Saturday, June 4, 2016

Tribute: Muhammad Ali, What Made Him the Greatest (1942—2016)

Thomas Curwen and J. Michael Kennedy

After defeating Sonny Liston in 1964, an ecstatic Muhammad Ali declared: "I shocked the world."

Thrusting his arms into the air, he treated the victory as if it had been a knockout. Never mind that Liston denied him that honor by refusing to step into the ring for a seventh round. Ali's win gave America a first glimpse of the young man who for the next 50 years would never stop shocking the world.

Ali, the brash and ebullient heavyweight boxer whose brilliance in the ring and bravado outside it made his face one of the most recognizable in the world has died, according to a statement from his family. He was 74. Ali had suffered from Parkinson's syndrome for many years.

If Jesse Owens and Jackie Robinson opened the door for black athletes, Ali stormed through, making sure it would never close again. His celebrity transcended race and sports, for as dexterous as he was in the ring, he was equally skilled at challenging the status quo. Guided by his religion, bolstered by his popularity, he tempered his righteousness with an ever-quotable wit and a prevailing sense of cool.

Grandson of a slave, he was feted by presidents and kings. He defeated the Justice Department in the Supreme Court, worked as a humanitarian and an ambassador and became a hero to those who watched him light the Olympic flame in Atlanta in 1996, his body shaking with the emotion of the moment and the symptoms of the disease that had stolen his strength.

Since retiring from the ring in 1981, he lived with the tremors, slowness in gait and slurring of speech of Parkinson's syndrome, which doctors attributed to the poundings he endured in the late stages of his career when he could no longer feint and dance his way out of harm's way.

Yet even as he grew weaker he maintained a public profile. One of his last appearances came during the opening ceremony of the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.

"Ali was the great artist of the ring — in his prime an extraordinary combination of skill, swiftness, ingenuity and cunning as well as a sardonic playfulness and audacity not seen in boxing since Jack Johnson," boxing aficionado and novelist Joyce Carol Oates told the Los Angeles Times in 2013.

Inside the ring, Ali was a fighter who early in his career was known as Cassius Clay, and even though he held his hands too low and his punches were often glancing, he bettered opponents with his tenacity and versatility. In his long career, he lost only five professional fights, and two of those were after he came out of retirement.

Outside the ring, he was a rebel who never backed down from his principles.

The day after he defeated Liston, he announced that he was a member of the Nation of Islam, and a few weeks later he adopted a Muslim name.

"Cassius Clay is a slave name," he said. "I didn't choose it and I don't want it. I am Muhammad Ali, a free name — it means 'beloved of God' — and I insist people use it when people speak to me and of me."

The day he was classified as eligible for the Vietnam draft in 1966, he voiced his opposition to the war.

"I ain't got no quarrel with them Vietcong," he famously told the gathered reporters.

Brash, forthright and blunt, Ali never once doubted his worth and often expressed it with humor and style. Describing his steps in the ring, he delighted the media with doggerel. "Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee," he said, borrowing lines coined by one of his trainers. "Your hands can't hit what your eyes can't see."

He turned bragging into an art form. "I'm so mean I make medicine sick," he quipped, and "I'm so fast that last night I turned off the light switch in my hotel room and was in bed before the room was dark."

He understood the value of showmanship and humor. A few days before his bout with Liston, the Beatles — visiting Miami for a taping of "The Ed Sullivan Show" — stopped by the training gym. Photographers captured Ali tapping George Harrison with a punch that connected, domino-style, with the other three band members.

Throughout his career, Ali inspired some of the finest journalists — A.J. Liebling, Norman Mailer, George Plimpton, David Remnick — to put words to his charisma.

"He became so famous that in his travels around the world Ali could gaze out of airplane windows — down at Lagos and L.A., down at Paris and Madras — and be assured that almost everyone alive knew who he was," Remnick wrote in "King of the World," published in 1998.

Sports Illustrated writer William Nack described Ali's life as "so brassy and daring, so filled with wonders and adventure and so enlarged by the magic of his personality and the play of his mind, that no one remotely like him has ever been seen on the sporting scene."

Superlatives and hyperbole came to define him, and he was happy to let the claims stand unchallenged.

Muhammad Ali was born Jan. 17, 1942, in Louisville, Ky. He was named after his father, Cassius Clay, who in turn had been named after a 19th century white abolitionist.

