Posts Tagged ‘Freddie Gray’

Letter From New York 04 12 2016 Too hard to think about children suicide bombers…

April 13, 2016

It has been a long day; I was up early because I am getting new appliances and the Columbia County Habitat for Humanity was coming early for my old stove.  They came and went and I waited for the new appliances to arrive. 

It all started with my dishwasher finally starting to give up the ghost which proceeded to all new appliances — a new stove, refrigerator, over the stove microwave and, of course, a new dishwasher.

When they arrived, the dishwasher, which started all of this, was the wrong one and so it had to go and the right one finally arrived.  In the meantime, I spent the day preparing for tomorrow’s lecture on magazines for “Media & Society,” the class I teach at Columbia Greene Community College.

Term papers were due last week and I graded them over the weekend, sending three back for revisions as I was working to help them achieve their goals for “good” grades.  One of the students got very upset with me for trying to help her get a better grade.  She had too many other things to do.

Such is the life of a teacher.  It was this way when I taught high school and it is now when I am teaching at a community college.

The good news story of the day is that a 72 year old woman, who was lost in the Arizona wilderness for nine days, was found alive after drinking pond water and eating plants.  She spelled help in twigs, stones and bones and was seen.  Suffering from exposure, she’s in the hospital in fair condition which is pretty good for an elderly lady who had been lost in the wilderness.

Paul Ryan has told the world to count him out.  He is not, repeat NOT, going to be the Republican candidate for President if it comes to a brokered convention. 

That is what Kasich is counting on; a brokered convention that will take him to heart as the only sane person in the party who could conceivably win. 

The Governor of North Carolina is back pedaling on the anti-gay law he signed into law as he is, rightfully so, rocked by the backlash he has received.  Hell hath no fury like corporate CEO’s who don’t agree with what you have done.

And that includes the very important banking community that has moved into North Carolina in recent years.  Deutsche Bank, who was going to build a presence there, has said:  no, not now, not because of this.

It was a year ago that Freddie Gray died in police custody in Baltimore and there is a feeling there that the mindset has changed.  I hope so.  It was one of those shocking moments in American life that leave you gasping.

What I have also learned in the last year is the passionate way people who live in that city have love for that city.  My friends, Lionel and Pierre, moved there the week before the riots and are now huge boosters of the city, passionately engaged there and loving it.

David Gest died in London today.  A successful producer, he married Liza Minnelli and that may be the thing for which he will be forever remembered.  It was a huge affair with Elizabeth Taylor as a Maid of Honor and Michael Jackson as Best Man and in a year they were divorced with all kinds of ugly rumors abounding.  He had been living in York in England for the last few years, far from the madding crowd, regretful for the cosmetic surgery he had, which did not turn out well.

Tonight, I am focussing on lighter things.  It’s the mood I’m in —  who wants to process that Boko Haram is manipulating children into being suicide bombers?

Yuri Milner, a Russian businessman, has joined forces with Stephen Hawking, wanting to send probes about the size of iPhones to Alpha Centauri, the star system closest to us.  They need to raise ten billion dollars but it sounds interesting.

I have always been a great proponent of space exploration.  “Ah, but man’s reach should exceed his grasp. Or what’s a heaven for?”  Robert Browning…

Letter From New York 09 02 15 Deliciously happy while refugees flee…

September 2, 2015

It’s been a warm but not unpleasant day in New York. The sun glittered down on the city and people moved about without seeming to be too uncomfortable though there was one man who got on the 1 train with me whose shirt was drenched. As I was walking up to the subway to head to my first appointment, I was thinking I was deliciously happy. Everything in my universe seemed quite right.

Of course, it isn’t. Since my friend, Robert Murray, mentioned it, I have noticed that there seem to be more beggars on the streets of New York this year. For months, Mayor DeBlasio has been downplaying homelessness as an issue. He has apparently realized it is a problem; the deputy mayor in charge of the issue, Ms. Barrios-Paoli, announced her resignation this week and more funds have been allocated for mental health care for the homeless.

The Syrian Crisis went viral today when its intensity and tragedy were captured in photographs of a drowned Syrian Kurd washed up on the shores of Turkey after failing to reach the Greek Island of Kos. He was three years old. His brother, five, also was lost. There are eleven million Syrian refugees, half the total of that country’s population.

Here is the picture if you would like to see. It broke my heart.

https://twitter.com/LizSly/status/639042438984699904

It makes the New York crisis seem small.

