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Benny and Josh Safdie on the Alternate History of Uncut Gems – Vulture

Posted: December 13, 2019 at 3:00 pm

The Safdies brothers explain their new movies title: Am I non-judgemental? Yes, that means my gems are uncut. Am I on edge? Yes, my gems are uncut. Do I have depth underneath the surface? Yes, my gems are uncut. Photo: Julia Cervantes/A24

Theres a certain rhythm to Uncut Gems and the way it reaches for things for basketball, for jewels, for wins and losses, for takeout from Smith & Wollensky. It revels in its own excess: every single character is talking at once, trying to buy or sell or cut a deal. Its the Diamond District in 2012 when our hero, Howard Ratner (Adam Sandler), is trying to play the part of 47th Streets slickest salesman. A pack of debt collectors are on his trail, but he compulsively romantically, maniacally keeps placing bets. When a middleman walks NBA power forward Kevin Garnett into Howards jewelry store, every moment after feels like a miracle and a curse all at once. Will Kevin come back with the black opal Howard loaned him as a token of good luck? If Howard can auction it off, is it worth as much as he says? Whats the Weeknd doing here?

Gems directors, the Safdie brothers Benny, 33, and Josh, 35 talk like the movies they make: theyll jump up to act out a story or pull out a cell phone to show a photo, speaking fast and a lot as they try to keep up with their next thought. A question about a set can easily prompt an erratic anecdote about the time they walked in on some guy curing meat in a random building in midtown Manhattan. I believe them when they tell me that they rewrote their movie several times, first basing Howards saga around Amare Stoudemire, then Kobe Bryant, and then Joel Embiid, before finally landing on Garnett. Each time, the story of an impossibly lucky gem was reimagined to fit the particulars of each NBA stars career. All of this is a box we put ourselves into, Benny says. We say, Oh we had to do this, we had to do that. We didnt actually have to shoot with a real basketball player and use real games, we chose to. Throughout the course of a conversation with Vulture, the brothers discuss their alternate Uncut Gems plots, the real-life Diamond District figures they befriended, and, of course, what the name of their movie even means.

Josh Safdie: I was trying to explain the whole gems uncut, cut my gems thing to someone. They were like, I dont get it. I was like, Well, this is my take on it. You want to know my take on it?

Hunter Harris: Yes.JS: I want to know your take on it first.

No, no, no. Im interviewing you, I want to hear what you guys have to say.JS: Heres my take on it Am I non-judgmental? Yes, that means my gems are uncut. Am I on edge? Yes, my gems are uncut. Do I have depth underneath the surface? Yes, my gems are uncut. If my gems are cut, Im like naked, ready to be seen. Im potentially dangerous. Uncut is very dangerous, but cut is extra dangerous, because it can have a sharp point. My value is hidden if my gems are uncut, so I have a deeper, bigger value. I might be a little flawed, but Im worth it. Thats gems uncut.

Ah, I see.JS: Ultimately I think its just a very fun play on words, but also, I think its deep. And yes, my gems are uncut.

Benny Safdie: Its also, like, Who are you to cut my gems?

Sort of, Have you no decency? Benny, the last time we spoke, you said that you thought of Howard as literally an uncut gem.BS: The idea is that hes rough on the outside, but if you scratched below the surface, you see the beauty, and you see these things that you didnt quite know were there at first glance. You need to understand him to really love and know who he is.

JS: To me, Howard being an uncut gem is like a corollary to the movie being a radical humanist film, which is kind of in a weird way, all of our movies. Our entire life weve grown up with very flawed people around us, and weve had to see past those flaws, or excuse them, to get at something that makes them relatable, or human, or worthy of value. In the jewelry trade, uncut gems are major gambles. You have to be a genius with your eye to find one [that is actually valuable].

BS: Its not easy to do. If you look at a flawed person and try to see who and what it is that makes them interesting, you learn more about people in general. If you see a stand-up person, sometimes that can make you feel a little bit uncomfortable. Its like, Oh, Im not that good. So if you see somebody who has flaws or issues, it reflects back on humanity in a bigger way.

Theres something else that just popped in my head: if you take a diamond, and its like a rough

JS: I hate diamonds.

Josh, why do you hate diamonds?JS: I mean, look, when you see an IF diamond an internally flawless diamond the purity of it is remarkable: Wow, that actually exists. Its beautiful to see a solid take the form of a liquid with a diamond. That is beautiful. But its the general PR huckster-ism of the diamond industry. Diamonds arent rare. Ultimately, theyre kind of boring Ill take an Indian Star sapphire any day over a diamond. Ill even take like, a cats eye. But like opals in general I mean, a pigeons blood ruby, whoa.

Why opals, specifically, for this movie?JS: Very early on, when we were deciding on which stone should be in the film, it happened to have been right when Ethiopia started to publicize their black opals. It was a big moment in the geological world. The Australians, who are known for their black opals, were actually really pissed about it. Theyre like, Uh-oh, we cant corner the market anymore, so they started an anti-Ethiopia PR campaign. And, sadly, the Ethiopian opals didnt have longevity to them. They started to craze and crack, they were less valuable, which was unfortunate.

JS: White opals are very unlucky, but the black opals are very lucky. And theyre brilliant. You can see the color in them. And they dont have the superstition against them that white opals have.

BS: Some people are afraid of them.

JS: Not black opals, no.

BS: Really?

JS: Well theres a stigma against opals in general, but people who know gems and energies and things, the black opal is an exceptional gem.

BS: But there is something to this idea that people can be afraid of a gem, afraid of an opal.

JS: White opals are predominantly very unlucky, yes. Particularly the Italians, they fucking hate them. They wont go near them. But, the black opal was considered the antithesis of the white opal. Theres a specific color pattern to a black opal its called the harlequin pattern, which is like the most valuable color pattern. Anyway, thats why I prefer a black opal to a diamond.

I want to talk about basketball. Were there other NBA players you reached out to, before Kevin?JS: It started with Amare Stoudemire, who was a Knicks player in 2010. Thats when we started the project. Hes famously a Black Jewish person, so the themes of the movie presented themselves in that way: Ethiopian Jewish tribe. Beta Israelites. Black opals, which were found by a Jewish tribe in the Beta Israelites in Welo mines. Amare is a very spiritual person. He calls himself the spiritual gangster.

But about 20152016, we were having trouble getting financing, finding the right person to star as Howard, and our agency suggested casting up and going with Kobe Bryant. But Kobe they didnt understand the themes of the movie. Hes a West Coast person, we needed East Coast games. Because we had to write around the reality of the games.

Sure.JS: But then I was like, You know what? Theres this one game at the Garden that Kobe dropped 60 points. Lets make that the gem game. And the gem will become a youth elixir, and [the movie will] be about reminding everybody whos the man. In that version, Howards like trying to reclaim his initial win. And, so then we spent two weeks rewriting the whole script, changing the vibe and the themes of the film.

Around Kobe?JS: Around Kobe. And then our agents are like, No, no, no. He doesnt want to act anymore. He wants to direct. And Id just spent two weeks fucking writing this thing! Hes like, Yeah, were not going to send it to him. I was like, What the fuck?!

So then we ended up with Joel Embiid. Because we were like, You know what, were going to update the movie. Its going to be a contemporary film. You want to use a contemporary player. And Joel Embiid presented himself. Before he was even playing in the NBA, he was a legendary Twitter user. He trolled Rihanna. Hes amazing. Hilarious, you know what I mean? And, so I was like, He could be interesting. He could play into the comedy of the film, because his humor is dry and droll. We ended up meeting him through his manager, and his manager ends up in the film.

Who is the manager in the movie?JS: She plays Kevins manager, Jenny Sachs. This is the way the cosmos works: shes studied psychiatry, and worked at a needle exchange. She weirdly saw Heaven Knows What [the Safdies 2016 film]. No one in the sports world saw Heaven Knows What, but she did. She was like vouching for us to Joel, and then we became friends with Joel. And I started going to the Sixers games, and working with Joel, and understanding. Then the themes of the movie became even more overt, with an African player. I was just like, Oh, this is about reclamation, this is about being empowered by reclamation. Joel was into that, things were moving. Now this is the Joel Embiid movie.

When I was writing the scenes, I would send them to Joel. Joel would read them, but mostly Jenny would be like, I dont know if he can do that. I dont know if this is too much. This scene might be too much to ask of him. I got a little nervous about that. But in the end, I knew he was such a cocky guy that it would have been fine. And then the schedule pushed into the NBA season, and we couldnt use an active player. So then we had a list of other players who were recently retired. We went back to Amare.

BS: The list wasnt like this [gestures widely] long.

