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Gabriel Garcia Marquez: Only the Bible sold more copies than his book

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MEXICO CITY: Gabriel Garcia Marquez, the Nobel laureate whose novels and short stories exposed tens of millions of readers to Latin America’s passion, superstition, violence and inequality, died at home in Mexico City around midday, according to people close to his family. He was 87.

Widely considered the most popular Spanish-language writer since Miguel de Cervantes in the 17th century, Garcia Marquez achieved literary celebrity that spawned comparisons to Mark Twain and Charles Dickens.

His flamboyant and melancholy fictional works — among them “Chronicle of a Death Foretold”, “Love in the Time of Cholera” and “Autumn of the Patriarch” — outsold everything published in Spanish except the Bible. The epic 1967 novel “One Hundred Years of Solitude” sold more than 50 million copies in more than 25 languages.

His stories made him literature’s best-known practitioner of magical realism, the fictional blending of the everyday with fantastical elements such as a boy born with a pig’s tail and a man trailed by a swarm of yellow butterflies.

His death was confirmed by two people close to the family who spoke on condition of anonymity out of respect for the family’s privacy.

“One Hundred Years of Solitude” was “the first novel in which Latin Americans recognized themselves, that defined them, celebrated their passion, their intensity, their spirituality and superstition, their grand propensity for failure,” biographer Gerald Martin said.

When he accepted the Nobel prize in 1982, Garcia Marquez described Latin America as a “source of insatiable creativity, full of sorrow and beauty, of which this roving and nostalgic Colombian is but one cipher more, singled out by fortune. Poets and beggars, musicians and prophets, warriors and scoundrels, all creatures of that unbridled reality, we have had to ask but little of imagination, for our crucial problem has been a lack of conventional means to render our lives believable.”

With writers including Norman Mailer and Tom Wolfe, Garcia Marquez was also an early practitioner of the literary nonfiction that would become known as New Journalism. He became an elder statesman of Latin American journalism, with magisterial works of narrative non-fiction that included the ‘Story of A Shipwrecked Sailor’, the tale of a seaman lost on a life raft for 10 days.

Other pieces profiled Venezuela’s larger-than-life president, Hugo Chavez, and vividly portrayed how cocaine traffickers led by Pablo Escobar had shred the social and moral fabric of his native Colombia, kidnapping members of its elite, in “News of a Kidnapping”. In 1994, Garcia Marquez founded the Iberoamerican Foundation for New Journalism, which offers training and competitions to raise the standard of narrative and investigative journalism across Latin America.

Like many Latin American writers, Garcia Marquez transcended the world of letters. The man widely known as “Gabo” became a hero to the Latin American left as an early ally of Cuba’s revolutionary leader Fidel Castro and a critic of Washington’s violent interventions from Vietnam to Chile.

Garcia Marquez was born in Aracataca, a small Colombian town near the Caribbean coast, on March 6, 1927. He was the eldest of the 11 children of Luisa Santiaga Marquez and Gabriel Elijio Garcia, a telegraphist and a wandering homeopathic pharmacist who was also something of a philanderer and fathered at least four children outside of his marriage.

Just after their first son was born, his parents left him with his maternal grandparents and moved to Barranquilla, where Garcia Marquez’s father opened a pharmacy, hoping to become rich.

Garcia Marquez was raised for 10 years by his grandmother and his grandfather, a retired colonel who fought in the devastating 1,000-Day War that hastened Colombia’s loss of the Panamanian isthmus.

His grandparents’ tales would provide grist for Garcia Marquez’s fiction and Aracataca became the model for ‘Macondo’, the village surrounded by banana plantations at the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountains where ‘One Hundred Years of Solitude’ is set.

“I have often been told by the family that I started recounting things, stories and so on, almost since I was born,” Garcia Marquez once told an interviewer. “Ever since I could speak.”

Garcia Marquez’s parents continued to have children, and barely made ends meet. Their first-born son was sent to a state-run boarding school just outside Bogota where he became a star student and voracious reader, favoring Hemingway, Faulkner, Dostoevsky and Kafka.