Cassius Sr. was a sign painter and occasional muralist. Ali's mother, Odessa Grady Clay, was a domestic and cook. Nicknamed GG by his mother, Ali was a child who made jokes and enjoyed being the center of attention. The family attended Mount Zion Baptist Church. When asked how he started boxing, Ali often told the story about the time his bike was stolen. He was 12 and had ridden to Louisville's Columbia Auditorium, where popcorn and ice cream were being handed out.
Leaving the hall, he discovered his $60 red-and-white Schwinn missing. He reported the theft to an off-duty policeman who ran a boxing gym. Ali said he wanted to "whup whoever stole it."

The policeman invited him to start coming to the gym. Ali impressed his trainer not just with his speed and strength but with his discipline: When hit hard, he neither panicked nor got angry.

When not at the gym, Ali traded punches with his brother Rudy and his friends behind Leonard Tucker's grocery store. In the mornings, he jogged the streets of Louisville, wearing heavy steel-toed work boots.

Growing up in the Jim Crow South, Ali knew about the two Americas, the one for whites and the one for blacks. He was 13 when the mutilated body of a black boy, Emmett Till, was retrieved from a Mississippi river and an all-white jury acquitted the white killers in just 67 minutes.

The injustice affirmed the role that boxing would play in his life. "I started boxing because I thought this was the fastest way for a black person to make it in this country," he said.

He honed his skills as an amateur and in 1960 won the gold medal in the light heavyweight division at the Rome Summer Olympics, a debut he almost missed because of his fear of airplanes (he bought a parachute for the trip).

When a Russian journalist asked how he felt about winning a medal for a country where restaurants refused to serve him, Clay shot back: "Tell your readers we got qualified people working on that problem, and I'm not worried about the outcome. To me, the U.S.A. is the best country in the world, counting yours."

That medal took on legendary status when Ali claimed in his 1975 autobiography, "The Greatest," that he threw it into the Ohio River after being denied service at a restaurant. Later he said that he had simply lost it.

After turning professional, Ali was backed by a consortium of 11 Kentucky millionaires who offered him one of the most lucrative contracts in boxing history. His first professional match — he trained by sparring with his brother — took place on Oct. 29, 1960, a victory that came with a $2,000 purse.
Afterward, Ali's backers persuaded Angelo Dundee to become his personal trainer, and Ali moved to Miami to work out at Dundee's Fifth Street Gym. Their relationship lasted until the fighter's retirement 21 years later.

Ali never underestimated the power of self-promotion. One of his first lessons, he said, came in Las Vegas in 1961 when he met George Wagner, also known as Gorgeous George, a wrestler who never shied from the opportunity to call himself the greatest in his sport.

Dubbed Gaseous Cassius and the Louisville Lip, Ali worked the spotlight and once explained to Sports Illustrated the differences between other boxers and him. "I'll break the news to you," he said, "you never heard of them."
During the 1963 newspaper strike in New York City, Ali took to the streets to promote a fight at Madison Square Garden, and that year he recorded a spoken-word album, "I Am the Greatest!" Poet Marianne Moore wrote the liner notes.

Before the Liston bout in 1964, Ali had won 20 professional fights (including a 1962 debut in Los Angeles at the Sports Arena), but sportswriters doubted him. He was 22, a 7-to-1 underdog whom no one expected to last three minutes in the ring against the Big Bear.

When the bell rang, he went about "running and slipping," as one reporter wrote, "like someone killing time in a pool hall."

By the third round, he began to hit Liston with eye-blurring combinations that became his trademark. Momentarily blinded in the midst of the fight, Ali staggered, then regained his footing, taking Liston apart with left hooks and right uppercuts.

After those seven rounds, the world was a different place for him.

On a trip to Africa later that year, he was greeted as an international star. When he returned, he starting going out with a cocktail waitress, Sonji Roi. Thirty-two days later, they married.

Ali found himself defending his affiliation with the Nation of Islam. He had been intrigued with the sect since high school and knew that it was perceived as having a radical separatist agenda. His public stance — in the company of Malcolm X and Elijah Muhammad — created a rift in his family and polarized fans.

Moderate blacks believed the Nation of Islam's agenda too extreme for the civil rights struggle. They worried that the sect was taking advantage of Ali because of his celebrity status. Still they admired him for his confidence and pride, and how he disparaged the word "Negro" and wore his hair full.

