Posts Tagged ‘Saudis’

Letter from Claverack 09 13 15 In a time of travail…

September 13, 2015

The sun is setting here in Claverack. It has been a grey day, mostly, with bits of rain here and there. It’s been warm but not hot. The high was at most mid-70’s today. Soon it will be cool and I’ll be lighting fires in the Franklin stove.

As has been the case of late, I had a hard time waking this morning and hit the snooze alarm an annoying number of times but, as it was my personal commitment to go to church today, I pulled myself eventually out of bed and prepped myself and got off to church.

For some reason, I found myself thinking about my Catholic childhood, all of us forced to attend Sunday Mass with our classes, filling the 9:00 service with all our bodies, a Mass generally avoided by any thinking adult. Who would want to go to church with hundreds of school children?

Sister Ann, my 8th grade teacher, announced one day that we would be persecuted because we were Catholics. I remember thinking how strange that sounded. Certainly I didn’t think of myself as being persecuted. I lived in a nice house, in a nice neighborhood and it didn’t seem to me that anyone was persecuting me for being Catholic.

I was born a couple of generations after that had happened.

It came to mind today because Mother Eileen, interim Pastor at Christ Church Episcopal, where I now attend service, talked today in her sermon about those who are suffering around the world because they are Christians.

And, while I am not in those countries, it is real that Christians in Iraq, Syria, and other places are being targeted. There is IS with its rigid and antediluvian interpretation of Islam and there is persecution of Coptic Christians in Egypt. Muslim/Christian tensions inflame the African continent.

I thought we were beyond those times but we’re not, not at all.

As I drove to church, I was listening to a program on New England Public Radio that was devastatingly funny in its oral portraits of what Republican candidates are saying regarding constitutionality. It was almost hysterical, except these people are serious. The constitution should be enforced when combating Muslims but shouldn’t be enforced when Kim Davis refuses to uphold the law of the land. The hypocrisy was astounding.

Post church, I went for a drive while I listened to “Wait! Wait! Don’t Tell Me!,” my favorite NPR program and then I went to the Red Dot and perused a new cookbook I had purchased the other day, realizing that we are slipping into fall and it was time to think about Holiday meals.

While the day was supposed to be cursed with thunderstorms, there were none. A bit of light rain has fallen but nothing more.

It is seven in the evening. The light has almost completely left the sky. The light on the fountain has automatically turned on.

The house is quiet. My world is quiet though I know that far away from me the world is not quiet.

The Saudis are bombing Yemen, inflicting terrible pain upon the civilians. People in the lands controlled by IS are cowering in their homes. The markets of Baghdad are not safe.

All of this seems far away. Today, though, Al Qaeda called for individuals to launch attacks in America. Europe is in turmoil over the refugee situation. 14,000 refugees arrived in Germany today. Austria and Hungary have closed their borders.

They are being overwhelmed.

People are lamenting the refugee situation without looking at the wars that are causing the situation.

These are desperate times. I am not sure what to do except to donate to charities who are attempting to help the massive flow of people, desperate to escape their desperate lives, wanting to flee to someplace where they might not be randomly killed or starved for lack of resources.

I have no answers and am not sure I have the questions. I only know we are in a time of travail.

Letter From New York 05 09 15 A day after the anniversary of the end of WWII

May 9, 2015

It is Saturday morning and I am preparing to drive from Baltimore with Lionel and Pierre to Frenchtown, New Jersey, where James Green, our mutual friend, is having his annual Cinco de Mayo party, which happens to be his birthday. Then we are going to drive to Claverack where L&P will spend the night before returning to Baltimore.

Yesterday was many things. It was a slightly off day for me. I slammed my finger in a door, which didn’t feel so good. And, in a combination of a bit of bad luck and a bit of bad planning, I missed my train from Baltimore to DC by three minutes.

I determined that I could either beat myself up or I could go with the flow as much as possible and I chose the later after a long conversation on Thursday evening with Lance McPherson, a friend, about the value of not beating oneself up.

I had good meetings in DC and found my way back to Baltimore and then on to a lovely dinner at Ouzo Bay, a restaurant in Harbor East.

Yesterday, if you missed it, was the 70th Anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe. Seventy years ago the Germans surrendered and the fighting ceased.

Russia did it up big, having the largest end of war anniversary celebration in history. Thousands of troops marched. Planes screamed through the skies overhead and new armor was displayed, demonstrating how much the Russians have built up their arsenal in the last few years.