JS: Amare wouldnt shave his head to match the games that we had to cut in between.

BS: But the thing is [laughs] all of this is a box we put ourselves into. We say, Oh we had to do this, we had to do that. We didnt actually have to shoot with a real basketball player and use real games, we chose to because

JS: We did have to.

Because how else do you make this movie?BS: Thats the point! But everybodys, Oh, just cast an actor.

JS: Someone did try to push that on us.

BS: Really, that is an idea that was put out there. Im like, Maybe you dont understand. Having a real player, and having a player act, and then using those real games on the television creates a good alchemy.

JS: Once we saw the new list [of available retired players], Kevin Garnetts name was on it. As a Knicks fan, I was so, like, We cant put Kevin Garnett in the movie. I hate him. But that was when my film intelligence was kind of eclipsed by my insane, schizophrenic, Knicks fandom, where I actually couldnt see past what I normally would have realized, which was that me hating Garnett is actually a testament to his incredible acting ability, and how he plays a great heel in the NBA. He can get people to despise him, based on his performance on a nightly basis of 20,000 people.

BS: And when we were talking to him, just the way that he told stories Id never seen anything like it before. He would set you up in the room, show you where people were sitting, who was behind him, the noises that were happening, the way the door closed.

JS: Put it this way, he sweats when he tells a story You have to remember, hes a superstar. He went from high school to the pros.

BS: He kind of underplays [his performance in Uncut Gems], like, Oh, I was just playing myself. I was just playing myself. Thats a very difficult thing to do, because you have to be comfortable.

JS: Hes playing the self that he created for the NBA.

Adam Sandler as Howard, wet and beaten in New York City, in a scene from Uncut Gems. Photo: Julia Cervantes/A24

So tell me more about the Diamond District, and re-creating this world that feels at once very alive but also hermetically sealed. How did you make that happen, particularly when Howards actual shop was built on a soundstage, right?BS: For us, it was actually hard because we like to shoot on location all the time. To do that on a stage was out of necessity. We couldnt physically shoot in a real jewelers place. We wouldnt have had a lease long enough, and getting up and down in these buildings is insane.

JS: The lease wasnt the problem.

BS: No, it was mainly just getting in and out of [a jewelers shop]. Theres a certain amount of elevators, and theres so many people going up and down all the time. We wouldnt have been able to get all the stuff in there to build it out. We had this whole idea that people would be coming into work on the district, they would kind of breathe this energy. So, once we moved into a stage, its like: How do we re-create that feeling, that vibe? By bringing a bunch of people there who worked in the district that are in the movie. Sometimes they werent even in the scene, but we had them there just to kind of breathe the energy.

JS: To me, the first major compromise of the film was agreeing to shoot the business on a soundstage. And by the business, I mean his showroom, his back room, the hallway, the elevator bays.

BS: But, for [the shoots that did take place on the streets of the Diamond District], we really wanted to capture the district as it was, kind of unfettered from us. Even though we were having a footprint there, we didnt want to disturb it. We kept it open, which you have to. Legally youre not allowed to close the street, because its business. We embraced that fully. Theres people just walking in and out of the frames, all the time.

JS: In 2012, after the first nostalgic draft was finished, I went and started to involve myself deep in the research in the Diamond District. Its a very consumers materialist world me not being able to buy anything there was actually like a major inhibitor of getting deep in with anyone.

So howd you do it?JS: I had to bring press clippings in, and try to prove that I was a real filmmaker. And, over time, those clippings became a little bit more impressive. Two years into my research, we made a documentary about a basketball player

This is Lenny Cooke?JS: Yeah, that reached the Diamond District crowd. They do a lot of business with athletes, and a lot of athletes were talking about the movie. They also stay on WorldStarHipHop, and the trailer blew up on WorldStar. I actually brought Lenny to the diamond district once, because he used to go. He went to Jacob the Jeweler. There was a jewelry shop called Rafael and Co., who were very helpful to us in the beginning, letting us see how the business operates. But there was another guy named Joe Rodeo. I had a friend, and the friend has since passed, but he was a real character. He was from New York. His name was Tuna. He loved going there, and making a big show of buying shit from these guys, like a watch, or what have you. Finally I was in, because I was now with someone who was buying stuff. When I got to go to the back rooms, I took photos. I wasnt sure that I was ever going to get back to this specific upstairs spot, because its pretty private. I took so many pictures the first time I went in there. I probably took like a hundred pictures of the weirdest stuff

BS: How about Joe?

JS: This guy. His name isnt even Joe! We met him and someone called him that, and they just went with it for a while. They were just like, Yeah, Joe. It was so strange. Joe owned a building 20 West 47th. His son Alon married into a very big family on 47th street, the Nektalov family. Theres a great New York Magazine piece about Nektalov. Nektalov was murdered on Sixth Avenue. Its a crazy story.

Oh my God.JS: So the Nektalov family is Leon Diamonds, and they were huge on the block. They were very hard to get in with. Richie Nektalov ended up helping [us]. Thats whose Rolls Royce it is in the movie that Judd Hirsch gets into.

BS: Thats Richie Nektalovs house, too, and hes also in the Passover scene.

JS: So, the tentacles were wide, you know? Eventually I got in with Joe and his son Alon. And Joe was very skeptical of us. Like, Who are these guys? Can we make money off of them? And I was just trying to earn my place. They showed us this huge penthouse. When I went up there for the first time, there was a guy curing meat, living on an air mattress. I have pictures of it. This guy had a bunch of meat hanging up from the ceiling.

BS: This is on Sixth Avenue and 47th Street, in the middle of Manhattan! Its unbelievable.

JS: Hes curing meat! Id told them I knew all these interior designers and architects. So hes like, If you can help me turn this into a lounge he had this big vision for it, with a sauna, and all this stuff Ill help you in exchange. So I ended up hiring an architect. I brought in this legendary interior designer, who weirdly has also since passed, Jim Walrod.

And then what happened?JS: I said, Ill do this for you Joe, in exchange for a six-month lease on a space in your building. It was the perfect size, but as Benny was saying, it became very impractical to actually shoot in it.

BS: Once you accept that okay, were not going to do it on location, well do it on the stage, you get to design. The design of [Howards shop] is just crazy to get into the details. We could design parts of the space to be a certain height, based on Kevin Garnetts height. So when he goes in, he looks much bigger.

JS: We made the ceilings about half a foot shorter, to make him look taller.

BS: Basically we have this whole space outfitted to look so real, and yet its totally fabricated. Every light was on its own color temperature, its own brightness. It was the most complicated lighting setup you could possibly have.

JS: This has nothing to do with 47th Street.

BS: It does. Its about capturing the vibe. You literally go so far to fake it, to make it look real.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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Benny and Josh Safdie on the Alternate History of Uncut Gems - Vulture

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The wisdom of ancient kitchens – Easy Reader News

Posted: at 3:00 pm

Added on December 12, 2019Mark McDermottManhattan Beach , newsletter

Dan Buettner in the Okinawa blue zone. Photo by Dan McLain/National Geographic

National Geographic explorer Dan Buettner investigates the food and culture of those who live the longest, and comes back with recipes

by Mark McDermott

Most mornings, Cowboy Jose Bonifacio rides his horse Corazn five miles to go see two old friends. Bonifacio is known far and wide as one of the great vaqueros, or cowboys, of the Guanacaste province on the Nicoya Peninsula of Costa Rica. He began riding horses in 1921, at the age of 4. Hes 102 years old. His two friends are both over 100.

Two years ago, National Geographic explorer Dan Buettner went looking for the great cowboy, who hes known for years. Buettner has led several expeditions to the Nicoya Peninsula because it is home to some of the longest living humans on Earth, and longevity has been his area of inquiry for the last decade and a half. Hes written four books and dozens of National Geographic articles about the so-called blue zones, the five areas scattered across the planet where people live the longest. He sought out Bonifacio who is not hard to find, having lived in the same house all his 102 years for his newest book, The Blue Zones Kitchen.

Buettners intentions were simple. He wanted to share a meal with Bonifacio and his family, and take notes. Buettner has spent more time with 100-year-olds, known as centenarians, than anyone on the planet who is not 100. His research has been about the ways of life that lead to the kind of health in which people not only live a century but do so, like Bonifacio, with gusto. Hes examined everything from habits of human connection to physical activity and even the composition of the soil and water in the lands where people live longest, but all these roads lead back to the most fundamental of human activities: sharing a meal. And this is why he found himself back at Bonifacios humble dwelling in Guanacaste.

