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Thais waited Monday for the results of an election called a return to democratic rule, but which has been widely criticized as an exercise designed by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha to entrench his military’s stranglehold on power.
Preliminary official results released late Sunday showed that with 93 percent of ballots counted the military-backed Phalang Pracharat party was in the lead with about 7.6 million votes, short of what would be needed for a majority in parliament.
In second place was the Pheu Thai party of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra with 7.1 million votes.
The campaign was marred by allegations of vote buying, however, complaints were few on polling day with election observers from Australia, Canada, the United States and the 10 members of the Association of South East Asian Nations on hand.
Security was tight and opinions were mixed as about 52 million Thais voted. But the long shadow of the military is still having an impact, most of those willing to express an opinion declined to be identified.
Some were positive about the outcomes, particularly among the youth vote. A hotel receptionist said before voting, “I have my choice in my mind, it’s good for me, I like it.”
Another said she had faith in a political system guided by the military and Thailand’s 20th constitution, written after 13 coups since 1932, “We are very confident with the election today, it is going to be democratic and fair to the society.”
Others remained angry about the coup in 2014, which ousted Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and installed General Prayut as head of a junta that curtailed civil liberties and banned political opposition.
“The coup is a really terrible thing that happened to our country. You can not say what you want or what you think, you can not protest because they will take you to the jail,” she said.
Her sentiments were echoed by others who said it was wrong that Prayut and the military could dominate the political system and exert their influence to the point where they are widely expected to remain in control after this election.
“To answer whether to bring democracy back to Thailand is good or not; I won’t say it’s good,” one middle-aged businessman said. “Everywhere in the world, in every country – even in America – you see how democracy works. Does it work for the country or the privileged few?”
Paul Chen, 80, was an exception. He spoke openly and said the elections were a step in the right direction and could provide a much needed boost for the economy, but noted the legal restrictions imposed by the junta.
“After today I think everything will be getting better,” he said. “They have so many good political parties, about two or three, but I can not mention their name, it may be against the law.”
Thais have cast votes for the 500-seat House of Representatives, while 250 members in the Senate will be appointed by the armed forces. A joint session of both houses will elect the next prime minister.
A key figure will be the overall popular vote. Pheu Thai, the party of Yingluck and her brother Thaksin – who was also ousted by a coup in 2006 – are expected to poll well in the rural north.
Future Forward, led by the young entrepreneur Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, has been effective in attracting the youth vote with promises to end military conscription, and inclusive polices have endeared him to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.
The youth vote and the LGBT community number around seven million each. Combined, they share 25 percent of the total vote. But seat distribution and absolute military control of the Senate leaves General Prayut’s Phalang Pracharat as the only likely clear winner.
“In Thailand today after five years of dictatorship, we see these rising expectations among voters. Social mobilization, political participation, people want change,” said Paul Chambers, lecturer and special advisor on international affairs at Naresuan University, Phitsanulok.
“You know the last time there was a long period like this of dictatorship between elections, my gosh its maybe 30 years ago. So people really want change. Now the junta leaders are not stupid, they’re certainly trying to corral and control.”
During a panel discussion at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand Chambers said, “… you know you can’t stay in power militarily forever, you have to change your legitimacy, somehow. And the best way to do that in the world today is to have a so-called democracy.” Election results are not expected to be ratified until late May. (VOA)
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