Posts Tagged ‘Straits of Hormuz’

Letter From New York 05 07 15 Rolling south on the Anniversary of Lusitania’s sinking…

May 7, 2015

As I write this, I am traveling south on the Northeast Regional Amtrak to Washington, DC, passing through an unattractive industrial zone right this minute. I am going down for a few appointments and to visit my friends, Lionel and Pierre, who are now living in Baltimore. I’ll take a train back up there this evening after I finish my 5:00 meeting.

They have already made dinner reservations at The Oyster House, one of their favorite restaurants.

As I am gliding down to DC the British voters are at the polls to decide who’ll be the next Prime Minister though I rather suspect there is going to some coalition building that will need to be done to form a government. It could all come down to the Scots, who have been surging in the polls and may hold the key to forming a new government, something neither the Tories nor Labour seem to want to contemplate.

The NY Times had an article about unusual polling places in the UK that included a pub and a hairdressing salon. Might be nice to have a vote at the pub, preceded or succeeded by a good draught of ale.

My friend Nick Stuart is going to a party tonight at the British Consulate for expats like him to watch the results. As I recall, Nick told me he tends to vote Liberal Democrat, the party brought in last time by the Tories to form a government.

France just strengthened its surveillance laws while here an appeals court has declared that the NSA, as revealed by Edward Snowden, has gone too far and has ruled its phone data collection illegal.

Tom Brady, quarterback for the Patriots, and arguably the biggest sports star today, has had his luster tarnished by fallout from Deflategate with the NFL saying it was probable that knew the balls were probably being deflated. It’s not a pretty tale.

A pretty tale for Maersk is that their ship, the Tigris, has been released by Iran and its crew is safe. In a sign of de-escalation of tension, the US Navy is no longer escorting American ships through the Straits of Hormuz.

To the west of the Straits of Hormuz is Yemen, now staggering under a humanitarian crisis triggered by the inability of ships to get permission to land their cargoes of food and fuel. Yemen imports 90% of what it consumes and there are at least ten ships laden with goods being prevented from landing by Saudi Arabia. It’s estimated that 80% of the country is going hungry. Anything that does get in finds its delivery delayed by the ongoing fighting, power outages and loss of foreign workers, who have fled the violence.

Continuing to the West, in Africa, disturbing allegations have risen against some of the French forces that were stationed in the Central African Republic last year. At least fourteen soldiers are suspected of having sexually abused minors in a refugee camp. Also disturbing is that it is also alleged that the UN slowed an investigation into the charges while suspending the UN worker who reported the abuse.

My impression of Thailand is generally that of a reasonably gentle country and one that is also reasonably safe. Yet mass graves have been found there. They are believed to contain the bodies of individuals from Myanmar [Burma] and Bangladesh, which had paid smugglers to get them into Thailand. Fifty police officers, some senior in rank, have been transferred from their current jobs to other positions. Eighteen arrest warrants have been issued.

General Prayuth, who runs Thailand after seizing power a year ago [I also forget about the regularity of the coups there] was confronted with the issue almost the moment he came to power but though he promised the US immediate action there was not much movement. Thai officials seem often to be passive about the issue or are actually involved in the game.

If you missed my note about it yesterday, today is the 100th Anniversary of the sinking of the Lusitania. After it was torpedoed, men on the deck exhorted each other to “Be British, boys, be British!” There were 39 babies aboard the Lusitania; only four survived. If you’re interested, I do recommend “Dead Wake,” a book by Erik Larsen chronicling the last voyage of Lusitania.

We are now south of Wilmington, Delaware and the scenery has improved. There is still another hour or so to go. I look forward to seeing Lionel and Pierre’s apartment and to experience a bit of Baltimore.

Letter From New York 04 30 15 A day without rain and with hope…

April 30, 2015

It is, unbelievably, the last day of April. It feels as if the month has skidded by, careening away from me. I started it in India and then returned and blinked and we’re at the end of the month!

Today, according to yesterday’s weather forecast, was to be cloudy and rainy. It actually is fairly sunny and warm, not as warm as yesterday but enough that a sweater and a light jacket are enough.

It’s the kind of day I rejoice in.

It is also good today in that Baltimore seems quiet, even as reports begin to come out that Freddie Gray’s neck snapped while in the police van in which he had been placed after he was put in custody. The city is still under curfew; a friend from Baltimore left New York early today to make it back home before the curfew fell.

Hopefully, the news of the day will not ignite another night of riots.

Joining Hillary Clinton in the run for the Democratic Presidential nomination is Bernie Sanders. While a declared Independent, he caucuses with the Democrats. He is, according to reports, a plain speaking man with socialist tendencies and, as one admirer put it, “not afraid to speak truth to power.”

He could peel away some support from Hillary. It will make Iowa interesting, for sure.

In ravaged Nepal, two survivors were pulled from the rubble today, an improbable five days after the quake, one a teenage boy and the other a woman in her twenties.

Frustration continues to grow over the slow speed of aid arriving. Some villages have yet to receive anything from the center. The UN is asking for $415,000,000 to help Nepal through the next three months. Tension continues to grow between the citizens of Nepal and the government.

Cholera and dysentery are real possibilities as the supply of drinking water diminishes.

To the west of Nepal is Iran and the Straits of Hormuz, a strategic shipping zone for tankers and cargo ships. The US Navy announced today that it would escort all American flagged vessels through the Strait after Iran’s Revolutionary Guards commandeered the Maersk Tigris, which sails under the flag of the Marshall Islands.

Nestled between Iran and India is Pakistan, where ten men were sentenced to life in prison today for their attack on Malala Yousafzai three years ago. She was shot in the head for her academic activism on behalf of Pakistani girls. Malala, now 17, was sent to Britain for medical treatment, including several surgeries. She was named a co-recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize last year.

Kim Jong-un, who was in the news just yesterday for perhaps killing as many as 15 top officials since the beginning of the year, today cancelled his first trip abroad, which was to see Vladimir Putin. It was cancelled, say the Russians, for “internal reasons in North Korea.” This, along with the executions, has led to speculation that the pudgy little dictator’s hold on power is none too strong.

In other news, some NATO officers are concerned that the lull in Ukrainian fighting is giving time for Russia to help prepare another offensive. It appears they have brought in more troops and added to the anti-aircraft weaponry on the ground. On the other side of the equation are reports that Putin is open to an international peacekeeping mission in Eastern Ukraine.

As I mentioned yesterday, today is the 40th anniversary of the fall of Saigon, now known as Ho Chi Minh City. There was a ceremony there to celebrate the end of “the American War.” Once enemies, the two countries are becoming closer. 76% of Vietnamese think well of the U.S. Only 16% think well of China.

Today I read a series of articles in the NY Times and from the BBC, written by members of the Vietnamese Diaspora on how their lives have been affected since the end of the war. For some of them, the war is not really over. It continues in their minds and hearts and souls, many having lost relatives who stayed behind, or wondering about mothers who surrendered their babies to strangers to give them a chance in that place called America.

It was heartbreaking to read sometimes.

Louie Andre, a Vietnam vet returning for the first time to that country, said, “if you want to have hope about the future, you have to stop wishing for a different past. The past is what it is.” [Chicago Tribune]

He said he was met with handshakes and hugs. That gives me hope.