Posts Tagged ‘Germanwings’

Letter From New York 04 17 15 Clouds billowing, going north…

April 17, 2015

Stepping out of the apartment this morning, I encountered a world that was grey and filled with the promise of rain. Luckily, I had found an umbrella squirreled away so I faced the world with some verve, with a bit of jauntiness to my step.

It was cool but not chill, feeling a bit more like a fall day than one in spring but not unpleasant. Walking over to Amsterdam, I picked up my favorite pair of shoes from the cobbler and headed down to my friend Todd’s office.

He and my godson, Paul, are friends and the three of us went to lunch with another one of their mutual friends, Nick. It was good to see Paul again, for another farewell before his Sunday return to Los Angeles.

I had a couple of conference calls and then headed for the train, crowded with folks heading north for the weekend, now that the weather is better.   The sun came out, teasing us with hope for a fair weekend.

As the train travels north, I am perusing the news of the world, a rather grim pursuit, I’m afraid.

The market plunged today by 280 points. Greece’s woes are rearing their ugly heads again, rattling markets. China is working to temper its runaway stock market. Adding to the concerns, Bloomberg Financial Terminals went offline for two hours, causing the British government to delay a sale of bonds for a week because the terminals are so central to trading.

Not that I am sure I object, the Time-Warner/Comcast deal seems to have run into some serious obstacles. Certain sectors are giddy with relief; I am sure that M&A lawyers are in a funk.

Al Qaida is tightening its noose in Yemen with 150,000 now displaced.

Iran, as I recall no great fan of the UN, is appealing to that body to do something about the Saudi bombings in Yemen.

In Iraq, things happened: a car bomb went off outside the US Consulate in the Kurdish capital and Saddam Hussein’s #2, on the run for all these past twelve years, was killed today while forty more were killed in bombings in Baghdad. Despite the loss of Tikrit, IS continues to control much of northern Iraq and part of Syria.

China, flexing its muscles to the dismay of its neighbors, is building some artificial islands in the South China Sea. On them it is building a significant airfield. The Spratlys are also claimed in whole or part by Viet Nam, Malaysia and the Philippines. China seems to be operating on the “possession is 9/10ths of the law” rule.

The British elections are hotting up, with no clear leader right now. Labour has declared the Tories “in a panic.” However, the Tories are feeling a bit bolstered by some good economic news. May 7th is the election.

Anti-immigrant attacks have now spread to Johannesburg in South Africa, drawing rebukes from both within the country and without.

Two weeks after a “framework” for a deal with Iran was announced, the gaps between the two sides seemed to be widening instead of narrowing. Obama will sign a bill that would allow the Senate to reject the treaty if more than 2/3rds disapprove, another wrinkle in the process.

There was a moving ecumenical service in Cologne’s Cathedral today for the 150 victims of the Germanwings crash. 500 relatives attended. The city stopped to mourn.

And as has been for days, there is a war of words going on over whether the Turks committed genocide on the Armenians a hundred years ago. Some in Congress want to officially call it that but doing so is complicated by Turkey’s role in the current fighting going on in the Mideast. The Turks have hardened their stance in recent years about the events of a century ago, defiantly denying that there were any acts of genocide committed.

The sun is setting through billowing grey clouds over the Hudson River as I move north. Everyone is working or sleeping, winding down from the week. At the end of my trip is a dinner with friends at the Red Dot and then home to my own bed and a weekend full of activities.

Letter From New York 03 28 15 In Holy Haridwar…

March 28, 2015

When I wake up in India, everyone I know is 9.5 hours behind me, sound asleep. It’s a little odd but I have gotten used to it. Beginning the day with an Indian breakfast, I moved on to two presentations here at Cognizance that I was interested in attending. One was by Kamlesh Sharma, Director of Coca-Cola, India. He is a remarkable young spokesperson for his company, invested with more enthusiasm for company, culture and product than I have recently seen in any individual.

He was followed by Elizabeth Nyamayaro, Senior Advisor, UN Women, who was here to talk about and evangelize “HeForShe,” a gender parity campaign launched by the UN earlier this year with a speech by Emma Watson, she of “Harry Potter” fame. And, yes, there is an app for that.

Following lunch, my new best friend, Ron Eglash, of RPI in Troy, NY, just up the road from Claverack, and I went with two of our young hosts to Haridwar, one of the seven holiest places in India for Hindus, the place where the Ganges flows into India.

We traveled for an hour to get there, through the dusty plains of northern India, past the roadside shantytowns and masses of humanity, threading our way through traffic, tossing our hat at danger at every moment. We rode past massive construction projects, all of which seemed halted at some point in their development with no sign they would ever be completed.

Walking on the bridge across the Ganges, you can stand and watch people bathing in the river. People by the dozens sell empty plastic bottles of varying sizes so that the pilgrims can take home the holy water of the Ganges.

People with deformed limbs line the walks, begging. It was a scene I remember well from my other times in India. One old woman looked me in the eye and I lined her tin cup with paper rupees. She reminded me of my mother.

In some ways, it felt very much like I was part of the Raj, sliding through the crushes of humanity in an air-conditioned Toyota, passing close enough to people that our eyes met and caught, my wondering about their world, as I am sure they wondered about mine.

Whole families transported themselves on motorbikes, no one wearing helmets, children delicately balanced between parents. It appeared to me that no one in India uses seatbelts either. Ashad, one of my hosts, languidly lounged in the front seat, his seat belt unbuckled.

