Thursday, 17 December 2009 00:00


A Woman's World

James Brown song "It's a Man's Man's Man's World" got it wrong -- there is a quiet revolution underfoot that one day might make it more of a woman's world than a man's.

They vote more, they study more, and they spend more.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 70 million women and 61 million men voted in last year's presidential election. This reflects both the higher total number of women in the population (107 million women versus 99 million for men) and their higher turnout (66 percent versus 61 percent).


Thursday, 10 December 2009 00:00

More of the Same Will Not Lead to Change

"It's the economy, stupid," was the message that Democratic political strategist James Carville kept repeating to Bill Clinton in the 1992 campaign against then-President George H.W. Bush. It seems that President Barack Obama has finally gotten the message, too, and not a bit too soon.

While the Democrats in Congress have been delivering votes for government health care and Obama has been opining on troop deployment in Afghanistan, everyday Americans have been trying to figure out how to spend less and make ends meet.


Thursday, 03 December 2009 00:00

Atlanta Reaching Towards Post-Racial Politics

Tuesday's runoff election for the mayor of Atlanta pitted a young black candidate running as an outsider against a white activist with decades of experience as a citizen activist. African American mayors have run Atlanta since 1974. This race has been about more than race.

Former Georgia State Sen. Kasim Reed, who is African American, declared victory in Tuesday's runoff for Atlanta mayor. City Councilwoman Mary Norwood, who is white, has not acknowledged defeat. The vote count as of Wednesday morning was 41,901 for Reed and 41,143 for Norwood, making a recount likely.

Read the complete article at ...

Thursday, 26 November 2009 13:03

Faith, Thankfulness and Dreams

We know the story of the first Thanksgiving almost 400 years ago, of the pilgrims and the Indians coming together and sharing their food after a bountiful harvest. The first "official" Thanksgiving, however, was celebrated just 210 years ago today. President George Washington's first presidential proclamation designated the 26th day of November to be set aside for thanksgiving.

"It is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God and to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor," he wrote.

Washington did not ask the nation's citizens to demand more from God or to question why the Revolutionary War had lasted eight years, nor to reflect on the damage that occurred during the war. Instead, he asked the nation to be grateful and to ask for God's protection and favor.

Maybe we should follow Washington's lead once more.

This year has been particularly hard for many people. Many have lost jobs (more than 10 percent of our nation is unemployed); some have lost their homes. While these losses are tragic and hard to overcome, they can be.

If these losses are viewed as specific and temporary, then in two decades, they might be seen as large bumps and bobbles in the road rather than key events determining the trajectory and the final destination of lives.

Alternatively, people might interpret their current woes as impossible to overcome and decide that they have come to a dead end. This belief will stifle people's ability to dream.

Hard times cannot be the times to falter and lose our dreams.

We are a nation founded on a belief in God. As the Declaration of Independence states: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

Our understanding of our place in the world begins with our "Creator." This faith in God provides us with optimism — belief in a brighter future and an understanding of our importance in the context of the wider, meaningful pattern of life.

This faith is key to understanding American exceptionalism and American optimism.

Our thankfulness may help us believe a promising future awaits.

After more than a year of economic trials and troubles, we can see hints of better days ahead, a transition from shock and hopelessness to thankfulness and gratitude for what we do have.

Our faith in a Creator supports our nation's optimism. In a more tumultuous time, after the Union victories at Vicksburg and Gettysburg, President Abraham Lincoln declared a day of Thanksgiving. His proclamation in 1863 acknowledged "the gracious gifts of the Most High God." Lincoln invited his fellow citizens to set apart and observe "a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens."

Lincoln did not ask Americans to be distraught over the more than 600,000 lives lost during the Civil War, nor distressed over the damage to buildings and commerce. Instead, in a time of war, he asked the American people to acknowledge the gracious gifts of God.

During our time of trials, should we not do the same? Being thankful, even for small things, allows us to be receptive and open. We are acknowledging that there are good things in life. When we are upset and demanding, we focus on the bad and shut out the possibilities of good, gifts and hope.

We should remember our duty as noted by Washington "to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God and to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor."

By giving thanks for what we have, we will begin to be able to dream of what might be. This optimism will then give way to action and results.

This year, I asked many of my friends and family to share with me what they were thankful for. The majority of the answers cited health, family and friends. A few included the ability to work in areas they love. What I did not hear was thankfulness for dreams.

We should be thankful for dreams.

By being thankful, we can relax and be open to the wider, more meaningful patterns and possibilities that emerge daily in our lives.

We can imagine what could be.

For that, let us give thanks.

And let us continue to have faith and dream of what could be.

