Which States Are the Most and Least Obese? - Obesity is weighing the country down—in some parts more than others.
The Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation released its annual report on obesity this week. The study found that last year rates among adults increased in six states—Alaska, Delaware, Idaho, New Jersey, Tennessee, and Wyoming—and decreased in none.
Mississippi and West Virginia fared the worst in the nation with adult obesity rates at 35.1 percent. Nine of the 10 most obese states are in the South. (Indiana’s the eighth most obese with 31.8 percent.)
Where is the condition the least prevalent? Colorado, with a rate of 21.3 percent, followed by Hawaii (21.8 percent) and the District of Columbia (22.9 percent)— which are still high compared to three decades ago when no state had a rate above 15 percent.
“Until we start moving more and think more about the quality of the food we’re eating, we’re not going to fully reverse this epidemic,” Levi said in a press conference, reported TIME. He attributed the historic number to bad eating habits, lack of physical activity, fast-food chains, and scarcity of affordable nutritious foods in many areas.
Among economic and racial groups, black, Latino, and low-income Americans have higher rates of obesity.
“Disparate access to affordable healthy food and safe places to be physically active contribute to higher rates of obesity and related illnesses in black communities,” reads the report. “Latinos experience high rates of hunger and food insecurity, often have limited access to safe places for physical activity, and have inequities in access to healthcare.”
The silver lining? While cheap sugary treats and lack of exercise still put kids at risk, especially those in the black and Latino communities, the prevalence of obesity among all American children has leveled off. Last February, the CDC reported that childhood obesity rates in the U.S. dropped 43 percent from 2003 to 2012. ( Takepart.com )
'Godmother of Cocaine' Gunned Down in Colombia: Reports - A 69-year-old woman known throughout the drug world as the "Godmother of Cocaine" was gunned down by an assassin on a motorcycle in Colombia Monday, according to international news reports.
Griselda Blanco, once listed alongside Pablo Escobar as one of the "most notorious drug lords of the 1980s" by the Drug Enforcement Administration, was fatally shot as she left a butcher's shop in western Medellin Monday afternoon, according to a report by Univision and El Colombiano. Colombia's El Espectador reported authorities are looking for Blanco's killers and are investigating possible motives for the killing.
ABC News - 'Godmother of Cocaine' Gunned Down in Colombia: Reports (ABC News)
Blanco served nearly 20 years in an American prison on drug trafficking charges and was at one point tied to as many as 40 murders in the U.S., according to a 1997 Senate testimony given by then-director of DEA international operations Michael Horn. Horn said that Blanco ordered a Florida mall shooting in 1979 that left two dead and four injured, and she apparently enjoyed her line of work.
"To foster her reputation as the 'Godmother' of cocaine, [Blanco] named her fourth son Michael Corleone, after the fictional mob character portrayed in the movie 'The Godfather,'" Horn said.
Court documents filed in 1988, three years after Blanco was caught, detail the shadowy, decade-long hunt for the queenpin that involved federal agents chasing false identities and checking Miami hospitals for gunshot wound victims that matched Blanco's description. But she wasn't able to elude them forever and after being captured in 1985 in Irvin, Calif. and serving nearly two decades behind bars in America, Blanco was released from prison and deported back to Colombia in 2004.
The DEA referred all inquiries into Blanco's death to Colombian authorities, telling ABC News, "she served her time here." The Colombian National Police did not immediately respond to requests for comment for this report. ( ABC News )
Polite Parents Warn Fellow Passengers About Their Newborns with Candy Gift Bag - Almost everyone knows that feeling of dread we get when a person with a crying baby boards our flight. Try doubling that, and watching parents get on with twins. At that very moment, most of us think "'wouldn't it be nice if there were a mute button for life?"' Well, one couple decided to ease the tension and stress of their fellow passengers by being polite while on their flight.
