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Monday, May 24, 2004

In the U.K., a top secret Foreign Office document has been leaked to the London Sunday Times. It says:

"The security situation in Iraq is difficult."

We can all stand at ease now: finally, the whole awful truth has been revealed.

I heard this morning that the cocoa bean harvest from Ivory Coast was the bumper crop of all times, in spite of the civil war, which means the world price for cocoa beans will go down, which, therefore, also means that Ivory Coast stands to be the biggest loser as a result of this bountiful windfall.

Recently, in Madagascar, a huge tropical storm virtually destroyed the entire vanilla bean crop, which means that the world price for vanilla beans will shoot up. Since I came to America, I don't bake, so I have a small bottle of vanilla extract drying out on my kitchen shelves, all gooky and sealed, which I would have to bring down to my doorman if ever I needed it ("Could you please open this for me?"). When I lived in Paris, I baked a lot, but I never used vanilla extract. I had real vanilla beans, which I kept in the sugar canister, so that all my baking sugar was perfumed to perfection with real vanilla. The dreadful news from Madagascar was the source of happy nostalgic memories for me, as I remembered the parties and dinner parties for which I baked in my socialized youth and the friends who surrounded me then.

In Dafur, the humanitarian aid workers are worried about the survival chances of some million refugees from Sudan. The photographs on the Net are splendid of these people, walking in dignity through the hot desert sands in their little rubber flipflops and their colorful clothes, carrying huge bundles of whatever they could salvage of their pathetic possessions, camels all snooty and tall besides them. If the story was not there to describe the reality, it would all look like some beautiful, quaint, parallel world of a simpler, harder life. The reality is scorching days and freezing nights, with no shelter from either extreme, very little food, no security, rape and violence, fear under a huge sky from horizon to horizon, and so little available water that people are going as long as two months without being able to wash themselves just once... It is estimated that a possible 350,000 human beings will die in the desert if no emergency help is delivered soon.

After all the brouhaha about SARS last year, followed by the smaller SARS alert this year, where the whole world trembled at a handful of deaths and numerous disruptive quarantines, the AIDS epidemic of Africa, with its millions of infected, millions of dead and dying, millions of infected and abandoned orphans, etc., is still pretty much on a back burner for the rest of us.

I don't see much concern being voiced either over the hundreds dead in South Sudan recently of Ebola, or the fact that a new, even more virulent, Ebola strain has been identified in the same region.

I'm not saying we shouldn't be concerned about SARS, or that we should get hysterical about Ebola: I am saying that instead of waging wars on each other for spurious reasons (greed, anger, stupidity, revenge, religion, power) we might exercise our common sense and wage peace for the common good, so that the whole world might become safer for all of us.

* * * * *

Midtown is noisy with construction these days and it is starting to get hot, so the windows are open to all that banging and all that dust. Summer is here.

I was treated to a splendid breakfast by my old friend Bill the other day. I only see him every two years or so, and it was great to hear of the exploits of his three grown-up children. He also treated me to a copy of Paris Match and Le Monde, so I was fully equipped to loll about, all Tilly Losh, for most of the day. I am still shook up from my fiasco last Wednesday, plus I am taking antibiotics that have me nodding off at the drop of a pin, and this is not exactly the best combination to start up new projects, or reprise old ones. Thank goodness, the antibiotics are over now and I should recover some of my energy.

And so, to work!
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