Posts Tagged ‘King Salman’

Letter From New York 06 07 15

June 8, 2015

The sun is beginning to set in Baltimore; golden light is pouring into the apartment of my friends, where I am curled on the couch writing.

We are all just back from seeing “Spy” with Melissa McCarthy. Very funny, lots of action, and it makes me appreciate her talents even more.

It’s been a pleasant weekend, with a surfeit of food and I feel I must go on a week long fast to compensate.

As we were walking back from the movie, I realized that yesterday was June 6th, the 71st anniversary of D-Day. Somehow it didn’t register yesterday, despite seeing stories about the day. There was a wonderful picture of women pouring off boats on the Normandy beaches, nurses to care for the wounded. Also, there was an interesting story about Hitler’s reaction, which was one of glee, as he felt sure that his German troops would push back the Allies. It was, of course, the beginning of his end.

It is left to be seen if today’s vote in Turkey marks the beginning of the end for Erdogan, its President. He wanted to set in motion the transformation of Turkey from a Parliamentarian system to a Presidential system. His party, the AKP, did not get the mandate he was hoping for; in fact, it did not achieve a majority, which leaves the country in some uncharted territory. The Kurds have been ascendant and now have received enough votes to sit in Parliament. A coalition government might be hard to form. Stay tuned.

The G7, meeting in southern Germany, made an agenda item of the Greek crisis. Canada and the US urged European leaders to find a solution. The crisis hangs over the world’s economy and if a solution is not found will certainly rile markets. The Greeks have exasperated their lenders with rhetoric and brinkmanship and an unsatisfactory set of proposals. The EU has been intractable in its demands – at least it appears to the Greeks that way.

On this beautiful Baltimore day, the world keeps spinning, though being a weekend it seems a bit less frenetic.

The Italians are saying they won’t accept more refugees and the Royal Navy rescued another 1000 attempting to cross the Med. I am sure there is fighting in Ukraine but it didn’t make the headlines. The Iraqis are advancing and pushing back at IS after the fall of Ramadi.

Raif Badawi is a Saudi blogger who was convicted of defaming Islam and was sentenced to ten years in prison and a thousand lashes. The Saudi Supreme Court upheld the sentence and it is questionable he will survive the thousand lashes to serve the ten years. The world is outraged; the Saudis don’t care. King Salman can overturn the Supreme Court because, of course, he’s King. But will he?

People are beginning to parse the silence of Denny Hastert, former Speaker of the House. Indicted for lying to the FBI about his withdrawal of money from banks, it has been revealed that the money was hush money to someone named as “Individual A,” supposedly sexually abused by Hastert when he was a high school wrestling coach. A woman has since come forward saying the her now dead brother was abused for years by Hastert for years and that he didn’t come forward because he felt no one would believe him. He died of AIDS in 1995; Hastert attended the funeral.

Two men convicted of murder escaped from a maximum security prison in New York by digging out of their adjacent cells and crawling to freedom through the sewer system. There is now a $100,000 reward for their capture. They could be anywhere.

Uber, the car service has pulled out of East Hampton, causing a furor by its devotees. Local rules make it almost impossible for the independent owner operators to work there. Celebrities and other users are slamming the town with messages and emails complaining about it. They feel they have lost their designated driver.

That’s a very first world problem.

Have a good night!

Letter From New York 05 10 15 On Mother’s Day and the existence of real world problems…

May 10, 2015

Today is the 10th of May. It’s Mother’s Day. My mother is long gone though I still am surprised that there are moments when I think: I need to call Mom and tell her this. So does my brother once in awhile.

So Happy Mother’s Day to all and sundry; when I was having my haircut today the woman cutting my hair asked me what I was doing for Mother’s Day and I had to tell her nothing. My mother has now been dead for twenty years. It seems impossible but it’s true. The last time I saw her she thought I was her brother Ted. It broke my heart.

And those are the things we have to face with aging parents and to worry about for ourselves as we age. I do, for myself. On Sundays I read the Wedding section of The New York Times and the Obituaries. Today there were a few people near my age who had died and it struck me how fragile our time on life earth is and how fleeting.