A Reddit user posted a photo from a recent flight with the headline, "'Brilliant and thoughtful parents handed these out to everyone to everyone on my flight."' The image is of a small bag of candies with a message written within. The message reads, "Hello! We're twin baby boys on our first flight, and we're only 14 weeks old. We'll try to be on our best behavior, but we'd like to apologize in advance just in case we lose our cool, get scared, or our ears hurt." The message also offers to earplugs to anyone who requests them, which the parents could provide.
As would be expected, this gesture earned the parents a lot of fans who praised their concern for their fellow passengers. One user on Reddit wrote, "Extra props for somehow finding the space in their carry-ons to fit all of this with whatever materials you may need to console twin infants on a plane ride." Not everyone lauded the parents with applause, suggesting they went overboard, "This is considerate, but aren't we all adults who can understand that babies are prone to bouts of crying?"
The flight itself apparently was not too bad, one passenger commented, "The parents were fantastic, and the kids were better than would be expected. Saw them meeting the dad's parents at baggage, who were seeing babies for the first time, and got a bit teary."
Who knows, maybe the parents' heartfelt gesture will set an example for others and lead to more random acts of kindness.
Reddit User Gigantomachy
Text From the Parents' Note:
Hello! We're twin baby boys on our first flight and we're only 14 weeks old! We'll try to be on our best behavior, but we'd like to apologize in advance just in case we lose our cool, get scared or our ears hurt. Our mom and dad (AKA our portable milk machine and our diaper changer) have ear plugs available if you need them. We are all sitting in 20E and 20F if you want to come by to get a pair. We hope you have a great flight! ( Trending Now )
Study questions how much better organic food is — Patient after patient asked: Is eating organic food, which costs more, really better for me?
Unsure, Stanford University doctors dug through reams of research to find out — and concluded there's little evidence that going organic is much healthier, citing only a few differences involving pesticides and antibiotics.
Eating organic fruits and vegetables can lower exposure to pesticides, including for children — but the amount measured from conventionally grown produce was within safety limits, the researchers reported Monday.
FILE - This March 16, 2011, file photo shows organic radishes at the Pacifica Farmers Market in Pacifica, Calif. Patient after patient asked: Is eating organic food, which costs more, really better for me? Unsure, Stanford University doctors dug through reams of research to find out _ and concluded there's little evidence that going organic is much healthier, citing only a few differences involving pesticides and antibiotics. Eating organic fruits and vegetables can lower exposure to pesticides, including for children _ but the amount measured from conventionally grown produce was within safety limits, the researchers reported Monday, Sept. 3, 2012. (AP Photo, File)
Nor did the organic foods prove more nutritious.
"I was absolutely surprised," said Dr. Dena Bravata, a senior research affiliate at Stanford and long-time internist who began the analysis because so many of her patients asked if they should switch.
"There are many reasons why someone might choose organic foods over conventional foods," from environmental concerns to taste preferences, Bravata stressed. But when it comes to individual health, "there isn't much difference."
Her team did find a notable difference with antibiotic-resistant germs, a public health concern because they are harder to treat if they cause food poisoning.
Specialists long have said that organic or not, the chances of bacterial contamination of food are the same, and Monday's analysis agreed. But when bacteria did lurk in chicken or pork, germs in the non-organic meats had a 33 percent higher risk of being resistant to multiple antibiotics, the researchers reported Monday in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine.
That finding comes amid debate over feeding animals antibiotics, not because they're sick but to fatten them up. Farmers say it's necessary to meet demand for cheap meat. Public health advocates say it's one contributor to the nation's growing problem with increasingly hard-to-treat germs. Caroline Smith DeWaal, food safety director at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, counted 24 outbreaks linked to multidrug-resistant germs in food between 2000 and 2010.
The government has begun steps to curb the nonmedical use of antibiotics on the farm.
Organic foods account for 4.2 percent of retail food sales, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It certifies products as organic if they meet certain requirements including being produced without synthetic pesticides or fertilizers, or routine use of antibiotics or growth hormones.
Consumers can pay a lot more for some organic products but demand is rising: Organic foods accounted for $31.4 billion sales last year, according to a recent Obama administration report. That's up from $3.6 billion in 1997.