"The act of joining was not something many of us particularly liked," civil rights leader Julian Bond told the writer Thomas Hauser. "But the notion he'd do it; that he'd jump out there, join this group that was so despised by mainstream America, and be proud of it, sent a little thrill through you."
"He was able to tell white folks for us to go to hell; that I'm going to do it my way," comedian Dick Gregory told Hauser.

Ali denied that his beliefs were a passing trend. "A rooster crows only when it sees the light," he told reporters. "Put him in the dark, and he'll never crow. I have seen the light, and I'm crowing."

Ali's popularity grew when he refused to be inducted into the Army to fight in Vietnam. He said he was exempt because he was a minister for the Nation of Islam, but he also used race to argue his point.

"Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go 10,000 miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on brown people in Vietnam while so-call Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs," he told Sports Illustrated.

Sportswriters denounced him as a traitor, as did the Kentucky Legislature, and the FBI subjected him to the same surveillance as Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr.

On June 20, 1967, Ali was convicted of violating the Selective Service Act, sentenced to five years in prison and fined $10,000. His boxing license was revoked, and he was stripped of his titles. As the case was appealed, he lectured on college campuses where he was greeted as a hero for being willing to sacrifice his income and stature in opposition to the war.

"I put him in the same category as Nelson Mandela, who stood up for a whole lot of folks by just staying where he was and saying what he believed in," the late musician Gil Scott-Heron once said.

During this time, Ali divorced Roi and had their marriage annulled on the grounds that she failed to uphold Islamic beliefs. His next marriage to 17-year-old Belinda Boyd was arranged by her Muslim parents. He had met Boyd at her school, and after the wedding she adopted an Islamic name, Khalilah Ali. The couple had four children.

In 1970, the New York State Athletic Commission reinstated Ali's license, and after a three-year hiatus he took on new fighters, most notably Joe Frazier in Madison Square Garden. Although both fighters were black, Ali expressed a disdain for Frazier that seemed to go beyond the usual taunts. "Anybody black who thinks Frazier can whup me is an Uncle Tom," he said.

In the end, Frazier knocked Ali down and won by unanimous decision, marking Ali's first loss as a professional.

Three months later, on June 28, 1971, Ali won a unanimous decision against the Justice Department in the U.S. Supreme Court. The charges of draft evasion were dropped, and for Ali, some of his best — and most brutal — fights lay ahead.

With no title to his name, Ali began a comeback that led to his 1974 match-up against heavyweight champion George Foreman.

Billed as the "Rumble in the Jungle," the fight was held in Kinshasa, Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo) and promoted by Don King, who arranged for the Zairian president to put up $5 million for each fighter, at the time the biggest payday in sports.

Arriving months earlier to train, Ali was never without an entourage, which came to include the crowds that followed him. The fight itself drew 60,000 spectators and millions of pay-per-view customers.

During the match, Ali stunned fans by allowing Foreman to pummel him in what became known as his "rope-a-dope" tactic. Ali had realized that in the heat he would not be able to dance and bob as planned. He hoped instead that the hard-punching Foreman would wear himself out.
In the eighth round, Ali delivered a blow that sent Foreman spinning around and down onto the canvas.

It was only the second time since Floyd Patterson that a heavyweight had regained the title.
A year later, Ali went up against Frazier for their final contest in what came to be known as the "Thrilla in Manila."

Days before the fight, Ali created a public scene when he introduced Veronica Porsche, a former L.A. beauty queen who had traveled with him since the fight in Zaire, as his wife. Upon hearing this, Belinda flew from Chicago to Manila. Their argument in the hotel was loud and public. They divorced in 1977.

More than a fight, the bout with Frazier was a grudge match, and not until the end of the 14th round — with the fight evenly scored at 63-63 — did Frazier's trainer concede. Frazier's left eye was closed, his right eye was closing and he was spitting blood. Still, his punches — 440 hits — took a toll on Ali.

"If dying is that hard," Ali said, "I'd hate to see it coming."

Three years later, Ali lost his crown to Leon Spinks, a fighter 12 years his junior. Ali tried the rope-a-dope tactic, but he couldn't pull it off. Seven months later, Ali won the rematch, earning the heavyweight title for the third time.

