Posts Tagged ‘Yugoslavia’

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.