But these are existential questions and probably first world problems.

In Yemen, they are hoping that the conversation about a ceasefire will become reality. It will help get supplies to folks who are on the edge of starving. That’s a real world problem.

Apparently, there is an attempt being made to get a five-day truce to start on Tuesday to allow for the delivery of humanitarian supplies. There is also going to be a meeting between Arab leaders and Obama at Camp David this week though today King Salman of Saudi Arabia announced he would not be attending. Instead he is sending his Crown Prince and his Deputy Crown Prince in a gesture intended to communicate his displeasure with the US and its effort to reach a nuclear deal with Iran.

In Liberia today the churches celebrated that the country now seems free from Ebola. That’s a real world celebration.

In devastated Nepal, efforts are being made to provide sanitation for all of those who have lost their homes in an effort to prevent cholera and other diseases in advance of the coming Monsoon season. It is critical for the country that has in the past few years made major progress in creating better sanitation; much of that has been reversed by the earthquake. That is a very real problem. And it’s not a first world problem.

In our first world set of problems, security has been increased at US bases in this country because of a heightened concern over ISIS attacks in the homeland.

“Homeland” is a word I don’t remember being used for this country before 9/11, before there was a Department of Homeland Security. It is vaguely unsettling to me – like the Nazis who called Germany “The Fatherland.” It evokes a sense of siege, which I suppose we are in, in a way.

ISIS is a very real world problem all over the world.

Raul Castro met with Pope Francis. He is now thinking about going back to church. That’s a “Saul on the road to Damascus” moment if there ever was one.

Two days of mourning have been declared in Macedonia for the death of eight police officers that were killed in a raid against a terrorist organization, which seemed to have been made of ethnic Albanians. In the story, there are threads of organized crime, heroin and the continued instability of countries that once made up Yugoslavia.

Speaking of a Yugoslavian kind of situation, the hegemony of the television networks is really beginning to splinter this year as we go into the “upfronts,” that moment in the year when television networks get as much as 75% of their inventory purchased by advertisers.

Television ratings, overall, are down 9% from last year to this. Digital is getting more dollars and networks are facing a moribund upfront. It will still be huge but probably flat or down. It is an amazing thing to watch.

What is also amazing to watch is the sunset happening outside. Today was supposed to be a day of thunderstorms but instead there were crisp blue skies and the warmest day of the year. Clouds are beginning to form and we’ll probably have rain tomorrow but today was spectacular.

Letter From New York 05 15 15 Perhaps a toast to Maximillian?

May 5, 2015

Today is Cinco de Mayo, a day celebrated by the Mexicans to commemorate their victory over the French in 1862. It is NOT the day of Mexican Independence; that’s celebrated on September 16th.

It’s a complicated story of debts not repaid, French ire and later a desire to build an empire in Mexico that was to expand French influence.

After their defeat at Puebla in 1862, the French came back with more troops and took over Mexico and installed Maximillian I as Emperor of Mexico, a situation that lasted only three years and ended with his death by firing squad.

His wife, the Empress Carlotta, a first cousin of both Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, Victoria’s consort, was in Europe attempting to raise support for her husband when news of his death arrived. She went insane.

So, as you have your margaritas tonight, you might want to think of Maximillian.

You might want to give a thought to David Cameron, Prime Minister of Britain. The British Election season is ending and the voters are going to the polls. Cameron’s government has done a fairly good job on economic reforms and getting the country on the way to recovery so he is trying to use those accomplishments to get people to vote for him.

And he will probably end up with the most seats but not enough to form a government on his own and he’ll have to put together some sort of coalition to rule. It’s going to be interesting to watch what happens; things are very interesting in Britain right now. Let’s see how it all falls out.

Today in the UK, Queen Elizabeth II, visited her great granddaughter, Princess Charlotte of Cambridge at Kensington Palace. No word on her reaction to the child though one of her middle names is Elizabeth; another is Diana.