Chaos continues in Budapest as migrants attempt to make their way to Germany. For the second day in a row, trains have not run. Many migrants hold tickets but are not being allowed on the trains. EU officials continue to attempt to cope.

Greece, stuttering along under a caretaker government until elections on September 20th, is facing a huge crisis at a time it can least afford it. Kos is only a few miles from Turkey but the journey is dangerous and will become more so with the autumn.

IS has claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing at a mosque in Sana’a, the capital of Yemen. At least 28 people are dead. I wonder how history will interpret this orgy of Muslim killing Muslim? It makes me think I should study the Hundred Years War; Christians were killing Christians in fierce numbers during that conflict.

I confess I don’t understand it.

I don’t understand Kim Davis who is the County Clerk in Kentucky who continues to refuse to give marriage licenses to gay couples. [Or anyone for that matter.] She has been married four times, twice to the same man. She found Jesus four years ago. When elected to office she pledged  “[I] will be the very best working clerk that I can be and will be a good steward of their tax dollars and follow the statutes of this office to the letter.”

That she hasn’t done.

Someone launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise money for her. So far, it’s not raised a single dime.

Tomorrow she and her staff go to court to explain why she/they shouldn’t be held in contempt of court.

In another court matter, a Baltimore judge refused to throw out the cases against the policemen indicted in the death of Freddie Gray. His death set off days of riots in Baltimore. In a win for the defense, the cases will be tried separately, something the prosecution wanted. Baltimore has cancelled all leaves for policemen during this period though early protests have been mostly peaceful.

In San Antonio, controversy continues over the death of Gilbert Flores. Video apparently showed him with his arms up though he may have been holding a knife. It’s a stretch, hence the controversy, that holding a knife in a hand upraised in a surrender signal, constituted a real and present danger to the police that were present.

Outside my window, the day is shading gray and I’m going off to get some food at Thai Market and then head home to read. I’ve taken to falling asleep in bed, reading off my Kindle. It’s a nice way to slip into the arms of Morpheus.

Letter From New York 05 01 15 May Day

May 1, 2015

Sitting in my friend Todd’s office, the sun is shining down on New York City, a pleasant day, warmish temperatures and soon I will be leaving for Claverack, where I will see how the new paint in the living room and dining room looks. I’m a little nervous; I went bold and chose a red that I thought would work at the cottage. We’ll see.

I’ll be riding up on the 5:47, which is the weekly get together train for the train community. It’s a time to see one another, get caught up and to enjoy the end of the week together.

I look forward to it whenever I am able to make that train.

This morning, while the day was deciding whether it was going to be sunny or not, I sat at the apartment and read the Times, always an interesting way to start the day, finding out what I had missed while I was asleep.

One of things I learned was that “The Avengers: Age of Ultron” is opening this weekend. I will probably not attend. So is “Far From The Madding Crowd,” which I saw at a screening earlier this week, getting generally good reviews, a “rom con” version of Thomas Hardy’s book, something I think he would have been surprised about. Makes me want to watch the Julie Christie version of the film. Perhaps I will this weekend.

Those were light bits in the morning.

The harder bits had to do with the continuing difficulties in getting aid to survivors of Nepal’s earthquake. While getting slowly better, it’s not very good. Nepal is appealing to the international community for more helicopters to help them out.

The death toll has now risen above 6,000 and thousands are still missing.

Food and water are needed as is just plan old information. The BBC’s Nepali service is broadcasting regularly news and information, as are many Nepali national radio stations, attempting to disseminate whatever information they have and to counter the plague of rumors racing across the countryside. Google and Facebook have set up services to help people connect and people are being encouraged to text rather than phone to lessen the burden on the cellular infrastructure.

As I sat in the office doing some research my phone buzzed a couple of times with breaking news notices. They informed me that six police officers are being charged in the death of Freddie Gray. The speed at which the charges were brought has left everyone feeling surprised.

The city’s police union insists that none of the officers involved is responsible for Mr. Gray’s death.

Scheduled protests over the death will go on as planned.

Do any of you remember “Bridgegate?” About eighteen months ago, there was a period of a few days during which there were painful delays on the George Washington Bridge, a major entry point into New York City from New Jersey.

Today, David Wildstein, a former Port Authority of New York and New Jersey official, pleaded guilty to his role in causing major traffic jams near Fort Lee, NJ, as retaliation for that city’s Mayor not supporting Gov. Chris Christie’s bid for re-election.

