Tuesday, May 20, 2008

What Handwriting Reveals

By Virginie Montet
Sun May 18, 3:30 AM ET

Hillary Clinton is smart and forceful, John McCain is proud but has a volatile temper, and Barack Obama is a diplomat who deals well with different people and situations.

At least, that's what graphologists say their handwriting reveals about them.

"Handwriting is a reflection of the inner personality. It shows a person's ego strength, how good they feel about themselves, their intellectual, communication and working styles," graphologist Sheila Lowe, author of "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Handwriting Analysis", told AFP.
Graphology -- the study of how we loop our Ls and cross our Ts -- is not taken as seriously in the United States as in Europe.

But every four years, when a US presidential election rolls around, practitioners of the arcane science are much sought after as Americans try everything to analyze contenders for the White House.

"Each time there are elections, I get invited to TV shows, radio shows," Lowe said. "There is always somebody who wants to know something, even if they don't take graphology seriously."
Just the signatures of the candidates are revelatory -- at least to the eye of an expert.
Republican John McCain's signature shows a proud, idealistic but impulsive, if not uncontrollable man, according to the experts.

Lowe saw impulsiveness and a "short fuse" in McCain's variable writing style.
New York graphologist Roger Rubin agreed, and also saw a powerful ego at play in the senator from Arizona.

"The unevenness of the rhythm reflects the unevenness of his temperament," Rubin said.
"The capital J is the largest letter, which shows his strong belief in his own ego. The size of 'John' overwhelms the size of 'McCain' -- this shows how distant he is from his family roots."
Obama's signature reveals similar traits.

The vertical straight line of the B in Obama cuts through the large O -- which is nonetheless smaller than the B in Barack.

"The very large B shows he also has a very strong sense of his own ego," Rubin said.
"And he is crossing out his family name," he added, recalling that Obama's father left the family when the front-runner for the Democratic nomination was just a young boy.

Another graphologist had a different interpretation of the bisected O.

"He draws that circle and a line through it, and it's really like he has two different worlds," said Paula Sassi, who has been interpreting handwriting for 28 years.

"I think it shows his black and white heritage."

The fluidity of Obama's signature is a sign of high intelligence, while its illegibility shows he is protecting his privacy.

"He doesn't want you to know him too well," said Arlyn Imberman, author of "Signatures for Success."

"He shows a part of himself to the world but not everything," said Lowe.

The large letters in Obama's signature show that he is ambitious, self-confident and views himself as a leader, said Imberman.

"The fluid letter forms reveal that he can form a coalition, be diplomatic and get along with both sides of the aisle," she added. "He's the type of guy who could tell you to go to hell and you'd enjoy the trip."

Clinton's legible, balanced signature shows a woman of great intelligence.

It's simplicity portrays a "what-you-see-is-what-you-get" personality, said Lowe.

Her straight-up-and-down writing indicates that she "thinks with her head, not with her heart," said Sassi.

"But there is enough roundness in her writing to show that she cares about people," said Imberman.

The fact that the second leg of the H and the second L in Hillary are higher than the first show ambition.

And she's a perfectionist: "Every thing is written carefully, legibly," said Imberman.
It is difficult, the experts say, to tell the sex of a person from their handwriting, or to discern if they are left- or right-handed.

But, interestingly enough, Obama and McCain are lefties -- just like four out of five US presidents immediately before them: Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, George Bush Sr and Bill Clinton.

Friday, May 16, 2008

It's Never 'Just a Movie' (or 'Book' or ...)

By Chris Leland, Ph.D.

Worldviews are everywhere in the media. Find out why we must live not as passive sponges but as mindful agents of the media.

When I fly, God puts me next to people who want to talk. The conversation usually stays on small talk until they ask the inevitable question; "So, what do you do for a living?"

I know that my answer is going to elicit one of two responses; either a pronounced look of disapproval and disagreement or (more often) a glazed and confused face. When I say that I teach Christian Worldview Studies for the Focus on the Family Institute, they either bristle at their "luck" of being placed next to a religious fanatic, or they have no earthly idea what I do.