Most European leaders attended festivities in their own countries and so avoided having to attend to Moscow’s celebration. There is that pesky matter of Ukraine. The biggest guest in Moscow was the Premier of China.

There were events at Gdansk, formerly Danzig, which is war the war actually started.

Yesterday, too, it became absolutely clear that David Cameron had won an unexpected win and a big win at that to return as Prime Minister of the UK with a majority in Parliament. He will not have to look to the Liberal Democrats for help, not that they could be much help as they were trounced and lost most of their seats, resulting in Nick Clegg, their leader, stepping down. Ed Miliband, who was leading the Labour Party, also resigned because of their defeat.

Pollsters had predicted a breathtakingly close race and it wasn’t. Their reputation is tarnished right now.

Not stepping down is Nicola Sturgeon, who leads the Scottish National Party, which won almost all the Scottish seats in Parliament.

UKIP, the far right British party, did not do very well either.

However, all of this leads Cameron into very stormy political weather. He has promised a referendum on Britain’s place in the European Union and Nicola Sturgeon is agitating for another vote on Scottish independence. It will be an interesting tightrope for Mr. Cameron.

Nepal is still shattered but foreign journalists and helpers are leaving. The death toll has climbed above 7,000. The UN called for $435 million dollars in aid for the country but so far only about $23 million has been forthcoming. Hundreds of bodies still lie beneath the ruins and aid is still slow in reaching the remotest parts of the country. In a few weeks the Monsoon season will arrive.

In discomforting news, North Korea claims it has successfully test fired a ballistic missile from a submarine thus increasing the range of their nuclear weapons. Another worry for the world.

Liberia, once one of the centers of the Ebola outbreak, has been declared Ebola free now that no new cases have been discovered for six weeks.

In poor Yemen, the Houthis are claiming that Saudis have launched over a hundred raids on the country in the last day. Supplies still float at sea and people are beginning to starve. There is some talk of a truce but no real movement.

At home in America, tornadoes have ravaged Oklahoma with more storms predicted. Golf ball sized hail fell in Norman, OK.

Republican Presidential hopefuls are gathering in South Carolina to line up support at a gathering there. But apparently Jeb Bush won’t be there nor will Chris Christie or Rand Paul.

I will not be in South Carolina. I am leaving now for Frenchtown and then home.

Letter From New York 04 24 15 2015, a big year for anniversaries…

April 24, 2015

First of all, my apologies…

I thought the Bruce Jenner/Diane Sawyer interview was last night and it is tonight. I misread the paper yesterday. Sorry about that.

But it is tonight and the Kardashians are gathering to watch it together. He’s their stepfather. Bruce says that 2015 is going to be a wild ride. And I am sure that it already has been for him.

2015 is a big year for a lot of things.

Los Angeles has a large Armenian community and thousands of them marched today to remember the Armenian Genocide. The centenary of that gruesome event is happening today.

2015 is also the centenary, celebrated tomorrow, of Gallipoli. The Allies in World War I wanted to break the back of Turkish participation by capturing Istanbul. They landed at Gallipoli and remained there for months, unable to advance, starving, dying and suffering from dysentery. Something like 45,000 Allied troops died there as did 80 some thousand Turkish troops.

Charles, Prince of Wales, and his son, Prince Harry, are there to lead the British delegation to the remembrance. Australians and soldiers from New Zealand died in the thousands there too. It was the their military debut on the world stage and it is remembered every year there and on the centenary, the Prime Ministers of both countries have traveled to Gallipoli to be present for the ceremonies.

While that conflict has long been ended, the one in Yemen seems nowhere near ending. The Houthis have advanced and the Saudi led coalition has bombed back. 150,000 Yemenis have been displaced and the country is collapsing. Nearly everything they need has to be imported and right now almost nothing is coming in as cargo ships are detained in the waters off Yemen.

A number of Afghans and Pakistanis were arrested in Italy today, accused of planning to carry out Al Qaeda attacks, including one aimed at the Vatican.

In the United States there has been a huge buzz all day about the demise of the Time Warner Cable and Comcast merger. Called off today, it once looked like a sure thing. But since the deal was announced the media revolution that is occurring caused the spotlight to shift from cable homes reached to broadband houses served. If the deal had gone through, the combined companies would have owned, according to some estimates, as much as 57% of broadband service to US costumers.

That was too much for anyone.

Senator Al Franken of Minnesota was a lonely voice a year ago in disapproval of the deal. He is hardly alone now.

