Posts Tagged ‘Iran’

Letter From Claverack 11 25 2016 Thankfulness after Thanksgiving…

November 25, 2016

Outside the window, it is grey, darkish and chill.  Judy Collins is playing on my Echo [Alexa!  Play Judy Collins!  And she does.]. It is the day after Thanksgiving, the kind of day to curl up with a good book, a blanket and a fire, which I will do after finishing this missive.

My friend, Sarah, sent me something she had received from one of her dearest friends, who now lives in a Buddhist monastery.  “May you enjoy a peaceful day of gratitude for everything that is good and right in the world.”

A great thought for the day after Thanksgiving.  There is, after all, much that is not right in the world.

The list of things wrong in this world is endless.

And so, too, is the list of all the things right in the world.  When I wake in the morning, I do my best to take a moment to be grateful that I have awakened, that I live, that I am surrounded these days by the soft winter beauty that is my little patch of earth.

Yesterday, Lionel, Pierre, their dog, Marcel, and I wandered up the road to Larry and Alicia’s home, with a view down to the Hudson River.  We ate, drank, were merry, and grateful and then gathered around the baby grand piano and Lionel “bashed” out tunes to which all but me sang along.  I cannot carry a tune; sitting instead on the sofa, I listened with joy.

We stayed last night at the Keene Farm, Larry and Alicia’s guest house, a wonderful, smaller house than their home at Mill Brook Farm, which is the main residence. That is a house with its foundations in the Dutch settlers in the 1600’s, added onto in the 18th Century, restored in the 20th, added onto again in the 21st.  As we left there today, I was thinking I have what I have and I am happy with what I have, content in this third act time.

One of the things I have in this world are wonderful friends.

On Holidays, I have a tradition of texting everyone I have texted in the last year with a “Happy Thanksgiving” or a “Merry Christmas” or “Happy New Year.”  Yesterday, my friend Jeffrey texted back he was grateful I was in his life and tears sprung to my eyes.  We’ve known each other a long time; been a constant in each other’s lives.  It felt so good to know.

Kevin, my nephew, texted me that he loved me as did my godson.  Smiles played on my lips.  Two such wonderful men; so lucky to have them in my life.

After last night’s feast, we brunched today at the Keene Farm; Lionel and I cooked while Pierre walked, Marcel sniffing around, enjoying the wonders of a new place.

The world is scary.  Terrible things are happening and I know that.  I am sourly aware that a bomb exploded yesterday in Baghdad, killing Iranian pilgrims.  In Iran, a train derailment took 43 lives.  Refugees are pawns in the political war of wills between the EU and Turkey.

And outside my window, the Claverack Creek slowly makes it way to the pond at the edge of Jim Ivory’s land, full this year of geese, after their absence for nearly five years. It feels a little order has returned to the universe.

Yesterday, a bald eagle swooped up the creek and took momentary residence on a tree limb across from my window.  Then he spread his wings wide and soared up creek, to the north, seeking I know not what.

The bald eagle, symbol of the American Republic, a troubled Republic we all know, yet I quote my great friend Jan Hummel:  we will survive this.  We survived Warren G. Harding, after all, and Grover Cleveland, who was a scoundrel of the worst sort.

Google it…

Dried, dead leaves scatter my deck, an Adirondack chair sits looking lonely over the creek, the dull grey of the skies has continued now for two days.  Now I am listening to Joan Baez, thinking back, gratefully, to those days in my youth when I first heard Judy Collins and Joan Baez.

We are all tender right now.  Being grateful for the good things in our lives will help us heal, I think.

 

 

 

Letter From New York 05 01 2016 From Church to Bin Laden…

May 2, 2016

Five years ago Osama Bin Laden, a rich kid who definitely went bad, was killed in his hiding place in Pakistan, apparently with a stash of video porn.  Born privileged, he rejected privilege and embraced fundamental Islam and wreaked havoc on the world, partly supported by his personal wealth as a scion of a family that had made a huge fortune in construction in the great oil years in Saudi Arabia.  It was said he only wore a shirt once and then discarded it.