Garcia Marquez published his first piece of fiction as a student in 1947, mailing a short story to the newspaper El Espectador after its literary editor wrote that “Colombia’s younger generation has nothing to offer in the way of good literature anymore.”

His father insisted he study law but he dropped out, bored, and dedicated himself to journalism. The pay was atrocious and Garcia Marquez recalled his mother visiting him in Bogota and commenting in horror at his bedraggled appearance that: “I thought you were a beggar.”

Garcia Marquez’s writing was constantly informed by his leftist political views, themselves forged in large part by a 1928 military massacre near Aracataca of banana workers striking against the United Fruit Company, which later became Chiquita. He was also greatly influenced by the assassination two decades later of Jorge Eliecer Gaitan, a galvanizing leftist presidential candidate.

Garcia Marquez suffered a strong official backlash to his story about how government corruption contributed to the disaster recounted in “Story of A Shipwrecked Sailor”. A dictatorship seized power and Garcia Marquez made a new home in Europe. After touring the Soviet-controlled east, he moved to Rome in 1955 to study cinema, a lifelong love. Then he moved to Paris, where he lived among intellectuals and artists exiled from the many Latin American dictatorships of the day.

Garcia Marquez returned to Colombia in 1958 to marry Mercedes Barcha, a neighbor from childhood days. They had two sons, Rodrigo, a film director, and Gonzalo, a graphic designer.

After a 1981 run-in with Colombia’s government in which he was accused of sympathizing with M-19 rebels and sending money to a Venezuelan guerrilla group, Garcia Marquez moved to Mexico City, his main home for the rest of his life.

Despite being denied US visas for years over his politics, he was courted by presidents and kings and counted Bill Clinton and Francois Mitterrand among his friends. He denounced what he considered the unfair political persecution of Clinton for sexual adventures

Clinton himself recalled reading “One Hundred Years of Solitude” while in law school and not being able to put it down, not even during classes.

“I realized this man had imagined something that seemed like a fantasy but was profoundly true and profoundly wise,” he said.

Dirt poor and struggling through much of his adult life, Garcia Marquez was somewhat transformed by his later fame and wealth. A bon vivant with an impish personality, Garcia Marquez was a gracious host who would animatedly recount long stories to guests. Fiercely protective of his image, a trait shared by his wife, he would occasionally unleash a quick temper when he felt slighted or misrepresented by the press.

The author with the bushy grey eyebrows and white mustache spent more time in Colombia in his later years, founding the journalism institute in the walled colonial port city of Cartagena, where he kept a home.

Garcia Marquez turned down offers of diplomatic posts and spurned attempts to draft him to run for Colombia’s presidency, though he did get involved in behind-the-scenes peace mediation efforts between Colombia’s government and leftist rebels.

In 1998, already in his 70s, Garcia Marquez fulfilled a lifelong dream, buying a majority interest in the Colombian newsmagazine Cambio with money from his Nobel. Before falling ill with lymphatic cancer in June 1999, the author contributed prodigiously to the magazine.

“I’m a journalist. I’ve always been a journalist,” he told the AP at the time. “My books couldn’t have been written if I weren’t a journalist because all the material was taken from reality.”

In later years there were persisting reports about the author’s memory problems, which were not publicly diagnosed, and Garcia Marquez’s public appearances were limited, although he continued to enjoy socializing with friends.

When he turned 87, he was feted before the press by friends and well-wishers who gave him cake and flowers outside his home in an exclusive neighborhood in Mexico City.

Garcia Marquez did not speak at the event.

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HERBAL FORMULAS CAN HELP IN COVID-19 FIGHT: EXPERTS

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HERBAL FORMULAS CAN HELP IN COVID-19 FIGHT: EXPERTS

At his multi-million dollar-state of the art lab just outside of Vancouver, Dr. Ma Yuan-Chan and his team of researchers spend endless hours working to deliver the promise of ancient remedies using the precision of modern technology.

