Posts Tagged ‘Human Trafficking’

Letter From New York 05 18 15 Of a grey day with some things interesting, some tragic…

May 18, 2015

As I trained into the city today from Claverack, the east bank of the Hudson River was shrouded in a fog, hiding the foliage on the far bank of the river, casting a ghostly pall across the landscape. It felt like the first shot in a Gothic romance set in the Victorian Age.

Closer into the city, the fog dissipated but New York has been grey all day, a heaviness that seems to have affected the citizens. Smiles have been hard to find today. One crossed my mouth as I passed through Penn Station this morning on my way to the subway.

I have almost gotten to the point where the soldiers blend into the background and are simply a part of the scenery. Today one soldier was tapping his foot to the rhythm of the music being played by a busker a hundred feet away. I smiled.

While on the train and the subway, I scanned the headlines of the day.

Blazoned across all the news outlets was the story of the fall of Ramadi, capital of Anbar province, hard fought for by American soldiers twelve years ago, now in the hands of IS. Iraqi soldiers were reported fleeing as fast they could. 25000 civilians fled the city, seeking safety in the capital. Reports have indicated at least some have been turned away from Baghdad.

It is also grimly reported that IS has slaughtered at least 500 as they overran the city, specifically seeking any soldiers or policemen.

In Waco, Texas there have been at least 192 arrests of bikers after a fistfight got out of control in front of a Twin Peaks restaurant, ending with nine bikers dead and eighteen others wounded. There are rumors that bikers from around the country are riding toward Waco, an image that calls up scenes from Mad Max, the older one, as I haven’t seen the new one yet. Police have cordoned off exits around the area and have said they’re ready.

At least five different motorcycle gangs were involved, including the Cossacks and the Bandidos.

Speaking of Twin Peaks, do any of you remember that quirky, creepy television show “Twin Peaks” from twenty-five years ago? It’s coming back. David Lynch will return to direct. Kyle McLachlan will be back to play his character, Special Agent Dale Cooper. Showtime has committed to a new series, picking up the crazy thread of a show that had everyone confused most of the time, while contributing regularly to nightmares. Will the “Log Lady” return?

The southern boundaries of Europe have seen increasing migrations of people desperate to depart Africa, much of the traffic coming from Libya and organized by criminal gangs involved in human trafficking. The EU has proposed launching a naval campaign to destroy their boats, thus disrupting their business. It awaits UN approval.

It appears the smugglers are being allowed by IS to operate out of the part of Libya they control in exchange for half their profits.

Macedonia’s crisis continues. The opposition is demanding the departure of Prime Minister Gruevski and he has been saying: no way, Jose! The opposition has rallies. Gruevski gets out his followers. Violence is in the air. Gruevski is saying this is all the result of foreigners.

That sounds familiar.

What is unfamiliar is that President Maduro of Venezuela may face real opposition in the next elections. Sentiment is growing against him. Polls indicate that if elections were held today, he would be out on the street.

In less dramatic news today, the President of the United States got his own twitter account. @Potus. There was some kidding back and forth between Obama and Bill Clinton [@billclinton]. Apparently the twitter handle will go to the next occupier of the Oval Office.

Also, little Elian Gonzalez, who was found floating off Florida in 1999 by some fishermen is now grown up. His mother died attempting to get the two of them from Cuba to America. His arrival caused a tug of war between those who wanted him to stay and those who thought he should be returned to his father. In a dramatic moment, armed men stormed the house where he was staying with one of the rescuing fishermen and forcibly removed him so as to return him to Cuba.

He now would like to return to America to express his love for this country, he has said in an exclusive ABC interview.

Speaking of ABC, George Stephanopoulos has found himself in some uncomfortably hot water. Apparently he has given $75,000 to the Clinton Foundation without telling his bosses at ABC. They consider it an honest mistake. Republicans are, not unexpectedly, calling for some version of his scalp.

Today has been full of events, some just interesting, some like Ramadi, tragic, and it would be possible to continue longer but it’s time to wrap up.

I’m off to seek some sustenance at the end of the day and see if I can shake the weight of this grey day.

Letter From New York 05 07 15 Rolling south on the Anniversary of Lusitania’s sinking…

May 7, 2015

As I write this, I am traveling south on the Northeast Regional Amtrak to Washington, DC, passing through an unattractive industrial zone right this minute. I am going down for a few appointments and to visit my friends, Lionel and Pierre, who are now living in Baltimore. I’ll take a train back up there this evening after I finish my 5:00 meeting.

They have already made dinner reservations at The Oyster House, one of their favorite restaurants.

As I am gliding down to DC the British voters are at the polls to decide who’ll be the next Prime Minister though I rather suspect there is going to some coalition building that will need to be done to form a government. It could all come down to the Scots, who have been surging in the polls and may hold the key to forming a new government, something neither the Tories nor Labour seem to want to contemplate.

The NY Times had an article about unusual polling places in the UK that included a pub and a hairdressing salon. Might be nice to have a vote at the pub, preceded or succeeded by a good draught of ale.

My friend Nick Stuart is going to a party tonight at the British Consulate for expats like him to watch the results. As I recall, Nick told me he tends to vote Liberal Democrat, the party brought in last time by the Tories to form a government.

France just strengthened its surveillance laws while here an appeals court has declared that the NSA, as revealed by Edward Snowden, has gone too far and has ruled its phone data collection illegal.

Tom Brady, quarterback for the Patriots, and arguably the biggest sports star today, has had his luster tarnished by fallout from Deflategate with the NFL saying it was probable that knew the balls were probably being deflated. It’s not a pretty tale.

A pretty tale for Maersk is that their ship, the Tigris, has been released by Iran and its crew is safe. In a sign of de-escalation of tension, the US Navy is no longer escorting American ships through the Straits of Hormuz.

To the west of the Straits of Hormuz is Yemen, now staggering under a humanitarian crisis triggered by the inability of ships to get permission to land their cargoes of food and fuel. Yemen imports 90% of what it consumes and there are at least ten ships laden with goods being prevented from landing by Saudi Arabia. It’s estimated that 80% of the country is going hungry. Anything that does get in finds its delivery delayed by the ongoing fighting, power outages and loss of foreign workers, who have fled the violence.

Continuing to the West, in Africa, disturbing allegations have risen against some of the French forces that were stationed in the Central African Republic last year. At least fourteen soldiers are suspected of having sexually abused minors in a refugee camp. Also disturbing is that it is also alleged that the UN slowed an investigation into the charges while suspending the UN worker who reported the abuse.

My impression of Thailand is generally that of a reasonably gentle country and one that is also reasonably safe. Yet mass graves have been found there. They are believed to contain the bodies of individuals from Myanmar [Burma] and Bangladesh, which had paid smugglers to get them into Thailand. Fifty police officers, some senior in rank, have been transferred from their current jobs to other positions. Eighteen arrest warrants have been issued.

General Prayuth, who runs Thailand after seizing power a year ago [I also forget about the regularity of the coups there] was confronted with the issue almost the moment he came to power but though he promised the US immediate action there was not much movement. Thai officials seem often to be passive about the issue or are actually involved in the game.

If you missed my note about it yesterday, today is the 100th Anniversary of the sinking of the Lusitania. After it was torpedoed, men on the deck exhorted each other to “Be British, boys, be British!” There were 39 babies aboard the Lusitania; only four survived. If you’re interested, I do recommend “Dead Wake,” a book by Erik Larsen chronicling the last voyage of Lusitania.

We are now south of Wilmington, Delaware and the scenery has improved. There is still another hour or so to go. I look forward to seeing Lionel and Pierre’s apartment and to experience a bit of Baltimore.