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In the Loop

From HHS, the E-Z Way to Raise Teens

By Al Kamen
Friday, April 1, 2005; Page A25

So darling Courtney's going to be a teenager? About to enter that delightful door-slamming, leave-me-alone phase. Worried she might become sexually active?

In the past, insecure parents might have turned to a clergyman or counselor or trusted friend to talk with her about these personal matters. But of late this duty tends to fall to Mom and Dad, who are oft-frightened about how to proceed.

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Fret no more! Your federal government is on the case. The Department of Health and Human Services has some excellent advice to keep your kid from making the wrong choices. The key is to "talk about refusal skills," an HHS Web site -- 4Parents.gov -- advises.

"You can't go everywhere with your teen," the guide correctly notes -- if, indeed, she'll let you go anywhere at all with her. So "teach your teen the 'N.I.C.E.' way to say 'no.' "

You probably didn't know it, but "teens are sensitive to peer pressure," and they don't like being ridiculed. "So when your teen is confronted by a situation that violates their values, comfort or safety, they should be prepared to say 'no' firmly, but graciously, by following these four steps:

N -- Say "No," not "Maybe" or "Later." Teach your teen to set boundaries and be decisive . . .

I -- Follow with an "I" statement: "I plan to wait several years before I have sex," or "I'm not going to have sex until I marry" or "Sex isn't part of my game plan right now."

C -- If pressure continues, "Change." Teach your teen to change the topic -- "Did you see the game on TV last night?" (Or: Did you see what happened to the Dow today?) Or change who they are talking to -- "Julie is over there; I need to ask her something." Or change the location -- "I'm going back into the kitchen." (All pretty lame. Inexplicably, the guide doesn't suggest the traditional, sure-fire deflector: "Not now, I have a headache.")

E -- If these strategies don't help, your teen needs an "Exit" plan. They should leave the situation immediately. If they don't have a way home, they will need you or some other adult they trust to pick them up. It's a good idea for you and your teen to have a pre-arranged "code phrase" like, "Is that a dog barking?" which means "Come and pick me up. And hurry."

"Practice these steps with your teen," we're advised.

Okay, dear, let's play "N.I.C.E."

Worried About Wolfowitz

The World Bank's staff association set up a confidential comment line last week to get a sense of staff views and concerns about its new president, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz.

Within 48 hours, by noon on March 23, nearly 1,300 responses had been received from the bank's 11,000 employees. From those, the staff association prepared and sent briefing books on Monday to the executive directors of the bank, who yesterday unanimously approved Wolfowitz.

Most people, according to an association e-mail sent Monday to employees, "raised concerns about [the bank's] reputation and effectiveness, the nominee's qualifications, multilateralism (Bank independence from US policy and the war in Iraq), the selection process and even" whether the association had any right to conduct a survey.

As it turns out, Wolfowitz, in this unscientific poll, did not do well with the rank and file. In fact, about 86 or 87 percent of those responding opposed him. About "8% of respondents were favorable or neutral to the appointment," the association e-mail said. (The rest didn't address the issue.) Later balloting ran more his way, along the lines of "give him a chance," and probably reduced the negative percentage maybe to 85 percent.

The biggest concern about the nomination, we're hearing from bank folks, is over security, especially for those working in the bank's 100 offices outside Washington, and most especially in the Middle East and Africa. There was chatter, though unconfirmed, that some employees postponed or canceled trips to those regions.

Bank employees say that, to be effective, they must be out there with the people they are serving, not in fortified bunkers, but Wolfowitz's appointment makes them much more of a target for terrorists.

Changes are also expected in the presidential security detail. When he traveled abroad, outgoing president James D. Wolfensohn usually had a couple of bodyguards. Wolfowitz is likely to need more than that.

So far, it appears Robin Cleveland, now associate program director for national security and international affairs at the Office of Management and Budget, may be headed to the bank to be Wolfowitz's aide there. She has been spotted at all his meetings with bank officials, a bank source said.

Meanwhile, the day Wolfowitz's nomination was announced, the bank's retirement benefits hotline was so deluged that people couldn't get through to calculate their pensions if they were to quit.

Moving On

Key White House player Lezlee Westine, head of the public liaison office and top deputy to adviser Karl Rove, is headed private, becoming CEO of Technet, an organization of 200 high-tech CEOs -- a much-prized constituency for both political parties.

The second-term Cabinet members continue to put their teams in place. HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt selected longtime aide Rich McKeown, who had been his chief of staff in the Utah governor's office and at the Environmental Protection Agency, to fill that post at HHS.

Kerry Weems, a 21-year HHS veteran and most recently acting assistant secretary for Budget, Technology and Finance, was named deputy chief of staff.

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