Fast forward and Al Qaeda is in decline while its successor, IS, is on the rise.  Or is it?   Its territory has shrunk this year and there is a full on assault about to happen on Mosul, one of the chief cities it has conquered.

However, they are not a country per se and attack places like Brussels and Paris as terrifying terrorists.  The world is a crazy place, isn’t it?  Full of anger, full of hate, full of vitriol and absolutism.  I certainly hope we survive this as well as we survived the vitriol and absolutism of Nazism.  That thought gives me hope.

On Tuesday, Indiana votes.  It looks like it is going to be another Trump victory.  Some polls have hime with a 15% lead. Others have him with a smaller lead but in all polls he has a lead.  It may be a “make it or break it moment” for Ted Cruz.

And as so much of the 2016 campaign has been, this is a fraught moment.  Cruz fights for his political life and Trump sails on, turning every disadvantage into an advantage.  It has been mind boggling to watch and frightening to contemplate. 

This is where we are in politics.  And it is Ted Cruz who helped set the stage for the current scene.

Last night was the White House Correspondents Dinner and while I didn’t watch it in real time, the video clips have been good and demonstrated that Obama has a ready wit [I am sure helped by good writers].  People I know found it great fun and I will look at clips tonight, once I have finished this missive.

The days are growing longer.  It is nearly eight and there is still light and I am looking at the creek in twilight but not darkness.  I love this time of year as the world moves towards the longest day of the year. 

It is a moment of happiness.

It has been a sweet day.  There was a good dinner party last night.  My guests were Larry and Alicia.  A while ago had been his birthday and last night we celebrated it.  Today Larry and Alicia invited me to join them at Ca’Mea for lunch after church, which I did and which was great fun.

I am sitting at my dining room table and am looking out over the creek and am so grateful for this place and this time.

May you be happy in your place and time.

Letter From New York 03 18 2016 Thoughts while riding north…

March 19, 2016

A brilliant sun is beginning to set over the Catskills as I ride north on the train.  There is a great swath of sunlit river streaming straight toward the train as we crawl north.

There might be snow this weekend; a nor’easter may be storming our way though the forecast for Claverack doesn’t seem to indicate snow.  It will be what it will be…

I am headed down to the city on Monday so I can sit in on the taping of Howard Bloom’s podcast, “Howard Bloom Saves The Universe.”  [Available on iTunes.] Then a couple of meetings on Tuesday, a lunch on Wednesday and then I’ll race back to the country.

Easter Sunday is in front of me and I’m doing the brunch after Mass.  I am beginning to think the General in me will need to come out.  With moderation, of course…

While I have been doing my meetings in New York, the Belgian police have been conducting raids, which netted one of the prime suspects in last fall’s Paris attacks, Salah Abdesalam.  It may be an intelligence coup.  Other suspects also have been detained, some for helping him.

The EU has struck a deal with Turkey to return refugees to them while Greece, a bankrupt country, is on the verge of being a refugee prison.  Would this be or not be a good time for an American to go to Greece?  I love the country and would like to visit.

The Hudson is now steel grey and there is pink in the sunset.  “Red sky at night, sailor’s delight.”  Pink?  Probably good…

Mitt Romney has said he is supporting Ted Cruz.  Has it come to this?

Merrick Garland made some rounds on the Hill today while the Republicans say, with absolutism, they will not consider him.  Ah, love gridlock…  So now that Congress in in recess the fight is going to the home front.

It’s my understanding Georgia has passed a religious freedom bill, which is interpreted by many to be anti-gay.

The NFL as in the National Football League, has said that this might impact their plans to have the Superbowl in Georgia.  Unintended consequences…

The markets have finally caught up with where they were at the end of last year but more to be thought of about where the markets are.  Are things good again or not?  The reports in the press seem divided.

