The Daniel Fast has been around a long time — since the Old Testament, in fact. But actor Chris Pratt gave it new popularity recently by posting an Instagram story about adopting it as his latest diet.
Pratt described the plan as "21 days of prayer and fasting." But what does the Daniel Fast actually entail — and is it healthy? Here's what you need to know.
What is the Daniel Fast?
The Daniel Fast is a religiously rooted, short-term eating plan drawn from the Book of Daniel, which appears in the Old Testament. In the story, Daniel decides to avoid the rich, indulgent foods that surround him and have "nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink" for 10 days. (Some translations interpret vegetables as pulses, meaning foods grown from seeds.) A later reference says, "I, Daniel, mourned for three weeks. I ate no choice food; no meat or wine touched my lips; and I used no lotions at all until the three weeks were over.” At the end of the fast, he was healthy, to everyone's surprise.
Despite its ancient roots, books and online guides to the Daniel Fast have been published since about 2007, when The Daniel Fast blog launched. Most contemporary guides direct followers to eat only food grown from seeds — such as fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains — for 21 days, and cut out alcohol, caffeine, meat, dairy, sugar, fats and processed foods.
While most plans do not offer specific advice on lotions, they emphasize the importance of sacrificing physical and material comforts for the sake of spiritual growth; many followers also combine the eating style with regular prayer or spiritual practice. It's popular among Evangelical Christians, and in 2011 a California pastor used the diet to help his evangelical congregation lose a collective 260,000 pounds.
Is the Daniel Fast healthy?
Richard Bloomer, dean of the University of Memphis' School of Health Studies, has conducted multiple small studies on the Daniel Fast. His research has found that, after just three weeks, the diet can begin to lower risk factors for metabolic and cardiovascular disease, such as high blood pressure and cholesterol, and reduce oxidative stress, a physical imbalance that may contribute to chronic disease formation. In general, plant-based diets are associated with health benefits including lower rates of chronic disease and longer lives.
"It just shows, I think, the power of food," Bloomer says. "There's a lot of potential health benefits from adopting this approach."
Bloomer says the Daniel Fast is essentially a vegan diet, but potentially even healthier, since it eliminates processed foods that can come with sugar, fat, salt and preservatives. "We're not thinking [the health benefits come from] the restriction in animal protein, per se, but more the restriction in all the other stuff that you would find in packaged foods," as well as the addition of more nutrient-rich foods, he says.
While the Daniel Fast does not explicitly restrict the number of calories followers consume, Bloomer says most people who follow it end up eating fewer by filling up on nutrient- and fiber-dense whole foods instead of meat, dairy and processed products. He says most followers lose five to six pounds over the three weeks and report other benefits like clearer skin, more energy and better focus.
Dr. Wayne Jonas, a family physician and executive director of Samueli Integrative Health Programs at the University of California, Irvine, says this kind of calorie restriction — which is similar to the type in intermittent fasting — is not dangerous, as long as people are still eating enough to feel satiated. "It's a religious framework around a process that we've known about biologically for a long time," he says.
Jonas explains that periodic calorie restriction can not only spur weight loss but also kickstart cellular and metabolic processes that enhance good health.
"We are over-indulged in calories most of the time in this country, so by doing less of that, you're going to get health benefits," Jonas says. "Your body is going to kick in some of the reparative and metabolic processes that we know are associated with a longer life."
Should you try the Daniel Fast?
Jonas says most fairly healthy people should be able to complete the Daniel Fast with no problems. People with chronic health conditions — especially those that require dietary monitoring, such as diabetes, congestive heart failure and kidney disease — should consult a doctor first.
Anybody who chooses to take on the Daniel Fast should make sure they're adequately prepared, Bloomer says. While plenty of meals can be created from plant foods, Bloomer says people who typically rely on restaurants, takeout and packaged foods can find it difficult to adjust.
"If people hear about it and read about it, I wouldn't suggest that they go out and start it the next day," Bloomer says. "Go shopping, and spend time looking at labels. It's forced nutrition education."
When President Donald Trump signs a bill guaranteeing back pay for furloughed federal workers Wednesday afternoon, it will be a rare moment of bipartisan agreement during the ongoing partial government shutdown. It will also be the latest sign suggesting that Trump thinks he's losing the fight.