We arrive early, waiting for him in the cool shade under the 100-year-old mango trees in his courtyard, Buettner writes. He trots up on a horse wearing blue jeans, a checkered shirt, and a jaunty-angled cowboy hat. He dismounts with a bounce and welcomes us warmly with a handshake and a half toothed smile. Hes lived in the same house his whole life, now with four generations of descendants. At 100, he still recites romantic poems and professes his love of women.

Buettner has spent time with over 300 centenarians, but none cooler than the cowboy, who on this occasion asked his daughter and granddaughter to prepare a special lunch for his visitors, Buettner and famed National Geographic photographer David McLain. The lunch was served in an outdoor kitchen, centered around an oven used by the Chorotega, a tribe of corn farmers who historically were the most powerful of the Native Americans in the region.

Dinner is served in Ikaria. Photo by Dan McLain/National Geographic

They cook over a fogn, which is a Chorortega oven that dates back before the age of Christ, Buettner said in an interview. Its sort of a U-shaped adobe appliance, so to speak, with a wooden fire. So there you are, smelling roasted corn and woodsmoke and the aromaThe beans they are making tend to be more aromatic, with peppers and onions and garlic and cilantro. And its a wooden structure with slats in it, so sunlight is angling through the slats and hitting the floor in long parallel lines, but its sort of beautifully, smokily illuminated on the inside. And you are smelling the same smells that the ancient Maya were smelling in 1,000 B.C.

Lunch was chunky vegetable soup, a veggie hash with corn and onions, hearts of palms with herbs and garlic, creamy lima beans and herbs, and fried green plantains. It was accompanied by mugs of what Buettner described as shockingly refreshing horchata and citrus fresco.

The Blue Zones Kitchen, which includes recipes for each component of the lunch, was released last week and achieved a somewhat unusual feat for what is ostensibly a cookbook: it was the bestselling book in the United States across all categories. The books success shocked even Buettner.

Its surreal, he said. After years and years of these high-minded literary pursuits, I realized what people want are just pretty pictures and a great bean recipe.

The Blue Zones Kitchen isnt like any cookbook ever before published. In it, Buettner visits kitchens in each of the five blue zones: Okinawa, Japan; Ikaria, Greece; Sardinia, Italy; Yorba Linda, California (a Seventh Day Adventist community); and the Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica. An earlier book, The Blue Zones Solution, also included recipes, but not presented in this way, with McLains vivid photography showing the physical beauty of the people and the food of blue zones. Its pages emanate with the warmth of human conviviality.

David and I are not cookbook writers. David and I are a writing and photography team for National Geographic, Buettner said. This book is essentially a 300-page National Geographic article, centered around food and recipes. And thats how we approached it. For the recipes, I didnt just go find some other book and copy them; I sat on stools in 80, 90 and 100-year-old womens kitchens, and I watched them. I wrote down fastidiously everything they did. I estimated quantities you know, they dont use cups or teaspoons or any of that crap. I captured these recipes, which by the way will be gone in half a generation.

The recipes from Buettners notebooks were then taken to a test kitchen and proofed out for exact quantities, and now run alongside hundreds of photos taken by McLain, which are also not the typical, prettified pictures usually found in cookbooks.

Not a single picture in the book is shot in a studio, Buettner said. Its all editorial and its all with the gifted David McLain. He shot the ingredients, the setting, the people, the cooking techniques, and then the rituals around it. So its a very different book than a cookbook.

Dan Buettner in the Costa Rica blue zone. Photo by Dan McLain/National Geographic

Buettner is well-known locally because he launched the first Blue Zones Project in the Beach Cities. The projects, which now number over 50 nationwide, are public health initiatives which take the wisdom derived from Buettners studies of actual blue zones and apply lessons programmatically; locally, the Blue Zones Project is administered by the Beach Cities Health District (see last weeks Easy Reader cover story, Tripping Over Health). Buettners central insight is that healthy behavior happens not when we focus on changing behavior, but when the environment in which we live makes healthier choices easier to make.

The Blue Zones Kitchen follows this ethos. Its easy to use. Not one of its 100 recipes requires more than a handful of ingredients. It is peasant food; simple, cheap, easy, and by the way healthy.

Its organized by genres of cooking, Buettner said. There is Greek, from Ikaria; Italian, from Sardinia; Asian, in Okinawa; Latin American, Costa Rica; and American, Loma Linda. So they are easily recognizable categories of food. They are just simple. You can add cheese if you want to some of them, but the quotidian day-to-day eating in blue zones was plant-based. They ate meat, but it was a celebratory food, and I dont need to put a recipe for roasted meat in so all the recipes are plant-based. And they all have the most important ingredient, which is taste. These recipes, theyve been cooked for at least 500 years in most of these places. The reason they survived is not because people think the recipes are healthy. Its because people like them. They are tasty.

Cowboy Jose Bonifacio in Costa Rica. Photo by Dan McLain/National Geographic

Another aspect of the book that sets it apart is its beautiful array of story, science, travel, and cultural exploration. For example, in Costa Rica Buettner found what he believes might be the most perfect breakfast in the world, featuring what locals call the tres hermanas, or three sisters: corn, beans, and squash. He recalls in loving detail enjoying this breakfast in the Cooperativa Nicoya, where a dozen women begin preparation before dawn each morning and people stop by on their way to work. The meal is the locally beloved gallo pinto, rice, and beans with garlic, onions, peppers and squash, served with freshly made tortillas, a vinegar-based hot sauce called chilero, and locally grown coffee.

At 6 a.m., the first customers file in, most of them market vendors or laborers, Buettner writes. They take seats on benches at long green tables. Cooperativa waitresses, wearing simple dresses and flip-flops, serve giant cups of weak local coffee, steaming plates of the gallo pinto, and baskets of warm tortillas. As muddy ranchero music plays from a distant radio, customers fill their tortillas with beans topped with chilero hot sauce. This is arguably the most perfect food combination ever, and for some it brings forth tears of joy.

The meal is perfect because tastes great while providing everything the human body needs for sustenance. The corn tortillas are whole-grain, low glycemic (meaning more slowly digested, absorbed, and metabolized) complex carbohydrates, Buettner reports, noting that the wood ash of the stoves breaks down the corns cell walls, thus making niacin available and freeing amino acids for absorption into the body. The black beans are rich in both antioxidants and fiber, which is colon-cleansing, lowers blood pressure and regulates insulin. Combined with rice, the beans form a perfect protein; the pepper sauce that tops it all off is a probiotic (meaning good for gut health). Even the coffee is rich in antioxidants. The total cost of the breakfast was $4.23.

Buettner writes that this meal is what the poorest people in Costa Rica subsist on. His research partners found that these very people have the longest telomeres the DNA tips that mark biological age of any in Costa Rica. He says their bodies tend to be a decade younger than their age would suggest.

Its really kind of the Zen of eating, Buettner said. Its so simple. Its like great sushi. Most cuisines are additive for example, French cuisine is cream and butter and herbs. Sushi is just beautifully one ingredient. This is three ingredients. Imagine slow-cooked beans; the beans are perfect, kind of al dente, they still have their flavor, they still have the anthocyanins, which are the anti-oxidants you find in blueberries. Add a roasted whole-grain corn tortilla: all it is whole grain corn patted down and roasted. And then some roasted squash. You put the beans in a tortilla, maybe put some hot sauce on it, or in Costa Rica its chilero, and man, you do cry tears of joyIts so easy and so cheap and the stuff is good for a long time.

Buettners blend of storytelling and science is so seamless you dont really realize you are learning. Simplicity is key. Part of this is his sources. We dont live in a time when we often have access to the elders of our tribe, and their practical, well-worn advice, as most previous generations of humanity did. Buettner shared a meal with another centenarian in Costa Rica, a 106-year-old former lumberjack named Jose Guevara.

Hed actually done a good bit of thinking about his longevity and boiled it down to three secrets: Start your day with fruit, eat beans at every meal, and practice absolute honesty, Buettner writes. Words to live by, methinks.

Much of the wisdom that comes from the blue zones is essentially remedial human training: knowledge that was baked into the way people lived for eons before the disruption caused by more modern ways of living.

Its relearning what our grandparents instinctively knew, Buettner said.

Women in Ikiaria work together in the kitchen. Photo by Dan McLain/National Geographic

The links in that chain are mostly unbroken in the blue zones. Generations know each other, and cook together. Meals are shared multi-generationally, and often communally. Some of the recipes in The Blue Zones Kitchen contain varying versions, as each village or family has its own idea of how to do things. The Melis family in Sardinia (nine siblings with a combined age of 852 years) shared their version of minestrone soup, which they told Buettner theyd eaten every day of their life. Another family shared another version.

