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Phuket Books: A question of savages

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Phuket Books: A question of savages | Thaiger

PHUKET: I picked up Don Winslow’s Savages (Simon & Schuster, New York, 2010, 358pp) with a good deal of eagerness, having just finished the much-lauded prequel The Kings of Cool, which impressed me with its zany energy, veering between screenplay,
poetic stanzas and wise-guy syncopated prose, deeply empathic with the surfer/grass dealer ethos of Laguna Beach, California.

Winslow is a wildly original stylist, willing to throw everything into a perpetually bubbling pot of invention. I hadn’t felt so excited since I first discovered the crime novels of Elmore Leonard.

At the novel’s heart are three lovable childhood friends – Navy SEAL Chon, philanthropist Ben and beach babe “O” (for Ophelia) who is in love with them both.

They grow and sell the best hydroponic marijuana buds in the nation, derived from a White Widow seed brought back by Chon from Afghanistan and honed to perfection by botanist Ben.

The savages are the thugs, lawyers and crooked cops of the Mexican drug cartel who want to take over their operation. They too get their narrative turn: Elena, the beautiful widow and ruthless cartel queen; Lado, the dead-eyed enforcer, ex-cop and double-crosser; Esteban, the young husband and apprentice gangster. As Mexicans, they see Americans as, “rambunctious rustics who just got on a lucky streak in the 1840s and rode it to steal half of Mexico”.

In Ben and Chon, Elena sees, “a smart, sophisticated, reasonable businessman with no stomach for bloodshed.

The other is an uncouth, foul-mouthed barbarian who seems to relish violence. In short, a savage.”

Chon’s view is that there are two worlds.

“The savage is the world of pure raw power, survival of the fittest, drug cartels and death squads, dictators and strongmen, terrorist attacks, gang wars, tribal hatreds, mass murder, mass rape.

“The less savage is the world of pure civilized power, governments and armies, multinationals and banks, oil companies, shock-and-awe, death-from-the-sky, genocide, mass economic rape.

And Chon knows – “They’re the same world.”

Ben outwits and Chon outguns the cartel until Elena orders Lado and his crew to kidnap O. Then the pair knuckle under to the cartel’s orders, or appear to, while they carry out Taliban-style ambushes to steal the drug cash needed to meet the cartel’s US$20 million ransom demand. Meanwhile, O passes that time away watching TV with the apprentice mobster Esteban while being viewed on CCTV by a sympathetic Elena.

The idealistic Ben is forced to cast off layer upon layer of civilized morality as Chon’s raids against the cartel become ever more complex, entertaining and murderous. Then they force a corrupt DEA agent to turn over the government’s entire computer file on the cartel. Ripped on speed, the two stare at the computer screen all night. Winslow’s bent, wayward, whimsical narrative continues:

“Dawn finds them –

“Check that –

“Dawn doesn’t ‘find’ shit – dawn’s not looking. (The only redeeming quality of the universe, Chon believes, is its indifference.)

“When the sun comes up they’re still there, pouring over the mass of material.

“Ben, natch, wants context.”

They find what they’re looking for: Elena’s own point of vulnerability.

A climatic confrontation takes place in the Californian desert. Beforehand, Ben muses:

“Elena will bring an army.

“Their chances of getting out are… How many ways are there to say zero?

Nothing.

Empty.

No hope, no faith, no values, no future, no past.

Nothingness.”

The novel ends in a blaze of violence and then a sudden hot bath of mawkish sentimentality. The ending is so awful I can’t bear to quote it. It brings into disrepute everything that has gone on before.

How can an author so sure-handed fling out this steaming pile of mush as a finale?

When I first read Elmore Leonard, the king of crime writers, I felt, like Stephen King, that I wanted to read everything he had ever written.

This botched ending has quelled my yearning for anything more from Don Winslow, thank you very much. Savages is a cruel disappointment.

A kindle version is available from amazon.com.

— James Eckardt

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Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Cannabis may ease lung inflammation from Covid-19, study

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Cannabis may ease lung inflammation from Covid-19, study | Thaiger
Stock photo by Washarapol D Bin Yo Jundang for Pexels

Cannabis may help ease and reduce lung inflammation for Covid-19 patients, according to a recent study. Researchers in the study claim the non-psychoactive component of cannabis, cannabinol, or CBD, has anti-inflammatory properties.

More research should be done on how CBD and treating severe lung inflammation from the coronavirus, according to researchers from University of Nebraska and the Texas Biomedical Research Institute indicates. Their recent peer-reviewed article in the latest issue of Brain, Behaviour, and Immunity investigates cannabis’ anti-inflammatory qualities.