On a flight last year, the latter was the case. A woman in her mid 50s who had been visiting her new grandbaby asked what I did. There it was: the glazed, empty and perplexed look. Then something caught her attention and she shared that she was a Christian, but she said it under her breath, leaning in toward me, like it was some secret password and that at any moment we would be discovered and thrown out of the plane at 30,000 feet.

A fellow believer — hey, this flight wouldn't be too bad. At least I wasn't going to play Paul to an "Athenian" this trip.

She wasn't done though. She wanted to know more about this idea called "worldview." Ah, here comes the flight-long discussion. I briefly talked about how our lives as Christians must be lived with every part of who we are being directed by our Christian perspective. There it was again; that glazed look that shouted "Huh?"

So I tried a new approach. "What's that book you're reading?" She gave me the name of one of the latest best sellers. "Who's the author?" She flipped to the inside of the back book jacket and showed me his handsome picture and the brief description of who he was and his accomplishments. "Do you like his writing?" Yes, very much.

"Why do you like his writing?"


It didn't last forever, of course. She finally let me know that his stories were not only entertaining and easy to read, but they spoke to her and her life's circumstance. Now, here comes the clincher: "Do the author and story have a perspective or lesson we are supposed to learn about life?" Oh, yes. We're supposed to love one another and our families must be cared for, even when it was hard.

Good. But then I continued probing: "Where does the author come from on these issues? What's his perspective on life?" More silence. Then she said the words I hear so often. "It's just a book!"
No it's not. When it comes to the things we read or see or use to entertain us, it's never "just a book" — or "just a song" or "just a TV show" or "just a movie." It's always got something to say about how we think and feel, good or bad. And if we keep reading or watching or listening, it's liable to affect how we think and feel, good or bad.

For years, I've taught communication students; now that I teach worldview issues, I see the significance of entertainment more than ever. What has concerned me more and more in recent years is that I am hearing this from otherwise discerning Christians. They're people of faith who struggle over most decisions in their lives as it relates to their Christianity and wanting to make wise choices, but when it comes to the media, they look just like everyone else on the planet.
This isn't an accident. Many of us make our media choices precisely because we want to be like everyone else — or at least like a certain group of people we know.

For example, I have a Christian friend who will whisper to me that he is a closet "Sex and the City" watcher. He's in the "closet" around fellow Christians, that is. When pushed on why he watches it, he admits that it's the main conversation piece on certain days of the week at his office and he doesn't want to be excluded from the conversation.

Even when we're not trying to join the crowd, we may end up becoming like them simply by default. Frequently we use media simply for a diversion. How often do you sit down in front of the tube and say, "You know, I want to find something on that is mindless and I can just veg out to"? We think it's harmless enough. Yet research shows that this is the state of mind that makes us the most vulnerable to ideas we don't usually agree with. Why do you think advertisers have so much impact on our culture? They hit you when you think you're not paying attention and aren't impacted by their message.

As C.S. Lewis sarcastically wrote:

Avoid silence, avoid solitude, avoid any train of thought that leads off the beaten track. Concentrate on money, sex, status, health and (above all) on your own grievances. Keep the radio on. Live in a crowd. Use plenty of sedation. If you must read books, select them very carefully. But you'd be safer to stick to the papers. You'll find the advertisements helpful; especially those with a sexy or a snobbish appeal.

The Christian community must do a better job of showing people how to ask the questions that make a person media literate. If we are indeed the "royal priesthood" that we are described as, then our job description includes the command of Ezekiel 44:23, "They are to teach my people the difference between the holy and the common and show them how to distinguish between the unclean and the clean."

We must live not as passive sponges but as mindful agents. As Bill Romanowski (author and Calvin College professor) says, "There's some good stuff out there and lots of bad stuff and, if people are going to live as mature Christians, they're going to have to learn to tell the difference."