Dark has descended on the trip.  We are now headed toward Hudson.  The  evening progresses.  When I am off the train, I’ll head to the Red Dot for a bite to eat and then home. 

My bathroom is being repainted and from the pictures I’ve seen looks quite wonderful.  Tomorrow I am meeting young Nick to pick up a new sink and faucet while at the same time picking out new appliances for the kitchen.

Now that I am living more at the cottage than anywhere else I would like it to be more me than it is now.

It is what we all want, our homes to represent ourselves.

Home is something I have thought about all my life, a looking for home.  The cottage is the most I have ever felt at home and I am so grateful I have found that place.

The world will roar and the political battles will be fought and at the end, I will be at home, in the cottage, looking over the creek while the world plays itself out.

Letter From New York 01 27 16 Elizabeth Taylor, Marlon Brando and Michael Jackson all get in a car…

January 27, 2016

As I type, the train is sliding south towards New York City.  To my right, the sun is setting and the fading glints of golden sun are reflecting off the ice floes in the Hudson.

Friends warned me yesterday when they heard I was coming in to bring my boots.  The city is warming up and the snow is melting, creating rivers at the intersections.

There are a couple of meetings and then I get to see Kevin, my nephew, and to give him his wedding anniversary present to carry back to Washington, DC, where he and Michelle live.

Ammon Bundy, of the Oregon Stand-Off fame has been captured while one of his top lieutenants and frequent spokesperson for the group, was shot down after, reportedly, charging at the police.  According to reports, the dead rancher, LaVoy Finicum, had vowed to die before he went to jail.

About eight occupiers are still within the Refuge and are managing a live YouTube stream from there.  One faced the camera and said, “They’re coming to kill us.”  The FBI has been taking a patient stance on this one, letting time play out.

Playing up, or perhaps acting out, is Donald Trump who won’t appear on the Fox Republican Debate because Megyn Kelly is one of the moderators.  He used the word “bimbo” in relation to her in a tweet.  The tweet went : “I refuse to call Megyn Kelly a bimbo, because that would not be politically correct. Instead I will only call her a lightweight reporter!”

What would a day right now be without another piece of mind from The Donald?

Perusing the entertainment news this evening, I fell upon a story of a new film, based on a Vanity Fair story, that has Michael Jackson, Elizabeth Taylor and Marlon Brando all jumping into a car together to reach New York after 9/11.  The movie that will star Stockard Channing as Elizabeth Taylor and Joseph Fiennes as Michael Jackson.  Brian Cox is Marlon.  Wait, Joseph Fiennes is a white actor best known for “Shakespeare in Love.”  Ahhhhhh, what are they thinking?  We’ll find out someday.

But what a concept, Elizabeth Taylor, Marlon Brando and Michael Jackson in a car crossing America, together!  Sounds like an absurdist play… I think.

The Iranian President is visiting Italy.  A museum there covered its statues of naked men and women to be sure he wasn’t offended. When Italian journalists questioned this, no one has taken responsibility.  It happened but no one seems to have ordered it.  President Rouhani didn’t ask for it.  The Italian Prime Minister, Matteo Renzi, didn’t suggest it.  The head of the museum is shrugging his shoulders.

Do you remember the DeLorean?  It is making a comeback!  A company has been formed and will make about four a month, to be sold for about $100,000 a piece.   It’s the car Marty McFly and Doc Brown flew into the future with in the “Back to the Future” series of films.

The Fed has hinted today that it is possibly still on track for a March rate hike which caused another day of market swoons.  But not for Facebook, it soared on rising revenue! But Apple, darling Apple, fell after reporting its best quarter ever but folks are worried it doesn’t have much up its sleeve for the future.

After the Nazis occupied Denmark and began ordering Jews to wear a yellow star, the Danish King started doing the same in an act of solidarity with his Jewish subjects.  Today Danish lawmakers passed a law that allows Denmark to seize the valuables of refugees seeking asylum there. 

