Posts Tagged ‘Iranian Nuclear Deal’

Letter From the Train 09 10 15 On the train south, with an eerie landscape slipping by…

September 10, 2015

It is a grey and almost cool day as I ride the train south to the city; tomorrow I am making a day trip with a client to Washington, DC. The Hudson River is almost bronze in color, with small waves rocking the boats at anchor. It is a day that feels depressing; I have worked hard to be cheery and not cranky.

Mostly I have succeeded.

Bernie Sanders is “stunned” by the fact he is pulling close to Hillary Clinton in polls in key states like Iowa. Hollywood Democrats are re-thinking their support for her; wondering if Joe Biden will cease biding his time and jump into the race. One headline today from the Washington Post suggested it might be time for Hillary to go into panic mode.

On the Republican side, Trump and Ben Carson, both outsiders, are now doing a bit of infighting, while dominating the field. Carson questioned The Donald’s faith and Trump, of course, shot back. He also took a slam at Carly Fiorina, saying something that sounded like he thought she was ugly. He responded, nah, not her face, just her persona.

It certainly is keeping things amusing if not just a little frightening.

Scientists stunned the world with the announcement of a new human ancestor, Homo Naledi, found in a dark cave in South Africa by a team that was supported, in part, by the National Geographic Society.

That estimable group has now sold the majority interest in all its media properties to 21st Century Fox, including the venerable magazine, raising nearly three quarters of a billion dollars for the society. For the first time in its history, National Geographic Magazine will be a for profit operation.

I was stunned when I heard the news. Somehow it feels wrong.

Today there was a procedural vote to disapprove the Iranian Nuclear Deal. It was blocked by a vote of 58 to 42. Obama will not have to use his veto. It was a significant win for Democrats. We will all see how it plays out over the next decade.

A mist is now hovering over the river, obscuring the west bank of the Hudson. It is barely visible and slight streaks of rain are splashed against the window next to me. It is oddly comforting to be here, sitting on the train and watching the eerie landscape slide by.

We just slipped by Bannerman’s Castle, a structure built in the 19th century as a munitions depot that has fallen into ruins. It looks like a haunted castle, sitting on a small island that hugs close to the east bank of the Hudson. Dark and threatening clouds hover over the river.

IS is offering a Norwegian citizen and a Chinese citizen “for sale” in their online magazine. The Chinese government has not responded and the Norwegians have said they won’t pay ransom. A wealthy individual could rescue them, I suppose. The amount requested is, according the Norwegians, substantial.

To assist President Assad of Syria cling to power, the Russians have sent military advisers and troops to that country, bolstering Assad and his forces at a time when they seem to be losing on all fronts. Syria has been close to Moscow since 1955 and Putin is determined not to let it slip from his side. It complicates the equation for everyone.

In a story that brought me a smile, Queen Elizabeth II of Britain, is now the longest reigning British monarch, having now reigned longer than her great-great grandmother, Queen Victoria. She has now been Queen since 1952 and Britain today is much different from Britain then, wildly more diverse with great gaps in wealth between the cities and the countryside. Through it all, the slow devolution of a great Empire, Elizabeth has been there, a calming presence.

How it will go with Charles on the throne is yet to be seen. But in the meantime, good on you, Ma’am…

The rain has increased. It looks like a scene from a thriller out my window. Soon I will be arriving in New York.

Have a good evening.

Letter From New York 07 03 15 Notes from Baltimore…

July 3, 2015

It is a warm but not unbearably hot day in Baltimore, where I am just waking from a nap. Outside it is not only warm but, yes, grey! It’s another day of grey in the grey summer of 2015. After a long and lovely lunch at The Red Star with Donald Thoms, an old friend and VP of Arts programming for PBS, who is planning to retire toward the end of the year, I came back to Lionel and Pierre’s apartment and was reading a book when I drifted off to sleep, awakened eventually by incoming texts and a phone call from my brother.

He and I talk on a daily basis but I was hardly awake for today’s chat. Soon it will be time to organize for dinner and a walk through the Inner Harbor area of Baltimore, where my friends live. It has been a graciously lazy day and I have done no substantive work.

I do have a few things I should get accomplished this weekend but we’ll see whether I do or not or if I will put them off to the next week.

Out there in the wide world, the State Department and states’ Governors are requesting stepped up safety measures this 4th of July as there are fears of terrorist attacks, either organized or by “lone wolfs.” It was, in fact, the first thing my brother asked me when he called: had anything happened. So, we go into our celebration of nationhood a bit on edge and with a watchful eye.