His guilty plea triggered indictments for Bridget Kelly, Christie’s now former Deputy Chief of Staff and Bill Baroni, who was Christie’s main man at the Port Authority. Wildstein did not implicate the Governor himself but this can’t be good news for a man who is contemplating a run for the White House.

Today is May Day, a national holiday in some countries, celebrating International Workers Day. The idea for it started here in the United States when strikes were called on May 1, 1886 to institute an 8-hour workday. But we celebrate it on Labor Day.

Istanbul is pretty much under lockdown to prevent much May Day rallying. There are protests in Seoul, South Korea over labor practices and last year’s ferry sinking. In Greece they are marching against the austerity imposed by the European Union. In Berlin, it seems pretty peaceful, only fifteen were arrested. Tens of thousands marched in Moscow, waving the Russian tricolor flag. The Communist Party organized their own demonstration, calling for support of those fighting in the Donbass region. That’s eastern Ukraine.

In Milan the police used water cannons to disburse the crowds after a car was set on fire and marches in Madrid were calm. They’re protesting an unemployment rate that is nearly 30%. It’s a holiday in India, too, but I haven’t seen any coverage from there.

I have not marched anywhere today. I did stroll from the apartment to the subway and from the subway to my new favorite diner and that’s about it. I’ll stroll in an hour or so over to Penn and catch my train north to see how the paint job turned out. Fingers crossed.

Letter From New York 04 30 15 A day without rain and with hope…

April 30, 2015

It is, unbelievably, the last day of April. It feels as if the month has skidded by, careening away from me. I started it in India and then returned and blinked and we’re at the end of the month!

Today, according to yesterday’s weather forecast, was to be cloudy and rainy. It actually is fairly sunny and warm, not as warm as yesterday but enough that a sweater and a light jacket are enough.

It’s the kind of day I rejoice in.

It is also good today in that Baltimore seems quiet, even as reports begin to come out that Freddie Gray’s neck snapped while in the police van in which he had been placed after he was put in custody. The city is still under curfew; a friend from Baltimore left New York early today to make it back home before the curfew fell.

Hopefully, the news of the day will not ignite another night of riots.

Joining Hillary Clinton in the run for the Democratic Presidential nomination is Bernie Sanders. While a declared Independent, he caucuses with the Democrats. He is, according to reports, a plain speaking man with socialist tendencies and, as one admirer put it, “not afraid to speak truth to power.”

He could peel away some support from Hillary. It will make Iowa interesting, for sure.

In ravaged Nepal, two survivors were pulled from the rubble today, an improbable five days after the quake, one a teenage boy and the other a woman in her twenties.

Frustration continues to grow over the slow speed of aid arriving. Some villages have yet to receive anything from the center. The UN is asking for $415,000,000 to help Nepal through the next three months. Tension continues to grow between the citizens of Nepal and the government.

Cholera and dysentery are real possibilities as the supply of drinking water diminishes.

To the west of Nepal is Iran and the Straits of Hormuz, a strategic shipping zone for tankers and cargo ships. The US Navy announced today that it would escort all American flagged vessels through the Strait after Iran’s Revolutionary Guards commandeered the Maersk Tigris, which sails under the flag of the Marshall Islands.

Nestled between Iran and India is Pakistan, where ten men were sentenced to life in prison today for their attack on Malala Yousafzai three years ago. She was shot in the head for her academic activism on behalf of Pakistani girls. Malala, now 17, was sent to Britain for medical treatment, including several surgeries. She was named a co-recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize last year.

Kim Jong-un, who was in the news just yesterday for perhaps killing as many as 15 top officials since the beginning of the year, today cancelled his first trip abroad, which was to see Vladimir Putin. It was cancelled, say the Russians, for “internal reasons in North Korea.” This, along with the executions, has led to speculation that the pudgy little dictator’s hold on power is none too strong.

In other news, some NATO officers are concerned that the lull in Ukrainian fighting is giving time for Russia to help prepare another offensive. It appears they have brought in more troops and added to the anti-aircraft weaponry on the ground. On the other side of the equation are reports that Putin is open to an international peacekeeping mission in Eastern Ukraine.

As I mentioned yesterday, today is the 40th anniversary of the fall of Saigon, now known as Ho Chi Minh City. There was a ceremony there to celebrate the end of “the American War.” Once enemies, the two countries are becoming closer. 76% of Vietnamese think well of the U.S. Only 16% think well of China.

