Posts Tagged ‘Kiev’

Letter From New York 06 16 15 Vladimir the Saint and Vladimir the President…

June 16, 2015

Just moments ago, the sun broke through the cloud cover that has weighted the city down all day. According to the weather reports, we were to be having thunderstorms about now but, nay, nay, we have sun. But will it last? I hope so. It’s been a grey week that hasn’t done much for building happy spirits among New Yorkers.

I started the day with a delightful breakfast with a young entrepreneur I met a few years ago at a Producer’s Guild event. He has started a company called Kite, which connects large corporations with start-ups that can help solve their marketing problems. Fascinating.

Then I came to the office and worked on a whole variety of things, before sitting down to think about today’s Letter. Before I started work, though, I happened on a VICE News short documentary featuring Simon Ostrovsky, one of their correspondents who was kidnapped, detained and released by pro-Russian forces in eastern Ukraine. While in custody, he was beaten and accused of being a spy. There was an international outcry at his disappearance and three days after he had been pulled from his car, he was released, without explanation. He still continues to cover the Ukrainian conflict.

Today’s piece showed him following a Russian soldier through social media, making a very good case that the Russian soldier had been in eastern Ukraine. He posted selfies from a variety of places that could be identified in Ukraine. Russian soldiers seem to have a penchant for posting selfies on VK, the Russian Facebook.

Yet, according to Putin, there are no Russian soldiers in Ukraine, not now or ever.

The young soldier denied that he was there when contacted on the phone by Simon though the pictures were pretty convincing.

We all live in a world of lies and illusions though it seems they are a little deeper when we are around Vladimir Putin.

A very tall statue of St. Vladimir, the patron saint of Russia, is being put up in Moscow and it has the anti-Putin forces striving to get it stopped. History has taught us that is not likely to happen. He will be very tall and will be set on the tallest hill in Moscow, looking down on the city. Vladimir the Saint was a Russian warlord who converted to Christianity and then told everyone he ruled that they were going to convert, too. Or else, I suspect.

The Russian Orthodox Church has a very cozy relationship with the Kremlin. Vladimir Putin, who was once a Communist and therefore, theoretically, should not have believed in God, has found a relationship with the Church a very convenient thing. They are strong supporters of his conservative views on things like homosexuality. And Putin has seen to it that there are now “anti-blasphemy” laws on the books that squelch any critics of Russian Orthodoxy.

Ah, how often in history have churches served politics and politics, churches.

Interestingly, St. Vladimir hailed from what is now Ukraine. Perhaps a connection to Russia that Putin is underscoring?

It is the 1000th anniversary of Vladimir’s death and the living Vladimir is going to squeeze every ounce out of it that he can for his own political purposes.

No one has said that Vladimir Putin is stupid. He is frightening but not stupid. He is now replacing older nukes with newer, smarter nukes that can elude anti-missile systems. Do I hear the drumbeat of an arms race?

I hope not but fear so. In a brighter note,

Pope Francis, the rock star Pope is apparently coming out in an upcoming encyclical as against climate change deniers. Parts of it have been leaked as the Vatican reminds all that it is a work in progress. But if what is leaked is true, Pope Francis comes down hard on the side of climate change being created by human actions.

You go, Francis!

Letter From New York 04 16 15 Just a little inspiration…

April 16, 2015

This is a day in which I have been, in some ways, remarkably unproductive. Deep into reading “The End of Your Life Book Club,” I am nearing the end and have carved out hours today to continuing reading it. I dallied over my morning cup of coffee to give me more time to read it. On my way to a friend’s office to do a little work, I stopped and had lunch at a coffee shop and used up more than my fair share of time on the stool at the counter, whipping through the pages of the book. My Kindle Fire tells me I now have only 13% of the book left to read and I am anxious to finish it and desperate for it to last.

It’s inspiring me and we all could use a little inspiration. I don’t want to say much about it. I just suggest that you think about getting a copy and reading it. Sarah, whom I have known since I was three, called me up and suggested it to me in no uncertain terms.

I am so glad she did.

In an effort to be more present, I have been working to see things, really see them, the way I sometimes do when I am traveling. Today is a beautiful day in New York and while it is not the riot of color that is India, it is an incredibly textured city. I was particularly noticing how yellow the cabs are. Have I just learned to gloss them over and not really see the vibrancy they bring to the city’s streets?

These are the kinds of things I have been attempting to notice.

And I have been also attempting to notice what is going on in the world, despite a distinct aversion to wanting to know. I realized yesterday I did not want to read a story about Ukraine. I wanted to go straight to other, less threatening pieces of information. But I forced myself to go back to the article and read how difficult it is for the sick in the rebel held part of Ukraine. There are no medicines to be had.

In Kiev, two men, both pro-Russian, one a journalist and another a former Parliament member, have died of gunshot wounds. Two men shot the journalist dead in broad daylight from a passing car.

In Durban, South African thousands of immigrants fled to shelters for safety after an anti-immigration riot left five dead.

Africans attempting to cross to Italy have died in the hundreds in the past week. One set of Muslims threw twelve Christians overboard because; well, because they were Christian.