A 100-year-old cooked me Sardinian minestrone, Buettner said. The rest of her family cooked me other things and then we sat down and drank a good bit of wine, Connoneau, which is almost always an accompaniment with meals there. And then toasts ensue, and you get that sort of perfect combination of familial warmth and alcohol, and theres no better drug.

There is science underlying the warm feeling of this scene. Sardinian minestrone is a pot of healthy amino acids with all the protein a human needs for sustenance along with huge does of fiber and healthy gut bacteria. Its cruciferous vegetablesonions, cabbage, kohlrabiregulate thyroid function, a key to longevity. And even the wine, Connoneau, is particularly flavonoid-rich and brimming with antioxidants. But the biggest factor underlying long-living is the gathering itself.

I didnt set out to try to write a cookbook from the beginning. I realized, though, that the runway for people for a healthier life is often through their mouth, Buettner said. But what makes it work, what makes it stick, and what makes it last is building a meaningful social network, or social circle, around the food. And that is in an almost hormonal senseif you are eating with somebody you like, you have less cortisol interference as compared to eating on the run or eating with some sort of existential stress, and there is a love and a joy in that which I believe adds to longevity. But more important than that, if the people you are running with are also eating largely a whole-food, plant-based diet, its not a chore. You are not getting tempted by the burgers and the baby back ribs and the chips and all the other crap that people gather around.

We are, in fact, genetically hardwired for human interaction. Previous generations of humans could not have fathomed the idea of fast food or how much we eat alone. Another common trait in all blue zones kitchens is they are social places.

We tend to be genetically endowed with a propensity for things that ensure our survival, Buettner said. And humans, unlike so many other mammals that havent been as successful, are eusocial. That weve been successful because we come together as a tribe. We naturally are drawn to each other and we can take on bigger tasks together than we can by ourselves. So to all of sudden fast forward to 2019 when everybody is imploding in their devices maybe for survivability, on its surface, we dont really need other humans. But we still have that genetic yearning for it, and the meal is the natural time to give in to that. Its the natural time to socialize because you are slowing down, you are sitting down.

Research shows that people who eat socially, particularly families, eat more nutritiously than those who eat alone.

Because when you are eating by yourself, it takes about 20 minutes for the full feeling to travel through your belly to your brain, Buettner said. So if you are eating by yourself to your favorite TV show and wolfing down your dinner, theres a very good chance that you will already be full long before your stomach knows it, long before your brain knows it. Conversely, if you are sitting down with four or five friends, you are having a conversation, you are telling jokes, you are laughing, then you take a bite of food you are less likely to overeat.

The biggest piece of advice implicit in the The Blue Zones Kitchen is simply to cook. The benefits are myriad. People in the blue zones, and those who cook in general, tend to rotate between the same 10 or 12 meals. They thus have a more consistent diet, meaning their immune systems dont have to work so hard to always counter different potential threats. A worn-out immune system is one of the things that catches up with us in older age when the body can no longer fight off cancer cells, among other things.

Cook at home. You dont have to buy my book. Theres lots of other books, Buettner said. I hear all the time, Well, I dont have time to cook. And if you take a moment and you think clearly, people who are eating junk food their whole life are probably shaving a decade off their life expectancy. If you take those 10 years and average them back through the rest of your life, youve got about 2.5 hours of a day of time that you could be spending on making good food. And youll have just as many hours in your lifetime. We fail. We get misled by a certain cultural thrust that is wrong.

I think there are a lot of people out there marketing longevity. The Blue Zones kind of genre is not just about getting more, piling on more years, its about quality along the way. Its a holistic look at longevity. And the value proposition is about 14 years. The maximum average life expectancy for humans is about 93 or 94. We are getting about 80 in America right about now, so we are leaving about 13 or 14 years on the table. We could be getting those years by living a blue zone lifestyle. But if you are living with purpose, you are socializing and connecting with friends, you have that faith-based component in place and that could be going to church, it could be going to yoga you are enjoying the journey. Its not just living long. Its living well.

It is, in a sense, the oldest story in the world, and one that is increasingly being forgotten. Buettner said that all the blue zones are increasingly being encroached upon by the disease of convenience. His reporting is documenting ways of life which are disappearing.

Okinawa in 1990 was a fantastically exotic place, and now its a jungle of Pizza Huts and A&W Root Beer. Junk food, Buettner said. Theres only a few little pockets of originality left. Costa Rica theres a damn KFC as you enter the city of Nicoya. And here is this beautiful food tradition that in Nicoya anyway its been around for 5,000 years, the Mesoamerican three sisters of corn, tortilla, beans, and squash. Which are three foods that can wholly sustain you. They are being pushed out by buckets of hormones-suffused chicken and burgers. Just like when they came to America, they are incredibly alluring. They are fast and they are cheap and they are like an orgasm in your mouth when you been used to eating sort of subtle flavors.

His mind drifts frequently to a scene on the coast of Ikaria. A woman named Athina was cooking in a kitchen crowded with women.

She is about 60, and shes been cooking for 50 years, and she learned it from her grandmother who learned it from her grandmother, Buettner said. So sitting on a stool in a tiny kitchen watching her workYou can sort of see the Aegean Sea out the kitchen window and you kind of see 500 years of history unfold. Above your head, there are all these pans, and there is this wonderful cacophony of chopping and pans bubbling and pans clattering and kids running around squealing and these sort of nomadic aromas of sage and oregano and rosemary and olive oil and the pungency of roasting squash. And Im sitting there with a glass of wine, the type of wine that is produced in Ikaria, the Pranos, the same wine that Ulysses gave the cyclops to get him drunk so he could knock him offthey are still drinking that wine in IkariaIts just happiness.

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Master the necessary, do whats possible to build resiliency into your farm – RealAgriculture

Posted: at 3:00 pm

The longevity of a business is less about how well it does in the good times, and more about how it fares through the rough patches. A farm being resilient can come in many forms, but usually comes down to the strength of the management team running it and the financial nimbleness of the overall operation.

Amy Cronin is a hog farmer, Nuffield scholar and leader of an expanding farm business in Ontario, Missouri, and Iowa. Along with her husband and business partner Mike, Cronin Family Farms has a goal of striving to be the best. They may not always get there, Cronin says, but thats the goal.

Our vision at Cronin Family Farms is Progressive. Prosperous. Best in class, she says.

Having navigated through low hog prices, a major business expansion, a barn fire and now taking on a farm diversification project, Cronin says that communicating ahead of these challenges and decisions is key. We needed to have a serious conversation about how we deal with problems. How we dealt with problems was the determining factor on whether we would or would not expand, she says. We decided to look at our problems and an opportunity. When I look back on it, that is building resiliency.

Its this mindset on viewing challenges differently and using them to better themselves and their business that has allowed their farm to navigate hardship. Moving on is important, says Cronin. They choose to face their problems head-on, put them to bed, and move on. And thats part of resiliency, too dealing with things thoroughly and right away. Its important, she says, to deal with what keeps you up at night.

Innovation and diversification also play a key role in the numbers side of the business. But thats not all about technology, its about management and people. Cronin says theyre always looking at ways to do things differently and better, and that could mean adopting a new management style or creating their own way to do something and incorporating that into the business.

Diversification is key to risk management, yes, but Cronin says they also balance business needs with human needs. Labour is a huge part of making everything work, and Cronin recognizes the need to care for themselves so they can lead a dynamic and fantastic team and take care of them, too.

Cronin uses the quote by Francis of Assisi to guide much of what they do. We start by doing whats necessary, then we do whats possible, and soon we can do the impossible, she says. That impossible right now is making pans for their older children coming back to the farm. Whats necessary and now possible is diversifying into the chicken business. Starting with whats necessary and mastering that, means they can then move on to expanding what is possible for their farm.

Hear more from Amy Cronin in conversation with Bern Tobin at the Agricultural Excellence Conference:

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U.S. judge awards $180 million to reporter held and tortured by Iran – Los Angeles Times

Posted: November 23, 2019 at 11:56 am

A U.S. judge has awarded a Washington Post journalist and his family nearly $180 million in their lawsuit against Iran over his 544 days in captivity and torture while being held on internationally criticized espionage charges.

The order in the case filed by Jason Rezaian comes nearly a week after Iranian officials shut down its internet and launched a security crackdown on protesters angered by a sharp rise in government-set gasoline prices. As internet access has slowly trickled back on, the U.S. government sanctioned Irans telecommunications minister in response to the internet shutdown.

U.S. District Judge Richard J. Leon in Washington entered the judgment late Friday in Rezaians case, describing how authorities in Iran denied the journalist sleep and medical care and abused him during his imprisonment.

