Posts Tagged ‘Osama Bin Laden’

Letter From New York 05 20 15 A stark world on a moderate day…

May 20, 2015

First of all, I made a mistake in my “media musings” yesterday; last night was not the last night for David Letterman. Tonight is. Last night was his penultimate show. I must have read the article incorrectly. Sorry about that.

Today, I am in New York City and will be until Friday around noon when I am heading up to the cottage for the long weekend. I have no plans for the weekend and expect it will be a quiet one with some reading and binge viewing. I am hooked on “Frankie and Grace,” the Netflix show that stars Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, Martin Sheen and Sam Waterston. It’s an adult comedy, feels a little rough around the edges, as if it hasn’t quite figured itself out but it is very endearing.

Today in New York, the day is caught between spring and fall; not quite sure what it’s about. Sort of warm, sort of cool but not just right. I had coffee with my friend Erica Gruen this morning and it was delightful to catch up with someone I hadn’t seen for a while and then had my quarterly lunch with David Arcara. I met him casually years ago and we have settled into what he called our quarterly “lunches with Andre.” Nothing is off limits in the conversations and they are always satisfying.

The world is atwitter about revelations today of documents seized when Osama bin Laden was killed. He told anyone who would listen to not think about an Islamic State but to stay focused on killing Americans. He left a will, enjoining his wife [I wonder which one, he had several] to marry his daughters to jihadi or, failing that to “good people.” As has long been rumored, it was confirmed there was a stack of porn but that was not released. We will have to remain curious about what turned Osama on.

Speaking of IS, which is very much a reality despite bin Laden’s admonitions, it has advanced into the Syrian town of Tadmur, near where lie the ruins of World Heritage Site Palmyra. It has also been reported that the ruins themselves are now under the control of IS.

An ancient queen of Palmyra was named Zenobia and early on local rebels, fighting Assad, called themselves “Grandchildren of Zenobia.” The ruins have emotional significance to both the anti-Assad forces and to those loyal to him. IS has no emotional attachment to the ruins and it is feared they will destroy them as they have other ruins and loot what is portable to sell to help finance their campaigns.

The fall of Palmyra in the west and Ramadi in the east show that IS is able to bounce back from setbacks like the fall of Tikrit. It is vexing for Obama because any strikes against IS in the area near Palmyra and Tadmur will mostly benefit Assad, a man for whom Obama has called to be removed.

Ratcheting up the world’s level of nervousness are reports that North Korea has miniaturized nuclear weapons so they can be mounted on missiles. North Korea has recently also claimed it has long range missile capability that can get as far as the West Coast of the U.S.

It is believed that their boast of being able to launch a missile from a submarine is not yet true. Looks like the photos were doctored.

But, at the end of the day, we have a pudgy, grumpy, paranoid little dictator in Kim Jong-un and he has nuclear weapons. This is not good.

Gloria Steinem, along with Mairead Maguire, Nobel Peace Laureate from Ireland and Leymah Gbowee, Nobel Peace Laureate from Liberia are in North Korea with a number of other women to stage a peace march through the DMZ on Sunday.

Ban Ki Moon, Secretary General of the UN, was to have made a visit to North Korea tomorrow but Kim Jong-un cancelled him. He would have been the first UN Secretary General to visit the North in two decades.

A couple of years ago it was revealed that a popular British performer, Jimmy Savile, was a serial sexual predator of adults and children. The British formed a group called Operation Hydrant to look into historical child sexual abuse cases. The publicity surrounding the Savile case has the abused coming out in droves, over 1400 so far and thousands more expected before the end of the year. Among the alleged sexual predators are sports figures, politicians, and music industry elites. The picture that is being formed is “stark.”

It is a stark world out there and there is not much about the starkness that I can do, except do my best to be not stark. I am off to the New York Video Meet-up and then for a bite to eat.

Letter From New York 05 11 15 Of glittering sun and charming princes…

May 11, 2015

Today dawned gloriously, bright shiny sunlight came barreling down from the east, casting a disc of yellow/white onto the creek, glinting up at me as I stood on the deck for a moment before heading for the city.

The Hudson looked peaceful as I rolled south on the train, giving no evidence that there had been a fire at Indian Point, the nuclear reactor forty miles north of midtown Manhattan or that oil from there had seeped into the river, causing environmental concerns. Governor Cuomo was there over the weekend, being briefed on the happenings. It makes him and many others nervous about a nuclear plant that close to the city.

Anything nuclear makes me nervous.

