Daily Dispatches
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie
Associated Press/Photo by Mel Evans
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie

Signs and Wonders: Happiness, hippie Jesus, gubernatorial girth, and Cuba

Newsworthy

Presidential gravitas. Is Chris Christie too fat to be president? The New Jersey governor went on Letterman and said he was "the healthiest fat guy you've ever seen in your life." But his friends and advisors say if he wants to run for president he needs to trim down. "There is a plan" for losing weight, Christie acknowledged, adding: "Whether it's successful or not, you'll all be able to notice." The issue came up because a former White House physician, Dr. Connie Mariano, told CNN that his weight may present serious health risks for a president. "I'm a Republican, so I like Chris Christie a lot. I want him to run. I just want him to lose weight," Mariano said Tuesday. "I worry about this man dying in office." Christie won’t be the first politician with a weight problem. President William Howard Taft reportedly couldn't fit in the White House bathtub. Mike Huckabee went on a crash diet that included marathon running before his presidential run. Reporters asked Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour if he would run for president. He told them that if he lost 40 pounds, they would know he was running. (He ended up losing 20 pounds, but decided not to run.) So far, Christie’s weight hasn’t affected his approval ratings in New Jersey, which stand at a big, fat 74 percent, according to Quinnipiac University.

Gross National Happiness? Canada, France and Britain have added measures of citizen happiness to their official national statistics. According to National Public Radio, “the U.S. government is now considering adopting a happiness index as well.” The question I have is: By whose standard? "It's actually kind of a hard question," Justin Wolfers, an economist at the University of Michigan, told NPR. "It's very subjective." Arthur Brooks, president of the conservative American Enterprise Institute, wrote a book, Gross National Happiness, to say happiness really does matter, but the causes of happiness are such things as “faith, charity, hard work, optimism, and individual liberty. Secularism, excessive reliance on the state to solve problems, and an addiction to security all promote unhappiness.” Given this, it’s kind of hard to imagine a government survey that would measure the true causes of happiness.

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Banishing Jesus. School leaders in Ohio may have to remove a portrait of Jesus that has been hanging in a school entranceway for 65 years. The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio and the Madison, Wis.-based Freedom From Religion Foundation say the large portrait at Jackson Middle School unconstitutionally promotes religion. The two groups seek a court order requiring the school to remove the portrait and prohibiting its re-hanging or any substantially similar display in the future. "The maintenance and display of the portrait has the effect of advancing and endorsing one religion, improperly entangling the State in religious affairs, and violating the personal consciences of plaintiffs," the lawsuit says. School Superintendent Phil Howard, named as a defendant along with Jackson City School District and the school board, told The Columbus Dispatch "We're not violating the law and the picture is legal because it has historical significance. It hasn't hurt anyone." School officials have said the portrait was donated by a student group and has been in the school since about 1947.

Cuba libre. It was on this day 50 years ago that President John F. Kennedy said U.S. citizens could no longer travel to or engage in financial and commercial transactions with Cuba. These restrictions have been altered and amended over the years. Christian missionaries, for example, now regularly go to Cuba. But with few exceptions, those Kennedy-era trade and travel embargo have remained in place. On Tuesday, the U.N. General Assembly voted overwhelmingly to condemn the U.S. embargo against Cuba. It’s the 20th year in a row the U.N. has passed such a resolution. The final tally was 186-2, with only Israel joining the United States in voting against the measure.

Warren Cole Smith
Warren Cole Smith

Warren, who lives in Charlotte, N.C., is vice president of WORLD News Group and the host of the radio program Listening In. Follow Warren on Twitter @WarrenColeSmith.

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