It doesn’t seem a very Danish thing to do and underscores how frightened Europe is about the influx of immigrants.  The Danes are going to make the immigrants live in specific areas or camps which is going to increase their isolation and their dependance on the Danish government.

The US, historically, simply lets immigrants in and lets them go about their business, making us incredibly diverse and relatively peaceful in our diversity.  Europe doesn’t seem to be following our example — we haven’t done it perfectly but over time we have gotten more right than wrong.

The golden tinged sun has set; it is dark, the city approaches…

Letter From New York 10 28 15 Cheery in the middle of swampy mess…

October 28, 2015

South Sudan. Dinka. Nuer.Cannibalism. Zanzibar. Boko Haram. Obama. Cameroon.  IS.  Caucasus. Iran. Syria. Russia. US. Turkey. Putin.

Outside the day is grey, gloomy, down right dark and definitely chill. My own spirits are quite the opposite. Despite the exterior my interior is quite bright, for no particular reason but I am delighted and grateful for the quiet joy of this dark day. I’m at my friend Todd’s office, doing some work for him and some for myself.

I had a couple of personal errands to do this morning and then I arrived here, an island of warmth and cheer on a dark and rainy day.

Reading about the conflict in South Sudan trumped my cheeriness. There has been violence ranging there for months and the two sides have been brutal. There are tales of the Dinka killing Nuer ruthlessly; sometimes making them jump into bonfires and then forcing people to eat the burnt flesh. There have been rapes, pillaging, burning of churches, all the things that happen when men get fire in their killing bellies.

Further south elections in Zanzibar may explode into violence and across the continent Nigeria has freed approximately 300 women from the Boko Haram.

Obama has sent three hundred soldiers to Cameroon to train soldiers. Africa and the Middle East are riven with Islamic terrorists. Some, like Boko Haram, have sworn allegiance to IS. And everywhere I look it seems we have a muddied response to it.

Iran has now joined the Syrian conversation at the same table with the US, Syria, Turkey and Saudi Arabia, its longtime regional rival. Iranian troops are on the ground in Syria. The Russians are there. The Turks seem to be chasing the Kurds there more than IS. It is a political, ideological swamp and in that swamp millions are displaced and dying.

Putin, who is playing around in Syria, has his own IS problem. There is a ragtag group of rebels in Russia who have declared the Caucasus Emirate and sworn allegiance to IS. Muslim Russians are being recruited by IS, going to fight and are returning. Mostly they are locked up or under police surveillance but the social unrest and economic hardships in that part of Putin’s Empire is making it easier for IS to recruit.

It is a cycle that may be coming around to bite Putin in the back. It’s why he says he is in Syria. Now some of the 7,000 Russians and former citizens of the Soviet Union who are there are trying to slip back into Russia to wreck havoc in retaliation.

Thinking I would get some relief by seeing what was happening in the world of entertainment, I quickly backed off when I kept finding stories about the ubiquitous Kardashians.

Goodness, looking at the world’s stories has tempered the day’s good natured-ness. I will have to get it back.

Letter From New York 10 08 15 From Minneapolis…

October 8, 2015

Speaker of the House. Kunduz. Doctors Without Borders. Russia. Iran. Obama. Putin. Rupert Murdoch and “real blackness.” Paul Prudhomme. Spencer Stone. Sepp Blatter. Svetlana Alexievich.

Letter From New York originates in Minneapolis today, where the sun burst through the sky and it was charming this morning, warm after a light rain last night. But, alas, now the sun has slipped behind dark clouds and rain is threatening.

Tonight I will be having dinner with Jean Cronin Olson, who once, very long ago was a student of mine and in the intervening years, for the most part, we have kept in touch and often when I am in Minneapolis we gather for coffee and a long chat. Tonight it’s dinner at her home with her husband Jon and whatever of her four children will be about.

The idea that my students have adult children is very sobering to me.