For those who have a fond spot for Britain, it may be time to be nervous. While last week’s election has saved the political career of David Cameron it might just herald the beginning of the end for “Great Britain.” The SNP [Scottish National Party] won 56 of 59 seats that Scotland has in Britain’s Parliament. They also are very much in favor of holding another vote about Scotland going its own way from the rest of the United Kingdom [England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland]. Just doesn’t seem right but it could happen.

What does seem right is the idea of a truce in Yemen that is supposed to start tomorrow to allow aid to reach the Yemenis. Fuel resources are almost exhausted and food is scarce. Days ago it was estimated that 80% of Yemenis were going hungry. It’s only become worse since then.

As the time for the truce draws near, the Saudis are deploying a strike force near the Yemen/Saudi border. Trucks carrying tanks have been traveling through the night to take positions. The Houthis say they will honor the truce as long as the Saudis do but if there are infractions they will immediately respond.

One UN official felt five days would not be enough time to get aid to the Yemenis but it is all they have, if they manage to hold the truce for that amount of time.

Secretary of State John Kerry is off to Sochi, Russia to meet with Vladimir Putin to discuss Syria, Ukraine and Iran. I wonder what that conversation is going to be like?

In more Washington news, writer Seymour Hersh has written a piece for the London Review of Books claiming that the story of Osama Bin Laden’s death was a lot of bunk and the truth is quite different. Seems he thinks that it was an American/Pakistani conspiracy and that OBL was actually a Pakistani prisoner at the time of the raid and the raid was a cover-up for Pakistan’s involvement.

Pretty far fetched and, like most conspiracy theories, pretty hard to prove.

From The Moscow Times, an English language newspaper in Russia not known for partisanship to Putin, claims that Russian soldiers have, in small numbers, quit the army after being forced to serve in Ukraine.

According to Vladimir Putin, no Russian soldiers are in Ukraine, only volunteers.

While the migrant focus has been on the thousands attempting to cross from Libya to Italy, another migrant drama has been playing out. Muslim Rohingya from Myanmar and Bangladeshi immigrants have been rescued at sea attempting to reach Malaysia since Thailand has been cracking down on human trafficking. The Rohingya are not allowed citizenship in Myanmar and as Muslims are a minority in that mostly Buddhist country and have been singled out for ethnic violence. Because of the Thai crackdown, aid workers are concerned that many have been abandoned at sea by their smugglers.

George Zimmerman, he of the Trayvon Martin case in Florida, is back in the news today, having been himself slightly wounded in a road rage incident.

And Tom Brady, Quarterback of the Patriots, has been suspended by the NFL for four games while the Patriots were fined a million dollars and two draft picks in coming years. Seems a slight slap on the wrist though it is almost assured that Brady will appeal his suspension. Ah, Deflategate!

Prince Harry, now fifth in line for the British throne after the birth of his niece, Charlotte, is in New Zealand, learning about the aftereffects of the 2011 earthquake in Christchurch. By all accounts he is charming the New Zealanders to no end.

And that brings me to the end of today’s Letter From New York. I am about to do a conference call and then see about some dinner. That sounds charming.

Letter From New York 03 05 15 In a winter wasteland…

March 5, 2015

As I start to write this, I’m on a northbound Amtrak train, heading back to the cottage after three and a half days in the city. I’m looking forward to being back there. There is paperwork I must organize for the accountant and I will do that this afternoon, cozy with a fire and a good British mystery playing on Acorn TV. The city is a mess. No way around it. A mess. Slushy, heavy snow is falling and tangling traffic and all transit.

My train was late arriving into Penn, coming in swathed in snow and wet. Now we are exiting the tunnels to parallel the West Side Highway before breaking free of Manhattan.

It is wildly beautiful and winter treacherous. Ice floes dot the Hudson.

A Delta flight skidded off the runway an hour ago at LaGuardia, closing the airport.

While having my first cup of coffee this morning and reading the New York Times, I read an article that outlined the depth of Iran’s involvement in Iraq. While I had learned yesterday that an Iranian General was seemingly directing operations, I did not know there were Iranian soldiers on the ground, which apparently there are. The General, Qassim Suleimani, has been described as a stately Osama bin Laden. That is the apparent reason that the US led coalition has not been involved in the advance on Tikrit. It doesn’t want to be seen aiding the Iranians, particularly this General.

At the same time, thousands are fleeing, attempting to reach Samarra for safety.

IS is fighting back, setting oil fields aflame to obscure targets to the Iraqi jets that are pummeling them. They have booby-trapped the roads leading into Tikrit and that is slowing the advance.

In Africa, Boko Haram, under pressure on several fronts, struck back by killing scores in a village in northeast Nigeria.

