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By Aniket Bhavthankar
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and French President Francois Hollande laid the foundation stone of the International Solar Alliance (ISA) headquartered in Gurgaon during the latter’s visit to India as a chief guest for 67th Republic Day. Modi and Hollande jointly announced the formation of the ISA during Conference of Parties-21 in Paris last year. The ISA visualizes building a partnership between more than 120 countries situated between Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn as they receive the sunshine in abundance for around 300 days in a year. Currently, 121 countries across the world are part of the ISA. Renewable and non-traditional energy sources are one of the ways to confront the challenges of the climate change.
India’s ‘Intended Nationally Determined Contribution’ has set an ambitious target to scale up the capacity of renewable energy from 30 GW in 2015-16 to 175 GW by 2021-22. In this, the share of solar energy is expected to be about 100 GW. Indian government’s goal of ‘electricity to all’ can be achieved chiefly through solar energy and, hence, the government has launched a scheme for development of 25 solar parks, Ultra Mega Solar Power Projects and solar pumps for farmers.
Private players are also coming to the forefront to assist in the generation of solar energy. Hero group has asked many commercial groups and individuals to rent their rooftops for solar installations and in return gain power at cheaper rates. In India, investment in the solar energy is increasing and this is indicative that the country is emerging as a lucrative market for the solar energy. The price of solar energy has fallen sharply from 17 in 2010 to 4 in 2016. However, achieving the target of 100 GW of solar energy is a daunting task. There is a need to increase efficiency of solar photo-voltaic (PV) cells to 30-40 percent and this requires research and development in the field of solar PV cells. The ISA can anchor and take the lead on this front. India has provided 5-acre land for the campus of the ISA and promised USD 27 million for constructing a building, other infrastructure and meeting recurring expenditure for the next five years.
President Hollande suggested that the ISA is a gift of India to the world in its struggle to fight climate change. France will allocate USD 336 million over the next five years. France will also mobilize its companies, research organizations and diplomatic network to achieve goals set by the ISA. France is already involved in solar energy projects in India. Hollande also expected that the ISA should work at pooling demand of solar energy to bring down financing costs and open their markets to reduce the cost of investment and obtaining new technologies. Participation of developing countries from Asia, Africa, and South America is the important feature of this alliance but developed economies are also enthusiastic about the ISA. This may help in facilitating technology transfer, an important hurdle between developing and developed group of countries.
Importantly, Morocco, poised to become a solar superpower with the launch of world’s largest concentrated solar power plant is not part of this initiative. Same is true for Germany, which produces 80 percent of its energy from renewable resources and almost 7 percent from solar energy, is not part of this alliance. Though Morocco is not situated between two tropics it receives ample amount of sunshine. It will be great to tap in the expertise of both Germany and Morocco in the area of solar energy.
There are several challenges ahead of this courageous initiative. First and foremost challenge is to decide about tangible targets for the working of this alliance. A country’s specific legal commitment about export of solar panels and cheap solar technology needs to be discussed while signing formal agreement by June 2016.
Next, it is necessary to build a robust governance structure to realize the objectives of the ISA. The ISA needs to work on several innovative financial mechanisms to reduce the cost of capital and make the investment in solar energy more attractive. It is pertinent to note that investment worth USD 1 Trillion is required to realize the goal of installing 1000 GW solar energy by 2030. Private sector is envisaged to play an important role in this initiative as they are expected to contribute USD 500 billion. The ISA needs to establish formal links with the corporate sector. At present few corporate like Areva, Engie, Enel, HSBC France and Tata Steel are part of the ISA.
In September 2015, the United Nations (UN) adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. This agenda states that renewable energy must be given priority. However, the UN has not created any specialised agency to focus on solar energy. The ISA may fill this vacuum and also satisfy the Indian ambition to spearhead as the global powerhouse in the domain of solar energy. Through the ISA, India also wants to send a signal to the larger world community that it can think and act beyond ‘coal’ in a proactive manner. The ISA is a bold initiative and we need to wait and watch to assess its success.
Aniket Bhavthankar is a Senior Research Associate at the Society for Policy Studies. The article was first published in southasiamonitor.org
Jack Daniel's is the world's most popular whiskey brand, but until recently, few people knew the liquor was created by Nathan "Nearest" Green, an enslaved Black man who mentored Daniel.