The Stanford team combed through thousands of studies to analyze the 237 that most rigorously compared organic and conventional foods. Bravata was dismayed that just 17 compared how people fared eating either diet while the rest investigated properties of the foods themselves.
Organic produce had a 30 percent lower risk of containing detectable pesticide levels. In two studies of children, urine testing showed lower pesticide levels in those on organic diets. But Bravata cautioned that both groups harbored very small amounts — and said one study suggested insecticide use in their homes may be more to blame than their food.
Still, some studies have suggested that even small pesticide exposures might be risky for some children, and the Organic Trade Association said the Stanford work confirms that organics can help consumers lower their exposure.
CSPI's DeWaal noted that difference, but added that the issue is more complicated. Some fruits and vegetables can harbor more pesticide residue than others — she listed peaches from Chile as topping a recent testing list. Overall levels have dropped in North American produce over the last decade as farms implemented some new standards addressing child concerns, she said.
"Parents with young children should consider where their produce is coming from," DeWaal said, calling types grown in the U.S. or Canada "a safer bet" for lower pesticide levels.
As for antibiotics, some farms that aren't certified organic have begun selling antibiotic-free meat or hormone-free milk, to address specific consumer demands, noted Bravata. Her own preference is to buy from local farmers in hopes of getting the ripest produce with the least handling.
That kind of mixed approach was evident in a market in the nation's capital Thursday, where Liz Pardue of Washington said she buys organic "partially for environmental reasons." Pardue said she doesn't go out of her way to shop organic, but if she does, it's to buy mostly things that are hard to wash like berries and lettuce.
Michelle Dent of Oxon Hill, Md., said she buys most of her groceries from regular chain stores but gets her fruit from organic markets: "It's fresh; you can really taste it."
Anna Hamadyk of Washington said she buys only organic milk because she has a young son.
"I would love to buy everything organic, but it's just too much money," said Hamadyk, who also shops at local farmers markets. ( Associated Press )
21 Ways Rich People Think Differently - World's richest woman Gina Rinehart is enduring a media firestorm over an article in which she takes the "jealous" middle class to task for "drinking, or smoking and socializing" rather than working to earn their own fortune.
What if she has a point?
Steve Siebold, author of "How Rich People Think," spent nearly three decades interviewing millionaires around the world to find out what separates them from everyone else.
It had little to do with money itself, he told Business Insider. It was about their mentality.
"[The middle class] tells people to be happy with what they have," he said. "And on the whole, most people are steeped in fear when it comes to money."
Flickr / C. Pajunen
1. Average people think MONEY is the root of all evil. Rich people believe POVERTY is the root of all evil.
"The average person has been brainwashed to believe rich people are lucky or dishonest," Siebold writes.
That's why there's a certain shame that comes along with "getting rich" in lower-income communities.
"The world class knows that while having money doesn't guarantee happiness, it does make your life easier and more enjoyable."
2. Average people think selfishness is a vice. Rich people think selfishness is a virtue.
"The rich go out there and try to make themselves happy. They don't try to pretend to save the world," Siebold told Business Insider.
The problem is that middle class people see that as a negative––and it's keeping them poor, he writes.
"If you're not taking care of you, you're not in a position to help anyone else. You can't give what you don't have."
3. Average people have a lottery mentality. Rich people have an action mentality.
"While the masses are waiting to pick the right numbers and praying for prosperity, the great ones are solving problems," Siebold writes.
"The hero [middle class people] are waiting for may be God, government, their boss or their spouse. It's the average person's level of thinking that breeds this approach to life and living while the clock keeps ticking away."
4. Average people think the road to riches is paved with formal education. Rich people believe in acquiring specific knowledge.
"Many world-class performers have little formal education, and have amassed their wealth through the acquisition and subsequent sale of specific knowledge," he writes.
"Meanwhile, the masses are convinced that master's degrees and doctorates are the way to wealth, mostly because they are trapped in the linear line of thought that holds them back from higher levels of consciousness...The wealthy aren't interested in the means, only the end."
