Posts Tagged ‘Jihadi John’

Letter From New York 07 27 15 From the side of creek…

July 27, 2015

As I begin to write this, I am seated on the deck. I realized I had the choice of writing at my desk or being here on the deck so I moved my laptop out here.

It is an elegant day in Claverack. The sun is glinting through the trees and the birds are singing all around me. Jazz is playing on Pandora. The creek is mirror like today, reflecting the green trees hanging over the water. It is warm and a shade humid but not uncomfortable.

I lazed around the house this morning reading and visiting with a friend who was up for a day and a half. Around two, I finally did the errands I had meant to do much earlier in the day and then it seemed too late to head into the city so I returned to the cottage to do a little work and write.

The New York Times’ T Magazine is up, shooting over at Jim Ivory’s house [Merchant Ivory Films], just down the road from me. I ran into Jeremiah today, a friend who is helping with the shoot while having lunch at Relish, across from the Train Station.

It is a day, here, of pastoral beauty.

The world is not quite like that. The Shanghai Exchange fell 8.5%, a move that rattled world markets. The Chinese government is intervening though it didn’t move quickly enough to stop today’s slide. There are market jitters everywhere because of China and the ongoing Greek situation, one that doesn’t seem resolved yet though not in the news as much.

Boston has terminated its bid for the Olympics in 2024. Resistance to the bid was rising among the denizens of the city. Everyone capitulated and that might not have been a bad thing.

Unless you have been hiding under a rock the last couple of days [and I have almost been] you will have known Bobbi Kristina Brown, daughter of Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown, died after months in a medically induced coma. She was found in a bathtub [as was her late mother] and never recovered. Tragedy follows tragedy and it is so sad. Did she have a chance? Probably but probably not many supported her in having that chance. The American entertainment industry has created a small industry of tragic stories, going back as far the dawn of the movies.

Huckabee, one the many Republican candidates for the Presidential nomination, said a deal with Iran would march Israelis to the ovens. Ouch. Lots of people are working to distance themselves from that comment. Though some are not.

In one of the most interesting stories I heard on NPR today as I was driving is that “Jihadi John,” a Kuwaiti born British citizen who fell in with IS, is now on the run from IS. He was responsible for some of the worst of the beheadings. Now that he has been identified as Mohammed Emwazi, he apparently feels his value to IS has diminished and he is fleeing for his life. Prime Minister David Cameron so wants to bring him to justice…

The humidity has slipped away and it is remarkably pleasant sitting on my deck. A while ago mosquitoes began to plague me. I went to my iPhone and went to my apps and set off the mosquito repellant app and they actually have disappeared, hounded away by a noise I can’t hear but which makes them really unhappy. Have not seen a mosquito since I activated it.

A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, the 11th President of India, and the foremost promoter of both its nuclear and space programs, died today. He is a personal friend of my friend, Howard Bloom, writer and theorist. Howard has been in my life since 2008 or so, maybe earlier. A producer friend introduced me to him. He has had a remarkable life. He was a public relations maven and handled Michael Jackson, Queen, Mellenkamp, you name it, back in the 70’s and 80’s, Bloom was the man for the big groups and individuals.

He’s amazing. So apparently was Kalam, who died while giving a speech. Not a bad way to go.

The sun is beginning to set. It is a perfect night in Claverack. Soft, cool breezes are beginning to blow across my land. The creek no longer is so brilliantly reflecting the trees; the sun has fallen too low for that.

The world is not content. I am.

Letter From New York 03 08 15 While the sky is blue…

March 8, 2015

When I woke this morning, big, white, puffy flakes of snow were falling lazily outside and continued to fall as I made my way around the cottage changing clocks to reflect daylight saving time. It felt like a short night, even though I headed off to sleep rather early.

Daylight savings time started in 1916, in Germany, during WWI, to save energy. The US took up the practice in 1918. Been going on ever since in most of the country. But turns out, it doesn’t seem to save any energy. Studies show electricity use actually goes up. So why do we do it?

After changing the clocks, I sat down with my coffee and iPhone and scanned the Weather Channel app, which predicted, correctly, that the snow would end shortly and the day would be relatively warm. It is a balmy forty degrees, a height we haven’t seen in months.

While I was safely in Morpheus’ arms, the Boko Haram’s leader announced his fealty to IS. It is seen as giving both of them propaganda boosts while in Africa and Iraq offensive attacks against them seem to be holding traction.