"I'd be a fool to fight again," Ali said in 1979. But, still attracted to the money and glory of the ring, he agreed to two more bouts. He lost both, and in 1981 he hung up his gloves for good.
He was married at the time to Porsche. The couple had two daughters, including Laila Ali, who had a career as a professional boxer.

Ali's diagnosis of Parkinson's did not come as a surprise. His doctors had seen his deteriorating condition for years. It was especially cruel for a fighter who had worked hard to leave the sport without a broken nose or the cauliflower ears that disfigured other boxers.

Retirement was difficult for Ali. He hadn't managed his earnings well. During one of his final fights, which carried an $8-million purse, he paid a third to his manager and $1 million to the promoter. Almost all of the rest went to taxes and training expenses.

Some estimates put his daily expenses at the time at $10,000, money that went to his properties in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Chicago and Los Angeles; to the Nation of Islam; to child support and alimony; and to his retinue.

In 1981, he was embarrassed by an embezzlement scheme involving a company he had endorsed. He also hired as his attorney Richard Hirschfeld, who would be convicted of securities violations. Ali was not implicated, but the associations suggested greater problems in his camp.

In 1985, he divorced Porsche and a year later married his fourth wife, Yolanda "Lonnie" Williams, whom he had known since childhood. They adopted a child, and together they slowly rebuilt his reputation.

Ali turned his attention to fundraising for charity and medical research. He converted his boxing camp in Pennsylvania into a home for abused children.

In 1985, he traveled to the Middle East on an unsuccessful trip to seek the release of four Americans and a Saudi diplomat held hostage in Lebanon. In 1990, he traveled to Iraq and won the freedom of 14 American hostages held by Saddam Hussein.

In 1996, he stepped out of isolation and stood before 83,000 spectators to light the Olympic flame in Atlanta. Three months later, "When We Were Kings," the documentary of his fight against Foreman in Zaire, was released, and at the Academy Awards he received a standing ovation.

He was profiled in a segment on "60 Minutes." A number of books helped frame his straight-talking wisdom, including an authorized biography and two memoirs.

In 2005, he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian award, from President George W. Bush, who called Ali "the greatest of all time." Later in the year, Ali presided over the opening of the $80-million Muhammad Ali Center, an education and cultural complex in Louisville.

In 2006, a New York entertainment company, CKX Inc., paid him and Lonnie $50 million for the commercial rights to the name and likeness of the boxer.

In his daily life, Ali, a devout Muslim, would pray five times daily and study Islamic texts. He once said that he received 12,000 letters a week, and he wrote up to 40 letters a day.

He recently moved from Michigan to Arizona, and though the world may have pitied his decline, he never gave it much thought.

He is survived by his wife, Yolanda; his brother, Rahman Ali; seven children from three wives; and two children from two women he never married.

Inspiring the Future: Redraw the Balance

Twenty children between the ages of 5 and 7 in the U.K. were asked to draw a fighter pilot, surgeon and fire fighter. This video captures the reality of gender stereotyping among school children, and how early on in their education, children already define jobs as male and female. 66 pictures were drawn, with 61 pictures of men. Watch the surprise and delight of the children when a real-life fighter pilot, surgeon and fire fighter are revealed to the class.


Friday, June 3, 2016

Daily Inspirational Quote for June 3, 2016

“I am thankful for those difficult people in my life. They have shown me who I do not want to be.”

Oh dear me yes definitely! We have all known people like this or, perhaps unfortunately, still do! You know who I mean? The ones who can never seem to give you a straight answer, or appear to go out of their way to create difficulties where there are none. Someone you just dread speaking to or seeing because you know what to expect and know beforehand that it won’t be a pleasant experience. They will never change because that’s just who they are. The one thing they excel at, however, is making the rest of realize that we don’t want to be like them in any way, shape or form. So they’ve got one thing going for them, the only thing, but it’s something.


Thinking Like An Ecosystem

Ecology is all about interconnection and unending change, creating patterns of causation that shape every organism and phenomenon, so "thinking like an ecosystem" means living in the perpetual "why." An eco-mind is also able to see that our own species' thriving, through our consciously creating the essential context for that thriving, determines the well-being, even the continuation, of other species and whether key dimensions of our wider ecology remain conducive to life.