Sobering to the Republican Party was the unexpected announcement that Kevin McCarthy, widely thought to be the man who would replace John Boehner as Speaker of the House, was withdrawing his name from consideration. Apparently, he, like Boehner, doesn’t want to content with the forty or so hard to the right, Tea Party Republicans who think they should be running the show.

By all accounts, it’s all rather mad and according to the Washington Post, very much like Neflix’s political drama, “House of Cards.” Now who will be playing Francis Underwood in this real life drama?

President Obama phoned Dr. Joanne Liu, the head of Doctors Without Borders and offered an apology for the bombing of their hospital in Kunduz. At least thirty-three workers are dead. She has acknowledged she “received” the apology but there is no indication that she has accepted it. She wants an independent investigation of the incident.

Russia has been firing missiles from ships in the Caspian Sea at targets in Syria. Four of them fell short and landed in rural Iran. I wonder what the Ayatollah thinks about that?

Putin turned 63 and celebrated with a lot of hockey themed events. He and his staff played against a team of professional Russian players. Not so shockingly in today’s Russia, Putin’s team won! Imagine that! And Putin got a gold medal for the most successful shots. Amazing! Is there nothing this man can’t do brilliantly?

He is, in fact, if not in title, Tsar Vladimir of Russia. But let us not forget the brutal end of the last real Tsar. Nicholas II and his family ended in front of a firing squad.

Rupert Murdoch is one of the “Tsars” of global media. He has become infatuated with Ben Carson and tweeted that he wondered what it would be like to have a “real” black President. Rupert has since apologized. As he should.

In the 1990’s the great television gathering called NATPE [National Association of Television Programming Executives] met one year in Las Vegas and the following year in New Orleans. On one of the New Orleans’ excursions I met Paul Prudhomme, the Cajun chef, who passed away today after at short illness at 75. He shot around his restaurant on an electric scooter. He was near his heaviest at the time, weighing well over 550 pounds. It was a good meal.

Spencer Stone, who helped stop a massacre on a French train a few weeks ago, was stabbed in Sacramento early this morning after leaving a nightclub. Seriously wounded, he is expected to survive.

Sepp Blatter, President of FIFA, has been suspended. So have a few other senior officials. One wonders who is running the place though one has wondered that even when they were there.

And finally, Svetlana Alexeivich, a writer from Belarus, has won the Nobel Prize for Literature. She tells history through the voices of people who lived it. Hats off.

Soon it is time for me to go and get ready for dinner. May yours be good.

Letter From New York 09 28 15 Dealing with Putin, Obama, VW, NASA and IS

September 28, 2015

Super Moon. Putin and Obama at the UN. Water flowing on Mars. An independent Catalonia? Taliban rising, again. Living on $17 a day. More on Volkswagen.

Last night, when the eclipse came at 10:47, I was already deeply in the arms of Morpheus. I had thought I might be able to make it but I was asleep before ten, drifting off, like many other days, reading a book.

Now I am on my way into New York City to have dinner with my godson, after a meeting this morning in Hudson. The day, which I thought was going to be sunny, has turned gray and mournful. The Hudson River looks like a sheet of beaten silver. Leaves are beginning to turn though I suspect it may not be a too colorful fall; the leaves that have turned haven’t much color and look as if they had just surrendered to winter, without a final burst of brilliance.

Both Putin and Obama spoke today at the UN. Even though he is meeting Putin today, Obama questioned Russian motives while leaving the door open for a constructive working relationship. That feels a little hard to imagine, a day after Russia, Syria, Iraq and Syria made an agreement to collaborate with each other on IS, without alerting or consulting the U.S.

But who knows what will happen behind closed doors with the two of them?

NASA now says that water flows intermittently on Mars. While it may be briny, it does flow at times which opens the doors wider for life on the Red Planet at some point in its past or present. Wouldn’t that be amazing? [And you’re correct, I am eagerly awaiting the Matt Damon starrer, “The Martian.”]

