Subject: News From Europe
Date: Tuesday October 09, 2001 9:31 AM
Hi folks. Most of you are Americans, and naturally we've been reading, hearing, seeing all about the impact of the recent events on Americans. But I just spent a half an hour on the phone with an Italian friend, a man in the wood business who actually travels more in a week than I do in a month. He's very much in touch with all parts of the globe and reports the following .....
1. He reports that London is under virtual martial law. "It is like the war time, soldiers everywhere, and all very tense. Berlin is worse though. It is almost civil war. They have such a large Arab population, and all of them are under attack for being Arabs. Always there were tensions in Berlin, but now it is terrible beyond belief."
2. "McDonalds is basically having to close up in Italy. There are soldiers outside every door and no one wants to go in because they are afraid of being attacked. Many of them must close -- I don't know if only for now or forever. There are soldiers and police everywhere in front of any American factory or office. And police checks at night too -- I was stopped last night at 10pm driving back from dinner. Everywhere there are police. Even in Venice, at every tourist spot, museum, church, everywhere. And the American hotels are going to die too, like McDonalds. No one will stay at a Sheraton or a Hilton. They think they aren't safe. Even the non-American hotels are not getting customers. Everyone wants to stay at a no-name B&B."
3. The good news, I guess you can say, is that he reports, "the unthinkable has happened" though, it is really quite amazing. Over 95% of the people in Italy support or approve of America. This has NEVER happened before. But everyone, everyone is supporting the US completely. That makes me happy, but I wish it was not for this reason."
4. "My business is definitely effected. In Italy, in the UK, they are getting ready for war. They only buy canned goods and water -- no luxury items. I was shipping 2-3 containers a day to the UK this summer. Now it is 2-3 containers a week. To ship to the Middle East is almost impossible. The war risk clause has caused 500-600-700$ charges to be put on any container." (This basically adds 50-100% to the price of the shipment, depending on the country.) "And the boats can't get through because of the military vessels. EVERYWHERE are ships from every navy. You cannot move without seeing a military vessel. Outside Oman, there are maybe 70 vessels, almost no container ships can get in because of all the military ships."
5. News which you surely know about now, but which I didn't this morning, Swiss Air had to cease operations because they had no cash to buy fuel. They were bailed out, for the moment, but are on shaky ground. Related to this is that is Sabina Airlines, the Belgium carrier which is owned by Swiss Air (50-60%). They have money for three more days of business... My friend was supposed to fly on Swiss Air to NY this month -- they canceled his ticket because it was based on redeeming frequent flier miles. "Sorry, we can't afford to fly anyone for free." The Italian airline has stopped all flights to Asia, and has gone from a flight to LA a day to one a week. So I would like my American friends out there to remember the impact of this
on the rest of the world, and think about how that is still going to further come back to us. Think what happens if McDonalds and Sheraton have to close down intl. operations. What will that do to things here? What if Swiss Air and the other intl. airlines go down? What happens to businessmen who suddenly must face double shipping charges or go from a container a day
business volumes to one a week or one a month? We're all tied together, the whole world together, in ways that Americans I think are only now finally going to understand. There has long been the saying that "when the US catches a cold, the rest of the world gets the flu." Well, we're in the hospital now for sure -- and the rest of the world is coming in with us. Remember that the fear and anger we feel here have been long felt in England or Israel or elsewhere. The security I faced coming through the
airports this past week (when I returned from Japan) was still less than what I've experienced in Frankfurt or Heathrow. The hatred directed towards American-Arabs and American Muslims, as terrible as it is, is still nothing compared to what they are facing in the rest of the world... and hatred always does lead to hatred in return. We've got a tough haul ahead, the whole world.
So as we wave the American flags, and we should, let us remember the rest of the world is BOTH united with us AND suffering with us as well. And that as time goes on, we'll be suffering with them too. When their airlines fail, when their businesses go under, when we can't get the goods transported as before, or even produced, we'll feel that here. We need to be globally focused, more then ever before. Even as we are at our most American, we should be, we need to be, at our most international. And for my international friends, I welcome your comments as always, and will do my best to get your perspective out to the rest of the US as well.