IS is claiming that it has launched bulldozers to destroy another ancient city, this time Hatra, which was the capital of the Parthian Empire and which survived attacks by Roman forces in the early centuries of the first millennium. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site. NPR will have a piece tomorrow on archeologists who are risking their lives to save artifacts in Syria. What IS is not destroying; it is selling to raise funds for their campaigns.

Mohammed Emwazi, better known as “Jihadi John,” has sent a message to his family apologizing for the inconvenience the revelation of his identity has caused them. He is not sorry for what he has done. His father has called him “a dog, an animal and a terrorist.” The family has fled England for Kuwait and is under guard to protect them.

Senator Dianne Feinstein of California has gone on record asking Hillary Clinton to tell us why she was using a private email address while at State, and that “silence is going to hurt her.” Straining my credulity, Obama said today that he didn’t know that Clinton was using a private server until he heard about it in the news.

A year ago today, MH 370 disappeared and has become, arguably, the biggest airline mystery of all time. A moment of silence for those on board. And we are nowhere closer to knowing what happened now than we were then. The four ships still searching for the lost plane have found no trace of wreckage. 45% of the area believed to be the most likely for the plane to have crashed in, has been searched. If there is nothing by the end of May, everyone will go back to the drawing boards.

In Russia, two Chechens have been arrested in the assassination of Boris Nemtsov. One is proclaiming his innocence and the other has, according to a Russian judge, confessed his part in the murder. Three other suspects have been arrested as accomplices while a sixth blew himself up with a grenade in Grozny, the capital of Chechnya. What remains unknown is who ordered the killing.

Today is International Women’s Day and there is a march at the UN in New York asking for equality for all women. They are asking for action not just awareness.

Fifty years ago yesterday was “Bloody Sunday” in which approximately 600 peaceful marchers were attacked on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma by police with batons and tear gas. Images from that event helped galvanize the nation and give momentum to Civil Rights Legislation. The 50th Anniversary Commemoration continues today with thousands marching on that same bridge.   Tomorrow, many will make the march from Selma to Montgomery that followed “Bloody Sunday.”

The sun is shining wonderfully and the clouds are puffy and the sky is blue. I have two more clocks to change and then I’m off to dinner.

Letter From New York 02 28 15 Working to understand…

February 28, 2015

It is the last day of February and, as I sit at my desk, the sun is just beginning to set. The amount of daylight is about the same now as it was in October. There are sharp shadows on the ground; soft jazz plays in the background.

It’s been a busy day. Early morning rise to do emails, followed by a run to the Post Office for a week’s worth of mail, a trip to the local Farmer’s Market held indoors in the community hall of Christ Church down in Hudson, a little cleaning, grocery shopping, a stop at the Red Dot for a bite to eat, then home to write this blog.

It was a good day. In my email this morning was one that indicated my Indian Visa has been granted so I will have to gather all the things I need to pick it up on Monday. Next comes finding a plane ticket, giving me the most luxury for the least amount of money. I am working to use miles to upgrade myself on both legs of a very long flight.

Monday I am seeing my doctor to get all my shots.

The world is reeling today from the death yesterday of Boris Nemtsov, a leading opposition figure in Russia who was gunned down while walking across a bridge last night. Every opposition figure in Russia is more frightened than they were. Nemtsov’s mother spoke frequently that she was afraid for her son’s life, afraid that Putin would have him killed.

Thousands paid tribute to him today in a march.

Putin has denounced the murder and is “personally” taking charge of the investigation of the assassination. I wonder how that will go?

In Egypt a new, even more severe anti-terrorism law has been passed. Following that, the Egyptian courts have ruled that Hamas, the Palestinian organization, is a terrorist group, pushing them further into a corner.

Also in Africa, President Mugabe of Zimbabwe threw himself a lavish million-dollar birthday party at Victoria Falls to celebrate his 91st. Yes, 91st. He is the world’s oldest head of state. It doesn’t seem to bother him that his country is desperately impoverished. Let the good times roll! Elephants were slaughtered for the feast and there were seven huge birthday cakes.

In Iraq, 37 people have died in bombing attacks, in and north of Baghdad. IS is believed to be responsible. IS controls about a third of Iraq and a third of Syria, that territory making up their so-called Caliphate.

One of that “Caliphate’s” most famous individuals, Jihadi John, has the world attempting to figure out how a nice kid from London became Jihadi John. People who knew him then say they are stunned by who he has become. Debate rages in the UK as to whether that country was responsible for turning him from the nice kid next door to the gruesome face of IS.

