Posts Tagged ‘Kurds’

Letter From New York 10 14 15 A toxic brew in a seething cauldron…

October 14, 2015

Obama. Biden. Greene County. Indianapolis. Minneapolis. Baltimore. Syria. Russia. Putin. Assad. Refugees. Turkey. The Kurds. Al Qaeda. Saudi. Yemen.

I’m sitting here at my desk at the cottage, looking out at the drive, littered with leaves. The world around me has become a riot of color and I passed by crimson trees on my way west to an appointment on the far side of Greene County, flaming to the sky against a grey horizon.

Most of the day has been like that, grey and forlorn, right for this time of year, the time of year a year ago when I determined I would write more frequently even though I mailed the letters less. They are up on Facebook and LinkedIn and at my website, www.mathewtombers.com.

Monday evening, rather late, I returned from two weeks of traveling. Baltimore, New York, Indianapolis, Minneapolis and when I opened the door of the cottage I was flooded with relief at being home and in the safe sanctuary of the little world I have built here.

For two weeks I mostly avoided the news but it has been catching up with me in the last 48 hours, the strum und drang of the world wails on.

By the hundreds of thousands, humans are throwing themselves on the shores of Europe, fleeing ravaged homelands. Half the population of Syria is on the move, internally, externally with more and more attempting to reach Europe. The size of the movement of humans is almost incomprehensible to me.

And there is a toxic mix brewing in this horrible cauldron.

There is IS, Assad, Putin, Turkey, the US, the Kurds, the non-Al Qaeda anti-Assad forces, the Al Qaeda anti-Assad forces, the Iraqis, the Iranians, the Saudis and Yemenis and all sorts of forces and individuals leading them all wanting to defeat someone but not necessarily the same person.

Turkey is complaining we have given arms to the Syrian Kurds. We’re complaining that Russia isn’t targeting IS but forces against Assad that aren’t IS. It is nearly impossible to keep the players straight. The Russians and the US have different outcomes in mind in Syria.

And all the while that the players play, the human condition continues to deteriorate and so millions begin the long journey from somewhere hellish to somewhere less hellish.

It is hard to imagine here in my cossetted corner of the world with the leaves turning and deer roaming the street, slowly sauntering as if there was not a concern in the world.

I feel concern for the world and am struggling with the best way to address it. What does one do in a world that is coming unhinged?

Not long ago I read a great book, “The End of Your Life Book Club.” A woman in her seventies has spent her life in public service and when diagnosed with cancer was running an agency dealing with refugees. She got the diagnosis after return from a camp in Afghanistan. She and her son read and compare books while she is treated with chemo.

It inspires me. As does my brother who is off to Honduras next week to train doctors on some equipment his little organization donated to a hospital there.

Smiling out at the woods, I am hoping the sum of small good gestures will one day overwhelm the acts of evil.

Letter From New York 07 29 15 Of missile launches, lion hunts and other things…

July 29, 2015

It is a sunny and blistering hot day in New York. I had a lunch today at Sarabeth’s in Lord & Taylor on 5th Avenue. It is not a terrible walk but by the time I arrived there, I was more than damp and glad I had topped off with a cold drink of water before I left. Coming back, I caught the bus right outside the store and rode it to Penn Station, walking from there to the office.

When I left the apartment this morning, I turned off the air conditioning but it may have been wiser to leave it on. Heat warnings are in effect for NYC until tomorrow at 8:00 PM. People are to restrain outside activities between 11 and 4 and cooling centers are open for those who might not have air conditioning.

As the day begins to fade, I am gathering my thoughts about the events of the world.

Mullah Omar, head of the Taliban, has apparently been dead for the last two years, according to the Afghans. US Intelligence is examining the claim closely. Supposedly, he died in a Pakistani hospital of an undetermined illness. If he is dead, it may help the peace process. Or not. Some of his supporters have broken from the Taliban and proclaimed their allegiance to IS.

The murkiness continues.

Some parts of a plane washed up on Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean. They are being examined to see if they are pieces to the missing MH 370, the Malaysian Airlines flight that disappeared in March of 2014, leaving behind no trace. Despite huge search efforts, nothing has been found and the mystery has been unabated.

Another Malaysian Airliner was shot down over Ukraine. Effort has been being made to initiate a UN tribunal to look into the events surrounding the downing of the flight but they are being blocked by Russia.

Two young Florida boys went fishing. Their boat was found capsized 180 miles from where they started. The search continues, without a trace of them so far.

There is a religious festival that is held every five years in Nepal. Five hundred thousand [500,000] animals have their throats cut. It won’t be happening this year. Priests at the temple of Gidhimai have said that there will be an indefinite halt to the sacrifices to this Goddess of Power. Animal activists are pleased but don’t intend to lower their watch. I think it’s the use of the word “indefinite” that concerns them.

“The enemy of my enemy is my friend” is an old saying that is not holding up between the Turks and the Kurds. Both are fighting IS but they haven’t quit fighting each other. Erdogan, President of Turkey, is concerned because the Kurdish party won 13% of the vote in the last election. Something it has never done. Erdogan is accusing some of the Kurdish members of Parliament of having ties to terrorism. The Erdogan accusations are getting a lot of play; Kurdish rebuttals are receiving little attention.

The Government of Kim Jong-un, everyone’s favorite pudgy little dictator, looks like it is getting ready for a new missile test, having just finished upgrading its rocket launch facility. It will raise tensions between North Korea and the rest of the world, again, and probably result in more sanctions. It will probably happen in October when there is a big political celebration.

Over the last couple of days, hundreds of migrants have stormed the Chunnel, between England and France, desperate to make it to the UK. Riot police have been called out. The Mediterranean problem is sweeping north.

A Minnesota dentist paid $50,000 for a big game hunt in Zimbabwe. He hired a couple of locals. They lured a lion out of a park and he was felled with a crossbow. It turns out the lion was a local tourist favorite, Cecil the Lion. The uproar is horrific. Walter Palmer, the dentist, is apologetic, saying he relied on the locals to ensure a legal hunt. But it looks like the website to his practice has been taken down and he has been thoroughly trashed on social media.

I was not aware that one could still legally hunt wild game in Africa. I thought the only shooting that could be done was with a camera. I was wrong.

It took the hunters forty hours to locate Cecil and to end his misery with a gunshot.

And in ending today’s blog, how better to end it than with an update on The Donald? He has gone on record saying he would welcome Sarah Palin in his administration.

Oh my.

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 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.