Every book has a perspective. Every TV show was written, directed and produced by people with perspectives and worldviews. Every article of every magazine that sits on the shelves of our local bookstore or airport gift shop has a perspective. And yes, every movie that hits the silver screen has a worldview driving it.

Our call is not to abandon the media, but to make ourselves "priests" of the culture and help our brothers and sisters in Christ understand that, "It's never just a movie."

This article originally appeared on TrueU.org, Focus on the Family's online community for Christian college students.

Chris Leland, Ph.D. is the Director of College & University Outreach for the Focus on the Family Institute and a Senior Fellow for Christian Worldview Studies.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Angry Earth

China Earthquake: The AP reported that the death toll from Monday's earthquake in China climbed above 10,000:
The 7.9-magnitude quake devastated a region of small cities and towns set amid steep hills north of Sichuan's provincial capital of Chengdu. Striking in midafternoon, it emptied office buildings across the country in Beijing and could be felt as far away as Vietnam.
Snippets from state media and photos posted on the Internet underscored the immense scale of the devastation. In the town of Juyuan, south of the epicenter, a three-story high school collapsed, burying as many as 900 students and killing at least 50, the official Xinhua news agency said. Photos showed people using cranes, mechanical hoists and their hands to remove slabs of concrete and steel.

Florida Wildfires: CNN reports that Gov. Charlie Crist has declared a state of emergency in Florida:
Florida Gov. Charlie Crist declared a state of emergency Monday as wildfires fed by drought conditions threatened homes and businesses and forced the closing of part of Interstate 95 in Brevard County.

Seven to 10 structures, including some homes, have been destroyed by the largest of the fires, said Yvonne Martinez of the Palm Bay Fire Department.
"The fire situation has been very unpredictable," she said. "The winds have basically caused what fires we had yesterday to jump a half a mile at a time."

Burma Cyclone: HuffPost contributor Hanna Ingber Win reported that local corruption was hampering recovery efforts in Burma:
In the midst of a massive humanitarian crisis in Burma in which 1.5 million people are at risk of dying from disease, local government officials in Rangoon have been selling aid and bribing residents in order to turn a profit, according to sources in Rangoon. It has been eight days since Cyclone Nargis wiped out entire villages along the Irrawaddy delta and left Rangoon in shambles, but the ruling junta has prevented relief efforts from barely making a dent in the recovery process.

Government officials have stolen donations of rice, cooking oil and diesel and sold them on the black market, a businessman in Rangoon said on Sunday. In several townships around the major city, the government announced that it would provide a certain amount of rice and cooking oil to each household, but local township officers were found refusing families their quotas and instead selling the goods on the black market.

US Tornadoes: The AP reported that 22 people were killed in tornadoes that swept across the central U.S.:
More than a third of the 22 people killed by a tornado that smashed parts of Oklahoma and Missouri over the weekend died in cars, troubling experts who say vehicles are one of the worst places to be during a twister.

"It's like taking a handful of Matchbox cars and rolling them across the kitchen floor," said Sgt. Dan Bracker of the Missouri State Highway Patrol, surveying the damage in and around Seneca, near the Oklahoma line, the hardest hit area. "This is devastating."
Among those killed were three people in Oklahoma who were rushing to reach a relative's house in their car; a woman whose car was blown off a road near Seneca; and four family members _ Rick Rountree, his wife, his 13-year-old son, and his mother-in-law _ who were in a van on the way to a friend's wedding when a twister packing winds of 170 mph struck the Seneca area on Saturday night.


Sunday, May 11, 2008

An Evangelical Manifesto

An Executive Summary

The Washington Declaration of Evangelical Identity and Public Commitment

May 7, 2008; Washington, D.C.

Keenly aware of this hour of history, we as a representative group of Evangelicals in America address our fellow-believers and our fellow-citizens. We have two purposes: to clarify the confusions that surround the term Evangelical in the United States, and texplain where we stand on issues that cause consternation over Evangelicals in public life.