Here, Dr. Ma, a globally renowned professor of pharmaceutical sciences, has led his team to establish the profiles for a large variety of North American and Chinese herbs to determine their identity, potency, and efficacy.

They include Ginkgo biloba, Ginseng, Rhodiola, Echinacea, and Golden Seal; commonly found in the makeup of top-selling herbal medicines, which are inevitable in most of our medicine cabinets.

The analytical methodologies developed at Dr. Ma’s lab have become the international benchmarks to determine the quality of raw materials and finished natural health products in Canada, the United States and China. They are listed in the United States Pharmacopoeia and the Chinese Pharmacopoeia –  the leading authoritative guides for herbal drug ingredients and formulas.

Now, amidst the current COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Ma and his team have turned their attention to a combination of herbs in a formula called Shuanghuanglian or SHL, used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat cold, flu and respiratory ailments.

“It is by no means a cure or vaccine for the COVID-19 virus,” said Dr. Ma, who has published over 100 peer-reviewed research papers used by universities, regulatory bodies and drug companies in Asia, Europe, and North America.

“Our observation and that of the international herbal medicine community is SHL targets viral replication and boosts immune response on the viruses causing colds, cough, sore throat and fever.

“It is a product that has been widely used since the sixties as an antiviral and antimicrobial Chinese medicine,” said Dr. Ma, whose scientifically produced SHL formula is licensed by Health Canada, “to relieve symptoms of the common cold, including fever, coughing and sore throat.”

So what exactly is Shuanghuanglian aka SHL?

According to Health Canada, which has licensed the SHL produced by Dr. Ma’s Labs, the herbal formula is a combination of extracts from the honeysuckle flower, the root of the Chinese skullcap, and Forsythia, a genus of flowering plants in the olive family.

It is approved for use in Canada to help relieve symptoms of the common cold including fever, coughing and sore throat – also signs of the onset of COVID-19. Health Canada does not recommend the use of SHL by pregnant women or new mothers who are breastfeeding.

This month, The Chinese government acknowledged the important role Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has played in treating COVID-19 patients and has added treatment of the virus to the specifications of three traditional medicines.

Zhang Boli, an academician of the Chinese Academy of Engineering and president of Tianjin University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, said the three Chinese patent medicines

Jinhua Qinggan Granule, Lianhua Qingwen Capsule and Xuebijing Injection

have proven to be clinically effective in treating COVID-19.

The key herbs in these traditional medicines are also part of the SHL formula, which is now being studied in China for approval to be used by COVID 19 patients.

“Unfortunately, SHL got some bad press in February after some Chinese media misreported that it is effective in inhibiting the novel coronavirus,” said Dr. Ma. This triggered an online shopping frenzy.

The Shanghai Institute of Materia Medica Chinese Academy of Science clarified by stating: “Modern medical research believes ShuangHuangLian oral liquid is effective in fighting viruses, curbing bacteria and boosting the immune system.

“Presently, ShuangHuangLian oral liquid is undergoing clinical research at the Shanghai Public Health Clinical Center and Wuhan Tongji Hospital.”

Whether SHL can be added to the arsenal to combat COVID 19 remains to be seen.

But it continues to be a go-to herbal remedy for the 400 million patients who are treated with traditional Chinese medicine in China every year.

It is estimated the total TCM market within China will rise to $107 billion by 2025; TCM has also spread beyond traditional Chinese communities, with the global TCM market valued at $121 billion USD.

As scientists, pharma giants and government health agencies race to develop vaccines or treatments for COVID-19, there is increasing scrutiny into the role of Traditional Chinese Medicine in eradicating the disease and other ailments caused by a broad spectrum of the virus, including coronaviruses.

Figures from the National Administration of Traditional Chinese Medicine showed a total of 74,187 confirmed COVID-19 patients, which account for 91.5 percent of the total infections on the Chinese mainland, had been administered TCM as part of their treatment. Over 90 percent had shown improvement by the end of March.