Late last night Hillary Clinton tweeted she wanted the State Department to release her emails and State says they are reviewing them.

The snow has shut down Washington. Congress called it a week yesterday. President Obama is at the White House, snug I’m sure, with only a briefing and a lunch with Vice President Biden on his schedule.

Everyone is attempting to interpret the questions asked by Supreme Court Justices in yesterday’s hearing about Obamacare. The pundits are working on reading the tealeaves.

Elsewhere in politics, Jeb Bush and other Republican presidential hopefuls are converging on Iowa this week to attend an agricultural forum. While far and away in the lead among donors and Republican centrists, Bush is having trouble breaking through to the rank and file. There is fatigue with the Bush name and Jeb needs to find ways to separate himself from his father and especially his brother.

The World Resources Institute has stated, in its first comprehensive analysis of all the data, that by 2030 there will be a tripling of the number of people affected by river flooding. It is hoping its report will encourage countries to take mitigating measures in the coming years.

May 7th marks the 100th Anniversary of the sinking of the Lusitania. Torpedoed by a German submarine in 1915, the ship sank in just eighteen minutes, taking nearly 1200 people down with her, including 128 Americans, among which was the playboy Alfred Vanderbilt.

The sinking, always surrounded by elements of mystery, became a rallying cry that helped bring America into World War I in 1917. “Remember the Lusitania!” The Lusitania was a Cunard liner and Cunard is hosting a special sailing to note the event.

On board were four million rounds of ammunition. It has long been believed that the ship was also carrying dangerous stores of munitions that were highly unstable. Shortly after the torpedo hit, a second explosion racked the liner and it began to list precipitously. Minutes later it was gone.

To my left, the Hudson River is a white wasteland but the snow has stopped and the weather improved. In a little less than an hour, I’ll be in Hudson and not long after that at the cottage, curled up with my papers to get to the accountant tomorrow.

Letter From New York 01 04 15 Living in a world of choices…

January 4, 2015

The sun has set and the lights in Claverack are blinking on, here on Patroon Street. If the family of deer trotted across the property, I missed them, as I was busy in the kitchen cooking for some friends who are coming for dinner.

Today I woke early, close to five and attempted to return to sleep but really couldn’t so eventually got up and made coffee. While it was brewing, a text came in from a friend down in Delaware who apparently was having the same kind of morning I was having. Feeling fretful and grey like the day, he took himself for a walk to the beach from where he sent me a picture of a beautiful but barren beach.

We had a text conversation for a few minutes and then he let me know he needed to call a friend who had just informed him, by text, that he was very ill with a form of leukemia.

That smacked the world into perspective.

While I have anxiety about moving into the New Year, it is not burdened with health fears and the prognosis of a limited horizon. It caused me to realize I have all kinds of options and opportunities in front of me. And it is with that knowledge I must move forward.

There was a task I have been delaying so I went to my laptop and finished it and got it off my desk. After showering, I went down into Hudson and went to Christ Church Episcopal for their 10:30 Sunday morning service. I was, unfortunately, a little late because there was a radio interview on NPR with Deborah Halber, who is the author of The Skeleton Crew, all about amateur sleuths who help solve the country’s coldest cases.

I know one of them well. His name is Todd Matthews and he solved a forty year old case known as The Tent Girl, an abandoned body wrapped in a piece of tent canvas for a shroud. Todd was active in The Doe Network, a group of hard-core individualists who become fascinated with particular cases and are like dogs with a bone. They won’t give up. He has parlayed his work into a job as Communications Director for the recently formed NamUs, National Missing and Unidentified Persons System.

His work is fascinating. He was one of those amateurs who got it into him and he wouldn’t let go until the woman was identified. We’ve been friends now for ten years or so and while we don’t connect frequently, we have a place for each other in our lives. I admire him immensely.

So I was late to church, a thinly attended service this second Sunday after Christmas. Being a lapsed Catholic, I find solace in the services of the Episcopal Church, so like Catholicism but fundamentally different in their approach to many things. Mother Eileen, interim Rector of Christ Church, always goes out of the way to make me feel welcome.

Like many, I have a hard time concentrating on the sermon but it was a good one today, about carrying the Christmas spirit forward into the year, that all of us have good and evil in us and we make the choices day to day on which we’ll be.

At least that’s what I took away from it.

Hey, Hitler was said to have doted on children and Osama Bin Laden was many times a daddy.

It is now fully dark. I must go turn on the lights so my guests can find their way to my home and I will do my best to live in the choice of good over evil and, while I must acknowledge my anxieties, I must also remember all the good fortune in which I live.