Covid-19 can cause inflammation that leads to pneumonia which can clog lungs and cause breathing difficulties, an often deadly symptom of the coronavirus. This is why researchers are emphasising anti-inflammatory treatments for infected patients.

“There are drug treatments like Tocilizumab that clears patients’ lungs with a 90% success rate, but the side effects are harsh, including the risk of coronary artery disease and pancreas inflammations. Cannabis may be a key solution since it doesn’t carry such severe negative side effects.”

The CBD treatment made from cannabis does not carry the same effects of THC or smoking marijuana would, though THC has also been shown to be anti-inflammatory but is with more side effects. Cannabis already carries FDA approval, even being used for children with intractable epilepsy.

Aside from anti-inflammatory use, CBD also reduces several factors that contribute to severe Covid-19 cases and also increases proteins that prevent the virus from replicating by activating immune cells. Previous studies with asthmatic animals showed CBD reduced airway inflammation as well as pulmonary fibrosis, which can be an after-effect of Covid-19 damaging and scarring lung tissue causing breathing problems.

The cannabis study on lung inflammation shows that doses up to 1500 milligram a day were safe for up to 2 weeks. The researchers also noted that as an added bonus CBD reduces anxiety, something very useful for the stress of life during a pandemic. Helpfully, cannabis was recently legalised in Thailand and the government has been drafting regulations on importing it.

While the article doesn’t directly link cannabis as a treatment for Covid-19, the evidence on CBD’s effect on lung inflammation, a dangerous symptom of coronavirus, makes further research worthwhile. The researchers urge further research to experiment if cannabis can be directly incorporated into Covid-19 treatment to help with inflammation and anxiety too.

SOURCE: Forbes

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Thailand drafting new regulations for cannabis and hemp seeds

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Thailand drafting new regulations for cannabis and hemp seeds | Thaiger
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A new regulations for cannabis and hemp seeds imports is in the works by Thailand’s Agriculture Department. With certain parts of the cannabis plant now off the narcotics list, many are tapping into the market for CBD, or cannabidiol, the non-psychoactive component in hemp and cannabis.

With the rising demand for hemp and cannabis, the department is revising regulations to make the rules more clear, according to department’s director general, Pichet Wiriyapapha. Those importing cannabis and hemp seeds will also need to get permission from the department. He says they plan to announce the new plan on cannabis and hemp seed regulations in May.

“Now we have only four strains of hemp developed for higher fibre yield, but not for the strain for higher CBD that is currently required for cosmetics and healthcare products. That is why we do need to actively develop such a strain to respond to the high demand in the market.”

CBD is known for its relaxing effects. Although there is still little research to back the claims, many say CBD can lesson anxiety and depression as well as provide relief for muscle pain and arthritis. In Thailand, CBD is growing in popularity, but parts of the cannabis plant high in the psychoactive component tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, are still classified as a Category 5 narcotic.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Thai farmers warned of hemp – growing scams

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Thai farmers warned of hemp – growing scams | Thaiger

Thai farmers are being warned of hemp – growing scams after the FDA says some farmers may be approached to grow without gaining permission to import hemp seeds yet. The possible scams have farmers fearing they may be cheated after some have reportedly already started setting up networks in other provinces in preparation to start new enterprises.

According to the FDA, there are only 7 companies currently allowed to import hemp seeds, but they haven’t been given permits yet. Furthermore, none have been told they can start growing hemp as the process has not been solidified. As of now, any company that wants to import the seeds, but notify authorities of where they are getting the seeds from.

They also have to notify authorities of what specific strain of hemp they intend to grow as well as what factories would buy the hemp in order to process it.

Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul is pushing the FDA to start issuing permits for the cultivation, importation and production of hemp seeds as he says it could help farmers increase their incomes, especially after Covid has hit Thailand’s economy hard.

“As for hemp cultivation, each farmer must seek permission individually.”

“A permit to grow hemp cannot be applied to a group of farmers because each one must inform authorities about which land is being set aside for cultivation and when.”

Potential hemp growers can visit www.fda.moph.go.th to get information regarding the application procedures with interested parties needing to contact the FDA to set the process in motion.

Thailand’s Narcotics Control Board agreed late last year to remove cannabis and leaves from its list of banned drugs for medicinal purposes. Now, restaurants are sprouting up nationwide, offering CBD – infused food and drinks for public consumption.

CBD is different from the psychoactive ingredient of THC, which is still currently illegal in Thailand.

SOURCE: Chiang Rai Times

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