"We've always known," says Debbie Staples, a great-great-granddaughter of Green's who heard the story from her grandmother. … "He made the whiskey, and he taught Jack Daniel. And people didn't believe it … it's hurtful. I don't know if it was because he was a Black man."
But people believe it now — in large part because Brown-Forman Corporation, owner of Jack Daniel's Tennessee Whiskey, has acknowledged the foundational role Green played in the brand's development.
"The truth of the matter is, Nearest Green was the first head distiller of Jack Daniels whiskey," says Matt Blevins, global brand director for Jack Daniels Tennessee Whiskey. "We're very proud of this story and are very committed to amplifying it and acknowledging that. In the past, we did not amplify it the way that we could have in earlier eras, but we're about the future and moving forward."
America's first-known Black master distiller
The story begins in Lynchburg, Tennessee, current home of the Jack Daniel Distillery. In the mid-1800s, Green's slaveholders hired him out to a local preacher named Dan Call. Green, who had a reputation as a skilled distiller, made whiskey for Call, using a sugar maple charcoal filtering process that is believed to have originated in West Africa. Daniel, a boy who worked for Call, became Green's apprentice and learned the special technique that gave the Tennessee whiskey its smooth taste.
After emancipation in 1863, when all enslaved people were freed, Daniel purchased Call's distillery and hired Green as Jack Daniel Distillery's first master distiller.
"The best knowledge that we have is that they had a mentor-and-mentee sort of a relationship, and I would say, a friendship," says Blevins. "The stories that have been passed down [talk] about the care that Jack Daniel took to always acknowledge … the Green family."
Historic photo of Jack Daniel (in white hat) seated next to George Green, the son of Nathan "Nearest" Green Image source: VOA
There are no known pictures of Green, but there is one of Daniel with Green's son, George, sitting next to Daniel, rather than being relegated to the back.
"That photograph shows the respect that they had for one another and for their families," says Stefanie Benjamin, an assistant professor of tourism management at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. "To be not only allowed in that photograph, but also positioned in the foreground and sitting right next to Jack Daniels himself."
Search for the truth
Green's role in the history of the brand was uncovered by a writer and entrepreneur named Fawn Weaver, who became fascinated by Green's unheralded contribution to the world's most popular whiskey. After extensive research, including interviews with Green's descendants, Weaver shared her documentation with the company.
"I was very pleasantly surprised when they embraced my research and updated their records to reflect that," Weaver told VOA via email. "I think it said a lot about the character of their company that they moved that quickly to course correct."
Jack Daniel's has incorporated Green's contributions into the official history of the brand, but Weaver has gone a step further. She invested $1 million of her own money to establish Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey, which is now the fastest-growing independent American whiskey brand in U.S. history.
Fawn Weaver (center in red) with her leadership team at Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey, including master distiller Victoria Eady Butler (far left), the great‐great‐granddaughter of Nearest Green. (Photo courtesy Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey) Image credit: VOA
The company's master distiller is Victoria Eady Butler, Green's great‐great‐granddaughter.
"Uncle Nearest is the most-awarded American whiskey or bourbon of 2019, 2020 and 2021, and the fact that it is the bloodline of Nearest Green blending and approving what goes into our bottles is something I marvel at regularly," Weaver says. "Victoria is an absolute natural when it comes to blending, and to watch her work is to see something pretty darn close to perfection."
Seven generations of Green's family have worked at the Jack Daniel Distillery, a tradition that continues today with Staples and two of her siblings. But the Green family did not benefit when the Daniel family sold the Jack Daniel distillery to Brown-Forman for $20 million in 1956.
"Although they [the Green family] were very well off in terms of finances [in the 1800s] in that time, they were not the owners or co-owners of the Jack Daniel distillery," Benjamin says. "And so, those millions of dollars have been passed down through generations of the Jack Daniel family, and not necessarily the Green family."
Maturing barrels of whiskey in a barrel house on the grounds of the Jack Daniel Distillery in Lynchburg, Tennessee. (Photo courtesy Jack Daniel's) Image credit: VOA
Weaver's Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey has joined forces with Jack Daniel's to launch a program that provides support, expertise and resources to African-American entrepreneurs entering the spirits industry.
Staples says her family is thrilled their great-great-grandfather is finally being recognized.
"It's kind of mind-boggling … and we are so proud," Staples says. "And to think that from here to Africa, that recipe goes all the way back. And to think that he played such an important role in establishing this company. It sometimes seems unreal. It really does."