--by Frances Moore Lappe

Hope is not wishful thinking. It's not a temperament we're born with. It is a stance toward life that we can choose . . . or not. The real question for me, though, is whether my hope is effective, whether it produces results or is just where I hide to ease my own pain.

What I strive for I call honest hope. And it takes work, but it is good work. It is work I love. I began this book suggesting that it starts with getting our thinking straight. Since we create the world according to ideas we hold, we have to ask ourselves whether the ideas we inherit and absorb through our cultures serve us. We can only have honest, effective hope if the frame through which we see is an accurate representation of how the world works.

The good news is that we face this historic challenge just as our understanding of life's rich complexity, and human nature itself, is expanding exponentially. I am pretty sure, for example, that I'd never even heard the word "ecology" until I was in my twenties. And that was only because I was fortunate enough to marry one of our country's most brilliant ecological thinkers, the late Marc Lappé. Now we are realizing that ecology is not merely a particular field of science; it is a new way of understanding life that frees us from the failing mechanical worldview's assumptions of separateness and scarcity.

So here, in this final chapter, is an invitation to explore what it means to think like an ecosystem. Since ecology is all about interconnection and unending change, creating patterns of causation that shape every organism and phenomenon, "thinking like an ecosystem" for me means living in the perpetual "why." It's keeping alive the two-year-old mind that accepts nothing simply as "the way it is" but craves to know how something came to be. It's understanding that all organisms emerge with specific potential, including the human organism, but its expression is enormously shaped by context.

So, if we want life to thrive, we keep foremost the question, What conditions enhance life? And, more specifically, what specific conditions bring out the best in our species? My hypothesis is that three conditions — the wide and fluid dispersion of power, transparency, and an assumption of mutual accountability — are at least a good part of the answer. An eco-mind is also able to see that our own species' thriving, through our consciously creating the essential context for that thriving, determines the well-being, even the continuation, of other species and whether key dimensions of our wider ecology remain conducive to life.

Shifting from the mechanical assumption of separateness and seeing our societies as ecosystems, we get curious about how aspects interact. And, writes Oxford historian Theodore Zeldin, "It is only curiosity that knows no boundaries which can be effective against fear."

Using our eco-minds, we soon realize that in our complex human ecology, many of the most important causal interactions may not immediately meet the eye — just as they don't in the wider ecosystem: When you or I look at a forest, for example, we see distinct trees. We don't see that beneath the forest floor trees intermingle for mutual support, sometimes through their roots, sometimes through "mats of cooperating fungi," explains the late sustainability genius Donella H. Meadows. Mycelia, the underground part of fungi, can spread "cellular mats across thousands of acres."

The implication? Cutting one tree is never about just cutting one tree. Every act has multiple effects.

It's the context, stupid!

Thinking like an ecosystem means seeing everything in context, or at least giving it our best shot. By this I mean that, with an eco-mind, we realize that what's "good" in one context might bring disaster in other.

I first think jatropha. Never heard of it? Jatropha is a small tree whose nonedible but oil-rich seeds can be turned into a clean fuel. In parts of rural Africa and Asia, this oil liberates small farmers from hours of daily wood gathering and continuing forest loss. It grows well in poor soils with little rainfall and can be interspersed with other crops, helping to prevent erosion. The tree's smell repels hungry animals, protecting nearby crops. And a poor farmer selling jatropha oil in the West African country of Mali, for example, can double his or her income in the first year of planting jatropha, while not significantly decreasing yields of other crops in the same field.

Jatropha needs no pesticides and no fertilizer beyond the residue returned to the soil after oil is pressed from the plant's nuts. Compare those gains with other biofuel plants like corn or sugar cane, which actually displace crops that could feed people directly and use huge amounts of water, fertilizer, and pesticides.

So what's not to like? Poor farmers, big winners — and environment benefits too.

Now, place the very same plant in another context.

Several years ago the government of India began backing the spread of large jatropha plantations, with the ambitious goal of producing enough biofuel from its seeds to significantly reduce dependency on imported oil. Here, empirical results from the southern state of Tamil Nadu reveal that jatropha cultivation is not pro-poor at all, say scholars writing in the Journal of Peasant Studies. "Jatropha cultivation favors resource-rich farmers," they write. Instead of aiding the growth of food crops, as in the Mali story, jatropha plantations in India have replaced food crops and helped push poor farmers off the land.

