Posts Tagged ‘Macedonia’

Letter From New York 05 18 15 Of a grey day with some things interesting, some tragic…

May 18, 2015

As I trained into the city today from Claverack, the east bank of the Hudson River was shrouded in a fog, hiding the foliage on the far bank of the river, casting a ghostly pall across the landscape. It felt like the first shot in a Gothic romance set in the Victorian Age.

Closer into the city, the fog dissipated but New York has been grey all day, a heaviness that seems to have affected the citizens. Smiles have been hard to find today. One crossed my mouth as I passed through Penn Station this morning on my way to the subway.

I have almost gotten to the point where the soldiers blend into the background and are simply a part of the scenery. Today one soldier was tapping his foot to the rhythm of the music being played by a busker a hundred feet away. I smiled.

While on the train and the subway, I scanned the headlines of the day.

Blazoned across all the news outlets was the story of the fall of Ramadi, capital of Anbar province, hard fought for by American soldiers twelve years ago, now in the hands of IS. Iraqi soldiers were reported fleeing as fast they could. 25000 civilians fled the city, seeking safety in the capital. Reports have indicated at least some have been turned away from Baghdad.

It is also grimly reported that IS has slaughtered at least 500 as they overran the city, specifically seeking any soldiers or policemen.

In Waco, Texas there have been at least 192 arrests of bikers after a fistfight got out of control in front of a Twin Peaks restaurant, ending with nine bikers dead and eighteen others wounded. There are rumors that bikers from around the country are riding toward Waco, an image that calls up scenes from Mad Max, the older one, as I haven’t seen the new one yet. Police have cordoned off exits around the area and have said they’re ready.

At least five different motorcycle gangs were involved, including the Cossacks and the Bandidos.

Speaking of Twin Peaks, do any of you remember that quirky, creepy television show “Twin Peaks” from twenty-five years ago? It’s coming back. David Lynch will return to direct. Kyle McLachlan will be back to play his character, Special Agent Dale Cooper. Showtime has committed to a new series, picking up the crazy thread of a show that had everyone confused most of the time, while contributing regularly to nightmares. Will the “Log Lady” return?

The southern boundaries of Europe have seen increasing migrations of people desperate to depart Africa, much of the traffic coming from Libya and organized by criminal gangs involved in human trafficking. The EU has proposed launching a naval campaign to destroy their boats, thus disrupting their business. It awaits UN approval.

It appears the smugglers are being allowed by IS to operate out of the part of Libya they control in exchange for half their profits.

Macedonia’s crisis continues. The opposition is demanding the departure of Prime Minister Gruevski and he has been saying: no way, Jose! The opposition has rallies. Gruevski gets out his followers. Violence is in the air. Gruevski is saying this is all the result of foreigners.

That sounds familiar.

What is unfamiliar is that President Maduro of Venezuela may face real opposition in the next elections. Sentiment is growing against him. Polls indicate that if elections were held today, he would be out on the street.

In less dramatic news today, the President of the United States got his own twitter account. @Potus. There was some kidding back and forth between Obama and Bill Clinton [@billclinton]. Apparently the twitter handle will go to the next occupier of the Oval Office.

Also, little Elian Gonzalez, who was found floating off Florida in 1999 by some fishermen is now grown up. His mother died attempting to get the two of them from Cuba to America. His arrival caused a tug of war between those who wanted him to stay and those who thought he should be returned to his father. In a dramatic moment, armed men stormed the house where he was staying with one of the rescuing fishermen and forcibly removed him so as to return him to Cuba.

He now would like to return to America to express his love for this country, he has said in an exclusive ABC interview.

Speaking of ABC, George Stephanopoulos has found himself in some uncomfortably hot water. Apparently he has given $75,000 to the Clinton Foundation without telling his bosses at ABC. They consider it an honest mistake. Republicans are, not unexpectedly, calling for some version of his scalp.