While I was wrapped in the arms of Morpheus, worshipping the god Somnus, the Taliban seized most of the city of Kunduz in Afghanistan, giving them a prize they have long desired. Afghan Security Forces and UN Personnel fled to safety as defenses collapsed.

It is the first time in fourteen years that the Taliban have managed to swarm into a city rather than attack with isolated bombings and individual acts.

Far to the west, in Spain, the Catalonian region held elections yesterday. A year ago, the region held a referendum on independence from Spain and those who wanted to leave outvoted those who wanted to stay. Madrid declared it unconstitutional and Catalonia remains part of Spain.

In yesterday’s elections, secessionists won a majority of seats but conventional wisdom seems to be thinking that Catalonia doesn’t really want independence but it wants a better deal from the Central government. This election helps strengthen their hand.

17 Florida legislators, mostly Democrats, are going to live on $17.00 a day for a week in a gesture to support a law to raise the minimum wage to $15.00 an hour. They figure that $17.00 is what a minimum wage worker has left over to live on when all the basics are paid.

We all know that Volkswagen had some really good code writers for the software they used in their diesel cars. It fooled testers into believing the cars weren’t emitting pollution when they were.   Now the former head, who stepped down after the scandal broke, is now being investigated for fraud. Martin Winterkorn intimated he knew nothing but the German authorities aren’t so sure.

VW has lost a third of it market capitalization since the crisis exploded and the 78-year-old company is facing its biggest challenge.

More dull economic news from China resulted in more losses for the markets today. No denying it’s a global economy.

Nor can I deny that the sun has come out as I am passing the slowly rising new Tappan Zee Bridge. It burst through clouds and now glimmers off the silver water.

The train is well over an hour late and the conductors are being bombarded by questions as to when we’ll get to New York. One poor man is attempting to catch a plane out of Kennedy. He might JUST make it.

I will make my dinner with my godson and for that, I’m grateful.

Letter From New York 08 01 15 Thoughts from the west bank of the Claverack Creek…

August 2, 2015

Behind me, soft jazz plays on Pandora. In front of me the creek is reflecting the green that overhangs it. The sun is setting and I am at the table on the deck writing on my laptop. It seems the perfect way to end a day.

It was not an eventful day. I woke early. As I went to turn on the coffee pot, the deck glistened with a recent rain. I went out there to sit.

In the early morning, I sat reading the NY Times and taking in the fresh air, listening to the songs of the birds in the trees. It seems right that I am bookending the day with more time on the deck. Every moment here is precious. In a time I can see coming, the trees will turn the brilliant colors of fall and then the winter will come. I enjoy the seasons and am grateful that my little piece of heaven includes four of them.

It is a soft and silky evening. Alana, proprietress of the Red Dot, and Patrick, her partner, were here for part of the afternoon and recently left. As I was leaving after lunch at the Dot, she asked me to stay and I did. She wanted to come and sit on the deck, watch the creek and experience a moment of peace. It has been a tough week for her.

They came. We had wine and cheese and then they left and I am here in the silver light of the end of day, listening again to the songs of the birds and thinking about the world.

An eighteen-month-old Palestinian baby was laid to rest today, immolated by Israeli extremists apparently. The rest of his family is being treated for burns. It is unsure that his mother will survive. Following a Jewish Orthodox man attacking the Gay Pride Parade in Jerusalem, knifing nine people, including a fifteen year old who is fighting for her life, this is a week when Israel is asking itself serious questions.

The serious questions they ask themselves are the same serious questions we all need to be asking ourselves. In America, we have become inured to the violence and that is tragic. For a few moments, after an event such as the killing of nine in Charleston, we ask questions but then go on, forgetting what has occurred until the next atrocity and when that happens, we quickly forget. It seems, sometimes, we learn nothing. The Confederate Flag has gone down in South Carolina and that is good but shouldn’t it have come down long ago?