The global era challenges us to learn how to live with our deepest differences—especially religious differences that are ultimate and irreducible. These are not just differences between personal worldviews but between entire ways of life co-existing in the same society.

1. Our Identity
First, we reaffirm our identity. Evangelicals are Christians who define themselves, their faith, and their lives according to the Good News of Jesus of Nazareth. (The Greek word for good news was euangelion, which translated into English as evangel.) This Evangelical principle is the heart of who we are as followers of Jesus. It is not unique to us. We assert it not to attack or to exclude, but to remind and to reaffirm, and so to rally and to reform.

Evangelicals are one of the great traditions in the Christian Church. We stand alongside Christians of other traditions in both the creedal core of faith and over many issues of public concern. Yet we also hold to Evangelical beliefs that are distinct—distinctions we affirm as matters of biblical truth, recovered by the Protestant Reformation and vital for a sure knowledge of God. We Evangelicals are defined theologically, and not politically, socially, or culturally.

As followers of Jesus Christ, Evangelicals stress a particular set of beliefs that we believe are true to the life and teachings of Jesus himself. Taken together, they make us who we are. We place our emphasis on:

1. Jesus, fully divine and fully human, as the only full and complete revelation of God and therefore the only Savior.
2. The death of Jesus on the cross, in which he took the penalty for our sins and reconciled us to God.
3. Salvation as God’s gift grasped through faith. We contribute nothing to our salvation.
4. New life in the Holy Spirit, who brings us spiritual rebirth and power to live as Jesus did, reaching out to the poor, sick, and oppressed.
5. The Bible as God’s Word written, fully trustworthy as our final guide to faith and practice.
6. The future personal return of Jesus to establish the reign of God.
7. The importance of sharing these beliefs so that others may experience God’s salvation and may walk in Jesus’ way.

Sadly, we repeatedly fail to live up to our high calling, and all too often illustrate our own doctrine of sin. The full list of our failures is no secret to God or to many who watch us. If we would share the good news of Jesus with others, we must first be shaped by that good news ourselves.

2. Our Place in Public Life
Second, we wish to reposition ourselves in public life. To be Evangelical is to be faithful to the freedom, justice, peace, and well-being that are at the heart of the good news of Jesus. Fundamentalism was world-denying and politically disengaged at its outset, but Evangelicals have made a distinguished contribution to politics—attested by causes such the abolition of slavery and woman’s suffrage, and by names such as John Jay, John Witherspoon, Frances Willard, and Sojourner Truth in America and William Wilberforce and Lord Shaftesbury in England.

Today, however, enormous confusion surrounds Evangelicals in public life and we wish to clarify our stand through the following assertions:

First, we repudiate two equal and opposite errors into which many Christians have fallen. One error is to privatize faith, applying it to the personal and spiritual realm only. Such dualism falsely divorces the spiritual from the secular and causes faith to lose its integrity.

The other error, made by both the religious left and the religious right, is to politicize faith, using faith to express essentially political points that have lost touch with biblical truth. That way faith loses its independence, Christians become the "useful idiots" for one political party or another, and the Christian faith becomes an ideology. Christian beliefs become the weapons of political factions.

Called to an allegiance higher than party, ideology, economic system, and nationality, we Evangelicals see it our duty to engage with politics, but our equal duty never to be completely equated with any party, partisan ideology, or nationality. The politicization of faith is never a sign of strength but of weakness.

Second, we repudiate the two extremes that define the present culture wars in the United States. On one side, we repudiate the partisans of a sacred public square, those who would continue to give one religion a preferred place in public life.

In a diverse society, it will always be unjust and unworkable to privilege one religion. We are committed to religious liberty for people of all faiths. We are firmly opposed to theocracy. And we have no desire to coerce anyone or to impose beliefs and behavior on anyone. We believe in persuasion.