Because of Weaver's tenacity, Green's story, although left untold for more than a century, will not be lost to history. But that's not the case with so many other stories of Black achievement and contributions to the nation.
"Part of telling his story and sharing his legacy is to give credit and to give attention to a person who, if it wasn't for him, we wouldn't have the Jack Daniel whiskey as we know it today," Benjamin says. "It showcases yet another example of how formerly enslaved people, Black people, African American people who have really built this country, are left out of the dominant narrative that we tell." (VOA/RN)
(This article is originally written by Dora Mekouar)
Keywords: Jack Daniel's, Whiskey, Nathan Green, Slavery, Black achievement
Cricket fans can now book the ultimate experience with the official accommodation booking partner for the ICC Men's T20 World Cup, Booking.com. The T20 Pavillion, a bespoke cricket-themed luxury stay that transforms the Presidential Suite at Grand Hyatt Mumbai Hotel and Residences into a classic cricket stadium.
The suite offers guests an all-inclusive once-in-a-lifetime experience during the India vs Pakistan ICC Men's T20 World Cup match on October 24, 2021, packed with quirks and luxuries that is sure to satisfy even the biggest cricket enthusiast. Additionally, as a part of the experience, guests will also have the exclusive opportunity to meet Bollywood actor Shraddha Kapoor at The T20 Pavilion.
The booking window that opens at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday and will be booked on a 'first come, first serve' basis with check-in date on October 24, 2021 and check-out on October 25, 2021. | Photo by Alessandro Bogliari on Unsplash
For one night only, guests can soak in the energy of a roaring stadium to enjoy the epic match on a life-sized screen while seated on comfortable sofas -- just like the luxury box seats at the stadium. They can also head to the locker room (dining room) next to the field (living room) to have some energy drinks, just like a cricketer would do or head to the bedroom, transformed into a net practice area. It's got the field, the pitch, the locker room, pitching nets and cricket memorabilia infused in every element of the room.
The booking window opens at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday and will be booked on a 'first come, first serve' basis with check-in date on October 24, 2021, and check-out on October 25, 2021. The T20 Pavilion is priced at Rs 6666 only in honour of all the great sixes smashed at the T20 World Cup. The T20 Pavilion can accommodate up to four guests. Cricket fans can visit the website or mobile app to book this cricket-inspired stay. (IANS/ MBI)
Amid the rush to find quick treatments for Covid-19 last year, the world saw a global race to find new stem cell-based treatments. Now, researchers report that such therapies were filled with violations of government regulations, inflated medical claims and distorted public communication. There are reports of patients suffering physical harm -- including blindness and death -- from unproven stem cell therapies.
"Efforts to rapidly develop therapeutic interventions should never occur at the expense of the ethical and scientific standards that are at the heart of responsible clinical research and innovation," said lead study author Laertis Ikonomou, associate professor of oral biology at University at Buffalo, New York. There are clinics offering unproven and unsafe "stem cell" therapies that promise to prevent Covid-19 by strengthening the immune system or improving overall health, the researchers noted in the paper published in the journal Stem Cell Reports.
There are reports of patients suffering physical harm -- including blindness and death -- from unproven stem cell therapies. | Photo by Viktor Forgacs on Unsplash
The findings from preliminary studies on possible stem cell-based Covid-19 treatments are frequently being exaggerated through press releases, social media and uncritical news media reports. Clinics selling supposed stem cell treatments on a direct-to-consumer basis sometimes use these findings and news reports to exploit the fears of vulnerable patients by unethically advertising the unproven benefits of stem cell treatments to boost the immune system, regenerate lung tissue and prevent transmission of Covid-19, said co-author Leigh Turner from the University of California, Irvine.
"Patients suffer financially as well, as the products range in price from a few thousand to tens of thousands of dollars, and people are often encouraged to receive the expensive treatments every few months," added Ikonomou. Patients led to believe they are protected against Covid-19 may decide against vaccination, stop wearing masks, cease engaging in physical distancing, or otherwise avoid behaviours intended to promote personal safety and public health.
They may also become less likely to take part in carefully-developed clinical trials conducted by companies that follow ethical standards. "Scientists, regulators and policymakers must guard against the proliferation of poorly designed, underpowered and duplicative studies that are launched with undue haste because of the pandemic, but are unlikely to provide convincing, clinically meaningful safety and efficacy data," Turner stressed. (IANS/ MBI)
Keywords: findings,studies,therapies,unproven,reports,treatments, pandemic, covid, world