In Tyrone, Missouri, locals and local police are attempting to understand what triggered 36-year-old Joseph Aldredge to shoot eight people, killing seven, before turning the gun on himself. Four of the dead were his cousins. Apparently he had a history of drugs and guns and may have become unnerved at the death of his mother from lung cancer. She was found dead in her kitchen after the shootings, possibly having been dead for as long as 24 hours.

Next week, Netanyahu, Prime Minister of Israel, will address Congress. The address, at the invitation of Speaker John Boehner, in addition to shattering protocol, has shattered the bipartisan show of support for Israel. Many Democrats will not show up for the speech. Several foreign ambassadors that have been invited have also declined. Two weeks after this speech Netanyahu faces a tough election back home.

The Administration has been accusing him of doing everything in his power to undermine the negotiations going on with Iran over their nuclear program.

It is a messy, dicey situation that will get worse before it gets better and it will be interesting to see if the Congressional speech helps or harms Netanyahu back home.

The sun is setting. I am getting ready to go to a neighbor’s for dinner. Tomorrow they are predicating more snow, which caused me to sigh audibly. This is the longest, coldest, snowiest winter I have remembered since being here.

Spring will come. I know it will.

Letter From New York 02 27 15 About missing a day…

February 27, 2015

For anyone who might have noticed, there was no Letter From New York yesterday. It was my intention to write it after a mid-afternoon appointment with a former client to do some more consulting for them. The client, Nick Stuart, has also become one of my closest friends. There were three of us at the meeting and when were finishing, Nick suggested that the two of us play hooky and go see KINGSMAN, the new Colin Firth movie, which we did. It was a chocolate cake piece of old fashioned spy fun with high tech tricks.

Then I went on to drinks and dinner with Leo Brunnick, the CEO of Patheos, largest Internet site devoted to religion, who has become a friend. We started with martinis at Sardi’s, the venerable theater haunt down in Manhattan’s Theater District, followed by tapas at Buceo 95, a wine bar on the Upper West Side, a part of New York that Leo does not usually visit.

We had a great time but by the time I sent him home in a taxi and walked back to my place, it was late and I was exhausted.

Now, I sit in the Acela Lounge at Penn Station, waiting for my friend Lionel, who lives across the street from me in Claverack; we’ll ride the same train back home.

When I was kid, one of the many things I wanted to be was to be an archeologist. So I was shocked this morning as I perused the Times to find that IS is systematically destroying ancient monuments and treasures in Mosul, the second largest city in Iraq, which has been under their control since last summer.

The treasures date back to the ancient Assyrians, who ruled a vast Middle Eastern Empire three thousand years, which at the time was the largest empire the world had yet seen. They left behind stunning works of art to which IS is now applying the delicate touch of sledgehammers.

The present day descendants of the Assyrians are Christians and another group of them has been kidnapped from their villages by IS. The IS militants are swarming across the territory they control intending to remove from it, one way or another, anyone who subscribes to a different religious view than theirs. There is a stretch of 30 Assyrian Christian villages that now stand deserted, residents having fled to safety or been captured by IS.

Against this backdrop, the Assyrians have joined forces with the Kurds and are fighting back, with some success.

Eric Holder, still Attorney General, has encouraged Malls around the country to enhance their security. The fear of a homegrown terror attack is what keeps him up at night, he says.

What might keep up many at night is that tonight funding for the Department of Homeland Security will expire. The Senate has passed a bill to keep it going but the House remains riven and Boehner is scrambling.

To my great sadness, Leonard Nimoy, creator of the character of Spock, our favorite human/Vulcan half-breed in the Star Trek television series and series of movies, passed away today.

In Mexico today, “La Tuta” [The Teacher] was arrested. His real name is Servando Gomez who started his life as a teacher and became a Drug Lord. For years he has taunted authorities with videos, boasting of his close ties to politicians. He swore never to be taken alive. He was captured, without a shot, while eating a hot dog at a hot dog stand.

In another sad story, seven people killed, and another one wounded, in a shooting spree by a 36 year old man who then fatally turned his gun on himself. Tiny Tyrone, Missouri is reeling. A lonely little town 50 miles from the Arkansas border, it is the kind of place where everyone knew everyone else.

The top news story this morning when I woke was that “Jihadi John,” the IS militant believed to have beheaded western hostages, had been identified as Mohammed Emwazi, a Kuwait born, London bred 27 year old who once upon a time was “the boy next door.” He studied computer science at the University of Westminster. He is now one of the world’s most wanted men.

Speaking of being wanted, it will soon be time for my train and I must sign off, gather my belongings and head for Track 5.