I Love Lucy screencap
5. Average people long for the good old days. Rich people dream of the future.
"Self-made millionaires get rich because they're willing to bet on themselves and project their dreams, goals and ideas into an unknown future," Siebold writes.
"People who believe their best days are behind them rarely get rich, and often struggle with unhappiness and depression."
6. Average people see money through the eyes of emotion. Rich people think about money logically.
"An ordinarily smart, well-educated and otherwise successful person can be instantly transformed into a fear-based, scarcity driven thinker whose greatest financial aspiration is to retire comfortably," he writes.
"The world class sees money for what it is and what it's not, through the eyes of logic. The great ones know money is a critical tool that presents options and opportunities."
7. Average people earn money doing things they don't love. Rich people follow their passion.
"To the average person, it looks like the rich are working all the time," Siebold says. "But one of the smartest strategies of the world class is doing what they love and finding a way to get paid for it."
On the other hand, middle class take jobs they don't enjoy "because they need the money and they've been trained in school and conditioned by society to live in a linear thinking world that equates earning money with physical or mental effort."
8. Average people set low expectations so they're never disappointed. Rich people are up for the challenge.
"Psychologists and other mental health experts often advise people to set low expectations for their life to ensure they are not disappointed," Siebold writes.
"No one would ever strike it rich and live their dreams without huge expectations."
BarackObamadotcom via YouTube
9. Average people believe you have to DO something to get rich. Rich people believe you have to BE something to get rich.
"That's why people like Donald Trump go from millionaire to nine billion dollars in debt and come back richer than ever," he writes.
"While the masses are fixated on the doing and the immediate results of their actions, the great ones are learning and growing from every experience, whether it's a success or a failure, knowing their true reward is becoming a human success machine that eventually produces outstanding results."
10. Average people believe you need money to make money. Rich people use other people's money.
Linear thought might tell people to make money in order to earn more, but Siebold says the rich aren't afraid to fund their future from other people's pockets.
"Rich people know not being solvent enough to personally afford something is not relevant. The real question is, 'Is this worth buying, investing in, or pursuing?'" he writes.
11. Average people believe the markets are driven by logic and strategy. Rich people know they're driven by emotion and greed.
Investing successfully in the stock market isn't just about a fancy math formula.
"The rich know that the primary emotions that drive financial markets are fear and greed, and they factor this into all trades and trends they observe," Siebold writes.
"This knowledge of human nature and its overlapping impact on trading give them strategic advantage in building greater wealth through leverage."
12. Average people live beyond their means. Rich people live below theirs.
"Here's how to live below your means and tap into the secret wealthy people have used for centuries: Get rich so you can afford to," he writes.
"The rich live below their means, not because they're so savvy, but because they make so much money that they can afford to live like royalty while still having a king's ransom socked away for the future."
13. Average people teach their children how to survive. Rich people teach their kids to get rich.
Rich parents teach their kids from an early age about the world of "haves" and "have-nots," Siebold says. Even he admits many people have argued that he's supporting the idea of elitism.
"[People] say parents are teaching their kids to look down on the masses because they're poor. This isn't true," he writes. "What they're teaching their kids is to see the world through the eyes of objective reality––the way society really is."
If children understand wealth early on, they'll be more likely to strive for it later in life.
14. Average people let money stress them out. Rich people find peace of mind in wealth.
The reason wealthy people earn more wealth is that they're not afraid to admit that money can solve most problems, Siebold says.
"[The middle class] sees money as a never-ending necessary evil that must be endured as part of life. The world class sees money as the great liberator, and with enough of it, they are able to purchase financial peace of mind."
Kim Bhasin / Business Insider
15. Average people would rather be entertained than educated. Rich people would rather be educated than entertained.
While the rich don't put much stock in furthering wealth through formal education, they appreciate the power of learning long after college is over, Siebold says.
"Walk into a wealthy person's home and one of the first things you'll see is an extensive library of books they've used to educate themselves on how to become more successful," he writes.
"The middle class reads novels, tabloids and entertainment magazines."
