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Weekly Features
Letter from New York
Mathew Tombers is Managing Director of Intermat, Inc., ( a television company which executive produces programs and consults with industry companies on a variety of issues. Intermat, Inc. is currently involved in approximately thirty hours of television in various stages for a variety of networks. He is one of the Executive Producers of OFF TO WAR, a ten hour series for Discovery Times and for a one hour on international adoptions for Discovery Health. He has consulted a variety of companies, including Ted Turner Documentaries, WETA, Betelgeuse Productions, and Creation Films, Lou Reda Productions as well as many others.

November 11, 2005

Is the world burning yet?

As World War II was ending Hitler gave orders that Paris be set afire, a scorched earth policy he wanted followed as the Reich died so that when the victors came there would only be the smoldering embers of a dead world for them to enjoy.

Fortunately for Paris and the rest of the world's the German general in charge of giving that order failed, deliberately, to do so and led his troops quietly out of Paris in the slow retreat that ended with the closing of the war. Paris did not burn and was left for thousands of romantics to enjoy for more generations.

During this past week I had dinner with friends who have an apartment in Paris and they watched fearfully as the rioting and burning cars began to edge toward their section of the city. We ate a French café and they discussed, in French, the state of affairs in Paris with the owners.

Paris was burning now, in a series of flash riots that began almost two weeks ago when two children, of Muslim parentage, hid from the police in a power station and were electrocuted. Since that night, every night has been lit by the fires of burning cars coupled with the sounds of a disaffected population rioting and looting.

The rioters are primarily of Muslim background, poor, living in the urban ghettos of a country that accepts them with the anticipation they will become as French as the French as that is the only way to be in France.

Apparently, it is not working. "Equalite,"Liberte"and "Fraternite"were the cries of the French as they led their aristocrats to the guillotine in the tumbrels but now, two hundred plus years later, France is finding that many of its residents don’t feel equality is theirs – and these last two weeks decided to let the world know through fire and frenzy that they were not going to be quiet. While some, mostly foreigners, are squeezed into tiny rooms, like immigrants in many places, they see on television that there is another, much more comfortable France inhabited by the French born and they are letting everyone know they want some of that baguette.

And while France burned during the night, several individuals strolled into western hotels in Amman, Jordan and blew themselves up, killing dozens and wounding many more dozens. Jordan, which has been a relative haven of stability in the Mid East for the last twenty or so years, now finds itself plunged into the river of blood that the region is rapidly becoming.

In this case it was Muslim killing Muslim, for nearly all the dead are Jordanian. Al Qaeda claims responsibility and the Jordanian born Zarqawi, leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq, seems to have been given a measure of revenge by his minions for the 2004 death sentence given him by the Jordanian courts – in absentia, for the 2002 murder of an American diplomat in Jordan. He was off busy killing other people in Iraq and couldn’t find the time to come home for his execution.

The staccato drumbeat of death and destruction continues in Iraq; it is hardly front page news anymore, so regular are the events and carnage.

More friends of mine are saying to me that they cannot bear the news and do not read the papers nor listen to television news or to anything on the radio but music. We are living in a world of bad news and the weight of it is causing people to retreat from the real to the fictional, it being easier to watch the unfolding of ancient politics on HBO's ROME than to dissect their reflections in today’s events or ponder the avalanche of bad news from all over the globe.

Yet, for all its horribleness, it is more important now than ever to study our world and determine how we will react, individually and as nations, to the variety of crises that are washing over us as our actions and reactions, individually and as large groups, will determine the road our children will have to tread and the bed in which we will sleep when we are old.