staggeringly, near thirty percent of Americans still believe Obama is a Muslim. It causes me to roll my eyes and despair of the electorate.

The Greek electorate is deciding today whether to return to office Alexis Tsipras, who was elected to defy the country’s European creditors and ended capitulating to them. The Greeks are weary; this is their fifth national election in six years. Ridiculous, says one man. It will be a very tight election.

The Conservatives are running neck and neck with Tsipras and his Syriza Party. We will know by the morning, at least, who wins.

Tonight are the Emmy Awards. Since I no longer have cable, I’ll not be able to watch them. I don’t have over-the-air service either. I’m interested in seeing if Jon Hamm will FINALLY get an Award for his iconic performance as Don Draper in “Mad Men.” A couple of others interest me too, but not terribly.

Increasingly, I feel removed from media except as a distant observer. I’ve had my fun.

Now I seem to be looking for other fun, closer to home, some still media related but on the very local level. It brings a smile to my lips.

Now I must go and get ready to go to that party…

Letter From Columbia County 09 08 15 A day for me…

September 8, 2015

It has been a hot and humid day in Columbia County. Waking early, I went out onto the deck to read the Times and drink my coffee before the heat of the day descended upon me.

The Pope is loosening the parameters for an annulment in the church and there was much in the paper about the refugee crisis in Europe. The markets were trending upwards before the open and succeeded in closing up.

Today was all about me. After playing host to my brother and family I felt like I needed a day to myself. After reading the paper, I went to town to collect a week’s worth of mail and to do some shopping for staples.

It is apparent we are in an election season in Columbia County. Everywhere there are signs for candidates. They have increased exponentially since I went to New York City to spend time with my brother. Lawns are littered with them.

Bill Hallenbeck, a Republican and the incumbent Mayor of Hudson, is running for reelection against Democrat Tiffany Martin Hamilton. He probably will win; the town is still deeply Republican though the drift has been slowly toward the Democrats.

I’ve never met Hallenbeck though have always thought, based on what I have read in the papers, that he seems a bit out of his depth as Mayor. Still, he has served two terms…

My friend Larry and I met for lunch at Ca’Mea and then I went with him to collect things he had bought for the new loft above the renovated barn on his property.

While we were there, eating at the bar, surrounded by folks, there was animated conversation about the refugee crisis in Europe and, of course, about The Donald. The fellows to Larry’s right were astonished that Trump is the Republican frontrunner.

As am I…

The refugee crisis is astonishing. The situation is desperate. And there is no unified response even now from the EU. They are making it up as they go.

For a moment today, I thought I should go and volunteer to help out on the island of Kos or in Hungary but I don’t think there is a mechanism for such offers for help.

The day is fading. I am on my deck, a soft wind blowing from the west, cooling me a little. Across the creek, I realize the first leaves are changing. Yellow mixes with green and I grieve for what is going and am open to what is coming.

The seasons are beginning to turn.

As they turn all over the world, the refugees in Hungary are enduring cold nights now while my air conditioning keeps me comfortable.

It will be awhile before the leaves all turn and there will be more nights when I will be able to sit at my circular picnic table, viewing the creek and enjoying the moments.

Then will come real fall and after fall will come winter and then spring and then summer and I will be observing it all from my deck.

Letter From The Train 09 07 15 Going up the river…

September 8, 2015

The train is moving north; it is dusk. A soft rose glow dominates the western sky causing the Hudson to also glow with a soft rose gold color. The moment is magical. Members of my family, my brother, his wife, his daughter, her husband were in New York this weekend. They went to the U.S. Open and we spent time together, wining, dining, walking, and seeing “Kinky Boots,” the Broadway musical that burns with exuberance and joy. While I didn’t walk out humming tunes, I walked out feeling alive and exhilarated.

The weekend winds down and I am heading north for a couple of quiet days at the cottage. The city was hot over the weekend but never felt as warm as the temperature recorded. The city today seemed deserted, people and motor traffic minimal. It was almost serene.

I’m looking forward to the quiet in the country for a couple of days.

While I have been enjoying the city and its delights with the joyful company of my relatives, the world has been seething with its usual issues. Europe is struggling with the refugee crisis. The UK, unwilling until now to help, has agreed to take on 20,000 refugees while France will take 24,000. Arab nations have been taking very, very few refugees and the world is beginning to wonder why.

David Cameron has informed Parliament that British forces have killed some Britons who had gone to fight with IS. They were targeted because there was, according to Cameron, evidence they would return to the UK to carry out terrorist acts.

Kim Davis, the Kentucky clerk who refuses to issue marriage licenses to gay couples, has filed an emergency appeal with a Federal Court, petitioning her release. It asks the Governor of Kentucky to grant her an exemption from having to issue marriage licenses.

If obeying the law conflicts with her beliefs, I have wondered why she does not resign?

Speaking of getting around the law, teenagers have always been at the forefront of attempting to circumvent rules. Today’s teenagers are using e-cigarettes to now vaporize pot. Very clever and not entirely surprising…

When I was young, I was a great fan of “Route 66,” a television series starring Martin Milner and George Maharis as two young men wandering around the country in a Corvette, encountering adventures in every new city. It seemed romantic and I wanted to do just that.

I did one summer, in my Mustang, driving all over the country, sleeping on friends’ couches and having my share of adventures.

Martin Milner died today. RIP.

It is just past 8:00 PM and the world is dark, a sure sign the seasons are beginning to change. The long and lovely summer evenings are now in the past and the days will grow ever shorter until, at last, they will begin to grow longer.

I’ve never liked snakes. I have a morbid fear of them. Today Sanofi-Pasteur has announced it will no longer manufacture one of the most powerful anti-venom drugs because it is no longer profitable. 30,000 die of snake bites every year in sub-Saharan Africa and 8,000 lose limbs to amputation. It makes me shudder.

What causes great awe in me is the fact we exist at all. Some 13.8 billion years ago, scientists believe, the Big Bang occurred and the universe blossomed into existence. Scientists now have found a galaxy nearly as old as the universe. It makes me glow with wonder.

Other scientists and archeologists have found a “Superhenge” about two miles from Stonehenge. Apparently it makes Stonehenge look tiny. Still buried but found by earth penetrating radar it has scientists and archeologists panting in excitement. One has said that everything about Stonehenge will need to be re-written.

The bigger, older brother of Stonehenge was built 4,500 years ago about the time Egypt was rising and pyramids were being built.

Labor Day Weekend is coming to an end. Unlike in my childhood, I have no tension about moving on. I regret the passing of summer and will relish the coming of fall, a season that has always been my favorite.