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In the Loop

Rx for Doctors: A Dose of Humanity

By Al Kamen
Monday, February 7, 2005; Page A19

Urgent notice! Call your doctor immediately and demand to take that annual physical today! Why? Because you won't hear the usual grumbling about medical malpractice lawsuits and thieving trial lawyers. The nurse won't be doing that Nurse Ratched impersonation, demanding cash because your insurance isn't accepted.

Today, as it turns out, is the first annual National Love Your Patients Day. Okay, so maybe it's not an American Medical Association policy. The idea comes from Scott Diering, an emergency room physician at Washington County Hospital in Hagerstown and assistant professor at the University of Maryland, to call attention to a need for more "humanistic" medicine.

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There's "a need for a more compassionate system of health care in this country," Diering says in a news release, and having this day would be "a prescription" to doctors "for compassion, respect and humility.

Run -- if you can -- don't walk, down to your medicine man's office. Tomorrow, it's back to the same old, same old.

Weird Science

Speaking of doctors, physician-Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), a new member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, was at last week's meeting on a bill restricting class-action suits. "You know," he said, "I immediately thought about silicone breast implants and the legal wrangling and the class-action suits off that.

"And I thought I would just share with you what science says today about silicone breast implants. If you have them, you're healthier than if you don't. That is what the ultimate science shows. . . . In fact, there's no science that shows that silicone breast implants are detrimental and, in fact, they make you healthier."

So bigger really is better? Who knew?

Private Enterprise

David Israelite, former attorney general John D. Ashcroft's deputy chief of staff -- he ran the Justice Department's Intellectual Property Task Force -- is starting today as the CEO and president of the National Music Publishers' Association. NMPA, which is moving its headquarters here from New York, signed on the exceptionally well-plugged-in Israelite, who used to work for the Republican National Committee and before that for Sen. Christopher S. Bond (R-Mo.), to hire staff for its new operation. (Résumé Alert!)

Meanwhile, Jim Dyer, the highly regarded Republican staff director of the House Appropriations Committee since 1995 and considered one of the most powerful aides on the Hill, is moving to lobbying firm Clark & Weinstock, where he'll be teaming with former appropriations committee members Vin Weber (R-Minn.) and Vic Fazio (D-Calif.).

Burning Issue

Battered enviros are having a strategy meeting next month in lovely Santa Fe, N.M., to regroup and fight the Healthy Forests Initiative, which our invite calls "one of the administration's most successful efforts to dismantle environmental protections . . . over the last 30 years."

The HFI, say meeting sponsors the McCune Charitable Foundation and the Consultative Group on Biological Diversity, was "the result of a nine-year campaign" that "used an artful blend of science and messaging to portray 'unhealthy, overgrown' forests" as threatening "catastrophic wildfire[s] to prey on the public's fears." This strategy was such a success that the HFI got bipartisan support in both houses, the enviros lamented.

Let's not give them that much credit. After all, those news videos of wildfires roasting communities might have had something to do with that success.

Going Once, Going Twice

On the foreign policy front, there was an unusual and abrupt resignation last week by Robert B. Charles, who for about 16 months had been the assistant secretary of state for international narcotics and law enforcement (aka drugs 'n' thugs).

Some sources suggested policy disputes for his quitting, since Charles favored aerial eradication of poppy in Afghanistan and an "eradication first" strategy, while some policy folks here and in Kabul are not so keen about that.

Other sources said perhaps Charles, having been a senior aide to House Speaker J.Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), had mightily annoyed Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice by too-frequent contact with the Hill.

The official explanation is that he left "for personal reasons."

And J.Cofer Black, former CIA counterterrorism chief and more recently coordinator for counterterrorism at the State Department, is to become vice chairman of Blackwater USA, which, among other things, trains law enforcement and security personnel. Blackwater handled protective duties for former Iraq viceroy L. Paul Bremer.

Safety Deposit

Former Clinton official Kathryn"Kitty" Higgins will soon be nominated to serve on the National Transportation Safety Board to replace Carol J. Carmody, whose term has expired. Higgins was deputy labor secretary and also White House Cabinet secretary during the Clinton administration.

Sources told our colleague Sara Kehaulani Goo that Higgins is also a pal of Linda Daschle, former deputy administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration and wife of former Senate Democratic leader Thomas A. Daschle (S.D.). New Senate Democratic leader Harry M. Reid (Nev.) is said to have sent Higgins's name to the White House as a "parting gift" to Daschle. Or Daschles.

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