Posts Tagged ‘Raqqa’

Letter From New York 11 16 2015 From Paris to Beirut to Minneapolis…

November 16, 2015

Hudson River. Hudson Valley. Paris attacks. French manhunt. IS. Raqqa. Alabama. Michigan. Minneapolis shooting.  Jamar Clark.  Ferguson. Beirut. Lebanese bombings.

It is Monday and the sun glistens off the Hudson River as I ride south, into the city for a meeting today and a lunch tomorrow and then back north to celebrate my birthday on Wednesday.  Another year has passed, this one having moved past me more quickly than any other year.

My mother said often that time moves more quickly the older you get and it appears that she was right, in this instance.

It is a beautiful day in the Hudson Valley, a day so bright and cheerful it feels as if everything was right everywhere in the world.

Of course, it’s not.  The world is still reeling from the Paris attacks.  A manhunt is on throughout France and Belgium looking for a man believed to be one of the attackers who escaped in the chaos following the shootings and suicide bombings. Many have been arrested and taken into custody. 

A Belgian, now believed to be in Syria, is said to be the mastermind. He is 27 years old.

A video was released, purportedly from IS, saying more Paris style attacks would be coming, specifically naming Washington, DC as a target. Its authenticity is questionable and it does not have the high production values usually associated with IS videos. 

In retaliation, French jets, with help from the US, bombed Raqqa, the self-proclaimed capital of IS. There were at least twenty sorties.

Muslims across Europe are fearful of more backlash because of this and they are, unfortunately, right.  The Governors of Alabama and Michigan have declared their states are closed to Syrian refugees.

At the same time, Obama is ruling out ground forces against IS.  Hollande says he going to speak with both Obama and Putin in the next few days to discuss the situation.

On Thursday, bombs went off in Lebanon, killing 48.  There was no great outcry or notice until Paris.  Now people are noticing and vigils are being held for the Lebanese victims of IS, too.

France has declared itself at war and Hollande is asking for three months of emergency measures.  The US Military has told service members they are not allowed to go to France on leave.

Obama has declared this is a war on civilization.  It is.

I glide south, seagulls swooping over the river in graceful circles.  A tanker inches southward.  We are nearing the city and it becomes more industrial.

Minneapolis is my hometown. There was a shooting there last night.  A young black man was shot and is, according to his family, brain dead.  Witnesses say he was handcuffed and on the ground when he was shot.  The police report a different story.  Black Lives Matter Minneapolis has gathered in protest and is occupying the lobby of the Police Precinct in North Minneapolis where the shooting took place.

North Minneapolis has long had a reputation as a dangerous place.  When I was in my twenties I worked there in an alternative high school.  One of the students warned me against wearing the expensive watch I had as well as the ring I wore.  People were planning to relieve me of them.

People are asking if Minneapolis is having its “Ferguson” moment.  Hard to think of Minneapolis, my hometown, as a “Ferguson” kind of place.

But violence is everywhere and we are becoming so aware of it.

Letter From New York 07 05 15 Civilized things in an uncivilized world…

July 5, 2015

Well, at last there is a sunny day! I am sitting at the dining room table at my friends’ apartment in Baltimore and sun is pouring down on the deck. It’s been sunny all day! And I’m just delighted.

As many people have been doing, I have been watching what has been happening in Greece. It seems the Greek people are voting “no” in the referendum that was held today – at least that is what the early opinion polls are showing. And now we will wait to see how it plays out this week. Will the European Central Bank give fresh funds to Greek Banks, who will probably run out of cash this week? Will a deal be done or is this Greece’s farewell to the Eurozone?

As the Greeks were voting, US warplanes were striking at Raqqa, the “capital” of the IS Caliphate. It was intended to cripple the group’s efforts to move military resources further into Iraq or Syria.

IS has been active in Sinai, at least fifty are dead there. From there, they have heaved some missiles into southern Israel.

An evangelical church in Nigeria lost six worshipers today when a suicide bomber attacked.

Donald Trump is riding a populist wave with his remarks about Mexican immigrants, causing consternation among Republican candidates. Rick Perry has found him offensive and others are working to distance themselves from him. He may be a train wreck but he’s ahead in the polls, believe it or not.

The Pope arrived in Quito today on a trip to Latin America, the continent where he was born. He will be in Ecuador, Bolivia and Paraguay but not his native Argentina. He will be bringing the church to the poor. It is seen by some as a test of his ability to keep the faithful within the church. Roman Catholicism has been losing to Protestant Evangelicals in many parts of the continent.