I know that there will be heightened security here in the Inner Harbor area of Baltimore, as thousands will be gathering here for the fireworks.

While I have had a lazy day, the negotiators between the West and Iran have been very busy attempting to close a deal. No one is sure they will be able to but there has been some movement on the part of the Iranians on the point of inspections of military posts. The Iranian Foreign Minister has said, “They had never been closer to a deal.”

In Syria, the thing many have been worried about, including myself, has come to pass. IS has begun to destroy the antiquities in Palmyra. It forced civilians to smash “The Lion of Al-Lat,” a fifteen-ton statue. They the militants joined in. They flogged one man while he was smashing a statue, which seems a bit like the behavior of Romans at the arena.

Ah, a flash of sun across the balcony, now fading…

In the background, Lionel is making martinis and it is time to prep for dinner.

Have a safe evening. More tomorrow.

Letter From New York 04 04 15 A Delhi afternoon, thinking and writing…

April 4, 2015

It is early in the day for me to be writing but a hole just opened in my schedule so I decided to make use of it and write my blog for the day. My friend Raja was to have come and picked me up and we were to have gone to his wife’s shop. Unfortunately, he was at a shoot late into the night and then up early again working so he cancelled for the afternoon.

It is a greyish day in Delhi and on the cool side as it rained all night while I slept.

My day started with a late breakfast with Kiran Karnik, who was GM of Discovery India when I was here in the 1990’s. He is a small, thin man, very gentle and razor sharp. He is currently doing many things. One of them is being on the Board of the Reserve Bank of India as well as being President of the India Habitat Center, where I am staying.

Service in the restaurant this morning was impeccable, he said smiling.

Sanjay was at the breakfast, too. We were nostalgic for the days when we were launching Discovery India, laughing at some of our adventures. Talk then moved to politics, both here and in the States. Both Sanjay and Kiran are concerned that parts of the fabric of Indian society are becoming worn in the rush toward modernization. Within twenty-five years India will be one of the world’s top four economies and that change will be wrenching, just as it has been in China.

Prime Minister Modi seems to be enormously popular and is, from all accounts, charismatic. “Conventional wisdom” is that he should be Prime Minister and have all his ministers from the Congress Party, his opponents, because they have experience in government. The BJP, which is Modi’s party, has not governed all that often in India and hasn’t had a lot of national experience.

Some large announcement is coming shortly about interest rates though Kiran gave no hint as to what it will be. He did say they [the Reserve Bank] were closely watching the situation in Yemen for what affect it might have on oil prices along with the “rain issue.” This last season was exceptionally rainy, having a negative effect on food production. Every little thing becomes a factor that needs weighing.

It was interesting to hear Kiran’s perspective on the Yemeni situation. He pointed out that this is the first time in memory that Saudi Arabia has used its military in this way. Thinking about, I had to agree.

They intervened in Bahrain but that was minor compared to this.

We all agreed that the world situation is remarkable and deeply fraught. The Kenyan massacre of Christians at Garissa only underscores the situation.

Pope Francis spoke out about it at Holy Friday services in Rome. Christians are being killed for their beliefs in Africa and in the Middle East. Shabab is promising more Kenyan attacks.

In the Middle East, Tikrit has been freed from IS though the once bustling city, hometown of Saddam Hussein, now lies in ruins. The Iraqi Prime Minister, Haider al-Abidi, has ordered looters arrested.

As we pass through the Easter weekend, which culminates on Sunday with the celebration of Christ’s resurrection, the world is parsing all the reports on the Iranian Nuclear Deal, attempting to see if there are true threads of hope or mere obfuscation.

Pakistan is walking a tightrope between Iran, with which it shares a border, and Saudi Arabia, which has been a staunch Pakistani ally. Saudi Arabia wants Pakistan’s help in Yemen and Iran is doing its best to make sure that doesn’t happen. So far Pakistan has managed to stay upright on the tightrope but it is going to take some deft diplomacy to continue that if the Yemeni situation continues.

Easter, when I was young, was always a time for new clothes and long hours in our Catholic church. Some of it I remember fondly. Some of it not so much. One year it was unseasonably warm and Visitation Church grew so hot students at Good Friday services were fainting by the dozen.

Those seemed like simpler times. Perhaps that is nostalgia. “The Go-Between” is a novel by L.P. Hartley, adapted for the screen by Harold Pinter. Both book and film begin with the haunting line, “The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.”

I do not think I would want to go back to the days of my youth. There were too many things that were wrong there but sometimes I am nostalgic for the simplicity that seemed to live there.