In Yemen, where it is hard to keep track of the players, President Hadi, who is in exile in Saudi Arabia, has named Khaled Bahah, who is also in Saudi Arabia, as his Vice President. Bahah is well liked and respected across many sections of the political landscape in Yemen. He hopes that a Saudi Arabian land invasion can be avoided though it is looking more likely every day as the rebel Houthis gobble up much of the country.

Meanwhile, five ships with food are being prevented from unloading their cargoes until they are searched stem to stern by the Saudis to make sure there are no guns coming in with the food.

Lincoln Chaffee of Rhode Island is indicating he’ll run for the Democratic Presidential nomination.

In news that I find heartening, the Vatican has completed its investigation of American nuns, begun under Pope Benedict XVI. The final report is quietly burying a controversy that has plagued Francis since his ascension.

Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens debuts in December of this year. In California, Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher were present for the first screening of the film’s second trailer. Not present was Harrison Ford, who is still recuperating from his March plane crash. Looking forward to the film.

In another piece of news I appreciated, the little town of Lindstrom, Minnesota [my home state] is getting the umlauts back over the o in its name. They were taken away by the Department of Transportation and ordered returned by Democratic Governor Mark Dayton. A third of Minnesotans have Scandinavian heritage. [I’m half Swedish.] The town was quite upset about the umlauts disappearing and is rejoicing about their return.

Tonight, I am off to the New York Video Meet-up, a chance to explore some new things in digital video. After that, a little bite of something and then home to finish “The End of Your Life Book Club.”

Letter From New York 02 19 15 As the temperature drops…

February 19, 2015

I am at a friend’s office this afternoon, working on a project for him. It is bitterly cold here in New York and the wind chill will be fierce by this evening. Weather Underground is predicting wind chills of minus eighteen tonight, which will be worse down on Riverside Drive, where there is a micro-climate due to its proximity to the Hudson. I can only imagine how chill it will be getting home tonight.

It is the beginning of the Chinese Lunar New Year, a forty-day celebration that will result in THREE BILLION trips during these forty days. It is the largest annual migration of people from one place to the next as individuals travel to be at home for the season.

This year is the Year of the Sheep [or the Goat or the Ram, depending on your translation]. Most people are going with sheep this year, because they are cuddlier than goats or rams. It is not a particularly auspicious sign so there is a bit of hesitancy going into this New Year.

Earlier today I had a fascinating conversation with my friend, Kay Rothman, about the recent apocalyptic comments made by IS [ISIS or ISIL]. They have pointed across the sea to Rome and are gathering around a place marked in Revelations as the place where the battle will be fought that will mark the beginning of the end.

They are clever in exploiting our fears. They are clever in their use of social media, far cleverer than the West according to comments made at Obama’s anti-terrorism conference. The Russians unexpectedly attended it, much to the surprise of Washington.

Obama suggested the world address the “grievances” terrorists exploit.

Former New York Mayor Giuliani declared today that Obama “doesn’t love America.” That has kicked up a firestorm, not unexpectedly.

Giuliani was not as unruly as the Iranian Ambassador at the nuclear talks has been at times. Apparently is has been so bad that Ayatollah Khamenei has ordered Ambassador Zarif to stop it.

Also, not unexpectedly, the German Finance Minister is accusing the Greeks of using “Trojan Horses.” I have been waiting for someone to pull that one out. It happened today. There will be another “extraordinary” meeting of finance ministers to discuss Greece. The Germans are adamant about holding firm with them and so a Greek exit from the Euro is possible.

Walmart has agreed to raises wages for employees and to improve customer service. It will cost about a billion dollars but the CEO of Walmart feels it’s an essential investment in their work force. Sales were not so good last quarter and customer service complaints were up. He’s hoping the raises make good sense.

The Ukrainian truce is as fragile as ever. While fighting around Debaltseve has quieted because the Ukrainians have retreated, shelling seems to picking up south of that city, with fears the separatists are making a move on the port city of Mariupol.

The only good thing in this situation is that the four leaders still talk. Merkel and Hollande are determined to make the truce work. Putin seems removed and Poroshenko is infuriated.

Reportedly, the retreating Ukrainian soldiers are saying they felt abandoned by Kiev and were left without help. Regardless, Poroshenko is flying from the capital to personally greet and thank them.

Thankful in Texas is a lesbian coupled that were allowed to marry on the grounds that the denial of a marriage license was causing them irreparable harm. One of the two is suffering from ovarian cancer. It is a one-time event; no others will be done until the stay on granting marriages licenses to gays in Texas expires.

Congratulations to Sarah Goodfriend and Suzanne Bryant!

In Los Angeles, there is an outbreak of CRE, a bacterium that is resistant to antibiotics. Seven are infected; 179 may have been exposed. Two have died. Another reminder that antibiotic resistant bacterium are on the rise.

The temperature is falling in New York, the afternoon sun is beginning to fade and I am prepping for chilly journey to Thai Market, where I will be meeting some friends for dinner. Wherever you are, stay warm and cozy.