In recent days, the Trump Administration has taken several moves to soften the effects of the shutdown. Some measures have been targeted broadly, allowing taxpayers to receive refunds, banks to process mortgages and airports to be inspected. Others are aimed at key Trump constituencies, ensuring that hunters can access federal lands and farmers can receive loans. And some seem designed to hit particularly close to home: the Administration went out of its way to keep park rangers staffing a historic clock tower at the Trump International Hotel in Washington.
The concessions don't mean that Trump will back down on his central demand that Democrats fund a $5 billion wall on the border with Mexico, however.
Republican Sen. John Kennedy of Louisiana, who rode on Air Force One with Trump to a farm convention in New Orleans this week, said he believes the president remains "resolute" in his desire for a border wall.
"I can't imagine that he will reach any sort of agreement that doesn't include a border wall," he said.
But if Trump's strategic goal remains the same, his tactical approach of softening the blow of the shutdown contrasts with how past presidents have responded to these kinds of impasses.
• Trump is expected to sign a bill that would require 800,000 government workers who were either furloughed or working without pay to receive their wages retroactively after the shutdown ends.
The moves run counter to a lot of the comments coming from the White House, with Trump even arguing at one point that "most of the people not getting paid are Democrats."
Have the Democrats finally realized that we desperately need Border Security and a Wall on the Southern Border. Need to stop Drugs, Human Trafficking,Gang Members & Criminals from coming into our Country. Do the Dems realize that most of the people not getting paid are Democrats?
(LONDON) — British Prime Minister Theresa May survived a no-confidence vote in Parliament on Wednesday to remain in office — but saw more of her power ebb away as she battled to keep Brexit on track after lawmakers demolished her European Union divorce deal.
May won a narrow victory, 325 votes to 306 votes, on an opposition motion seeking to topple her government and trigger a general election.
Now it's back to Brexit, where May is caught between the rock of her own red lines and the hard place of a Parliament that wants to force a radical change of course.
After winning the vote, May promised to hold talks with leaders of opposition parties and other lawmakers, starting immediately, in a bid to find a way forward for Britain's EU exit.
Legislators ripped up May's Brexit blueprint Tuesday by rejecting the divorce agreement she has negotiated with the EU over the last two years. That it would lose was widely expected, but the scale of the rout — 432 votes to 202, the biggest defeat for a government in British parliamentary history — was devastating for May's leadership and her Brexit deal.
Opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn responded with the no-confidence motion, and urged the government to "do the right thing and resign."
May, who leads a fractious government, a divided Parliament and a gridlocked Brexit process, said she was staying put. May said an election "would deepen division when we need unity, it would bring chaos when we need certainty, and it would bring delay when we need to move forward."
The government survived Wednesday's vote with support from May's Conservative Party and its Northern Irish ally, the Democratic Unionist Party. Many pro-Brexit Conservatives who voted against May's deal, backed her in the no-confidence vote to avoid an election that could bring a left-wing Labour government to power.
Had the government lost, Britain would have faced a snap election within weeks, just before the country is due to leave the European Union on March 29.
Political analyst Anand Menon, from the research group U.K. in a Changing Europe, said May had a remarkable ability to soldier on.
"The thing about Theresa May is that nothing seems to faze her," he said. "She just keeps on going."
May's determination — or, as her foes see it, her inflexibility — might not be an asset in a situation calling for a change of course. The prime minister has until Monday to come up with a new Brexit plan, and has promised to consult with senior lawmakers from across the political spectrum on her next moves.
But she also said any new Brexit plan must "deliver on the referendum result," which May has long interpreted to mean ending the free movement of workers to Britain from the EU and leaving the EU's single market and customs union.
Many lawmakers think a softer departure that retained single market or customs union membership is the only plan capable of winning a majority in Parliament. They fear the alternative is an abrupt "no-deal" withdrawal from the bloc, which businesses and economists fear would cause turmoil.
Labour lawmaker Ben Bradshaw accused May of being "in a total state of denial" about how radically her Brexit plan needed to change.
Green party legislator Caroline Lucas said May's intransigence had led to the current crisis.