According to Yu Yanhong, secretary of the State Administration of Traditional Chinese Medicine, speaking at a March 23 press conference in Wuhan, traditional remedies have alleviated symptoms, reduced the severity of the virus, improved recovery rates and reduced mortality rate, NBC reported.

In a review recently published in the International Journal of Biological Sciences, by researchers at the State Key Laboratory of Quality Research in Chinese Medicine, and the Institute of Chinese Medical Sciences, University of Macau, China, scientists report that in addition to conventional supportive care, “greater than 85% of SARS-CoV-2 infected patients in China are receiving Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) treatment.”

The use of Chinese medicine has been supported by the Chinese national medical authorities during other recent pandemics, including the H1N1 flu outbreak in 2009 and H7N9 in 2013, according to the South China Morning Post.

Traditional Chinese medicine has proved effective in shortening the recovery time of patients with mild symptoms, and a mixture of tai chi, acupuncture and massage can help with their mental health, according to Zhang Boli, a Chinese medicine expert with the Chinese Academy of Engineering.

China is also working with the World Health Organisation to share information on the use of TCM in epidemic prevention and control. It has shared its experiences and donated TCM products to Japan, South Korea, Italy, Iran, Singapore, Cambodia and France to help in their fight against COVID-19.

China has also developed a Chinese-English bilingual online platform — the Beijing Remote Health Service Platform

to share with the world its experiences of fighting the disease using TCM.

With the increase scrutiny on herbal medicine efficacy in the fight against the current pandemic, there is also increased skepticism by the western medical establishment and pharma giants about the use of TCM.

Traditional Chinese medicine or TCM is a system of medicine that has evolved over 3,000 years and is rooted in maintaining the harmonious flow of energy in the human body.

Ironically, the “harmony principle” is the very essence of the discord between TCM adherents and skeptics.

“Traditional Chinese medicine doctors look at the balance of body, mind, and spirit to determine how to restore qi (energy flows), the yin-yang (opposing forces in the body) balance, and good health,” states the Health Ministry of British Columbia, the first Canadian province to regulate TCM and Acupuncture as a medical health professional.

Because of its fundamental philosophy, traditional Chinese medicine differs from Western medical practice in diagnosis and treatment methods and is difficult to apply Western scientific standards to it.

Last May, the World Health Organisation (WHO) provoked controversy among Western medical experts by endorsing TCM in a chapter of its influential guide of recommended health practice, the International Classification of Diseases.

“Global extension of traditional Chinese medicine with multiple western medicine based disciplines will benefit people all over the world,” WHO said.

Among the most vocal critics of the WHO declaration was Dan Larhammar, a molecular cell biologist and president of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.

He said the lack of detail about the remedies contributes to doubts over their efficacy, stressing the need for more scientific rigour in studies about TCM.

Qiu Haibo, vice-president of Zhongda Hospital of Southeast University, explained that Western medicine, mostly chemical drugs, were designed to hit a single target, while TCM drugs work like a team and act on multiple targets.

“In the case of Covid-19, the virus can cause inflammation and immune disorder, leading to impaired organ function, including the lungs and heart.

“Western medicine focuses on one area while TCM can treat various problems, ” he said.

Liu Qingquan, president of Beijing Hospital of TCM, said the treatment for infectious diseases mainly focuses on three methods – clearing heat, eliminating dampness, and detoxification.

“TCM is able to quickly mobilize the body’s defence system to evict invading enemies and prevent viruses from causing significant damage to the body.

“Eliminating dampness boosts immunity to fight the virus while clearing heat can change the internal environment of the body so that the virus cannot escape or hide, ” he said.

Dr. Ma, in Vancouver, believes much of the debate about TCM revolves around the purity, potency and consistency of the product from batch-to-batch, not so much about whether the actual plant ingredients have healing attributes.