16. Average people think rich people are snobs. Rich people just want to surround themselves with like-minded people.
The negative money mentality poisoning the middle class is what keeps the rich hanging out with the rich, he says.
"[Rich people] can't afford the messages of doom and gloom," he writes. "This is often misinterpreted by the masses as snobbery.
Labeling the world class as snobs is another way the middle class finds to feel better bout themselves and their chosen path of mediocrity."
Flickr / Wei Tchou
17. Average people focus on saving. Rich people focus on earning.
Siebold theorizes that the wealthy focus on what they'll gain by taking risks, rather than how to save what they have.
"The masses are so focused on clipping coupons and living frugally they miss major opportunities," he writes.
"Even in the midst of a cash flow crisis, the rich reject the nickle and dime thinking of the masses. They are the masters of focusing their mental energy where it belongs: on the big money."
18. Average people play it safe with money. Rich people know when to take risks.
"Leverage is the watchword of the rich," Siebold writes.
"Every investor loses money on occasion, but the world class knows no matter what happens, they will aways be able to earn more."
Flickr / Ibrahim Iujaz
19. Average people love to be comfortable. Rich people find comfort in uncertainty.
For the most part, it takes guts to take the risks necessary to make it as a millionaire––a challenge most middle class thinkers aren't comfortable living with.
"Physical, psychological, and emotional comfort is the primary goal of the middle class mindset," Siebold writes.
World class thinkers learn early on that becoming a millionaire isn't easy and the need for comfort can be devastating. They learn to be comfortable while operating in a state of ongoing uncertainty."
20. Average people never make the connection between money and health. Rich people know money can save your life.
While the middle class squabbles over the virtues of Obamacare and their company's health plan, the super wealthy are enrolled in a super elite "boutique medical care" association, Siebold says.
"They pay a substantial yearly membership fee that guarantees them 24-hour access to a private physician who only serves a small group of members," he writes.
"Some wealthy neighborhoods have implemented this strategy and even require the physician to live in the neighborhood."
21. Average people believe they must choose between a great family and being rich. Rich people know you can have it all.
The idea the wealth must come at the expense of family time is nothing but a "cop-out", Siebold says.
"The masses have been brainwashed to believe it's an either/or equation," he writes. "The rich know you can have anything you want if you approach the challenge with a mindset rooted in love and abundance." ( Business Insider )
35 years later, Voyager 1 is heading for the stars — Thirty-five years after leaving Earth, Voyager 1 is reaching for the stars.
Sooner or later, the workhorse spacecraft will bid adieu to the solar system and enter a new realm of space — the first time a manmade object will have escaped to the other side.
Perhaps no one on Earth will relish the moment more than 76-year-old Ed Stone, who has toiled on the project from the start.
"We're anxious to get outside and find what's out there," he said.
When NASA's Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 first rocketed out of Earth's grip in 1977, no one knew how long they would live. Now, they are the longest-operating spacecraft in history and the most distant, at billions of miles from Earth but in different directions.
This artists rendering provided by NASA shows the Voyager spacecraft. Thirty-five years after leaving Earth, Voyager 1 is reaching for the stars. Sooner or later, the workhorse spacecraft will bid adieu to the solar system and enter a new realm of space _ the first time a man-made object will have escaped to the other side. (AP Photo/NASA)
Wednesday marks the 35th anniversary of Voyager 1's launch to Jupiter and Saturn. It is now flitting around the fringes of the solar system, which is enveloped in a giant plasma bubble. This hot and turbulent area is created by a stream of charged particles from the sun.
Outside the bubble is a new frontier in the Milky Way — the space between stars. Once it plows through, scientists expect a calmer environment by comparison.
When that would happen is anyone's guess. Voyager 1 is in uncharted celestial territory. One thing is clear: The boundary that separates the solar system and interstellar space is near, but it could take days, months or years to cross that milestone.
Voyager 1 is currently more than 11 billion miles from the sun. Twin Voyager 2, which celebrated its launch anniversary two weeks ago, trails behind at 9 billion miles from the sun.
They're still ticking despite being relics of the early Space Age.