"This is a national calamity of the prime minister's own making," Lucas said. "Today has to be the day when we start to change the conversation about Brexit."
Faced with the deadlock, lawmakers from all parties are trying to wrest control of the Brexit process so that Parliament can direct planning for Britain's departure.
But with no clear majority in Parliament for any single alternative, there's a growing chance that Britain may seek to postpone its departure date while politicians work on a new plan — or even hand the decision back to voters in a new referendum on Britain's EU membership.
Pro-EU lawmaker Dominic Grieve introduced a bill Wednesday that aims to lay the groundwork for a second referendum, which he called "the only way out of the current crisis."
European leaders are now preparing for the worst, although German Chancellor Angela Merkel said there was still time for further talks. She told reporters in Berlin that "we are now waiting to see what the British prime minister proposes."
But her measured remarks contrasted with the blunt message from French President Emmanuel Macron, who told Britons to "figure it out yourselves." He said Britain needed to get realistic about what was possible.
"Good luck to the representatives of the nation who have to implement something that doesn't exist," Macron said.
EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said the bloc was stepping up preparations for a disorderly "no-deal" Brexit after Parliament's actions left Europe "fearing more than ever that there is a risk" of a cliff-edge departure.
Economists warn that an abrupt break with the EU could batter the British economy and bring chaos at borders, ports and airports. Business groups have expressed alarm at the prospect of a no-deal exit.
France's parliament on Wednesday adopted a law allowing for emergency measures, including extra customs officers, to deal with a "no-deal" Brexit.
May's deal was doomed by deep opposition from both sides of the divide over the U.K.'s place in Europe. Pro-Brexit lawmakers say the deal will leave Britain bound indefinitely to EU rules, while pro-EU politicians favor an even closer economic relationship with the bloc.
The most contentious section was an insurance policy known as the "backstop" designed to prevent the reintroduction of border controls between the U.K.'s Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, an EU member state. Assurances from EU leaders that the backstop is intended as a temporary measure of last resort failed to win over many British lawmakers.
Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said it was now up to opponents of the backstop "to come up with an alternative solution to honor their commitment to avoiding a hard border."
Varadkar said if May's government was willing to shift some of its "red lines" in negotiations — such as leaving the customs union and EU single market — then the position of EU negotiators would also change.
"The onus is on Westminster" to come up with solutions, Varadkar said
Jason Spindler, the director of a business development firm, was a U.S. citizen based in Kenya who died in the attack.
"We all miss him so much," his mother, Sarah Spindler, told NBC News. "It's so sad that such a bright young person is taken away by terrorism."
Spindler served as CEO and global managing director for I-DEV International, a company he co-founded. He graduated with a law degree from New York University School of Law and a B.S. degree from the University of Texas at Austin, according to his biography on I-DEV's website.
Sarah Spindler said her son wanted his work to make a difference. He "was trying to make positive change in the third world in emerging markets."
Spindler formerly worked as an investment banker for Salomon Smith Barney/Citigroup, whose offices were previously at 7 World Trade Center, which was damaged in the Sept. 11 terror attack. He later joined the Peace Corp., serving from 2005 to 2006, according to his LinkedIn page. According to his company bio, he "managed and led the growth of a $7M locally-owned agribusiness in Northern Peru during his service in the U.S. Peace Corps."
Family and friends remembered Spindler as a beloved, open and positive man.
A friend, Chris Schroeder, posted a tribute to Spindler on Twitter, calling him "one of those rare men who was loved by pretty much anyone."
"He chose a life of hope and inclusion," Schroeder wrote. "I am grateful to have known and learned from him."
Jason Spindler was one of those rare men who was loved by pretty much anyone be touched in Kenya and around the world. Today he was killed in the terrible al shabab attack in Nairobi. He chose a life of hope and inclusion. I am grateful to have known and learned from him. pic.twitter.com/B4YnxB6bic
The U.S. State Department confirmed that an American citizen was killed in the attack, but did not release the victim's name.
"We offer our sincerest condolences to the family and friends of this individual," a State Department spokesperson said in an email. "Out of respect for the family of the deceased, we have no further comment."