Iran seized Jason, threatened to kill Jason, and did so with the goal of compelling the United States to free Iranian prisoners as a condition of Jasons release, Leon said in his ruling. Holding a man hostage and torturing him to gain leverage in negotiations with the United States is outrageous, deserving of punishment and surely in need of deterrence.

Iran never responded to the lawsuit despite its being handed over to the government by the Swiss Embassy in Tehran, which oversees U.S. interests in the country. Irans mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment Saturday.

Rezaian and his lawyers did not respond to a request for comment. Martin Baron, executive editor of the Post, said in a statement that Rezaians treatment by Iran was horrifying.

Weve seen our role as helping the Rezaians through their recovery, Baron said. Our satisfaction comes from seeing them enjoy their freedom and a peaceful life.

Rezaians case, which began with his 2014 gunpoint arrest alongside his wife, Yeganeh Salehi, showed how the Islamic Republic can grab those with Western ties to use in negotiations. Its a practice recounted by human rights groups, U.N. investigators and the families of those detained.

Despite being an accredited journalist for the Post with permission to live and work in Iran, Rezaian was taken to Tehrans Evin prison and later convicted in a closed trial before a Revolutionary Court on still-unexplained espionage charges.

Iran still focuses on the case even today, as a recent television series sought to glorify the hard-liners behind the arrest.

It remains unclear how and if the money will be paid. It could come from the United States Victims of State Sponsored Terrorism Fund, which has distributed funds to those held and affected by Irans 1979 student takeover of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and subsequent hostage crisis. Rezaian named Irans paramilitary Revolutionary Guard, this year designated as a terrorist organization by the Trump administration, as a defendant in the case.

The order comes a week after the Nov. 15 gasoline price increase, which sparked demonstrations that rapidly turned violent, seeing gas stations, banks and stores burned to the ground.

Amnesty International said it believes at least 106 people died in the unrest and the crackdown. Iran disputes that figure without offering its own. A U.N. office earlier said it feared the unrest may have killed a significant number of people.

Starting Nov. 16, Iran shut down the internet across the country, limiting communications with the outside world. That made determining the scale and longevity of the protests difficult.

Since Thursday, that outage has begun to slightly lift. By Saturday morning, internet connectivity stood below 20% of normal levels, according to the monitoring group NetBlocks.

The U.S. Treasury on Friday sanctioned Iranian information and communications technology minister Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi over the internet shutdown.

Jahromi, the first government minister to be born after Irans 1979 Islamic Revolution, is widely believed to be considering a presidential run in 2021. In sanctioning him, the U.S. Treasury noted he once worked for the countrys intelligence ministry and has advanced the Iranian regimes policy of repressive internet censorship.

Jahromi, known for his social media persona, has increasingly criticized President Trump on Twitter, a service long blocked in Iran. Being sanctioned may raise his profile among hard-liners.

He dismissed the sanctions on Twitter as Trumps fairytales.

Ill continue advocating access to Internet & I wont let US to prohibit Iran development, he wrote.

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Meet the Microchipped Transhumanist Cyborg Whos Running Against Trump in the 2020 GOP Primary – Mediaite

Posted: at 11:56 am

Zoltan Istvan, a transhumanist journalist, is running for the U.S. presidency as a Republican in 2020, challenging President Donald Trump in the primary.

Istvan, who also ran for president in 2016 on a lesser scale, has written for The New York Times, Vice, and National Geographic, and describes himself as the founder of the Transhumanist Party, the original author of the Transhumanist Bill of Rights, and a frequently interviewed expert on AI, genetic editing, tech policy, and futurism.

His campaign policies for 2020 range from the relatively normal to the quite absurd, from ending the drug war, beating China in the artificial intelligence race, restoring the environment, and providing universal basic income for all, to the development of artificial wombs, nearly open borders, stopping mass shootings and terrorism with drones, robots, AI scanners, and other technology, and licensing parents, or as Istvan explained, requiring prospective parents to pass a series of basic tests, similar to a DMV driving test, to quality and get the green light to get pregnant and raise children.

As a passionate transhumanist (or, as philosopher Max More explains, someone who supports the evolution of intelligent life beyond its currently human form and human limitations by means of science and technology), reportedly with a microchip in his hand that allows him to open doors and use his phone, Istvan also wants the Republican Party to reclaim transhumanism from the far-left.

This week, Mediaite got the opportunity to talk with Istvan about his 2020 campaign and the policies within.

Your campaign policies are very interesting. Typical libertarian policies mixed with some quite out-there stuff like artificial wombs, nearly open borders, and stopping borders with drones. What was the inspiration behind such an odd variety of campaign focuses?

I was busted for dealing marijuana I guess maybe 26 years ago, where I was convicted of a felony conviction for distribution of narcotics, which also made me highly libertarian kind of from the start of my adult years. And then as I went through the National Geographic days I began to try to think about what would be better policy so we didnt get in these wars all the time and the government sort of left us alone. But at the same time, its not that I want to be left alone entirely. I think there should be some safety nets.

If you look through some of my 2020 plans youll see theres a lot of liberalism built into it, so it kind of tries to take the very best parts from all the different ideologies that are out there and put it in one. To be honest, I just dont understand why there cant be conservative people like myself who are totally socially liberal, and while thats classic libertarianism, the reality is that the Libertarian Party just doesnt have enough connections, money, and all these other things to run campaigns that can actually win office, which is ultimately why Im now with the Republicans trying to make a difference, trying to get people that might be fiscally conservative to have some sensibility when it comes to being more open-minded.

You say on your campaign website that youre trying to reclaim transhumanism from the far-left. What do you mean by that?

Thats probably my number one policy goal right now, and its because whats happened recently, at least in the last four or five years, is it seems like transhumanism has been growing dramatically. Im excited about that, but its also growing dramatically to the left, and if it continues to grow and grow in that direction it means that it will be almost this socialist dystopia, in my opinion, where everyone thinks they own everything and they can just do what they want.

Innovation, capitalism and Im saying this from an entrepreneur of twenty years it requires free markets in many ways to come up with these creative ideas in the first place. We all love going to Europe. We all love the quasi-socialism that they have there when were there. But Europe hasnt really created anything innovative in fifty years. I mean not much when you compare to, lets say, America. We want to be careful that in order for transhumanism to survive, it doesnt fall into the hands of the new breed of socialists that America is contending with. Silicon Valley is going that direction, Ive been watching that happen over the last ten years, and so I thought it was finally time somebody stood up and said, Wait a second, we need a better balance here. We need a balance of people who are willing to innovate in libertarian-minded economical ideals without bowing down to the far left.

So do you think transhumanism would die out if we did end up with a socialist society?

No. I dont think it would die out. I just think so you gotta understand the number one goal of transhumanism is really to try to overcome biological death by finding technology. And really, what happens when you put socialism into medicine and some of these other things, innovation dramatically stops. So somebody like myself whos 46-years-old, and of course all the other older people that have been involved in the movement forever, if innovation and science and all that other stuff stopped just even for ten or fifteen years, or doesnt go as fast as it is, a huge amount of extra people wont make it to this new generation where well have all these different techniques to keep people alive.

So theres actually a race going on. A race to keep transhumanism in kind of this capitalistic, libertarian somewhat framework so that innovation continues to move forward and that people like myself will have a chance in thirty years to actually benefit from these life extension medications and innovations that come out.

If we are able to overcome death with science by 2030 versus the year 2050, over one billion lives will be saved. So the meaning here is incredibly important, which is why Im very cautious about socialists being in charge.

Are you not worried that we could end up with a Fallout: New Vegas Mr. House situation, where you have a really really rich guy, or a bunch of rich people who are practically living forever, while no one else can get access to this technology?

That is one of my number one fears.

First of all, from a transhumanist perspective, if everyone lives forever, were going to have overpopulation problems, and I already believe we have overpopulation problems. You can see the climate changing and things like that.

But I think the other one is, whats to keep the Mark Zuckerbergs and the other people of the world from taking this radical technology, using it on themselves, and leaving the rest of us behind? This is where I lose a little bit of my libertarianism, and all the libertarians get mad at me. I actually think under these circumstances there should be some government mandate when it comes to healthcare, when it comes to different types of rights to life extension. That we should all have some type of a universal right to life extension and some of these medicines, even it requires government grants and things like that, because the very last thing that I want to do is create a world where only the one percent has access to these technologies, or even beyond the one percent, and the rest of the people get left behind in some kind of dystopia.

So, this is where I kind of break down and say a little bit of big government is fine, especially if its going to protect and make sure everyone has benefits to this new future that were talking about: the Transhumanist Age.

Do you think there are already some minor life extension schemes going on in the one percent?