This contrast in outcome reflects the web of relationships in which the plant grows.

Once seeing through a contextual eco-lens, we also realize that what might be perceived as a single change in a community — whether animal, vegetable, or mineral — can create endless ripples. Hearing, for example, the word "organic," a lot of us see green — maybe a curly kale in a lush field. For most people, it's a package of farming and eating without pesticides. But as we learn to think like ecosystems, the word "organic" can come to evoke vastly wider associations. A recent UN study, Organic Agriculture and Food Security in Africa, beautifully teases out a few organic ripples that might surprise.

African farmers who cultivate beneficial insects to control pests, the report finds, develop a lot more knowledge and skills than they did by just spraying pesticide. Where farmers are building on indigenous knowledge, they also experiment more to solve problems instead of merely relying on what a corporate input supplier tells them.

Imagine the greater self-confidence and resiliency in facing climate challenges.

Organic farming also leads to improved health, the report notes, including less malaria in rice-fish zones. Plus, the improved nutritional value of organic produce, along with a greater variety of foods, strengthens people's immune systems, particularly vital to HIV/AIDS sufferers. "Extending the life of a farming parent [with the disease] by several years could mean the difference between life and death for the children left behind," notes the report. Imagine the ripples, where 11 million children in sub-Saharan Africa are already HIV/AIDS orphans.

Organic farming "can undoubtedly reduce poverty" because of increased production selling at higher prices. And because some of the additional income from greater food production goes to paying school fees, "education of the wider community" increases, notes the study.

And then there's the female ripple. In many communities using imported seeds and chemicals, women on their own couldn't get access to these inputs or credit to buy them. (In Africa women receive less than 10 percent of the credit going to small farmers.) But once taking up organic practices, and thus freed from dependency on credit, women gained more equal footing with men. Their output could then grow, providing surplus to sell in the market and helping the whole family.

This report also tells us that, because organic practices can produce more food, hunger is displacing fewer people from their communities. (A separate University of Michigan study found that if the entire world were to move toward agroecological approaches, food output could increase substantially.) Some people are even migrating back to their organic farming villages, as more vibrant local economies offer more jobs.

Finally, climate: In my daughter Anna LappĂ©'s Diet for a Hot Planet, we learn about why the food and agricultural system contributes about a third of the gases heating our planet. So, as explored [earlier], this move away from extractive, chemical farming means facing down climate chaos. Now, there's a really welcome ripple.

Clearly, one change — organic farming — is not one change at all. Even M. S. Swaminathan, celebrated Indian champion of the 1960s Green Revolution — or what I call "dependency agriculture" because it made farmers dependent on corporate-controlled chemicals and seeds — now recommends the direction this report from Africa highlights: toward technologies "rooted in the principles of ecology, economics, gender and social equity, employment generation, and energy conservation." He calls for research "based on an entire farming system."

For me, Swaminathan's shift of perspective is yet more striking evidence that it's possible for any of us to rethink even long-held assumptions.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

People Who Eat Fiber Are 80% More Likely To Live A ‘Long And Healthy Life’

Lecia Bushak 

Our bodies technically can’t digest fiber, so it easily passes through our intestines and keeps bowel movements regular. But the roughage that’s found in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains does far more than maintain digestive health; it may contribute to good health as we age, according to a new study.
The study, published in The Journals of Gerontology, Series A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences, found that people who ate more fiber from cereals, breads, and fruits actually experienced a lower risk of age-related diseases and disability, like high blood pressure and even cognitive problems. The researchers examined how fiber intake contributed to successful aging compared to other factors like total carb intake, glycemic index, glycemic load, and sugar intake, and it turns out that fiber has the biggest impact on your health into old age.
“Out of all the variables we looked at, fiber intake — which is a type of carbohydrate that the body can’t digest — had the strongest influence,” said Associate Professor Bamini Gopinath in a statement. “Essentially, we found that those who had the highest intake of fiber or total fiber actually had an almost 80 percent greater likelihood of living a long and healthy life over a 10-year follow-up. That is, they were less likely to suffer from hypertension, diabetes, dementia, depression, and functional disability.”
There are two types of dietary fiber — soluble and insoluble. The former is able to dissolve in water, which turns it into a type of gel that lowers cholesterol and glucose levels, and is found in oats, peas, beans, apples, carrots, and citrus fruits like oranges. Insoluble fiber, meanwhile, can’t dissolve — and it’s the stuff that keeps the other digestive fluids moving through your intestines.