Feeling a bit isolated today is Ed Miliband, Labour’s candidate for Prime Minister of Britain. He set off a row by claiming in a speech that the migrant disaster in the Mediterranean could be traced back to a lack of planning after the fall of Gadhafi. The Tories declared he had reached a new low.

We’ll see. The elections are two weeks away. A new low could be just around the corner.

Not going to Poland are the Night Wolves, a Hell’s Angels sort of biking group in Russia that is very fond of Putin as Putin is fond of them. They planned to ride through Poland on their way to celebrate Soviet victories in World War II, 70 years ago this year. Nope, said the Poles. Russia is “indignant.”

Less indignant will be some parts of American society now that Abercrombie & Fitch is set to dial down the sexiness of their advertising. No more male shirtless models everywhere.

The NASDAQ had its highest intraday moment in history today, propelled by Google, Amazon and Microsoft, the tech triumvirate. They all soared on individual good news.

Good news here is that sun is out. I saw “Ex Machina” last night and it was good; not what I expected but good and disturbing at the end.

In about an hour I will head over to Penn Station to take the 5:47 train up to Hudson. Lionel and Pierre will be home this weekend to attend a birthday party and we’ll all go to the Dot tonight.

Should be a good weekend.

Letter From New York 04 16 15 Just a little inspiration…

April 16, 2015

This is a day in which I have been, in some ways, remarkably unproductive. Deep into reading “The End of Your Life Book Club,” I am nearing the end and have carved out hours today to continuing reading it. I dallied over my morning cup of coffee to give me more time to read it. On my way to a friend’s office to do a little work, I stopped and had lunch at a coffee shop and used up more than my fair share of time on the stool at the counter, whipping through the pages of the book. My Kindle Fire tells me I now have only 13% of the book left to read and I am anxious to finish it and desperate for it to last.

It’s inspiring me and we all could use a little inspiration. I don’t want to say much about it. I just suggest that you think about getting a copy and reading it. Sarah, whom I have known since I was three, called me up and suggested it to me in no uncertain terms.

I am so glad she did.

In an effort to be more present, I have been working to see things, really see them, the way I sometimes do when I am traveling. Today is a beautiful day in New York and while it is not the riot of color that is India, it is an incredibly textured city. I was particularly noticing how yellow the cabs are. Have I just learned to gloss them over and not really see the vibrancy they bring to the city’s streets?

These are the kinds of things I have been attempting to notice.

And I have been also attempting to notice what is going on in the world, despite a distinct aversion to wanting to know. I realized yesterday I did not want to read a story about Ukraine. I wanted to go straight to other, less threatening pieces of information. But I forced myself to go back to the article and read how difficult it is for the sick in the rebel held part of Ukraine. There are no medicines to be had.

In Kiev, two men, both pro-Russian, one a journalist and another a former Parliament member, have died of gunshot wounds. Two men shot the journalist dead in broad daylight from a passing car.

In Durban, South African thousands of immigrants fled to shelters for safety after an anti-immigration riot left five dead.

Africans attempting to cross to Italy have died in the hundreds in the past week. One set of Muslims threw twelve Christians overboard because; well, because they were Christian.

In Yemen, where it is hard to keep track of the players, President Hadi, who is in exile in Saudi Arabia, has named Khaled Bahah, who is also in Saudi Arabia, as his Vice President. Bahah is well liked and respected across many sections of the political landscape in Yemen. He hopes that a Saudi Arabian land invasion can be avoided though it is looking more likely every day as the rebel Houthis gobble up much of the country.

Meanwhile, five ships with food are being prevented from unloading their cargoes until they are searched stem to stern by the Saudis to make sure there are no guns coming in with the food.

Lincoln Chaffee of Rhode Island is indicating he’ll run for the Democratic Presidential nomination.

In news that I find heartening, the Vatican has completed its investigation of American nuns, begun under Pope Benedict XVI. The final report is quietly burying a controversy that has plagued Francis since his ascension.

Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens debuts in December of this year. In California, Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher were present for the first screening of the film’s second trailer. Not present was Harrison Ford, who is still recuperating from his March plane crash. Looking forward to the film.

In another piece of news I appreciated, the little town of Lindstrom, Minnesota [my home state] is getting the umlauts back over the o in its name. They were taken away by the Department of Transportation and ordered returned by Democratic Governor Mark Dayton. A third of Minnesotans have Scandinavian heritage. [I’m half Swedish.] The town was quite upset about the umlauts disappearing and is rejoicing about their return.

Tonight, I am off to the New York Video Meet-up, a chance to explore some new things in digital video. After that, a little bite of something and then home to finish “The End of Your Life Book Club.”