I dont believe that theres a conspiracy going on with the one percent, because if it is, I havent heard about it. There are companies like Human Longevity. They cater only to the very wealthy But its not that they dont cater to the super poor, its just that their prices are expensive and theyre not covered by insurance, so only the very wealthy use them.

I would be very surprised if even someone like Peter Thiel has a very strict regiment of kind of undercover, secretive longevity people. I think were all working on this together. We realize the humanitarian aspects of making us all live longer. The person who could come up with the magic pill, or 3D-printing organs, however were going to keep ourselves alive longer, I think not only is it the most important capitalistic thing someones going to become a trillionaire off these kinds of innovations but I also think theres a very deep humanitarian aspect to share with your family, your friends. So I dont think people are hording this technology. I just dont think weve come up with the right technologies yet.

But if you look at the statistics, five years ago this was maybe a one or two billion dollar industry when you talk about longevity, and Bank of America recently said its going to be a 600 billion industry by 2025. I mean it is skyrocketing in terms of venture capital and investment. A lot of money is coming into it, so I hope by now in the next two to five years youre going to have a lot more innovation and announcement.

It seems like youre putting up more of a fight this primary to beat President Trump. Last election you put up a fight, but you werent listed on the ballots, whereas this time youre going to be listed on some the ballots, right?

Yeah, were going to be on basically all the ballots we can be until Super Tuesday, and were going to see how we do. Were spending a lot of our funding for ballot access right now, but thats okay. What happened is the first time around, I had some unique ideas. Of course, I had been a writer for a lot of major media, and so people listened and they liked those ideas, but for the Transhumanist Party as an independent, you really cant make any ground unless you have ballot access.

Were hoping that if we do well in New Hampshire, and were hoping that if we do well in Iowa, maybe get a few delegates here, then we could all of a sudden take it to the next level and make a real push to try to compete against Trump.

Id be lying to you if I said, Look, I think were going to win this thing. Thats not really what were trying to do. What were trying to do is get the attention of the Republican Party and say, Isnt it time there could be a new way of looking at things? Does it always have to be fiscally conservative and also conservative moral values? Why doesnt the Republican Party open itself up to socially liberal values? They would make a lot more room for people like myself who fit right there in the middle. Who dont want to necessarily give up all their money to the government, but also want to say to people, Hey you can do exactly what you want to do with your body. This is something that I dont think the Republican Party has had yet from any kind of public figure or anyone whos run a real viable campaign.

If you could address Republican voters right now with a short statement, what would you say?

The premise here with Trump is that we were promised greatness, and that sounded kind of neat in the beginning, and I was excited not to have an attorney at the top of the chain of command in America, but it turns out that Trump didnt really deliver that.

All we have are these squabbles in America. It seems like peoples views are just attacking each other. I really think its time not only just for a professional to be in the White House, but for somebody with really brand new ideas. And I dont mean empty the swamp. I mean lets fly above the swamp. Why do we even need to be in the swamp anymore? This is the kind of thing Im trying to bring.

Photo courtesy of Zoltan Istvan.

This interview has been edited and condensed for content and clarity.

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Surprising No One, The FBI’s Watchdog Says The Agency Is Handling Its Informants Improperly – Techdirt

Posted: at 11:56 am

from the consummate-professionals dept

Confidential informants are only as trustworthy as their law enforcement handlers. The FBI isn't the only agency to have problems with handling confidential human sources (CHSs), but it's one of the more notorious, thanks to its botched handling of James "Whitey" Bulger.

This questionable legacy lives on, as the FBI's Inspector General reports. "Whitey" Bulger is name-checked early on in the report [PDF], setting an appropriately cautionary tone for the rest of the document.

The FBI loves its CHSs. Without them, it can't radicalize random people into arrestable would-be terrorists. Without the assistance of criminals, it apparently can't go after other criminals. While a certain amount of criminal activity is necessary to maintain cover, the FBI doesn't appear to be keeping close tabs on its informants, which isn't going to minimize collateral criminal damage during investigations.

The FBI spends $42 million a year paying CHSs but doesn't seem to care whether that money is being wisely spent. The actual number of informants the FBI employs is redacted, but the IG notes that 20% of these are "long-term," having been used by the FBI for at least five years.

The longevity of CHSs is a concern that the FBI doesn't seem to be concerned about. The longer the FBI uses the same informants, the greater the risk they'll be exposed. But beyond that, there's the problem of familiarity. Every five years, CHSs are supposed to be assigned new handlers in order to prevent agents from becoming too close to their charges. The FBI isn't doing this. In fact, the FBI doesn't appear to track length of service with any accuracy, which means the agency potentially has more "Whitey" Bulgers on its hands: criminals whose close relationship with a single handler allows them to engage in far more criminal activity than guidelines (and human decency) would allow.

According to this report, the FBI's inability to properly track CHSs has led to a backlog of required "enhanced reviews" -- the validation process put in place to ensure proper handling of long-term informants. To make matters worse, the FBI unilaterally decided to remove "long-term" as a potential risk factor for CHSs, allowing these problematic informant-handler relationships to fly under the radar.

The few people performing CHS validations are further restricted by FBI policy. It's almost as though the FBI has decided that what it doesn't know can't hurt it. The limitations prevent reviewers from accessing anything more than one year of files, denies them access to other helpful FBI databases, and discourages them from providing recommendations or drawing conclusions from the limited info they can actually access.

The FBI also has problems with automation. The system does not automatically flag CHSs when they hit the five-year mark. This has to be done manually by the informant's handler. Without this feature, handlers and reviewers are left in the dark about CHS longevity, which further hinders the review process and adds to the backlog the FBI will never catch up to at its current review pace.

The FBI knows this is a problem but continues not to care.

Although the FBI has considered improvements to address the shortcomings, it has not taken corrective action by implementing an automated mechanism in Delta.

This refusal to fix this issue has lead to further failures up the line. Handlers with long-term CHSs are supposed to obtain approval from Special Agents in Charge (SAC) for continued handling of these informants. Since the system doesn't flag long-term informants, SACs are not automatically notified and CHSs continued to be handled by the same agents in direct violation of FBI policy.

The problem becomes exponential once FBI field offices are factored in. CHSs in use at field offices are subject to the same review, but review personnel at FBI HQ appear to believe they are there to grease the wheels, not act as oversight.

Several FBI officials suggested to us that there is a risk that field offices may avoid the selection of certain CHSs for validation review because the field offices may wish to continue using those CHSs despite the presence of particular risk factors. In fact, one of these officials told us that the field offices may be sending "softballs," meaning field offices may be sending CHSs lacking any significant risk factors.

It's not just the field offices. The FBI is actively avoiding documenting negative information about CHSs to subvert the justice system. It's just that simple.

[O]ne Intelligence Analyst told us that he was permitted to recommend a CHS receive a polygraph or operational test to the handling agent by phone by not permitted to document the recommendation in the CHS's validation report. Additionally, multiple FBI officials told us that they believe that field offices do not want negative information documented in a CHS file due to criminal discovery concerns and concerns about the CHS's ability to testify. For example, one FBI official told us that some U.S. Attorney's offices will not use a CHS at trial if there is negative documentation in the CHS's file.

The Inspector General obviously recommends the FBI stop doing this sort of stuff but it's obviously already entrenched in the FBI's culture. Officials recognize field offices are harboring shady CHSs but have done almost nothing about it.

Then there's the infosec part. Confidentiality is key to the handling of confidential human sources. But FBI agents don't appear to care that they're putting their sources at risk by carelessly handling communications. Since no policy specifically forbids the use of government equipment to contact CHSs, many agents simply use their FBI-issued phones. The use of electronic communication methods is discouraged, but simply telling people they shouldn't do something is rarely an effective deterrent.

In addition, the central CHS database is on a shared site that grants access to personnel not involved with handling human sources. This increases the risk to CHSs by eliminating the "confidentiality" of the arrangement. The only thing mitigating this increased risk is the fact that the database is riddled with errors and incomplete information. Incompetence might save the day as CHS files improperly accessed may not contain enough accurate information to expose a confidential source. Win-win, I guess.

That the FBI concurs with all of the OIG's recommendations is hardly heartening. Included in this review are recommendations issued by the OIG six years ago in response to CHS handling issues that occurred in 2006. To date, the FBI has only implemented five of the eleven recommendations from the 2013 report.

It's a mess. And it's a mess the FBI continues to make worse. The underlying problem appears to be the FBI's unwillingness to cut loose informants who might be a liability. The only effort that gets made in these situations is to find some way to work around an already-very permissive system to ensure agents can retain the CHSs. A system that fails to flag risk factors or periodic review periods is the kind of system that allows the FBI to engage in business as usual with just enough plausible deniability to avoid the few accountability tripwires built into the system.