Today I read a series of articles in the NY Times and from the BBC, written by members of the Vietnamese Diaspora on how their lives have been affected since the end of the war. For some of them, the war is not really over. It continues in their minds and hearts and souls, many having lost relatives who stayed behind, or wondering about mothers who surrendered their babies to strangers to give them a chance in that place called America.

It was heartbreaking to read sometimes.

Louie Andre, a Vietnam vet returning for the first time to that country, said, “if you want to have hope about the future, you have to stop wishing for a different past. The past is what it is.” [Chicago Tribune]

He said he was met with handshakes and hugs. That gives me hope.

Letter From New York 04 27 15 The drumbeat of news…

April 27, 2015

Waking this morning, I checked the headlines on my phone and saw that the disaster in Nepal keeps getting worse as the country finds itself unable to do much to stem the aftereffects of the monster earthquake. The country is continuously being wracked by aftershocks. There is minimal organizational infrastructure.

Aid organizations all knew that this quake would happen eventually. The Kathmandu Valley is highly seismically active, a place where two tectonic plates meet. They knew it would be very bad.

The death toll is closing in on the 4000 mark. People are still sleeping in the streets, frightened to go indoors. Food and water are running out in some areas and the threat of disease will grow with each passing day.

Four Americans are so far counted among the dead, including a popular executive at Google, Dan Fredingburg, as well as a documentarian who was making a film about the base camp on Everest.

Compounding the difficulties is that the UN and other aid organizations are all attempting to deal with multiple “Level 3” crises in numerous spots all at the same time. There is no Level 4.

In Sudan, Syria, Yemen, Iraq, and many more places, needs are exceeding resources. Governments aren’t donating as much as usual nor are individuals. Need has never been greater than since the end of World War II.

Elsewhere on the world stage, the leaders of Sudan and Kazakhstan were re-elected with 90 plus percent of the votes in their respective countries. Almost too good to be true, don’t you think?

In Colorado, James Holmes, who in a gun rampage in a movie theater, killed twelve and wounded seventy, is going on trial today. He is pleading insanity though some of his examiners have proclaimed him sane. Prosecutors are protesting his plea.

It is bringing wounds to the surface for the survivors just as the trial for Tsarnaev did in Boston.

He is now facing sentencing and people in Boston torn between death and life in prison.

In Baltimore, thousands showed up for the funeral of Freddie Gray, who died of spinal injuries incurred while in police custody. There have been reports that gang members intend to “take out” police officers. It’s not known if those threats are directly linked to Gray’s death but Baltimore is advising police to take all necessary precautions to protect themselves and their families.

In breaking news, seven police officers have been badly injured there.

Techies will be delighted that Facebook has added video messaging capabilities to its Facebook Messenger.

Jayne Meadows, actress and widow of comedian Steve Allen, died today at 95. Her late husband was the first host of “The Tonight Show” and her sister, Audrey, starred in “The Honeymooners.” She was nominated for Emmy Awards three times in her career.

“Fast and Furious” remained the most popular movie at the box office this past weekend, now having grossed more money than “Frozen.”

“The Bali Nine” are a group that has been convicted of smuggling drugs in Indonesia. They are facing death by firing squad. One of them, Andrew Chan, has married his fiancée in the days just ahead of his scheduled execution. Many governments have been putting pressure on Indonesia not to carry out the executions but there have been no signs of it bending so far.

In Europe, markets rallied as optimism about Greece resolving its debt crisis rose today though many think it is just a matter of time before the drachma becomes the Greek currency again. Some politicians in Europe are talking about the possibility of a Plan B for Greece, which is resulting in the optimism.

In the far east of Russia, workers building a new space port are being told that they will finally receive millions of rubles in back wages after they complained on a call in show with Putin.

Putin says Russia’s “quasi partners” were apparently counting on a collapse in the Russian economy but that, he says emphatically, has not happened.

What is happening today is there is a panel being produced by the Producer’s Guild of America, of which I am a humble member, on multi channel networks, which I am attending tonight.

Outside it is sunny but there has been talk of rain and perhaps hail this evening, so I made sure I had an umbrella with me today, just in case. I am definitely hoping not to have to use it.

Afterwards, I am going out for a drink with my friend, Greg Nelson, and then home to my apartment to catch some sleep. The cottage is being repainted so I am staying away this week.

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.