The students who get into any of the branches of the India Institute of Technology are the best and brightest of Indian students. Each year only 5000 are granted places. I teased Ashad that I was with two of the brightest people I had ever known.

And I was.

We returned to the guesthouse as the sun was setting, a brilliant pink orb descending in the west and I retreated to my room to write.

While I was watching the Ganges flow, it was revealed that the co-pilot of the downed Germanwings flight, Andreas Lubitz, was responsible for the crash, with the loss of all aboard. He had said that his name would be famous. What a way to get what you want.

In Indiana, Governor Pence, has signed into law a “religious freedom” bill, which allows people to refuse service to same sex couples. He is surprised and frustrated that he is getting a negative response from a lot of folks, including the N.C.A.A., based in Indianapolis. The Mayor of San Francisco has banned all publicly funded travel to the state. Gen Con, a convention for gaming enthusiasts held every year in Indianapolis is threatening to leave. Salesforce.com is outraged and has said so.

Lots of celebrities and others, including Hillary Clinton, are piling on. The head of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce has called the bill “unnecessary.” Yelp is yelping, quite loudly.

Governor Pence is perplexed. If he had thought the bill was discriminatory, he wouldn’t have signed, he said.

He hasn’t ruled out a run for the Presidency.

Amanda Knox, who along with her boyfriend, had been accused of killing her roommate in Italy, has finally been vindicated and her conviction thrown out. The case has had more turns than a ride at Disneyland.

Apparently Hillary Clinton has wiped clean the server that she used for email in her years as Secretary of State. This isn’t going away for a long, long time.

And it’s not a very long time until I am giving my speech in the morning. I am skipping tonight’s festivities, a Swedish heavy metal band, and am going to my room after dinner to further prep my remarks and say some prayers that it all goes well.

Letter From New York 03 26 15 Second Day in India, at Humayun’s Tomb

March 26, 2015

It is said that only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the noonday sun. I must either be a mad dog or an Englishman as I was out in the noonday sun in Delhi. It was a lazy morning and I slept in later than I intended; I couldn’t seem to roust myself from sleep. After a leisurely cup of coffee and some email work, my friend, Raja, sent his driver Emmanuel for me to take me out sightseeing.

Emmanuel doesn’t have much English. An Indian native, he is a 7th Day Adventist. He did understand Qutub Minar and we drove there through the noonday traffic. Once I had purchased my ticket, I was approached by a guide who would take me through the site; the cost was 300 Rupees, about $5. I thought: why not.? His name was, I think, Parbal.

Qutub Minar is the site of Delhi’s oldest mosque. Qutub Minar is the minaret built to call the faithful to prayer. It is a magnificent edifice and a World Heritage Site. Built of red sandstone and marble, it towers to 73 meters. Its construction started in the late 12th century and was finished in the mid 14th century. The entire complex was amazing and Parbal took me through it, step by step for about 90 minutes.

There is an iron pillar in the midst of the complex. It predates the Qutub Minar and it was said that if you held your arms around it backwards, your wish would be granted. It is now fenced off. I was annoyed. I have a couple of wishes I’d like granted.

From there, I went to Humayun’s Tomb. Humayun was a 16th Century Mughal Emperor who inherited a kingdom, lost it and then got it back with help from the Persians. While not a good military strategist, he was a very good man, which earned him the title of “Perfect Man” among the Mughals.

He had several rascally brothers who kept betraying him and he kept forgiving them, several times over in the course of his lifetime. By the end of his life, he had recovered his empire and expanded it. His son was Akbar the Great.

It was the first garden tomb in India, surrounded as it is by acres of gardens, threaded through with narrow water channels and dotted here and there with fountains. It was designated a World Heritage Site in 1993 and has since then undergone much restoration. It was the inspiration for the Taj Mahal.

I visited it twenty years ago and attest that it is definitely in better shape than it was then.

As Emmanuel drove me through the streets of Delhi, I realized another change in the city. There are fewer homeless crowding the boulevards. Twenty years ago when you left the manicured gardens of the Oberoi Hotel, you were immediately thrust onto a boulevard crowded with rough tents and hundreds of people living there. Not so today.

Stopping for a bite to eat in a little brasserie, I watched a bit of the big Cricket match, not that I could make much sense of it. Everyone else was enraptured by the proceedings, not caring about anything else.

But while I was sleeping and touring, the world kept ticking on.

The Sunni Saudis are bombing the Shia rebels in Yemen and have amassed 150,000 troops to be used if they need them. The paper left at my door here at the India International Center, had a front-page report about the Yemeni President fleeing his home.

In a confusing and disturbing report, it appears one pilot was locked out of the cockpit at the time of the Germanwings crash in the Alps. The voice recorder reveals the pilot knocking on the door lightly and then pounding on it and then trying to break it down.

The military is going to charge Bowe Bergdahl with desertion, bringing, once again, into question the prisoner exchange that secured his release.

The US has now been asked by Iraq to send airstrikes in support of the effort to liberate Tikrit, where the offensive has stalled. It started doing so while I was asleep last night.

In Mosul, continuing their winning ways, IS stoned to death a couple in their 20’s for adultery and beheaded three young men because they were nephews of an opponent. Residents of Mosul are urging the Iraqi government to rescue them.

The sun is beginning to set outside the window of my room. A soft light is signaling the beginning of the end of the day. In awhile, my friend Raja will come and we will go off to dinner.