Al-Shabab, an extremist group allied with al-Qaida, claimed responsibility for the attack at the DusitD2 hotel complex in Nairobi. Keynan President Uhuru Kenyatta said Wednesday that the gunmen who attacked the hotel and shops within the complex were killed by security forces.
Federal police and customs officials then discovered that he was transporting a nearly 16-inch boa constrictor on his person via a small cloth bag that was attached to his waistband. When the man couldn't provide proper documentation for the snake, it was confiscated and taken to a reptile rescue station in Brandenburg. Officials said the man will be fined.
The customs office dubbed the snake its "most curious find of 2018" in the press release documenting the incident.
An explosion on a bustling downtown street killed several U.S. servicemembers on routine foot patrol inside the Syrian city of Manbij, U.S. military officials said on Wednesday. The attack, claimed by ISIS, comes less than one month after President Donald Trump unexpectedly announced he would withdraw all American forces from the war-ravaged country.
The deadly blast throws harsh light on the perilous security situation in Syria that continues to have worldwide implications. Although ISIS is no longer in control of any major city in Iraq or Syria, the fighting is not over completely. The U.S.-led military coalition continues to fight the remaining ISIS fighters hiding in cells or holed up in a stretch of desert straddling the Iraq-Syria border.
The suicide attack in Manbij is just the latest hard truth assessment on how the U.S. remains locked in a brutal fight against a formidable enemy, despite Trump’s pronouncements that ISIS’ reign of terror is all but over.
The daily barrage blows up the argument that the U.S. mission against the militant group is done or close to completed. American interests are still deeply entangled in Syria. Operating from a half-dozen bases in the northeast part of the country, American advisers have steadily built up the Syrian partners by training and arming them.
American Special Operations forces inside Syria coordinate daily with local opposition fighters called the Syrian Democratic Forces, an alliance of mostly Kurdish and Arab fighters. The Kurds have been critical to the U.S. efforts to coordinate among dozens of armed groups that were trying to overthrow the government of President Bashar Assad, fight ISIS and battle one another all at the same time.
Since the U.S. began launching military operations in mid-2014 in Iraq and Syria, ISIS has lost roughly 99% of its territory, but it still poses a security threat. Not only has the group expanded and established cells around the world, it routinely mounts attacks in both Iraq and Syria. In August, the Pentagon published an inspector general report which said the U.S. military estimates that ISIS has as many as 30,000 fighters in Iraq and Syria. A United Nations report published that same month made a similar assessment.
The explosion on Wednesday occurred at a restaurant in Manbij, a strategic northeastern border town near Turkey that ISIS has used to move fighters and supplies in and out of Syria. It has been held for more than two years by Kurdish forces supported by United States.
Videos posted to social media showed a fireball engulfing a street packed with a crowd of people. Other images showed the aftermath of rubble mixed with blood and a silver helicopter flying overhead. The ISIS-affiliated Amaq news agency said a suicide bomber with an explosive vest carried out the attack.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 16 people were killed, including two members of the U.S.-backed military coalition. A U.S. military spokesperson acknowledged that Americans were killed in the attack but did not specify how many. “We are still gathering information and will share additional details at a later time,” the military said on Twitter.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said Trump had been "fully briefed and we will continue to monitor the ongoing situation in Syria."
The U.S. began the process of pulling out last week, when it hauled vehicles and equipment from northeast Syria into neighboring Iraq. No timeline has been publicly discussed as to when the withdrawal of all 2,000 American forces will be completed, but military officials expect it to be out by spring.
When Trump announced his decision to pullout, it sent shockwaves through Washington and the rest of the world. “Our boys, our young women, our men, they’re all coming back and they’re coming back now. We won,” he said in a video posted on Twitter.
The ensuing chaos led to the high-profile resignations of Defense Secretary James Mattis and Brett McGurk, the State Department’s special envoy to the coalition fighting ISIS. “The recent decision by the president came as a shock and was a complete reversal of policy that was articulated to us,” McGurk wrote in an email to colleagues obtained by the New York Times. “It left our coalition partners confused and our fighting partners bewildered.”