While it is warm in upstate New York, it is blisteringly hot in Iran and Iraq. Iran posted a heat index of 165 degrees Fahrenheit today and in Iraq a four-day mandatory holiday has been declared to help people cope, especially since the delivery of electricity is not very reliable. I can’t comprehend a heat index of 165 Fahrenheit. Sorry, not processing. I think I would incinerate.

The Donald is still leading the Republicans in the polls and I am still confused how that can be but it is.

There has been no agreement on the Trans-Pacific Partnership after meetings in Hawaii. Everyone seems to thing it will still happen but that it didn’t happen was unexpected. And a bit of an embarrassment for Obama… However, there were 650 people meeting! It’s hard for me to get three people to agree on where to eat!

Facebook is prepping a drone to bring Internet access to people who don’t have it. Its CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, is expecting a baby. Gosh, the world keeps going on. I’m more excited by the Internet access than the baby but that’s probably because I don’t know Mark personally.

An Ebola vaccine looks more than promising and, hopefully, it will help contain and eliminate that scourge from the world.

The light around me is very silver. The day is ending. I am in twilight and the world around me is growing quiet. The birds are not as outspoken. Far away is the sound of something motorized, a sound I don’t recognize, something new. The jazz continues playing and soon I will go into the house and watch a movie.

Letter From New York 05 21 15 From Palmyra to Santa Barbara…

May 21, 2015

It is the Thursday before the Memorial Holiday weekend and people are fleeing the city; driving through the park was the easiest I’ve ever experienced when I was taking a cab back after a morning appointment on the East Side. It is also another grey day in New York, one in a series though the forecast for the weekend is supposed to be better than what we’ve had.

The media news of the day has been a full blast of coverage of the final show for David Letterman, who for thirty-three years has worked the late night hours, longer than anyone else. The New York Post had a columnist who did an exegesis of Letterman’s career, feeling he had gone from unique to mundane but the majority of reports were glowing and regretful that he was leaving the scene. He bowed out with grace and humor, didn’t shed a tear though those in audience did. Bon Voyage!

Also trumpeted across the headlines today was that Palmyra in Syria has fallen to IS and now IS is in control of 50% of Syria. Palmyra has given it control of a hub of roads that are major Syrian connectors as well as major gas wells. Fears have grown that the magnificent ruins on the outskirts of the city will be ravaged by IS militants. In the meantime, the city’s residents are cowering in fear of their lives. A house–to-house search has been going on as IS looks for Syrian soldiers. 17 have been reported killed, some by beheading, because they were associated with the government.

Adding a new wrinkle to the already messy situation in the Middle East is that Putin is putting his finger in the puddle now. Iraqi Prime Minister Al-Abidi is in Moscow and Putin is making him feel very welcome. The Russians are talking about expanded trade and delivery of military weapons to the Iraqi armed forces. The Russians have also been cozying up to Iran, which has been helping Iraq. An interesting mix is developing here and it can’t be making Washington happy. One gets the feeling that maybe we’re being outflanked.

As I’ve mentioned before, the Chinese are taking some tiny spits of land in the South China Sea and artificially making them much larger. One of them will have an airstrip big enough to take very big planes. These islands are being used by the Chinese to expand their territorial claims. To refute those claims the U.S. has been sending planes through what we consider international airspace and which the Chinese now consider their airspace. The tension is rising over what effectively amounts to a stationary aircraft carrier in the South China Sea.

In Baltimore, six officers have been indicted in the Freddie Gray death that incited days of violence.

Santa Barbara is cleaning up its oil spill, not the worst they’ve had but bad enough.

And the state in which Santa Barbara resides, California, is learning to sip water rather than guzzle it. Though there are those who are fragrantly keeping their lawns green and their pools filled. It is a stark picture of the economic divide.

The President of the Boy Scouts of America, Robert Gates, Secretary of Defense under Bill Clinton, announced that he would not revoke the charters of groups that allowed gay councilors.