To find out more about Jackie Gingrich Cushman, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit



Asking and Answering Hard Questions

By Jackie Cushman

Published on

At 3:32 p.m., June 13, the Washington Post news alert hit my iPhone. Tim Russert, moderator of NBC's "Meet the Press," and Washington bureau chief, had died. My heart ached for his family. The news was shocking and sad, particularly because Russert was so vital and young. He was a good man, with more to offer the world, especially in this presidential race. When reporting Russert’s death, former Nightly News Anchor Tom Brokaw noted, “This news division will not be the same without his strong, clear voice.”

Russert was a force in America's political landscape who could be counted on to ask the hard questions and raise the level of play and engagement of the guests on “Meet the Press. He was a champion of everyday people and asked questions in their stead. In an age where authenticity is rare, he was the real thing.

Over the past two decades, I met Russert a few times. Last year, when he moderated the debate at the Cooper Union of Science and Art in New York City between former Gov. Mario Cuomo and my dad, former Speaker Newt Gingrich, he used crutches, due to an injury, to enter the stage door. But he walked out on stage and out the front door at the end of the event without assistance. This kept the focus on issues and ideas rather than his injury. Through his action and questions, Russert revealed himself to be a professional, down-to-earth, hardworking man who loved his country. He will be sorely missed.

Denise Grady's June 17, 2008 New York Times article, â€œA Search for Answers in Russert's Death, tries to explain why a man of Russert's youth (he was just 58) and apparent good health had died so suddenly.The answer, according to Grady, at least in part, is that Russert's doctors did not realize how severe his coronary heart disease was because he had neither chest pain nor other symptoms that would have led them to carry out “invasive tests needed to make a definitive diagnosis. That is also true for half of the men who die of coronary heart disease.

While Russert was taking measures to control his risk -- medicine for blood pressure and cholesterol, daily exercise and trying to lose weight -- they were not enough. Mr. Russert's cholesterol was not high, and medicine controlled his high blood pressure pretty well, said Dr. Michael A. Newman, the journalist’s internist. But, he added, Russert was “significantly overweight.”

In the article, Newman noted, if there's one number that's a predictor of mortality, it's waist circumference. Studies have found a waist of over 40 inches in men and 35 inches in women is a risk factor for heart disease.

This focus on waistline is being taken seriously in other parts of the world. Norimitsu Onishi's June 13, 2008 New York Times article Japan, Seeking to Trim Waists, Measures Millions, highlights that country's campaign to improve their national health by measuring waists.

The Japanese focus began with a language shift from overweight to metabo (metabolic syndrome) reflecting a person's health status rather than weight. In no time, writes Onishi, the scary-sounding condition was popularly shortened to the funny-sounding metabo, and it has become the nation's shorthand for overweight. While slight, the linguistics change shifts an individual's focus from appearance to health.

Japan set its waist limits at 33.5 inches for men and 35.4 inches for women, which are the thresholds, established in 2005 as health risk guidelines for Japan by the International Diabetes Federation. These are lower than U.S. guidelines noted above due to differences in body composition.

According to Onishi, the Japanese government's goal is to reduce “the overweight population by 10 percent over the next four years and 25 percent over the next seven years.” Tactics include companies and local governments measuring the waistlines of those 40 to 74 years of age annually, with financial penalties for business and local governments failing to meet the target.

So what is metabolic syndrome? The U.S. National Institutes of Health's Web site states, “Metabolic syndrome is the name for a group of risk factors linked to overweight and obesity that increase your chance for heart disease and other health problems such as diabetes and stroke.

Five conditions are listed: A large waistline, a higher than normal triglyceride level (or on medicine to treat high triglycerides), a lower than normal level of HDL cholesterol (or on medicine to treat low HDL), a higher than normal blood pressure (or on medicine to treat high blood pressure), and a higher than normal fasting blood sugar (glucose), (or on medicine to treat high blood sugar).

In general, a person with metabolic syndrome is twice as likely to develop heart disease and five times as likely to develop diabetes as someone without metabolic syndrome, according to the NIH.

Almost 25 percent of Americans, 47 million adults -- have metabolic syndrome.

While the Japanese approach may represent too much government intrusion into the lives of citizens, it is time for Americans too to make serious progress in our personal health.

The U.S. Department of Heath and Human Services has set ambitious goals in its 2010 Healthy People Initiative: increase healthy weight adults from the current percentage of 34 percent to 60 percent; reduce the number of obese adults from 34 percent to 15 percent; reduce the number of overweight or obese children and adolescents from 18 percent to 5 percent.

Perhaps the best tribute to the champion of the everyday man who did not flinch from tough questions would be for each of us to ask ourselves and our loved ones those questions about risk. Grab a tape measure and measure.Honest, frank answers, and resulting action might save lives, and one of them could be yours.

Copyright 2008 by Jackie Cushman

All Rights Reserved

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