The Pentagon is currently wrestling with questions on how the pullout can be handled, including whether the American military equipment that’s scattered over the military bases in Syria can be pulled out within four months or should be destroyed in-place; what the U.S. can do to help protect its Kurdish partners; and maintain the 79-member international coalition aimed at eradicating ISIS.
(BEIRUT) — Vice President Mike Pence is claiming that the Islamic State "caliphate has crumbled" and the militant network "has been defeated."
But his comments Wednesday in a speech at the State Department came shortly after the U.S. military said American service members were among those killed during an explosion during a routine patrol in Syria.
It's unknown how many U.S. troops were killed in the blast in the northern Syria town of Manbij.
Pence defended President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw the 2,000 U.S. troops from Syria. Critics say the pullout is premature.
He says the withdrawal will be "orderly and effective" and that the U.S. will stay in the region to make sure IS does not regroup.
(PROVIDENCE, R.I.) — When her paychecks dried up because of the partial government shutdown, Cheryl Inzunza Blum sought out a side job that has become a popular option in the current economy: She rented out a room on Airbnb.
Other government workers are driving for Uber, relying on word-of-mouth and social networks to find handyman work and looking for traditional temp gigs to help pay the bills during the longest shutdown in U.S. history.
The hundreds of thousands of out-of-work government employees have more options than in past shutdowns given the rise of the so-called "gig economy" that has made an entire workforce out of people doing home vacation rentals and driving for companies like Uber, Lyft and Postmates.
It's even happening among White House staff. Kevin Hassett, the chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, told reporters on a conference call Tuesday that "a long-time dedicated employee" trying to make ends meet without a paycheck was driving for Uber to make ends meet.
Blum decided to capitalize on the busy winter travel season in Arizona to help make ends meet after she stopped getting paid for her government contract work as a lawyer in immigration court in Tucson. She says she has no choice but to continue to work unpaid because she has clients who are depending on her, some of whom are detained or have court hearings.
But she also has bills: her Arizona state bar dues, malpractice insurance and a more than $500 phone bill for the past two months because she uses her phone so heavily for work. Blum bills the government for her work, but the office that pays her hasn't processed any paychecks to her since before the shutdown began. So she's been tapping every source she can to keep herself afloat — even her high school- and college-aged children — and is even thinking about driving for Uber and Lyft as well.
"So after working in court all day I'm going to go home and get the room super clean because they're arriving this evening," she said of her Airbnb renters.
"I have a young man who's visiting town to do some biking, and he's going to come tomorrow and stay a week," she added. "I'm thrilled because that means immediate money. Once they check in, the next day there's some money in my account."
The shutdown is occurring against the backdrop of a strong economy that has millions of open jobs, along with ample opportunities to pick up Uber and Lyft shifts.
The Labor Department reported that employers posted 6.9 million jobs in November, the latest figures available. That's not far from the record high of 7.3 million reached in August.
Roughly 8,700 Uber driver positions are advertised nationwide on the SnagAJob website, while Lyft advertises about 3,000.
But the gig economy doesn't pay all that well — something the furloughed government workers are finding out.
Pay for such workers has declined over the past two years, and they are earning a growing share of their income elsewhere, a recent study found. Most Americans who earn income through online platforms do so for only a few months each year, according to the study by the JPMorgan Chase Institute.
Chris George, 48, of Hemet, California, is furloughed from his job as a forestry technician supervisor for the U.S. Department of Agriculture forest service. He's been driving for Lyft but has only been averaging about $10 for every hour he drives. Paying for gas then eats into whatever money he has made.
He just got word that he'll be getting $450 in weekly unemployment benefits, but hadn't received any money as of Monday. In the meantime, he's taking handyman or other odd jobs wherever he can.
"I've just been doing side jobs when they come along," he said Monday. "I had two last week, and I don't know what this week's going to bring."
George Jankowski is among those hunting around for cash. He's getting a $100 weekly unemployment check, but that's barely enough to pay for food and gas, he said.
On Monday, he made $30 helping a friend move out of a third-floor apartment in Cheyenne, Wyoming. Jankowski is furloughed from a USDA call center and does not expect to get back pay because his job is part-time and hourly.
Jankowski, an Air Force veteran, calls the situation "grueling."
"It's embarrassing to ask for money to pay bills or ask to borrow money to, you know, eat," he said.