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The Future of Meat – Truthdig

Posted: at 11:56 am

The Meat Question: Animals, Humans, and the Deep History of Food

A book by Josh Berson

In the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Aunt Voula, played by Andrea Martin, learns that her nieces fiance is a vegetarian. She says, He dont eat no meat?WHAT DO YOU MEAN HE DONT EAT NO MEAT? Oh, thats OK, thats OK, I make lamb!

Its funnyor is it? For those of us who eschew consuming animals and their byproducts, its hard to understand why most people today still enjoy eating flesh, seeing meat as something rather than someone. In The Meat Question: Animals, Humans, and the Deep History of Food, Josh Berson digs deep, literally, going back to the earliest times of human existence to find out when and how and why our relationship with animals as food began. The book considers three questions: 1) Did meat make us human? 2) Is growing affluence the cause of increased meat consumption? and 3) Will we see the end of meat?

As a vegan for 31 years and vegetarian for even longer, I rejoice with every new study or book published on the devasting impact that eating animals has on our health, quality of life and longevity. With hundreds and hundreds of scientific references, surely, I think, people will reduce or eliminate their meat consumption in order to reduce their risk of chronic disease. So many people have shared their stories in films, books and websites on how they reversed their heart disease or diabetes, achieved a normal weight, and regained their lives, by discovering a healthy, plant-based diet.

And yet, the consumption of animal flesh and animal byproducts continues to rise. The world population is projected to reach 9.6 billion by 2050 and people will be devouring more meat than ever before. There is no longer enough land mass on Earth to allow livestock to graze freely before slaughter. Today, the CAFO (concentrated animal feeding operation, AKA the factory farm) is the answer, but for the individual animals being raised in a CAFO for food, it is hell on earth.

What about the environment? As stinking lagoons of untreated livestock excrement are piled higher and deeper, surely we would realize our folly of raising tens of billions of animals for food. But no, it seems no amount of air and water pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, rainforest destruction, aquifer depletion, soil exhaustion, species extinction, etc. can curtail our desire for consuming flesh.

Click here to read long excerpts from The Meat Question at Google Books.

I have waited for decades for the discussion on climate change to heat up, for it to be considered for regulation in government policy and for it to headline mainstream news on a regular basis. Are we there yet? The late Robert Goodland, lead environmental adviser at the World Bank Group, wrote passionately and profusely about climate change and how we could all, simply and easily, prevent our demise by choosing plants instead of animals for food. Mitigating global warming by changing our diet was his plea, because it would buy us time to transition our factories and modes of transportation to sustainable energy sources.

Was his message heard? Do we have the capacity to hear this message?

Berson acknowledges the devastating impact on health, environment and animals due to meat consumption very briefly, early in his books prologue. He writes as if we all know this information already, no need to elaborate in detailalthough he does paint the nightmarish image of current reality, transporting cattle from Australia to China by air! We use all our best inventions, concentrating cattle into airplanes to satisfy the gluttonous desire for flesh while making a nice profit. Is no thought made of the reckless use of energy resources or abundant release of greenhouse gas emissions in this scenario? We have created our own little shop of horrors at home on Earth, responding to the escalating cry, Feed Me!

Are we who we areare we humanbecause we eat meat? To address the first question, Berson presents to us a dry and academic history of humankind. This is not easy reading. As we travel to periods 1 million to 5 million years ago, the text is riddled with archeological terms that even an above-average reader would not be familiar with. It takes patience to comprehend it all, moving back and forth through ancient and unfamiliar times.

Berson explains that our evolutionary history was a result of our diet versatilitybeing able to find and consume a variety of plant and animal-based foods, available in different periods and locations. Berson addresses the tenuous relationship between the consumption of meat and the evolution of human brains:

Where do we get the energy to run our big brains? Over the past twenty-five years, this has been a key question in evolutionary anthropology. For many observers, our expensive brains represent exhibit A in the case for meats role in human evolution. Meat, the argument goes, supported encephalization [the evolution of large brains] [But] the brain cant do much with the energy in meat. The brain relies on glucose as its primary fuel the energy in the lean meat of wild ungulates is mainly in the form of protein. The body has a limited capacity to convert amino acids into sugars. Protein does not represent a sustainable source of energy for the maintenance of nervous tissue.

Berson goes on to explain that energy is not the sole expense of the human brain, which is 50% to 60% lipid by dry mass. DHA (omega-3 docosahexaenoic acid) is vital in supporting the high lipid content of our brains. DHA can be hard to find in human dietsits primary direct source is aquatic foods. It can, however, be synthesized from alpha-linolenic acid (LNA). [C]linical evidence indicates dietary LNA represents a more-than-adequate source of DHA for the growth and maintenance of the central nervous system, Berson writes. Where are the terrestrial dietary sources of alpha-linolenic acid? Its highly concentrated in chloroplast membranes, so leafy green plants represent a strong source, as do mosses, the fatty tissue of herbivores that consume these things, and the usual range of oilseeds, including flax, hemp, and walnuts.

He concludes, Meat may well have played a role in buffering the vagaries of access to a higher-quality diet in early humans. But it wasnt because it was essential to brain development. Nor is meat essential to how we eat in the future.

Later in the book, we arrive in the present day. Here, we can scrutinize our history more carefully as the abundance of evidence improves resolution. Question 2 is addressed: Is growing affluence the cause of increased meat consumption? To balance Western influence dominating the telling of human history, Berson writes, I offer an Asia-Pacific perspective on the modern meat economy. My aim is to nudge the food systems literature away from the North Atlantic and toward those parts of the world whose tastes, expertise, and climate will dominate global patterns of change in diet over the next two or three generations. We learn that affluence alone does not drive the demand for meat. Rather a complicated economic and political system has been created that forces those disempowered, impoverished individuals to choose the convenience of cheap meat because they have no access to affordable alternatives.

Berson writes, Until we recognize that marginalized humans and animals raised under industrial conditions occupy coordinate roles in a single system of economic violence, we will make no progress unworking meats power.

In the epilogue we learn that Berson has been a vegetarian for 25 years and a vegan for 19, except for a handful of exceptions. He admits his original motivation was unclear but over time it was about reducing his footprint: I wanted to limit my claim on the Earths resources to levels that would allow the largest number of people to enjoy the quality of life that I took for granted. He began to question his reasons for being vegan after about a decade, which became the motivation for this book. The dispassionate tone throughout is intentional; Berson desired to present information as objectively as possible, without judgment that might alienate the reader.

Will we ever see the end of meat? The author believes if humanity survives, its possible that few if any animals will be on our plate. After reading The Meat Question, I have a better understanding of why it is not effective to use single issue arguments like health, environment, climate change and animal cruelty to convince people to reduce or eliminate their animal consumption:

To imagine a world in which humans no longer get any part of their subsistence from animals is to imagine a world where the bond of economic necessity, of precariousness, between humans and animals has been succeeded by a bond of mutual regard, among humans and on the part of humans for other living things. This is a more radical vision than that which underlies arguments for the cessation of meat eating on grounds of health, or carbon footprint, or animal sentience.

Berson shows us how to think about eating animals in broader terms. Gambling on food prices with agricultural derivatives and investing in agricultural land acquisitions negatively impact the access to adequate food. Meat consumption is one piece of a complex and violent capitalist system.

There was one question I couldnt help but ask myself while reading The Meat Question: Are humans naturally violent? Berson concludes with this question as well, asking whether human beings are fundamentally cruel, condemned to reduce one another to lumps of meat. He acknowledges that if we dont want to accept systemic violence as our reality, a divergence will be required, in diet among other things, as radical as any we have experienced before.

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30-year-old Harvard study on longevity: Five daily habits to follow for a healthy living – Republic World – Republic World

Posted: at 11:56 am

Scientists at Harvard have reportedly been studying human anatomyfor years. From researching about how to eat healthy to studying what goes on inside our body, they know it all. Recently, they came up with research which discovered the 5 rules an individual should follow to lead a healthy life. The study done by Havard is 30-year long study which gives 5 rules one should compulsorily follow:

Also Read:Healthy Diet: Benefits Of Protein And Fiber In Your Diet

The Lancet stated that 1 in every 5 death globally is associated with a p[oor diet. It is believed that we consume double the recommended amount of processed meat which affects our body causing obesity and other body-related diseases. The Havard T.H Chan School of Public healths study found out that adding enough fruits, nuts, whole grains, fruits and vegetables can lower the risk of heart attack stroke by 20 per cent.