Today has been full of events, some just interesting, some like Ramadi, tragic, and it would be possible to continue longer but it’s time to wrap up.

I’m off to seek some sustenance at the end of the day and see if I can shake the weight of this grey day.

Letter From New York 05 17 15 Beauty contrasting with tragedy…

May 17, 2015

It has been a beautiful, summer like day in Claverack. The creek is still and the trees that overhang it are reflected back in the mirror that is the water. The trees have bloomed and a canopy of green has arrived to the view in front of me as I write. The days are longer and when I have finished today’s letter, I will find myself something to eat.

Today, I took the day for myself, caught up on my cluttered email inbox, luxuriated in waking early and reading The Times along with a mug of good, strong Honduran free trade coffee picked up a couple of weeks ago at the Farmer’s Market, on the day it opened its summer season in a parking lot at 7th and Columbia in Hudson.

I am relaxing in my freshly painted living and dining rooms and have had a lovely day. Yesterday, while doing some work I discovered that my vehicle inspection was now seriously overdue and so I went and had that done. I plowed through two weeks of mail, so much of it that it came home in a Post Office plastic bin.

Other than the vehicle inspection and picking up my clothes from the laundry, I have not wandered from my two little acres on the creek.

The news is not good. Ramadi has apparently fallen to IS, giving them a foothold seventy miles from Baghdad, which is closer than comfortable I would imagine if I were sitting in the Presidential Palace there.

In Syria, in a rare ground involvement, the US Army’s Delta Force made a daring nighttime raid Friday, killing Abu Sayyaf, a leading IS figure who had a commanding role in IS’s finances. They scooped up buckets of data before they departed with his wife, Umm Sayyaf, who is now being held in Iraq. She, too, was in the know about many things and is being “debriefed.”

Ukraine is claiming to have captured two Russian soldiers near the rebel held eastern zone. They are shown in a video, which has not been independently verified. More to come on this, I’m sure.

Whenever I hear the word “Macedonia” I think of Alexander the Great, who hailed from there. But it is a real country, once part of the former Yugoslavia, and it is in crisis. Tens of thousands of Macedonians have taken to the streets to demand the resignation of the Prime Minister, who has been revealed to be pretty dictatorial in a series of conversations that had been recorded. Think the Nixon tapes. He says he isn’t going anywhere and there is a chance this could become ugly.

In Nepal, the toll in the earthquakes which have ravaged the country are now climbing toward 9,000, surpassing the death toll in the last great earthquake in 1934. Six American Marines and two Nepali soldiers died when their helicopter crashed. Their bodies have now been recovered and returned to Kathmandu. They died on a mission to evacuate survivors.

Pope Francis, who never ceases to amaze, has canonized two 19th Century Palestinian nuns. He has also called Abbas of Palestine “an angel of peace.” The Vatican has implicitly implied that it recognized the “State of Palestine.” I am sure this is causing deep concern in Tel Aviv.

The canonization of the Palestinian nuns is seen as a way of offering encouragement to Middle Eastern Christians who are more embattled today than they have been for centuries.

In Egypt, former President Morsi has been condemned to death and the sentence has gone in front of Egypt’s Grand Mufti for consideration. I was once at a panel on which the last Grand Mufti sat. He resigned shortly thereafter. I think he didn’t want to have to deal with issues like this.

There is a very good chance that Ireland’s voters will vote in gay marriage. Stunning for a country that is heavily Catholic. In a recent poll, 63% were in favor. The Church’s influence in Ireland is on the wane.

Obama has said that full gay rights won’t be won overnight. And it’s very true. Even if the Supreme Court legalizes same sex marriage in June there will be other, local battles to be won. Discrimination against gays is not forbidden in many states and then we have Mike Huckabee…

Outside the room in which I am writing, I hear the distant sound of birds singing. A stray cat has wandered over my deck, calmly until it noticed me. It is a stunningly beautiful 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.