Each only has 68 kilobytes of computer memory. To put that in perspective, the smallest iPod — an 8-gigabyte iPod Nano — is 100,000 times more powerful. Each also has an eight-track tape recorder. Today's spacecraft use digital memory.
The Voyagers' original goal was to tour Jupiter and Saturn, and they sent back postcards of Jupiter's big red spot and Saturn's glittery rings. They also beamed home a torrent of discoveries: erupting volcanoes on the Jupiter moon Io; hints of an ocean below the icy surface of Europa, another Jupiter moon; signs of methane rain on the Saturn moon Titan.
Voyager 2 then journeyed to Uranus and Neptune. It remains the only spacecraft to fly by these two outer planets. Voyager 1 used Saturn as a gravitational slingshot to catapult itself toward the edge of the solar system.
"Time after time, Voyager revealed unexpected — kind of counterintuitive — results, which means we have a lot to learn," said Stone, Voyager's chief scientist and a professor of physics at the California Institute of Technology.
These days, a handful of engineers diligently listen for the Voyagers from a satellite campus not far from the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which built the spacecraft.
The control room, with its cubicles and carpeting, could be mistaken for an insurance office if not for a blue sign overhead that reads "Mission Controller" and a warning on a computer: "Voyager mission critical hardware. Please do not touch!"
There are no full-time scientists left on the mission, but 20 part-timers analyze the data streamed back. Since the spacecraft are so far out, it takes 17 hours for a radio signal from Voyager 1 to travel to Earth. For Voyager 2, it takes about 13 hours.
Cameras aboard the Voyagers were turned off long ago. The nuclear-powered spacecraft, about the size of a subcompact car, still have five instruments to study magnetic fields, cosmic rays and charged particles from the sun known as solar wind. They also carry gold-plated discs containing multilingual greetings, music and pictures — in the off chance that intelligent species come across them.
Since 2004, Voyager 1 has been exploring a region in the bubble at the solar system's edge where the solar wind dramatically slows and heats up. Over the last several months, scientists have seen changes that suggest Voyager 1 is on the verge of crossing over.
When it does, it will be the first spacecraft to explore between the stars. Space observatories such as the Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes have long peered past the solar system, but they tend to focus on far-away galaxies.
As ambitious as the Voyager mission is, it was scaled down from a plan to send a quartet of spacecraft to Jupiter, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto in what was billed as the "grand tour" of the solar system. But the plan was nixed, and scientists settled for the Voyager mission.
American University space policy expert Howard McCurdy said it turned out to be a boon.
They "took the funds and built spacecraft robust enough to visit all four gas giants and keep communicating" beyond the solar system, McCurdy said.
The double missions so far have cost $983 million in 1977 dollars, which translates to $3.7 billion now. The spacecraft have enough fuel to last until around 2020.
By that time, scientists hope Voyager will already be floating between the stars. ( Associated Press )
Arab-Muslim to join 'Green Lantern' comic series — When DC Comics decided to blow up its fabled universe and create a brave, diverse future, Geoff Johns drew from the past for a new character: his own background as an Arab-American.
The company's chief creative officer and writer of the relaunched "Green Lantern" series dreamed up Simon Baz, DC's most prominent Arab-American superhero and the first to wear a Green Lantern ring. The character and creator share Lebanese ancestry and hail from the Detroit area, which boasts one of the largest and oldest Arab communities in the United States.
This image provided by DC Comics via Bender/Helper Impact shows interior panels of the November 2012 issue of the latest Green Lantern series featuring the character Simon Baz, DC Comics most prominent Arab-American superhero and the first to wear a Green Lantern ring. The character and creator share Lebanese ancestry and hail from the Detroit area, which boasts one of the largest and oldest Arab communities in the United States. (AP Photo/DC Comics via Bender/Helper Impact)
"I thought a lot about it — I thought back to what was familiar to me," Johns, 39, told The Associated Press by phone last week from Los Angeles, where he now lives. "This is such a personal story."