On the other side, we repudiate the partisans of a naked public square, those who would make all religious expression inviolably private and keep the public square inviolably secular. This position is even less just and workable because it excludes the overwhelming majority of citizens, who are still profoundly religious. Nothing is more illiberal than to invite people into the public square but insist that they be stripped of the faith that makes them who they are.

We are committed to a civil public square – a vision of public life in which citizens of all faiths are free to enter and engage the public square on the basis of their faith, but within a framework of what is agreed to be just and free for other faiths as well. Every right we assert for ourselves as Christians is a right we defend for all others.

Third, we are concerned that a generation of culture warring, reinforced by understandable reactions to religious extremism around the world, has created a powerful backlash against all religion in public life among many educated people. If this hardens into something like the European animosity toward religion in public life, the result would be disastrous for the American republic and would severely constrict liberty for people of all faiths. The striking intolerance shown by the new atheists is a warning sign.

We call on all citizens of goodwill and believers of all faiths and none to join us in working for a civil public square and the restoration of a tough-minded civility that is in the interests of all.
Fourth, we are concerned that globalization and the emerging global public square have no matching vision of how to live with our deepest differences on the global stage. In the Internet era, everyone can listen to what we say even when we are not speaking to everyone. Global communication magnifies the challenges of living with our deepest differences.

As the global public square emerges, we warn of two equal and opposite errors: coercive secularism and religious extremism.

We also repudiate the two other positions. First, those who believe their way is the only way and the way for everyone, and are therefore prepared to coerce them. This position leads inevitably to conflict.

Second, those who believe that different values are relative to different cultures, and who therefore refuse to allow anyone to judge anyone else or any other culture. This position sounds tolerant at first, but it leads directly to the ills of complacency. In a world of such evils as genocide, slavery, female oppression, and assaults on the unborn, there are rights that must be defended, evils that must be resisted, and interventions into the affairs of others that are morally justified.

Fifth, we warn of the danger of a two-tier global public square. This is a model of public life which reserves the top tier for cosmopolitan secular liberals, and the lower tier for local religious believers. Such an arrangement would be patronizing as well as severely restricting religious liberty and justice.

We promote a civil public square, and we respect for the rights of all, even those with whom we disagree. Contrary to those who believe that "error has no rights," we respect the right to be wrong. But we also insist that "the right to believe anything" does not mean that "anything anyone believes is right." Rather, respect for conscientious differences also requires respectful debate.

We do not speak for all Evangelicals. We speak only for ourselves, yet not to ourselves. We invite all our fellow-Christians, our fellow-citizens, and people of different faiths to take note of these declarations and to respond where appropriate.

We pledge that in a world of lies, hype, and spin, we publish this declaration in words that, under God, we make our bond. People of the Good News, we desire not just to speak the Good News but to embody and be good news to our world and to our generation.

Find link here: http://www.anevangelicalmanifesto.com/index.php

Copyright ©2008 by An Evangelical Manifesto Steering Committee

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Crying Over Spilt Milk

By Daniel Gross NEWSWEEK
May 12, 2008 Issue

Everyone's talking about the rising costs of food. But for most Americans, the reality isn't so dire.

Every day, Bill Higgins, co-owner of Real Restaurants—a group of 13 San Francisco eateries including the popular Fog City Diner—confronts the reality of food inflation. "Prices have increased, whether it's flour, corn, dairy, meat." While the company has boosted prices by 25 to 50 cents per item, Higgins hasn't passed on all the higher costs to diners. Instead, he's taken cost-cutting actions like reducing workers' hours and keeping the lights off until a few minutes before opening.

Such efforts to insulate consumers from food inflation underscore a larger trend in the United States. The soaring price of commodities—rice has doubled since last summer, and corn is up about 60 percent in the past year—is wreaking havoc in the developing world and imposing burdens on the poor everywhere. But for the typical American, food inflation is more an inconvenience than a dire threat, headlines notwithstanding.