Across the Channel in France, the legislature has voted to vastly expand the abilities for security services surveillance capabilities, almost without judicial governance. It is a reaction to the terrorist attacks earlier this year. It reminds one judge, who is opposed to it; of America’s Patriot Act.

Also in France a political drama is unfolding. The far right National Front Party has suspended its founder, Jean-Marie LePen, on orders of his daughter, Marine LePen, after he, once again, minimized the Holocaust. Jean-Marie is hoping his daughter will marry soon so her name would change. He’s ashamed of her. Really good soap opera.

In Nigeria, Boko Haram, at last, seems on the run. Nigerian soldiers have been paid back wages and given hazard pay as well as getting better arms. A year ago Nigerian troops were doing the running and this year they are reclaiming lost territory and have freed 700 women and girls in the last week alone. It is said that Boko Haram is running low on ammunition and supplies. Fighters from Niger, Chad and Cameroon have joined Nigeria, helping to tilt the balance against Boko Haram.

Sadly, another forty migrants from Africa have drowned in the Mediterranean, according to Save The Children. 4,500 migrants were rescued from the sea over the last weekend.

Joo Won-moon, a South Korean student at NYU’s Stern School of Business, traveled to North Korea, via the Great Wall of China, wanting to be arrested. He seemed to think his arrest would trigger some event that would warm relations between North and South Korea. It hasn’t happened, of course. He seems to be being treated well by the North Koreans but no word on releasing him. Not a place I’d like to be.

Russia’s Foreign Minister, Lavrov, has declared that “someone” in the EU does not want the Ukrainian truce to hold. He doesn’t say who that someone is.

John Kerry, Secretary of State for the U.S., dropped in on troubled Somalia to give them a confidence booster.

In Saudi Arabia, King Salman abruptly fired a top aide for apparently slapping a foreign correspondent covering the reception being held for King Mohammed of Morocco. The move was a hit on Saudi Arabian social media. Thumbs up for the King.

And in a final note for the day, one of my favorite actors, Martin Freeman, he of “The Hobbit” and “Sherlock” has joined the cast of “Captain America: Civil War” due out at the end of next year.

Now, I’m off to dinner with my friend, and attorney, Mary Ann Zimmer, at her apartment. Tomorrow is another day.

Letter From New York 04 29 15 Another anniversary in 2015…

April 29, 2015

It is nearly impossible for me to believe that we have reached the end of April. Today has been a glorious day in New York City, probably the finest day of the year. Warm with a gentle breeze flowing, signs of flowers blooming, I passed tulips and pansies on my way to the subway this morning, all bringing a smile.

South of here, in Baltimore, the city is quiet but very tense. Offices and restaurants that have been closed are reopening. In a first for Major League Baseball, a game between the Baltimore Orioles and the Chicago White Sox was played in an empty stadium, it being considered too dangerous to bring people together in a public venue.

Schools reopened and protests continued, peacefully. The Maryland Governor is hoping that the peaceful night that preceded a peaceful day marks a turning point in the city. It is a city of fragile calm, a place that is delicately balanced between peace and violence.

In Washington, Prime Minister Abe of Japan, made a speech to Congress, acknowledging Japanese responsibility in WWII and making his case for a strengthened, resurgent Japan as a counterweight to China. He also made his case for the Trans Pacific Partnership.

Kim Jong-un, the pudgy little North Korean dictator, is reported as having killed 15 senior officials since the beginning of the year – that’s at the rate of about one per week. It may be true. It might not be true. It’s hard to know with North Korea but we do know little Kim Jong-un has a very itchy trigger finger.

Far away in Nepal, itself very, very fragile after the earthquake that has destroyed much of the Kathmandu Valley, there was a moment of hope today when a man trapped for 82 hours in the rubble was rescued. But hope is wearing thin and survivors clashed with soldiers as supplies continue to have difficulty reaching outlying villages that have been devastated. The death toll continues climbing and is now officially over 5200.