The Green Lantern mantle in DC Comics is no stranger to diversity with its ranks made up of men, women, aliens — animal, vegetable and mineral — from across the universe.
Earlier this year an alternate universe Green Lantern was reintroduced as openly gay.
Baz's story begins in a standalone "zero issue" available Wednesday that's part of a companywide effort to fill in the gaps or tell the origins of a character or team. Johns has no plans for Baz to fade into the background — the character in February is bound for the Justice League of America, one of DC's premier super team books, to fight alongside Green Arrow, Catwoman and Hawkman.
Johns said he took economic as well as ethnic cues for the character from his native Detroit area, with Baz resorting to stealing cars after being laid off from his automotive engineering job. He steals the wrong car, which inadvertently steers him into a terrorism probe and, eventually, an unexpected call to join the universe's galactic police force.
The olive-skinned, burly Baz hails from Dearborn, the hometown of Henry Ford and the capital of Arab America. His story begins at 10 years old, when he and the rest of his Muslim family watch their television in horror as airplanes fly into the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. Events unfold from there as U.S. Arabs and Muslims find themselves falling under intense suspicion and ostracism in the days, months and years following the attacks.
"Obviously, it's affecting everybody," said Johns, who grew up in nearby suburbs in a Lebanese Christian household and got into comics when he discovered his uncle's old collection in his Arab grandmother's attic. "One of the things I really wanted to show was its effect on Simon and his family in a very negative way."
Baz is not the first Arab or Muslim character to grace — or menace, as has historically been the case — the comic world. Marvel Comics has Dust, a young Afghan woman whose mutant ability to manipulate sand and dust has been part of the popular X-Men books. DC Comics in late 2010 introduced Nightrunner, a young Muslim hero of Algerian descent reared in Paris. He is part of the global network of crime fighters set up by Batman alter-ego Bruce Wayne.
Frank Miller, whose dark and moody take on Batman in "The Dark Knight Returns" in 1986 energized the character, took a different tack in his recent book, "Holy Terror," which tells the story of The Fixer and his efforts to stamp out Islamic terrorists. The graphic novel initially took root as a look at Batman's efforts to fight terrorism, which grew out of Miller's experiences of being in New York on 9/11.
A broader mission to bring Islamic heroes and principles to the comic world comes from Naif Al-Mutawa, creator of "The 99." The U.S. educated psychologist from Kuwait has been gaining followers across the globe since the 2006 debut of the comic book that spawned a TV series. "The 99" is named after the number of qualities the Quran attributes to God: strength, courage, wisdom and mercy among them.
The series gained a wide audience in 2010, when it worked with DC on a six-issue crossover that teamed the "The 99" with The Justice League of America.
Johns, who also has written stories starring Superman, The Flash and Teen Titans, said going diverse only works if there's a good story, and he believes he found that with Baz. But don't mistake him for a hero in the beginning: Baz disappoints both devout Muslims — his forearm tattoo that reads "courage" in Arabic is considered "haram," or religiously forbidden — and broader society by turning to a life of crime.
"He's not a perfect character. He's obviously made some mistakes in his life, but that makes him more compelling and relatable," he said. "Hopefully (it's) a compelling character regardless of culture or ethnic background. ... But I think it's great to have an Arab-American superhero. This was opportunity and a chance to really go for it."
Of course, Johns hopes Green Lantern fans accept Baz, who joins other humans who have been "chosen," including Hal Jordan, John Stewart, Guy Gardner and Kyle Rayner. The overall relaunch has been good for DC, which has seen a solid gain in sales and critical reception — as well as some expected grumbling — since coming out with the "New 52" last year.
Johns also sees the debut of Baz as a chance to reconnect with people in his home state: He's scheduled to visit Dearborn this weekend for events related to the release that include a signing Friday at a comic book store and a free presentation Saturday on his career and characters at the Arab American National Museum. He worked with museum staff to make sure he got certain details right about his character and the Arab-Muslim community.
"It doesn't completely define the character but it shapes the character," he said. "My biggest hope is that people embrace it and understand what we're trying to do." ( Associated Press )