In the poorest corners of the globe, people may spend half their daily income on sustenance. But in this supersized nation, the average consumer devotes only 14.9 percent of expenditures to food and beverages. The typical American spends more on personal-care products than on dairy and bakery products combined, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. While the prices of commodities are rising, most Americans don't buy food by the bushel at the Chicago Board of Trade. They shop at grocery stores, where prices have gone up much more slowly: overall, consumer food prices were up 4.4 percent between March 2007 and March 2008. Yes, bread and milk have spiked (up 14.7 percent and 13.3 percent in the past year, respectively), but fruits and vegetables were up just 1.7 percent in the same time period.

To understand the disconnect between prices in the commodities market and in the supermarket, it helps to consider the many things that happen to a yellow kernel of Iowa corn before it becomes an orange Dorito in a Florida vending machine. Along the way, it's processed, mixed with other ingredients, packaged in plastic and shipped a great distance. "The inflation in commodities is ironed out over time because the price of the raw material is ultimately not that large a percentage of the price you pay in the grocery store," says David Richardson, an economist at the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

At every stage in the journey, there are opportunities for the middlemen—processors, distributors, retailers—to pass along costs, or to absorb them. "In recent months, a lot of the spikes we see on the exchanges are being absorbed by producers," says Lakshman Achuthan, managing director at the Economic Cycle Research Institute in New York. The producer price index, which measures what businesses at various stages of the production process pay, shows that in 2007, prices of raw foodstuffs rose 25.2 percent, but that prices of finished.

When it released quarterly earnings last week, the food giant Kraft reported that the operating earnings of its U.S. cheese and snacks and cereals businesses fell more than 22 percent. The reason: a competitive market prevented Kraft from passing along the sharply higher costs of raw materials, "including an approximately 30 percent increase in dairy costs."

The imported fromages on the shelves of Mirabelle Cheese Shop in Westport, Conn., have little in common with Kraft Singles. But with prices of imported cheese up 40 percent in the past year, owner Dale Saffir is similarly shrinking from passing on her high costs. She points to a Papillon Roquefort, priced at $28.85 a pound, up from $26.50 a year ago. "Given recent price increases, it should be $32.50, but I'm not taking my usual markup," she says. "I can't do that to my customers."

Businesses like Kraft and Mirabelle are effectively functioning as inflation shock absorbers. But economists say their efforts still aren't fully insulating customers from the jolts the commodity markets are delivering. That's because the classes of products that are rising the most—milk, eggs, bread—have a special status. "These are frequent purchases, and you have no choice about them," says Achuthan. "So these price increases have a larger psychological impact on consumers than other types of inflation."consumer food products rose just 7.4 percent.

In addition, the prices of milk and eggs, along with gas, are heavily advertised and prominently displayed, unlike, say, the prices of appliances or manicures. They're part of the national conversation. In the 1992 presidential campaign, a defining moment came when President George H.W. Bush reinforced his image as an aloof patrician by failing to accurately gauge the price of consumer staples like a gallon of milk. Candidate Bill Clinton, in full feel-your-pain mode, aced the question.

Even though they're not catastrophically high, the prices of staples are still giving politicians food for thought.
With Miyoko Ohtake in San Francisco
www.newsweek.com/id/135379 © 2008

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Clipping, Scrimping, Saving

By Jane Black
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, May 1, 2008; Page A01
Egg prices are up 35 percent, with milk and bread not far behind. Consumers are scrambling to find ways to cope.
The last thing Marti Tracy wants to do on a Saturday is clip coupons. But last month the 34-year-old Bowie resident felt she no longer had a choice. She'd already given up organic meat and decided to buy organic milk only for her 2-year-old son, not for the whole family.

Tracy and her partner also stopped buying the cereals they like in favor of whatever was on sale; stopped picking up convenient single-size packs of juice, water or crackers; and, in order to save gas, stopped going to multiple stores. "I find the whole thing a huge hassle, but I've reached a tipping point," said Tracy, a government human resources specialist who is pregnant with her second child. "Clearly, I'm not unable to feed my family. But I just can't feed my family the way I'd like to feed them."