Some employers were looking at the shutdown as a way to recruit, at least temporarily.
Missy Koefod of the Atlanta-based cocktail-mixer manufacturer 18.21 Bitters said the company needs temporary help in the kitchen, retail store and getting ready for a trade show, and decided to put out the word to furloughed federal workers on social media that they were hiring.
"I can't imagine not getting paid for a couple of weeks," Koefod said.
American Labor Services, a staffing agency that employs 500 people a week in Rhode Island and Massachusetts, sent out an appeal to furloughed federal workers on Monday, asking them to get in touch for clerical or light-industrial work.
"Some might not realize that they could get something temporary, it could last for a short period," said Ben Kaplan, the company's president and CEO.
Israel Diaz sought out an Uber job and applied to be a security guard after he was furloughed from his Treasury Department job in Kansas City. He said federal work has become increasingly demoralizing and that he and many of his co-workers are considering quitting.
"In the old days, you work for the federal government, you get benefits, great," said Diaz, a Republican and Marine Corps veteran. "Now, it's not even worth it."
Warning: This post contains spoilers for Game of Thrones.
If you want proof that just about everyone is eagerly anticipating the return of Game of Thrones this April, look no further than fellow popular television show with the ability to conjure uncontrallable emotions, This Is Us, which featured a subtle reference to the House of Lannister's complex family ties in its mid-season premiere.
In the episode, Kevin Pearson goes on a search for his long-lost uncle Nicholas Pearson, finding records for someone of the same name at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Unfortunately, in order to access the files, Kevin has to prove he's Nicholas' next of kin, which somehow segues into Kevin trying to use Joffrey and Jaime's nephew and uncle (although also technically father) relationship as a way to prove that his connection to Nicholas.
"How about nephew? Nephew’s a big deal now. Right? Think of Game of Thrones. Joffrey was next of kin to the super handsome fit, blonde uncle guy," Kevin says in the episode.
However, the clerk sets the record straight for Kevin in terms of Joffrey being Jaime's next of kin.
"Jaime was never in line for the throne. Joffrey ascended after his adoptive father Robert Baratheon died."
Looks like Kevin could use a refresher on Game of Thrones ahead of its eighth and final season this spring; lucky for him, we've rounded up all the most essential episodes to review ahead of its premiere, here.
Nature loves to make things round: planets, soap bubbles, oranges, eyeballs, the circular swirl of a spinning hurricane. A lot of forces are at play in favoring natural circles and spheres—the equalizing force of air pressure pushing out or gravity pulling in; the rotation of the Earth, creating vortices in air; the evolutionary imperative of efficient packaging.
The power of the round is in the news again, with the appearance of a massive, rotating ice disk in the Presumpscot River in Westbrook, Maine. The disk was first noticed on January 14, spinning in a lazy, counterclockwise direction. On social media, the ice circle was an instant sensation, alternately said to resemble a British crop circle or the mottled face of the moon—both fair descriptions. Either way, the Presumpscot ducks loved it, settling down for a slow-motion ride as the sights of Westbrook passed before them.
Ice circles are rare but hardly unheard of. What makes this one special is its size: 300 ft. in diameter, or 10 times bigger than the common 30-footers.
Big or small, all ice circles are formed by the same laws of physics. Random eddies in water will generally follow a circular route—the rotation of the Earth again—moving more slowly than the overall, downstream current. Bits of ice become trapped in the vortex and, since slower water is less turbulent than faster water, more ice is able to form and accumulate, eventually accreting into a sheet. As the sheet turns, it bumps up against the shore or other chunks of ice and is, in effect, lathed down until it is round.
River currents aren’t the only factor that contributes to the rotation of an ice disk. A 2016 experiment at the University of Liége in Belgium recreated an ice disk in the lab, finding that as temperatures rise a bit and ice from the edges begins to melt, the water it releases sinks and creates a gentle vortex of its own, which also imparts a spin to the ice floating above it.
Ice disks, of course, are fleeting things—longer-lived than the soap bubble, shorter-lived than a planet—vanishing entirely as the seasons change. It takes one more circle, the Earth’s revolution around the sun, to summon up another winter before they return.