“We have spent years to develop reliable analytical methods to better identify the quality of raw materials and finished products,” said Dr. Ma

“Many products on the market have been found to be counterfeits, tainted with marker compounds or even misidentified as the wrong species. The goal of our research is to rid the market of these adulterated products by putting developmental efforts into creating an authoritative database that benchmarks the identification of these compounds.”

Health Canada has a similar view with that of Dr. Ma, who has 40 years of natural health experience, including standards collaborations with the Natural Health Products program at the National Research Council of Canada.

Health Canada is currently consulting on a potential new set of regulations for the labelling of “self-care” products, including cosmetics, natural health products and over-the-counter drugs.

It wants to make the rules more consistent for everything from vitamins to traditional Chinese medicine to non-prescription drugs like Aspirin and Tylenol. The proposed changes would mean herbal remedies claiming to relieve cold symptoms would require the same level of scientific evidence as an over-the-counter drug.

For Dr. Ma, this is a good thing because his SHL formula, which treats a broad spectrum of the virus, including coronaviruses, is already where Health Canada wants to go.

Wesley Richards who operates Canadian Western Herbs Corporation, which sells Dr. Ma’s SHL formula and other health products via canadianherbs.ca  said natural health products generate more than $12 billion in revenue annually in Canada, and exports are valued at $1.5 to $2 billion.

“But you can’t put a price on safety, efficacy and consistency…we need good qualitative and quantitative data to ensure the consumer is getting what they are paying for,” said Richards.

“There are some out there claiming all kinds of cures and treatments especially now with COVID 19…if you are unsure check for the Health Canada NPN number to see if the labelling is accurate.”

“As for our SHL formula…it’s like having vitamin C in your cabinet…only better.”

Robert Pierce, president of the Vancouver-based Prairie Naturals, said Dr. Ma has perfected the dosage, potency and consistency of the SHL formula through years of scientific analyses.

A 30 year veteran of the natural health products industry, Pierce is now distributing the SHL formula through 2,500 outlets across the country.

“It’s a proven formula and Dr. Ma’s science has only made it better,” said Pierce.

As the COVID-19 pandemic stretches the capacity of hospitals around the world and as health agencies find ways to flatten the curve of infections, over 115 medical trials have been registered in China, several blending TCM with western medicine and therapies.

The central quest here is to see if the country where the COVID-19  virus originated might also be the birthplace of solutions to stop the pandemic

In British Columbia, the Home of Canadian Traditional Chinese Medicine Society, HCTCMS, a non-profit organization established by a group of traditional Chinese medicine doctors and acupuncturists, believes TCM can help in the fight against COVID-19.

The society is petitioning the B.C. government to expand the role of TCM and Acupuncture professionals to support the fight against COVID-19.

“Chinese herbal formulas, acupunctures, or other forms, the medical expert teams in China had demonstrated TCM and Acupuncture to relieve and to mitigate the symptoms caused by COVID-19; thereby, preventing the disease from mild stage to progress further into severe/critical stage.

“Due to the shortage of test kits, personal protective equipment, ventilators, hospital beds, and hospital staff, not every presumptive case can be treated in the hospital.

“By approving TCM and Acupuncture to intervene, this infectious disease when it is at the mild stage will reduce the number of hospital visits to prevent overloading of the B.C. health care system,” states the petition.

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Prince Charles Lauds British-Sikhs’ Role In Covid-19 Fight

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Prince Charles Lauds British-Sikhs’ Role In Covid-19 Fight

The 71-year-old heir to the British throne, who recovered from his COVID-19 diagnosis last month, said he can only imagine the “great sadness” as the event cannot be celebrated in the usual way as he lauded the vital role being played by the community on the frontlines of the crisis.

LONDON  – Prince Charles on Monday issued a video message to convey his “lakh lakh vaidhaiyan” to the Sikh community in the UK and across the Commonwealth on the occasion of Vaisakhi and praised the “selfless service” of the British-Sikh community in the battle against the coronavirus pandemic.