In the study, the researchers analyzed 1,600 adults who were over the age of 50 who were involved in the Blue Mountains Eye Study, which gathered data on systemic diseases and aging. The researchers focused primarily on the link between carbohydrate intake and aging — and found that people who ate more fiber were more likely to age successfully. That meant they were less likely to suffer from disability, depressive symptoms, cognitive impairment, respiratory diseases, and other chronic diseases like cancer, heart problems, stroke, and diabetes. In past research, a high-fiber diet has been shown to maintain gut bacteria and lower a woman’s breast cancer risk.
The study itself may have a few holes. For example, most of the participants examined had low sugar intake to begin with, which means their successful aging may have been impacted more by the low sugar in their diets, or proper nutrition beyond simply fiber. Regardless, the evidence seems to point in the direction of fiber resulting in good health in general — so a diet high in fiber can only mean positive things.
To get the right amount of fiber in your diet, avoid processed foods like canned fruits/vegetables, or white breads and pastas. When non-whole-grain wheats or cereals go through the refining process, the grain’s outer coat — which contains most of the fiber — is removed, so stick to whole grain foods, fresh fruits and vegetables, and legumes like beans and peas instead.
Source: Gopinath B, Flood V, Kifley A, Louie J, Mitchell P. Association Between Carbohydrate Nutrition and Successful Aging Over 10 Years. The Journals of Gerontology, Series A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences, 2016.

13-Yr-old Opera Singer Stuns, Steals the Show at America’s Got Talent (WATCH)

When this 13-year-old stepped onstage for “America’s Got Talent,” she was so nervous she could barely speak.

When Laura Bretan finished singing, it was the judges who were speechless.

“What just happened?” judge Simon Cowell finally asked as he joined the audience in a standing ovation for the eighth-grade opera singer’s stunning performance.

Woman Graduates From the University Where She Was Abandoned as a Baby

Almost 32 years after Jillian Sobol was abandoned as a newborn at San Francisco State University, she has donned a cap and gown as one of their graduates.

Students there found Sobol just hours after she was born in 1984, left in a cardboard box in a dorm laundry room. The infant was turning blue and nursing hopeful Esther Wannenmacher took charge, clearing Sobol’s airway and telling others to call an ambulance.

Sobol reunited decades later with Wannenmacher, who says it was “divine intervention” that she happened to be doing laundry the night the baby was discovered.

As for Sobol, she’s looking forward to a career as an event organizer in San Francisco, now that she has earned her degree.

Residents Returning to Fire-ravaged Alberta Town and Surprise Welcome

A Fort McMurray DJ added a special welcome addition to the Alberta city sign Monday.
Montreal (dpa) - Almost a month after a raging wildfire forced them to abandon their homes, thousands of residents of Fort McMurray in the western Canadian province of Alberta began returning to reclaim their hometown on Wednesday.

Up to 15,000 people were expected to return on the first day of a carefully planned re-entry plan, provincial officials said.

"Today begins a journey more than a month in the making, the journey home to Fort McMurray," said Alberta Premier Rachel Notley, who came to Canada's devastated oil sands capital to offer her support.

"This journey is possible because of incredibly brave and dedicated first responders who were able to save so much of this city from one of the most destructive wildfires Alberta and indeed Canada has ever seen."

Almost 90,000 people were forced to flee Fort McMurray and surrounding communities when an "ocean of fire," which is still burning out of control east of the city, engulfed the region in early May.
The wildfire destroyed about 10 per cent of the city, but firefighters managed to save most of downtown and almost all of the city's critical infrastructure.

Notley also thanked the hundreds of people who worked to prepare the city for the return of the evacuees.

But, she warned, "many hard days still lie ahead."

"You have shown tremendous courage under the most difficult of circumstances," Notley said. "And you will need every ounce of that courage in the days to come."

She said the rebuilding effort will take "years, not weeks."

Notley noted that grocery stores, pharmacies, banks, and gas stations had reopened in the city.

However, all returning residents have been asked to bring a two-week supply of water, food, medication, fuel and other necessities as the city still lacks safe drinking water and stores haven't been fully restocked.