In Saudi Arabia, King Salman has re-ordered the succession and named as Crown Prince a member of the third generation, a grandson of the founder, King Abdullah. Prince Mohammed is said to be very pro-Western and very much against Al-Qaida [they attempted to assassinate him a few years ago],

In Nigeria, 300 women and girls have been rescued from the Boko Haram. They are traumatized and some have no home to return to as their villages have been razed in the fighting between the government and Boko Haram. They are described as needing psychological care and physical support.

While the group was being rescued, Boko Haram seized a town in what has become a back and forth battle between Nigeria and its allies and the Boko Haram, who are determined not to pushed off the stage.

I said in one letter that 2015 was a big year for anniversaries and another one is upon us. Forty years ago tomorrow Saigon fell and we ended our involvement in Vietnam.

As a young boy, I remember some older boys talking about our sending troops to Vietnam. I’m not sure why I remember it. Perhaps it seemed like a great cloud passed over me. For some reason, I remember exactly where I was standing when that conversation happened. I think some of those boys grew up, got drafted and went to Vietnam.

And now it is forty years after those horrific shots of helicopters departing the rooftop of the American Embassy in Saigon, with thousands screaming for rescue as they lifted away for the last time, forty years since we lost that war.

Last year, I went to a conference on “moral injury” and spoke with a man who had been to Vietnam, returned and lived what he thought was a normal life until one day, not long before I met him, it all cracked open and he came to wrestle with the demons that had stayed with him all those years from caring for wounded soldiers in the jungles of Vietnam.

We all carry our wounds. It is part of living, unfortunately. But so are the joys that come along, unexpectedly, like the tulips and pansies I passed this morning, lovingly planted on 93rd Street.

Letter From New York 01 23 15 At home and out in the world…

January 23, 2015

It is a day when the sun has been sparkling off the ice on the drive. I knew it was four o’clock because the deer wandered across the yard in their daily pilgrimage. The setting sun, still bright, is casting long tree shadows outside my windows.

I am freshly back from the city, settling down into a freshly cleaned cottage, ready to enjoy the weekend. There are buckets of things to do tomorrow; I have emails to catch up on and bills to pay over the weekend.

A winter storm is coming, not a terrible one but they’re predicting about four inches of snow in total and the nights will be, for here, bitterly cold. Wood is stacked by the Franklin stove to help heat the house tomorrow.

After getting back home, I took a break and walked my neighborhood. The house that will forever, to me, be Rosemary’s cottage has been torn down and a new one is being built on the old footprint. It is a sign of change in the neighborhood. I haven’t really met the new owners yet, hopefully will. They’re living in a rental next door right now and haven’t been very visible.

Out in the wide, wide world Abdullah, King of Saudi Arabia, died, replaced by his half-brother Salman, who has assumed the throne and assured everyone he will continue the course. Abdullah was 90; Salman is 79. I think the older generation is thinning out and the younger ones will start getting a chance but will it make much of a difference? Stay tuned.

Out on Mars, the rover Opportunity is celebrating its eleventh anniversary. Designed to last for three months, it has kept on going and going and going with no signs of stopping. Remarkable little machine. Space stories give me so much delight.

Out in the Mideast, the deadline has passed for Japan to pay a ransom for two of its citizens being held by ISIS. The world waits to see what will happen.

Anyone who knows me knows that I don’t follow football. But even I have not been able to escape what has become known as Ballghazi and Deflategate. The Patriots apparently were playing with deflated balls when they defeated the Colts and that’s not allowed. Belichick, coach of the Patriots, and Tom Brady, the quarterback, have NO idea how that happened. NONE whatsoever. The NFL continues to investigate. And, for some reason, I find it fascinating.

What has been absolutely fascinating has been the arrest of Sheldon Silver, who is the Speaker of the State Assembly. Accused of taking millions as graft, the papers today were filled with photos of him being taken for arraignment in hand cuffs. The NY Times is calling for him to resign and the Post relished his predicament and devoted endless pages to it in their paper today.

It may well shake the very foundations of government in New York State, not that that would be a bad thing. New York is notorious – not as notorious as Illinois but the impression I’ve had is that Albany politics are pretty grimy.

So we go into the weekend, the sun almost set. Off to dinner with friends and then a cozy night at the cottage.