The 71-year-old heir to the British throne, who recovered from his COVID-19 diagnosis last month, said he can only imagine the “great sadness” as the event cannot be celebrated in the usual way as he lauded the vital role being played by the community on the frontlines of the crisis.

“In these challenging times, the Sikh community is making an extraordinary and invaluable contribution to the life of this country and to so many others, just as it has always done,” he said in his message which he opens with “Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa, Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh”.

The royal goes on to wish Sikhs a “happy, safe and peaceful” Vaisakhi, as the festival which celebrates the birth of the Khalsa and speaks of all the heartwarming reports of different faith communities pulling together to offer each other support and friendship in these challenging times.

In the message issued by his Clarence House office, he notes: “In the United Kingdom, as elsewhere, Sikhs are playing a vital role on the frontline of this crisis, whether in hospitals or other key roles, or through the remarkable work that is being done by gurdwaras to support local communities and the most vulnerable.

“In all this, it seems to me, Sikhs so marvellously embody the values on which Guru Nanak founded your religion, over five centuries ago: hard work, respect and selfless service to those less fortunate than yourselves.” He said that both he and his wife, Camilla – Duchess of Cornwall, are grateful for all the Sikh community’s “outstanding efforts”.

“At the same time, I know that many of you are suffering personally from the cruel effects of this pernicious virus, or tragically have lost those you love. I can only say that my heart goes out to you under such very difficult circumstances,” he said.

Vaisakhi will not be marked with the customary large gatherings and melas in different parts of the UK this year as the community is urged to stay safe amid the coronavirus pandemic, with all events cancelled.

London’s annual Vaisakhi on the Square held at Trafalgar Square, scheduled for next Saturday, was cancelled.

A similar mega Vaisakhi event held at Handsworth Park in Birmingham, one of the cities with the UK’s largest Sikh population, stands cancelled amid the lockdown, with celebrations in Leicester, Southall and Gravesend also called off.

The events at annual Vaisakhi events, including colourful street processions in the form of nagar kirtans, feeding the community with langars as well as cultural activities including the traditional Sikh martial art of Gatka, have been replaced by a focus on community service to help the vulnerable during the lockdown.

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Indian-origin Malaysian NRI on death row in Singapore wins acquittal

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The man was arrested after he entered Singapore with three black bundles of heroin hidden in his motorcycle.

SINGAPORE – In a rare case, an Indian-origin Malaysian on death row in Singapore for possessing drugs has been acquitted by the country’ apex court.

According to the judgement on Tuesday, Gopu Jaya Raman successfully proved that he did not know that controlled drugs were hidden in the motorcycle he was riding into Singapore.

On March 24, 2014, Gopu was arrested after he entered Singapore through Woodlands Checkpoint on the north with three black bundles of diamorphine hidden in his motorcycle’s fender.

Diamorphine also known as Heroin, is an opioid most commonly used as a recreational drug for its euphoric effects.

When immigration officers stopped him and found the drugs, he said he did not know the drugs were hidden in the motorcycle.

Gopu, also claimed the motorcycle was not his.

Tay Yong Kwang, the sole dissenting judge in Tuesday’s judgement, noted that Gopu had trafficked drugs into Singapore on two other occasions before he was caught on March 24, 2014. He had been trying to repay a 4,000 Malaysian Ringgit loan.

He was not convinced by Gopu’s reasons for entering Singapore or how he came to possess the motorcycle.

He said Gopu’s admission to trafficking drugs into Singapore on the same motorcycle on two other occasions did not bolster his credibility.

After the authorities found the drugs, they got Gopu’s help to try to nab others in the ring who might turn up to collect the drugs, the judgement stated. The operation, however, was called off when no one turned up.

Authorities monitored his conversation with the man who had helped to get him the motorcycle.

After listening to a number of exchanges, officers told Gopu to send a message, indicating that he had no knowledge of the drugs.

In Tuesday’s judgement, Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon and Judge of Appeal Judith Prakash found that Gopu would have missed the drugs when he was checking for them, given the bundles’ “size and dark colour”.

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