Officials have distributed about 30,000 welcome packs to Fort McMurray homes filled with everything from information booklets to dust masks, amid continuing concerns over air quality.

The re-entry plan does not cover about 2,000 residents of Fort McMurray's three hardest hit neighbourhoods: Abasand, Beacon Hill and Waterways where environmental testing discovered elevated levels of caustic chemicals and heavy metals.

Residents have also been advised to bring flashlights, batteries, long-sleeve shirts, pants and rubber boots to be ready to deal with whatever hazards may be found in their homes.

3 Scientifically Proven Ways to be Happier

Until recently, I had no idea that you could fairly easily teach your brain to be happier. As most of us could have guessed, researchers have found that positivity (having a positive outlook) makes us happier. I didn’t know that positivity is also proven to make people more successful.
Luckily for us, there are simple, proven ways researchers have found for us (even pessimists) to be happier by training our brains to think more positively.
Let’s start with a quick exercise . . .
Do one quick scan of the room you’re in and look at everything that’s red. When you’re done, continue reading…

What did you see that was blue?
Perhaps you don’t remember the blue things that well. Most people don’t.
It’s because we see what we look for.
Ever notice how your pessimistic friends always notice what’s wrong and what will be difficult? On the other hand, your optimistic friends – even when they’re in the same situation as a pessimist — see opportunities?
There are enormous opportunities when we understand that we find what we look for.
Do you want to be annoyed by the little thing someone does or see the positive in their effort? Do you want to be depressed at the problems in the world or inspired by the heroes tackling them and the acts of kindness that are happening all around us?
Research shows that we’re happier and more open to possibilities when we see the positive (see research notes at end of this article – it’s amazing how much positivity, having a more positive outlook, can impact our lives).
Luckily for us, we’re not locked into our current way of viewing the world. If we want, we can actually influence how we see things to see more positive.
Here are three steps we can take that, among other benefits, teaches our brains to start looking for the positive more often. Over time, our brains will learn to look for the positive and start looking for the positive without our prodding. By the way, the research backing up these three suggestions is summarized at the end of the article.
  1. Give compliments.
    You know the person you see doing a great job busing tables? The admin who can juggle way more than seems humanly possible? The store clerk who has a great attitude? Tell them. You know the kid who is exceptionally well behaved? Tell her parents. In general there are too few compliments going around. Complimenting is an easy way for you to make someone’s day (and help shape how you view the world).
    One simple way to ensure you give at least on compliment a day — When you open your inbox for the first time of the day, write a short email or text (one paragraph max) praising someone.
  2. Keep a gratitude journal.
    Every night, write down three things for which you’re grateful. This can be as easy as sending a nightly email to yourself.
  3. Perform a daily act of kindness.
    As you perform 
    random acts of kindness you start noticing opportunities to be kind, which feeds into positivity. Acts of kindness can range from calling a friend, to writing a card, to holding open the door. Here are 102 Random Acts of Kindness to get you started.
Training your brain for positivity takes time, but what an opportunity.
And, how awesome that helping others can have such a great benefit to ourselves.
If you’re interested, here is some of the research related to positivity:
Benefit of positive thinking: In an interview with the Harvard Business Review, Shawn Achor, author of The Happiness Advantage, highlights studies showing how positivity allows us to perform better. The studies showed that MDs who are put in a positive mood before meeting with patients diagnose problems 50% faster with 3 times more intellectual flexibility, test takers perform better when they’re positive instead of negative and even 4-year-olds asked to put blocks together will be 50% faster if they are slightly primed to be positive compared to neutral 4-year-olds.
Benefits of acts of kindness: Psychologist Michael Steger performed a study showing thatkind acts lead to happiness. Here is a link to an article in LiveScience discussing Steger’s research.
The benefits of gratitude journals: are discussed in this article about research performed by Dr. Robert A. Emmons and Michael McCullough. People who keep gratitude journals were 25%happier.
Note: I got the idea for the exercise to look around the room from a post by Dave Frees at Success Technologies.
If you enjoyed this content about positivity, please consider clicking this link and liking my Facebook page. You’ll be helping me get my book published (Publishers said I need more Facebook fans). And, you’ll also make yourself happier by doing something nice : – ) Thank you!
If you’re interested in further reading, here are 46 ways to be happier.