Ireland is voting tomorrow on whether or not to allow gay marriage. It is looking as if it will pass as polls indicate as many as 70% are in favor of it. Flights from America to Ireland are fully booked as Irish citizens are returning for the historic vote. Trains and ferries are being organized to take the Irish from the UK home for the vote.

Too bad Americans don’t take voting that seriously.

I must seriously end this, as shortly I will have to go meet my friend Paul Krich to have dinner in celebration of his birthday this week.

Letter From New York 05 12 15 In a world of choices and not so many choices…

May 12, 2015

Once again, when I went to sleep last night, I expected rain today. When I woke it was cloudy but rain was not in the forecast. It’s sunny and warm and summery in the city. I am working from the office of Broderville Pictures, founded by my friend Todd and I’m doing some work for him.

Another friend is helping organize a documentary film festival in China in December and I’ve recommended a few people to him and will see if I can come up with others.

It’s been an interesting week. I’ve been networking with lots of friends and catching up with people. It’s been good. I had lunch yesterday with Ty West, who is producing “Charlie Rose: The Week” for PBS. He is a good friend; another one I met on the train between New York and Hudson.

Today I had my eyes examined and am just beginning to see again after having had my eyes dilated. My eyes have changed a fair amount in the last two years. My left eye is weaker. My right eye is stronger and now I need to go through the painful [for me] process of choosing new glasses.

I am lucky. I live in a world of choices. Too many people must feel like they have no choices when they are living in places like Yemen and Nepal.

Beleaguered Nepal suffered another massive earthquake, killing more, shaking down more buildings, and frightening the population even more. An American helicopter, involved in aid work, seems to have gone down there. The newest quake will make it even more difficult to get the aid to remote villages. Some roads that had been cleared are now filled again with rubble.

Today a ceasefire is to begin in Yemen. In the hours leading up to the ceasefire, the Saudi led coalition bombed Sana’a relentlessly. An Iranian cargo ship is headed there, convoyed by Iranian naval vessels. The UN is suggesting they deliver the aid to a distribution center in Djibouti, an African nation directly across from Yemen. The Iranian convey has everyone nervous. The Saudis are supporting the Sunni side and the Iranians the Shia side. The new UN envoy to Yemen is saying that fighting will solve nothing but that’s what they seem intent upon doing.

No longer having any choices whatever is Ananta Bijoy Das, a secular blogger in Pakistan who was hacked to death on his way to his day job at a bank in Sylhet, in the northeastern part of Bangladesh. He is the third secular blogger hacked to death in that country.

Tomorrow is the day when John Kerry is supposed to meet with Putin at the Black Sea resort of Sochi, site of the last Winter Olympics. Putin is supposed to be there; that’s why Kerry is en-route but today the Russians said Putin was yet to be confirmed. Last time Kerry saw him, Putin was three hours late for the meeting.

For the last five years the El Nino effect has been quiet. Now it is rearing its head again with unpredictable results. British forecasters are suggesting it might mean record snow next year in the UK, Australians are saying there might be severe drought in northern Australia. It could mean heavy rains on the US West Coast and its Gulf Coast but may be not enough or soon enough to ease the drought in California. The Australians think it is going to be severe and meteorologists in Canada and the US are suspecting it will be moderate. Wait and see. Weak or strong, it’s coming.

My friend, Lionel, just move to Baltimore to be Vice President of Ad Technology for AOL. Today I woke to the news that AOL had been purchased for $4.4 billion by Verizon, mostly for their ad technology. One business pundit said something like that was pocket change for Verizon and another said it was another bad move by Verizon in the Internet space while others thought it was a very smart move. Time will tell, as they always say.

In the long ago and far away days when I was working in Los Angeles for an Internet start-up, one of my very good friends was dating Sandra Lee, the TV food star.   Later I was best man in his wedding to another woman but during their tenure, I met Sandra a few times. She is now living with Andrew Cuomo, Governor of New York. Today she announced she had breast cancer. I wish her well.

The day is beginning to come to a close. I am going up to the Café du Soleil tonight for a bite and then home to read a book.