While warplanes were attacking Raqqa and the Greeks seemed to be voting “no,” little Princess Charlotte Elizabeth Diana of Cambridge was christened in the country, on her Great-Grandmother’s estate at Sandringham, at St Mary Magdalene Church, where Diana, Princess of Wales, was christened in 1961. It was a nod to the Princess’s paternal grandmother as were some of the music choices and the fact that a cousin of Diana’s was named as one of the godparents. Princess Charlotte has five of them.

Afterwards, Queen Elizabeth II served champagne and tea at her palace. 3500 came out to greet the newly christened Princess. It was a pretty day; with young Prince George wearing an outfit that was very similar to the one his father wore to Prince Harry’s christening.

All was very civilized and far from the chaos in other parts of the world.

Taking a cue from the civilized behavior of the Cambridge’s, I am planning to finish this, sip a martini, shaken, not stirred [as I am writing, I am also half watching a Sean Connery Bond movie, “Diamonds Are Forever”] and then head to the Thames Street Oyster House for a civilized dinner.P

Letter From New York 02 10 15 Of sex and politics and other things…

February 10, 2015

Taking advantage of the fact it rocketed to just above freezing today, I went for a walk to break the spell of cabin fever that has settled upon me as it snowed and snowed and snowed. It is both above freezing and the sun is brilliant, causing me to squint as I walked. It appears that the weight of the snow has felled a couple of trees in the neighborhood.

Early this morning, Nick, who helps me out at the house, and his sidekick, Bernard, arrived to finish digging me out. It was while they were shoveling and knocking down icicles that a report came in from the BBC that, indeed, Kayla Mueller, the last American hostage in the hands of ISIS, was dead. It is not clear yet whether she died in the Jordanian bombing of Raqqa or if she had died at another place and time.

Regardless, she is dead and my heart goes out to her family. Her “crime” was that she was an American, helping refugees. She paid with her life for her humanitarianism.

Tomorrow, my brother goes to Honduras to bring medical care to places that have no medical care except when teams like his venture there. He has done this for many years. Honduras has a place in his heart; he ran a clinic for children in El Progresso, Honduras, after finishing his internship. Yearly, I worry because Honduras, never the safest of places, has devolved in recent years and is now one of the most violent countries on the planet.

Jeb Bush continues to groom himself as a Presidential candidate. Today he released the first chapter of an eBook about his time as Governor of Florida, filled with emails from his first weeks. Chris Christie, current Governor of New Jersey, is being dogged by tales of a lavish lifestyle to which he has managed to grow accustomed. After all, he said, he is just “trying to squeeze the last juice out of the orange.” The King of Jordan picked up a tab for him for $30,000 to pay for a vacation in that country.

Once upon a time Dominique Strauss-Kahn was considered a front-runner for President of France. Today, he is on trial in Lille, France for pimping. He denies it, not for a moment believing that the provocatively dressed women at the “swingers” parties he attended were prostitutes. He has a “horror” of sex with prostitutes. His sexual activities have been under the microscope since 2011 when he was accused by a housemaid at the Hotel Sofitel in New York of forcing himself upon her. That was settled out of court. He had to step down as President of the IMF. He has been attempting to rehabilitate his reputation since then. I don’t think it is working.

In other sexual/political news the High Court in Malaysia has upheld the sodomy conviction of former Deputy Prime Minister Anwar. He was convicted in 2008. That conviction was overturned and now that overturning has been overturned. Prime Minister Najib of Malaysia defended the decision, even as criticism of him is mounting in that country. As Imelda Marcos had a thing for shoes, his wife has a thing for handbags, the kind that can cost as much as $150,000. She has lots. He doesn’t earn that much as a politician. And no one seems to quite believe the story of family money from somewhere.

In Minsk, tomorrow, the leaders of Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany are meeting. They are going to discuss creating a de-militarized zone in the southeast of Ukraine where the September truce is being broken by both sides on a daily basis. While dialogue may continue, it is beginning to feel as if the door on diplomacy is closing. The US is talking of arming Kiev and the EU is against it. Putin maintains his inscrutability.

All of this is news and if this were a normal week, Brian Williams would be leading the dissemination of it on NBC. It is not. NBC says they will resolve the Brian Williams crisis in the next day or two. According to a Rasmussen Reports poll, 40% of Americans think he should resign.

This weekend the highly anticipated film, FIFTY SHADES OF GREY, will premiere. The film version of the naughty book of the same name will probably do well at the Box Office though first reviews of the film aren’t particularly good but then reviews of the book were awful but it didn’t prevent it from lingering for what seemed forever on the best seller lists.

I’ll wind down now and get ready to go to the local Mexican restaurant, Coyote Flaco, for some dinner. The sun is setting and the temperature is supposed to dip again, making this the longest cold stretch I can remember in the fourteen years in Claverack.