Exercising regularly is something every dietician or nutritionist might suggest. According to the World Health Organization, People who are not active enough have 20-30 per centincreased their risk of death. Experts in this field have advised that a healthy adult should exercise for 150 minutes every week.

Also Read:Eye Health And Eyesight: 5 Best Foods To Include In Your Diet

A good diet and exercising regularly helps you maintain a healthy weight. The United Nations study has found out that around 800 million people around the world are obese and the number has tripled since 2016.

It is recommended to not intake too much of alcohol. The taste of wine has been found to engage the brain than any other human behaviour. The Scripps research institute found that an ingredient in red wine can also help to reduce stress but it should be consumed in moderation, preferably justa glass or two. Nature claimed that a moderate amount of wine can be beneficial and too much alcohol is a health risk.

Also Read:Food Combinations That May Sound Weird And Gross But Taste Delicious

Smoking is injurious to health and every individual is aware of it. If a person quits smoking, within a year of quitting smoking, your risk of heart disease drops by half. After 10 years, the risk of lung cancer falls by 50 per cent, as claimed by the World Health Organization. Giving up smoking also reduces the chance of impotence and infertility among people who wish to be parents. WHO also found that maintaining these healthy habits add 12 years of life for men and 14 for women.

Also Read:Fitness Tips: Indoor Exercises That You Can Do To Stay Healthy And Fit

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30-year-old Harvard study on longevity: Five daily habits to follow for a healthy living - Republic World - Republic World

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What the termite mound ‘snowmen’ of the NT can tell us about human nature – The Conversation AU

Posted: at 11:56 am

The Stuart Highway in the Northern Territory is dotted with around 300 termite mounds, dressed as people. They are reminiscent of giant, ochre coloured snowmen in their distinctly human forms of decoration.

These tall, colourful mounds variously sport scarves, caps, singlets, shirts, sunhats, bras, hard hats and even a beer can. They start just below Darwin, near the Noonamah Hotel, and occur all the way down to Kulgara, just north of the South Australian border. This covers around 1,800 kilometres.

The snowmen are an irreverent, larrikin, Northern Territorian phenomenon. But who created them? And what can they teach us about fundamental human behaviours?

Termite mounds occur naturally. They are made of clay, soil, sand and other natural materials, bound together with the saliva of termites. They occur globally and can reach as high as five metres.

In the NT, the first snowmen appeared during the 1970s. More quickly followed. They appear on both public and private land, lining major highways and rural roads and extending into national parks.

Over the years, many people have made these snowmen. Some were made by roadworkers, staying at roadside camps along the highway, with limited access to towns and entertainment but plenty of work clothing. Some were made by the owners of rural and remote properties. Some were made by fisherman traversing to remote fishing locations. Some may have been decorated by tourists.

The manager of the Royal Flying Doctor Service Tourist Facility, Samantha Bennett, is a Territorian born and bred. She says of the mounds:

Sometimes the clothing is changed according to festive calenders. They dont do Halloween, but they definitely do Christmas and Australia Day. They dress them up with flags and high viz clothing, which is cool because you can see them from a distance. Sometimes, they are used to help with directions. They mark the location of a driveway in a remote area or turnoffs to secret fishing spots.

The snowmen are actually snow people men, women and children. Some are arranged in family groups. Gender is marked by clothing. Economic status can be discerned through the use of silk scarves, resort wear or hard hats.

The NT has the highest rate of beer drinking in Australia. Not that long ago, it had the highest rate of alcohol consumption in the world. Perhaps unsurprisingly then, beer cans are held by some snowmen.

The snowmen are part of a wider cultural landscape in the NT. If you go to the Coburg Peninsula and lose one of your thongs, you put the remaining thong on the thong tree: a tree covered top to bottom with old rubber thongs.

Then there is the fence of shame on Andreas Avenue at Dundee Beach, west of Darwin. This is where you put your fishing rod if you have broken it during your trip.

There is material evidence that the snowman tradition has some longevity. In some cases, the clothing is in a dilapidated state. In others, the termites have renewed their building efforts on top of the clothes.

It is unlikely that the snowmen were created by Aboriginal people. As Barunga resident Isaac Pamakal explains: Aboriginal people dont do that, because that might make people sick.

Termite mounds are woven into NT Aboriginal belief systems. In some areas, there is a belief that anyone who knocks over a mound will get diarrhoea. Indeed, powerful Indigenous people have been known to put someones clothes onto a termite mound in order to make that person sick. The intended victim would be identified by the sweat on their clothing (which contains their DNA). (This link between sweat and DNA is an example of Indigenous science, which is increasingly being drawn on.)

However, termite mounds are mostly known, in the NT and around the world, for their medicinal properties. They contain high proportions of kaolin, used for the treatment of gastric-disorders in both traditional and modern pharmacologies.

Francoise Foti has conducted research in two NT Aboriginal communities, Nauiyu Nambiyu (Daly River) and Elliott. She records people consuming small quantities of termite mounds to deal with gastric disorders or after eating certain foods like yams, turtle or goannas. Similarly, termite mound material is sometimes eaten during pregnancy or lactation as it contains iron and calcium.

The urge to humanise inanimate objects is a global phenomenon through both time and space. For thousands of years, humans have had a penchant for making animals and things look like people.

This is most clearly shown in a style of rock art known as therianthropes, which depicts beings that have both human and animal characteristics. It also manifests in depictions of mermaids, centaurs and other mythical creatures.

So while they are special, the snowmen of the NT are not unique. They are simply another example of a human need to reinvent the world in our own image.

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What the termite mound 'snowmen' of the NT can tell us about human nature - The Conversation AU

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Breakthrough Gene Therapy Clinical Trial is the World’s First That Aims to Reverse 20 Years of Aging in Humans – PRNewswire

Posted: at 11:56 am

MANHATTAN, Kan., Nov. 21, 2019 /PRNewswire/ -- Libella Gene Therapeutics, LLC("Libella") announces an institutional review board (IRB)-approved pay-to-play clinical trial in Colombia (South America) using gene therapy that aims to treat and ultimately cure aging. This could lead to Libella offering the world's only treatment to cure and reverse aging by 20 years.

Under Libella's pay-to-play model, trial participants will be enrolled in their country of origin after paying$1 million. Participants will travel to Colombia to sign their informed consent and to receive the Libella gene therapy under a strictly controlled hospital environment.

Traditionally, aging has been viewed as a natural process. This view has shifted, and now scientists believe that aging should be seen as a disease. The research in this field has led to the belief that the kingpin of aging in humans is the shortening of our telomeres.

Telomeres are the body's biological clock. Every time a cell divides, telomeres shorten, and our cells become less efficient at dividing again. This is why we age. A significant number of scientific peer-reviewed studies have confirmed this. Some of these studies have shown actual age reversal in every way imaginable simply by lengthening telomeres.

Bill Andrews, Ph.D., Libella's Chief Scientific Officer, has developed a gene therapy that aims to lengthen telomeres. Dr. Andrew's gene therapy delivery system has been demonstrated as safe with minimal adverse reactions in about 200 clinical trials. Dr. Andrews led the research at Geron Corporation over 20 years ago that initially discovered human telomerase and was part of the team that led the initial experiments related to telomerase induction and cancer.

Telomerase gene therapy in mice delays aging and increases longevity. Libella's clinical trial involves a new gene-therapy using a proprietary AAV Reverse (hTERT) Transcriptase enzyme and aims to lengthen telomeres. Libella believes that lengthening telomeres is the key to treating and possibly curing aging.

Libella's clinical trial has been posted at the United States National Library of Medicine (NLM)'s database. Libella is the world's first and only gene therapy company with a clinical trial posted at that aims to reverse the condition of aging.

On why they decided to conduct its project outside the United States, Libella's President, Dr. Jeff Mathis, said, "Traditional clinical trials in the U.S. can take years and millions, or even billions,of dollars. The research and techniques that have been proven to work are ready now. We believe we have the scientist, the technology, the physicians, and the lab partners that are necessary to get this trial done faster and at a lower cost in Colombia."

Media Contact:Osvaldo R. Martinez-ClarkPhone: +1 (786) 471-7814Email:

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william-bill-andrews-ph-d.jpg William (Bill) Andrews, Ph.D. Dr. Bill Andrews is a scientist who has spent his entire life trying to defeat the processes that cause us to age. He has been featured in Popular Science, The Today Show, and numerous documentaries on the topic of life extension including The Immortalists documentary.

Related Links

Dr. Bill Andrews speech at RAADfest 2018 (Sept 21, San Diego, CA)

bioaccess: Libella's CRO partner in Colombia.

SOURCE Libella Gene Therapeutics, LLC


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