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The three Moscow mothers whose children are suffering from cancer were united in two things, their reluctance to allow their names to be published, and their mounting anger at the deterioration in Russia’s public health services, which they say threatens their children’s lives. Resignations.
They had wanted to attend a midweek press conference to demonstrate their support for a team of pediatric oncologists who have quit their jobs at a Moscow clinic, one of Russia’s best cancer hospitals, to protest overcrowded wards, pay cuts and an “optimization reform” doctors say is affecting their ability to treat patients.
However, guards at the Blokhin Cancer Research Center warned the mothers to stay away. The mothers say they fear the consequences of speaking out.
A dozen doctors so far have quit their jobs at the clinic — the latest in a wave of resignations by medical staff sweeping Russia’s health sector. The oncologists quit after posting a three-minute video on YouTube deploring overcrowded wards and reduced funding. They complained that the construction of new buildings had dragged on for two decades, and they painted a grim picture of a health care center falling into disrepair amid mismanagement.
“For years, children with cancer have been treated in terrible conditions. There’s no ventilation, mold is eating through the walls, and the wards are overcrowded with sick patients,” the doctors say in the video. Cutbacks in services have meant some families are being turned away.
One of the doctors was fired after the video was posted, the others put in their resignations.
Parents say they support the doctors.
“When we came in June, we were surprised that the procedures had changed,” one of the mothers told VOA. “They said we didn’t need detailed checkups anymore and we were told we could visit the center just once a year. We were sent to our local hospital. The doctor there was honest and said she had seen just one case like ours and never at the fourth stage. She didn’t know the protocols and I had to interpret the analysis. I’m a mom without medical education. Why did these changes happen? I don’t know. I’ve heard there was an order from the Ministry of Health. But I have not found this order published,” she said with rising indignation.
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Maksim Rykov, a deputy director of the center and one of the doctors featured on the video, told VOA the oncologists had little option but to quit.
“There have been many ‘reforms’ which management calls an optimization. But the ministry and management has no clear plan. Their aim is to create a nice picture,” he said. “The problems here relate to a deep financial crisis. Clinics are overloaded. There’s a deficit of hospital beds. Patients feel abandoned,” the 39-year-old doctor said.
He thinks the ministry hadn’t “expected such attention from media,” and he fumes at the efforts made to block parents from talking to the press.
“When any journalists are in the center, guards come and lock the children with their parents in the rooms. They are not allowed to come out and talk to press. Why do they do that with parents and children? Closing them in rooms! It is barbaric,” he says.
One reason for the official nervousness may be that Rykov and his colleagues have the backing of the Alliance of Doctors, a medical workers’ union supported by anti-corruption campaigner Aleksei Navalny, who has been helping to organize health care protests in Russia. The Alliance is growing and has branches in 20 regions. The director of the hospital, Ivan Stilidi, has alleged darkly that the oncologists are being “steered” by “forces outside the cancer center.”
Recent demonstrations against Russian President Vladimir Putin have been fueled by rising anger at deteriorating public services, incompetent municipal management and the feeling that Russia is going backward, transforming opposition protests from fringe events attended by a liberal elite into more broad-based expressions of frustration.
Nurses, doctors, ambulance staff and paramedics across Russia have been increasingly voicing their grievances by staging strikes and coordinating resignations. Anastasia Vasilyeva, head of the Alliance of Doctors, says the Russian health care system is broken, and that strikes and industrial action by medical professionals have been spreading across the country, from Siberia to Moscow.
The list of disputes is growing. Among them are the March announcement by doctors at hospitals in the Novgorod region in western Russia that they would only be working the bare minimum of their contractual hours; ambulance staff in Penza, a town southeast of Moscow, protested against wage cuts; in July paramedics went on strike in Togliatti, east of Moscow; in August there was a mass resignation of nurses in Vladimir, east of Moscow, and all trauma doctors at the main hospital in Pyatigorsk in southern Russia quit.
Rykov has over the months been informally surveying his patients, and says that 85% would prefer to get treatment abroad but cannot afford it. The reason, he says, doesn’t lie in the success rates at the Blokhin Cancer Research Center, but because of the cutbacks and lack of comfort.
Asked how the confrontation between the Moscow oncologists and the hospital administration will end, Rykov smiles and replies: “It looks like everything in our country depends on one person’s decision. We all know who he is. So it looks like the Ministry of Health is waiting for what he will say.” (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