Olives, Cows, Boars and Wolves

In search of a green thumb, but also in search of a wild boar, I was inspired to attend the “premieres assises agricoles du pays Grassois” on Thursday, 22 February (2018), even though I had no formal role in the proceedings. Having settled into a semi-retired state by moving our primary residence from Geneva to Grasse, I had discovered a gaping hole in my skill levels when it came to figuring out what to do with the abundant land attached to our ancient villa and a disastrous first go at a vegetable garden.  This failure was further aggravated by the sudden and unfamiliar appearance of what proved to be the diggings of an invasive wild boar, who left a mess in the grassy areas under the olive trees in our expansive terrain.

 

With some trepidation as a foreigner in a strange land (and unfamiliar about the basics of tilling the same strange land!), I took the bold step to, basically, “crash” this conference since no one responded to my email inquiry about a late registration.  As it turned out, there was no registration desk at the entrance, just a welcoming party that waved me on into a buzzing crowd of farmers and breeders.   In the process, I was surprised to learn a lot more than I had expected to learn.

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A Solemn and Colorful Ceremony in Grasse

Getting to know the inner streets of Grasse is a wintry diversion that includes leisurely strolls along quiet pedestrian walkways that are normally bustling with tourists and locals when the weather is warm. The relaxed pace allows time to appreciate the contrasts between the colorfully renovated buildings housing shops and apartment dwellers, on the one hand, and the crumbling and dilapidated vacant structures along narrow cobblestone pathways, on the other. An empty storefront has posted declarations from a group calling itself “l ’Alternative”, lamenting the high vacancy rate (40 per cent) and neglect for a healthy environment in the town, especially where there is also a housing shortage. But then, turning the corner, one sees other posters announcing sporting events in the coming months, along with the thematic promotion for this year’s traditional Grasse rose festival in May – all oriented to a thriving, revitalized Grasse!
It seems that the current Mayor of Grasse, Jerome Viaud, is trying diligently to elevate the image of this ancient perfume capital of the world. On a chilly grey morning, we came across yet another display of this revitalized pageantry in the square in front of the cathedral and hotel de ville (i.e. city hall).

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Reflections on Janet Yellen and Bill and Melinda Gates

It is such a pity that the flawed administration in the White House aggravated its flawed approach to responsible governance by choosing not to reappoint Janet Yellen to Chair the US Federal Reserve.  On the first day in office of her successor, Jerome Powell (whose policies were not expected to be a significant departure from hers) the stock market went into a nose dive of record proportions.  There were many reasons for this turbulence – bond prices were up, wages were up, inflation fears, bonuses to workers in major corporations as part of the “benefits” of corporate tax reform – many possible factors have been cited. What if?  What if Janet Yellen had not been displaced?  Might the very continuity of her presence have helped to calm things down?  Continue reading “Reflections on Janet Yellen and Bill and Melinda Gates”

Holiday Greetings 2017

 Dear Friends and Family,

Warm greetings to you for a happy and peaceful holiday season.  We are taking this opportunity from Villa Ndio to celebrate the small victories of collaborative efforts – the political inroads for positive change in Virginia and Alabama and yes, even here in France.  The shock and embarrassment of the US Presidential election result in 2016 continue to haunt us, but we are inspired to look to 2018 with these signs of change.  We are also hopeful that the cultural shift in addressing sexual harassment will in fact take hold.

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Personal Reflections on Conflict of Interest

There is a scene in the film Alice’s Restaurant, one of those anti-war films from the Vietnam War era, where an overly zealous police officer brings “27 8X10 color glossy photos” of a minor crime scene (the unlawful dumping of garbage) to a court proceeding presided by a judge who turns out to be blind.  It is a tale of overstating the seriousness and engaging in too many steps to prove the crime.  The photos have no use to the judge, who then levies a $50 fine on the defendant.  We understand that the main characters here – the “criminal”, the judge and the police chief all play themselves in the film, which contributes to its ironic punch.  The film was built around a folk song about a “massacree” at this same “Alice’s Restaurant”, performed by Arlo Guthrie (the “criminal”), describing a Thanksgiving gathering with a bunch of bohemians in an abandoned church in small-town New England.  Continue reading “Personal Reflections on Conflict of Interest”

Conflict of Interest and the WHO: Latest Developments

The World Health Organization has been caught up in a real mess by trying to categorize and create hurdles for collaboration with the growing number of non-State actors that are active in public health matters related to the mission of the WHO.  The complexity of this mess was in the spotlight at the recent WHO Executive Board, meeting from 23 to 27 January 2018.  Several agenda items touched on the issue, including ongoing attention to addressing the challenges of non-communicable diseases for healthy lifestyles. More knotty agenda items, however, had to do more directly with WHO’s relations with non-State actors – both its new but yet to be implemented basic Framework of Engagement with Non-State Actors (FENSA) generally and its guidelines for managing conflict of interest in the nutrition world more specifically.  The outcome of the deliberations on these agenda items is rather encouraging, and we hope that the new Director-General will actually clean up the mess.

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